My third Chlorospingus

Yes, the Chlorospingus really is a bird. There are three different chlorospingus species in Costa Rica, and today I finally found the third one close to home down in the forest at San Diego. The strange name seems to mean ‘greenish-yellow finch’ in Greek, although these birds do not have a bill as thick as that of most finches. Up until very recently they were called ‘bush-tanagers’ but since it is no longer clear what really defines a tanager, perhaps the name change is a helpful one.

The first of the species in Costa Rica is the Common Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus flavopectus) and is one of the commonest species found in woodland at middle elevations. All three chlorospingus species have greenish-yellow backs and breasts but this one has a very noticeable white spot behind the eye that stands out against the dark colour of the head. It is generally found in small flocks, often accompanied by birds of other species.

Chlorospingus, Common, La Pastora (1)

If you venture a little higher on the slopes of the Turrialba Volcano you find that the Common Chlorospingus is replaced by the Sooty-capped Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus pileatus), which behaves in almost exactly the same way and is often the most frequently found bird in its habitat. This one is also easy to identify by the conspicuous jagged white line above and behind the eye.

The only remaining member of the Chlorospingus genus in Costa Rica is the Ashy-throated Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus canigularis). This bird is much harder to find in its very restricted range of the middle elevations on the Caribbean slope of the volcanoes of the Central Valley and in the watershed of the Río Reventazón, which, fortunately, is where we are located. I have missed this species on several occasions both at Rancho Naturalista, in the valley of the Río Tuis and at Tapantí National Park.

Today I got lucky and found it among a mixed flock at the forest edge at San Diego (1000 m) close to my home. Though it is much less social than the other similar species, it is usually found in pairs, it seems, but I could see only one individual among Speckled Tanagers, Silver-throated Tanagers, Green Honeycreepers and White-winged Becards. My impression was that I was looking at a chlorospingus that lacks any white spot or stripe behind or above the eye. Here are the Common and the Ashy-throated side-by-side:

Chlorospingus photos above are by kind courtesy of John Beer.

I found 47 different species at San Diego this time but missed numerous very common ones. Here is the complete list for the morning:

  1. Cattle Egret
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Roadside Hawk
  5. White-throated Crake
  6. White-tipped Dove
  7. Squirrel Cuckoo
  8. Green Hermit
  9. Crowned Woodnymph
  10. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  11. Gartered Trogon
  12. Keel-billed Toucan
  13. Black-cheeked Woodpecker
  14. Golden-olive Woodpecker
  15. White-crowned Parrot
  16. Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  17. Slaty-capped Flycatcher
  18. Common Tody-Flycatcher
  19. Yellow-olive Flycatcher
  20. Western/Eastern Wood-Pewee
  21. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  22. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  23. Masked Tityra
  24. White-winged Becard – more common here than the Cinnamon Becard
  25. Brown Jay
  26. House Wren
  27. Stripe-breasted Wren
  28. White-breasted Wood-Wren
  29. Tropical Gnatcatcher
  30. Clay-colored Thrush
  31. Black-and-white Warbler- several here, but still none of these uphill in San Antonio
  32. Tropical Parula
  33. Blackburnian Warbler – now arrived in numbers
  34. Passerini’s Tanager
  35. Golden-hooded Tanager
  36. Speckled Tanager – a first for this location
  37. Bay-headed Tanager
  38. Silver-throated Tanager
  39. Green Honeycreeper
  40. Variable Seedeater
  41. Bananaquit
  42. Yellow-faced Grassquit
  43. Buff-throated Saltator
  44. Ashy-throated Chlorospingus – a life bird for me
  45. Chestnut-headed Oropendola – outnumbering the Montezuma for the first time
  46. Montezuma Oropendola
  47. Yellow-crowned Euphonia

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