Yellow-crowned Euphonia -small bird, rather loud whistle

Male Yellow-crowned Euphonia, courtesy of Karel Straatman

Male Yellow-crowned Euphonia, courtesy of Karel Straatman

Euphonias are in the same family as goldfinches and siskins but they mostly eat fruit, not seeds. They tend to be small and rather dumpy in shape. Most males combine yellow underparts with blue-black upperparts. The main identification problem in the San Antonio area is distinguishing between two common species, the Yellow-throated Euphonia (Euphonia hirundinacea) and the Yellow-crowned Euphonia (Euphonia luteicapilla). The more common of the two in our area is definitely the former, which is primarily a Pacific Coast species with a range that extends into the Central Valley and eastwards, at least as far as Turrialba. Karel Straatman’s nice pic below shows a pair of Yellow-throated Euphonias for purposes of comparison. Note the restricted amount of yellow on the crown of the male.

Pair of Yellow-throated Euphonias

Pair of Yellow-throated Euphonias

Yesterday I was delighted to hear the clear, loud whistles of the Yellow-crowned Euphonia, a species found on both the Caribbean and the Pacific slopes but one that I have noted here only sporadically. To my surprise, when I located the whistlers, two males perched atop a large guayabo tree, I saw that they were accompanied by two females.

Female euphonias tend to be green-yellow in colour and present fairly severe identification problems. Thank goodness the males were present because their black throat and solid yellow crown clinched the identification. Even the (here very uncommon) White-vented Euphonia (Euphonia minuta) of the Caribbean lowlands and foothills can be excluded on that basis without even looking for the white vent, which I find is often quite hard to see.

The only other euphonia commonly found here in San Antonio is the beautiful and unmistakable Elegant Euphonia (Euphonia elegantissima), which the locals call the cacique veranero because it supposedly arrives in summer. Summer in the tropics means it’s not raining!

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