Ruby-throated hummingbird and Gray-cheeked Thrush at Las Brisas

The latest expedition to Las Brisas in Limón Province brought a plethora of birds. Core species again were the three migrants, Bay-breasted Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush and Red-eyed Vireo. However, there were a few other surprises, notably a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and at least one Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus).

Hummingbird, Ruby-throated, imm male, Reserva Las Brisas (3)

Red flecks on the throat (not visible here) made this an immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Photo by John Beer.

I was happy that guide Ernesto Carman of Get your Birds! was also present and confirmed the Gray-cheeked, which is not always easy to distinguish from the much commoner Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus); one of these is hopping gaily around on the grass outside my window as I write this here back in San Antonio. John took the following photo of what we think was the second Gray-cheeked of the day at Las Brisas:

Thrush, Gray-cheeked, Reserva Las Brisas (5)

Gray-cheeked Thrush at the entrance to Reserva Las Brisas

These two species are also migrants, with the Ruby-throated (the typical hummer in most of the eastern USA) being the only migrant hummingbird in Costa Rica. Stiles & Skutch (A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, 1989) considered it very rare in this part of the Caribbean and almost always only in October/November. More modern field guides (Garrigues & Dean, The Birds of Costa Rica, 2014) still call it ‘casual’ in this area, although with more birders in the field the number of sightings has risen.

The Gray-cheeked thrush is more easily found but is still uncommon. It is mostly a passage migrant from late September to mid-November, and since it doesn’t make its spring migration return via Costa Rica I probably won’t have the chance to see one again until late next year!

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