Red-faced Spinetail nest at El Alto

There are three species of birds in Costa Rica bearing the name ‘spinetail’: Pale-breasted Spinetail, Slaty Spinetail and Red-faced Spinetail, all members of the huge Furnariidae family of ovenbirds and woodcreepers. In our area, only the latter two are present since the Pale-breasted Spinetail (Synallaxis albescens) is found only in the southern Pacific region. In my garden here in San Antonio I can sometimes find the very similar Slaty Spinetail (Synallaxis brachyura), but I have to look very carefully in heavy brush to find this very secretive bird.

The subject of this post, the Red-faced Spinetail (Cranioleuca erythrops) behaves rather differently, clambering around on mossy forest branches fairly conspicuously and hanging from tree limbs like a trapeze artist. Its rufous body parts, combined with these movements, make it fairly easy to pick out even in its dark forest environment.


Red-faced Spinetail at Bonilla Arriba, courtesy of John Beer

John’s picture above was taken at Bonilla Arriba, a little higher and further east of the location of the nest that friend Larry and I found last week at El Alto de los Castillos (aka El Alto de Adán), here in San Antonio. This spot is best known for the Emerald Toucanet, a species we did not find on this occasion, but the large, round nest of the spinetail was easy to spot once we were attracted to the movement of its builders. Two adult birds (no discernible plumage differences between the sexes) were probably involved, though we saw only one individual at a time. The nest is complete, whether from this or a previous year I do not know.

It looks like a huge ball of moss hanging down from a tree branch, and it is located in a gloomy forest spot on the way up to El Alto from the main road below. The birds enter and leave from an opening at the bottom of the ball. Since El Alto is fairly close to my home, I hope to be able to keep a close eye on developments at the nest in the coming weeks.

Here is the link to the list on eBird from the brief visit to El Alto de los Castillos:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s