This is Costa Rica, and after eight years of residence I’m still struggling to see and identify half of the country’s bird species. Yesterday, however, I managed to add two more here very close to home, and there may well have been more in the mixed flock at San Diego that brought me such good luck. Neither species is judged to be rare in our area.
Here’s a blurry pic of the first one, the Spotted Barbtail (Premonoplex brunnescens), taken by Karel Straatman some years ago. At the time, we were unsure of the identification, primarily because of what looks like a definite eye-ring. However, it’s clearly a furnarid and the spots, the tawny throat and (in particular) the short bill seem to exclude other possibilities in that family.
My bird yesterday was in a mixed flock at a location in San Diego that had previously not yielded much, despite the thick vegetation and the undisturbed forest behind and below. This is a forest edge over a steep drop-off behind a now abandoned farming plot. Other species present included an Olivaceous Woodcreeper and a Slaty-capped Flycatcher, neither of which occurs here very frequently. But the other new bird, for me, was a male White-winged Becard (Pachyramphus polychopterus). My look at it was brief and quite unsatisfactory, but I was able to make the identification after a clear look at the head and wing-bars and exclude the somewhat similar Black-and-white Becard (Pachyramphus albogriseus), a bird rare throughout its range.
The five species of becards found in Costa Rica are now classed in the Tityridae family rather than as flycatchers. You can find them on pages 252-255 of the new edition of Garrigues and Dean’s The Birds of Costa Rica. The illustrations on page 255 show the species that may cause confusion. I had, until yesterday, identified only the Cinnamon Becard (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus) in our area. Sightings have been few and exclusively at the San Diego location. Note that male and female of this species are identical.
The Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae) is familiar to many North American birders but I was able to exclude the male from the possibilities yesterday because it would be only a casual migrant (November to March) in the Caribbean. The Barred Becard (Pachyramphus versicolor) shown on page 253 is a highland bird with distinctly different plumage.