Red-headed Barbets at Torito

The hamlet of Torito is located at around 1450 m elevation on the eastern slope of the Turrialba Volcano. I have mentioned before that the nearby Rio Lajas provides a kind of forested corridor down-slope from Torito to the Monumento Nacional Guayabo. Larry Waddell and I were looking specifically for Emerald Toucanet and Collared Trogon, two species that should not be too hard to find in that area. No luck with those, each of which is a beautiful bird, but we had the good fortune to hit a small mixed flock that included one of my favourites, the Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii), the only representative of its family (Capitonidae) in Costa Rica.


Male Red-headed Barbet at Vara Blanca, courtesy of Fernando Burgalin

The female appeared first and, though it eluded Larry´s camera, it gave us the best views. It is not as gaudy as the male but is nevertheless a very smart bird. Here´s a female in another photo by Fernando Burgalin also taken at La Cinchona, Vara Blanca, in the Central Highlands.


Female Red-headed Barbet


We were high above the river and the hamlet on a path through thick forest that descends to a pretty waterfall. At some point we lost the path, which was obstructed in parts by tree falls after the heavy rains, and were unable to get down to the waterfall. We found only 12 species, none of them rare, in about an hour, but the forest environment provides reward enough, with its own magnificent silent world, penetrated by just the occasional bird calls. One of these was the sharp call of the Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant (Lophotriccus pileatus), a tiny flycatcher with a rufous-and-black crest.  This species is reasonably common in our area but very hard to spot in its forest environment. Unfortunately, it does not often raise its black-and-red crest.


Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant on the Rio Tuis, near Turrialba, courtesy of John Beer

On my next visit to the Torito area I hope to explore the area further east, which has many accessible dirt roads, some of which then allow access to the Caribbean at La Alegría.

Here’s the brief list from this short trip, including overhead vultures:

  1. Black Vulture
  2. Turkey Vulture
  3. Red-headed Barbet
  4. Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
  5. Brown Jay
  6. Bay Wren
  7. Black-and-white Warbler
  8. Slate-throated Redstart
  9. Slaty Flowerpiercer
  10. Common Chlorospingus
  11. Summer Tanager
  12. Tawny-capped Euphonia

4 thoughts on “Red-headed Barbets at Torito

  1. You’ve put the spotlight on two that are very special to me! It took me months to locate the owner of the elusive voice that seemed to come from just-out of sight areas.. The Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant was such a surprise, so next came the ‘stealth’ of trying to capture its likeness… One morning I was watching tanagers higher in the trees when the cute little tyrant landed very close at eye level!

    It paused just long enough for a photo and as if to ask, “Satisfied?” and then vanished into thicker area…

    and those barbets? the male and female are equally gorgeous! it’s a joy to see them with their striped pantalones!


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