Rose-throated Becard at the CATIE canal

A common bird in many parts of Mexico and also fairly common in Costa Rica’s northwest, the Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae) is a bit of a misnomer in this part of the world. Neither the cinnamon-coloured female nor the all-dark male displays the pink throat that distinguishes the bird further north.

Becard, Rose-throated, female, CATIE, Canal (1)

Female Rose-throated Becard; the grey cap sets it apart from the much more common Cinnamon Becard, which was also present on this day

A morning excursion to the CATIE canal in the company of John and Milena Beer brought a bumper crop of birds, many feeding on the caterpillar-infested trees overhanging the canal. Milena also found a male Rose-throated Becard, but John and I missed out. It’s a species that is definitely a rarity in our area, and this was only my second sighting in these many years in Costa Rica. For comparison purposes, here’s a  Cinnamon Becard (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus) photographed by John at this same location:

Becard, Cinammon, CATIE, Canal (2)

Cinnamon Becard at the CATIE canal; sexes are identical in this species


You can almost always find Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias), Green Ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis) and Russet-naped Wood-Rail (Aramides cajaneus) on the canal banks. Such was the case this day, with perhaps as many as 8 or 10 of the latter species, formerly termed Gray-necked Wood-Rail. The following three beautiful photographs were all taken by John Beer at the CATIE canal:

Woodrail, Russet-naped CATIE, Canal (26)

Head of a Russet-naped Wood-Rail at the CATIE canal

Sunbittern, CATIE, Canal (18)

Sunbittern ready to get his feet wet

Ibis, Green (CATIE) (27)

The Green Ibis spreads his splendid wings in the sunshine at the canal

We were kept busy with binoculars and camera for several hours without walking more than a few hundred yards. As recently was the case at Las Brisas, birds were everywhere. We recorded at least 8 species of migrant warblers (see our eBird list at the end of this post) but were surprised to find that the Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea) was by far the most numerous.

Warbler, Bay-breasted, male, nonbreeding, CATIE, Canal

Male Bay-breasted Warbler in non-breeding plumage. Photo by John Beer.

This migrant from the north is not usually in breeding plumage in Costa Rica and I find it can be tricky to identify. It is fairly large for a warbler and its bill is not as slender as those of many other warbler species. There is sometimes only a bare hint of the characteristic reddish-brown flanks and in our area we must be careful to separate it safely from the juvenile Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca):

Warbler, Blackburnian, CATIE, Canal (2)

The black patch behind the eye of the Blackburnian Warbler is a good field mark. Breeding birds have yellow-orange throat. Photo by John Beer.

For the full day’s list at the CATIE canal, including extra photographs, please see:


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