Ornate Hawk-eagle again at San Rafael de Santa Cruz

In terms of plumage, the Ornate Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus) is perhaps the most spectacular of Costa Rica’s three hawk-eagles with its rusty markings and a spiky crest, which it erects when excited. Alhough slimly built, hawk-eagles are capable of taking prey up to five times their own body weight. This particular species is regularly reported from the Turrialba area, both from near Tuis and the Angostura Dam, but also from here very close to my home, between the Reserva Juan Espino Blanco and the Monumento Nacional Guayabo. On January 31, 2015, my neighbour Sue Magree called from nearby San Rafael after taking the photograph below:


Adult Ornate Hawk-eagle at San Rafael de Santa Cruz

The bird was long gone by the time I arrived at Sue’s house but I have had one or two suspected sightings of this species in flight since that date. Today, at that same location, I enjoyed good views of an Ornate Hawk-eagle circling over the house. The combination of size, wing shape, overall pale colour below, and black tail bands seemed to exclude other species. Cloudy conditions made it hard to spot the rusty-coloured sides of the head. Steven and Magda Easley have reported the same species for several years from nearby Verbena. I have seen the Black Hawk-eagle on the other side of Turrialba at Pavones, but I am still hoping to see the third and rarest species, the Black-and-white Hawk-eagle, which does not regularly venture so high up the mountain slopes.

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