Río Reventazón at Bonilla Abajo

The number of truly excellent places to find birds in our area never ceases to amaze me. A trip with John Beer down to the Reventazón just past the Lagunas de Bonilla on the Turrialba-Santa Teresita-La Alegría road proved to be yet another delight that receives little attention from local birders. This is an hour’s drive from Turrialba. We walked the old railway line from just below Los Llanos, a place I had visited recently on my way to Las Brisas de Siquirres, enjoying a mostly shaded stroll in the early morning hours. The Río Revantazón is to the right, giving good opportunity for viewing aquatic species. At this location, you have crossed over from the province of Cartago into that of Limón, officially the Caribbean.


At the railway bridge ruins. The new dam on the Reventazón is just behind the cleft in the background






We were searching specifically for a Tiger-Heron that John had previously found here but that, being a juvenile, was difficult to pin don as to species. Since we quickly found an adult Fasciated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum) on the banks of the Reventazón, close to the location of John’s immature bird, we can safely assume that this it is this species and not the rare Rufescent Tiiger-Heron (Tigrisoma  lineatum), which is found at the same elevation.



Until it moved, this adult Fasciated Tiger-Heron was virtually invisible against the rocks  

The wooded path that follows the railway line gave us good views of some species that are hard to find in my home area on the Turrialba Volcano slope. The common euphonia for the day was the Olive-backed Euphonia (Euphonia gouldi). Here is the male with its yellow forecrown (rufous on the female):


Male Olive-backed Euphonia

We heard our common Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) calling and even glimpsed one briefly, bu t more common here is the toucan of the Caribbean lowlands, Ramphastos ambiguus, which has undergone an English name change twice recently. I first learned to call it the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan. It was then changed to the Black-mandibled Toucan (and so appears in the new edition of Garrigues & Dean’s The Birds of Costa Rica) but now becomes the Yellow-throated Toucan. By any name, however, this largest Costa Rican toucan is a real beauty:


Hello out there! The Yellow-throated Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus)

Similarly, our common Oropendola is the Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma), and these were present here too in huge numbers. Accompanying them, however, was the rather uncommon Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri), seen below with its pale, almost white, bill:


The slightly smaller Chestnut-headed Oropendola formed about 10% of today’s Oropendola flock.

If you’re interested in plants, insects and spiders, you’re also in the right place by the Rio Reventazon. Here’s an interesting spider that John found:


Any arachnologists out there to identify this beauty?

One of several hummingbirds was the Purple-crowned Fairy (Heliothryx barroti):


Male Purple-crowned Fairy, the only hummer in Costa Rica that is completely white below

Costa Rica has two big and beautiful red-crested woodpecker species, the Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus) and the Pale-billed Woodpecker  (Campephilus guatemalensis).The latter is the one that we found along the wooded former railway line, a very pleasing sighting since it rarely appears in my own patch, which is not thickly forested. In addition to the pale bill, this species has a completely red head that lacks the white facial stripe of the Lineated.


This Pale-billed Woodpecker seems not to have an all-red head, but when it turns to the light….


….I’m a redhead!

Finally, no birding excursion in Costa Rica would be complete without some confusing flycatchers. We had our fair share, including this Empidonax:


We’re calling it a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris). Any dissenters?

And this Contopus:


Again without total conviction, we believe this is an Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) but we didn’t hear it call!

You can find the morning’s list of species at the following link:


2 thoughts on “Río Reventazón at Bonilla Abajo

  1. Man, that looks like a good birding spot, you guys saw some winners. Can’t wait to get back there and join you. The leaves are coming down and the freeze warnings are coming this week so it’s time to start thinking of my migration.


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