Rose-breasted Grosbeak now here in numbers

Another fairly common migrant from the north, throughout most of Costa Rica, is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus). I have recorded it here at home from early October to late March, although the October sighting is rather unusual, with most arrivals coming in November. I have not found one yet at the house this year but it has now arrived in numbers. All had the faint pink on the throat that is illustrated so well in Garrigues & Dean’s The Birds of Costa Rica (p. 347). John Beer’s file photos below are from Aquiares and from his garden in Santa Rosa respectively.


Immature male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Aquiares; just a trace of pink on the breast

On this week’s excursion with John to Murcia, site of one of the major reasons for the demise, subsequent to a major tremor in 1991, of the San José-Limón railway line, we found several juvenile males between the village of Murcia and the location of the bridge over the Río Chiz. A similar juvenile male appeared at El Banco closer to home the next day. Adult males are indeed a splendid sight with the red gash on the throat that gives them their Spanish name (in Mexico at least) of Degollado (Throat Cut).


El Degollado, the adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The railway bridge over the Río Chiz is now in total disrepair, but local resident and ex-railwayman Gerardo Rodríguez told us that some young men still risk the very dangerous crossing despite the huge drop down to the river below.

The path we followed still shows vestiges of the original railway lines. The habitat is farmland with considerable second growth and is to be highly recommended for birding. As can be seen from the list at the end of this post, we encountered no great rarities on this occasion but there was considerable movement and flowering poró attracted a few hummingbird species, most notable of which was the Long-billed Starthroat (Heliomaster longirostris). We had excellent close-up views of a male, though unfortunately it would not stay still for John’s camera.


Male Long-billed Starthroat at its favourite food, the red flowers of the poró.

This species, considered rare in the Caribbean, has been showing up in many locations in the Turrialba area this year. Notable absences were warblers, of which we recorded only one species, while the common oropendola here seems to be the Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri), which is generally much harder to find than the ubiquitous Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma). Here is a Chestnut-headed from John’s collection, photographed at CATIE in Turrialba:


The Chestnut-headed Oropendola with its ivory bill and its trace of a crest at the back of the neck

An identification problem was posed by the bird in this final photo. We eventually determined it to be an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineus), a species that is rated as generally uncommon in this location of the Caribbean foothills:


Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, we believe.

And here is our morning’s list:

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Roadside Hawk
  4. Red-billed Pigeon
  5. Ruddy Ground-Dove
  6. White-tipped Dove
  7. Vaux’s Swift
  8. White-necked Jacobin
  9. Long-billed Starthroat
  10. Violet Sabrewing
  11. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  12. Keel-billed Toucan
  13. Black-cheeked Woodpecker
  14. Orange-chinned Parakeet
  15. White-crowned Parrot
  16. Crimson-fronted Parakeet
  17. Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  18. Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
  19. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  20. Great Kiskadee
  21. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  22. Social Flycatcher
  23. Gray-capped Flycatcher
  24. Brown Jay
  25. Blue-and-white Swallow
  26. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  27. House Wren
  28. White-breasted Wood-Wren
  29. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  30. Passerini’s Tanager
  31. Palm Tanager
  32. Golden-hooded Tanager
  33. Yellow-faced Grassquit
  34. Black-striped Sparrow
  35. Rufous-collared Sparrow
  36. Summer Tanager
  37. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  38. Chestnut-headed Oropendola
  39. Montezuma Oropendola
  40. Yellow-throated Euphonia

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