Highland endemics: Black-thighed Grosbeaks and others at the Turrialba Volcano

On September 10th John Beer and I visited the site of nesting Black-thighed Grosbeaks (Pheucticus tibialis) nest that he and Milena had discovered on the Turrialba Volcano road, above La Pastora.

Grosbeak, Black-thighed, Volcan Turrialba (1)

It’s obviously a grosbeak! Black-thighed Grosbeak but the big, white wing-spot is the best marker. Photo by John Beer.

This is one of 7 species in Costa Rica termed ‘grosbeaks’. It is a highland species found only in Costa Rica and western Panama. In our area it can be found at most locations on the Turrialba Volcano slope but I have not found it below around 1900 m elevation. John’s most recent visit allowed him to take some beautiful photographs of immature birds, reared without doubt at that nest.

Grosbeak, Black-thighed, immature, La Pastora (2)

The streaked throat seems to indicate a juvenile bird. Black-thighed Grosbeak above La Pastora. Photo by John Beer.

Subsequently, the birds were still in the same area for Cornell Lab’s Global Big Day on October 6.  A visiting group of young Costa Rican novice birders were thrilled to find this and several other species resident only in the highlands. Below are three of those:

Looking and behaving rather like a woodcreeper, the Ruddy Treerunner (Margarornis rubiginosus) is found on most visits to the volcano slope. It is another species found only in Costa Rica and western Panama. You need a good look at it to be absolutely sure of the identification. In my first years I misidentified it at least once as a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spirurus), even though the latter is not usually found above 1500 m.

Treerunner, Ruddy, side, Volcan Turrialba

Ruddy Treerunner on the Turrialba Volcano slope; photo by John Beer

I have commented before on the Flame-throated Warbler (Oreothlypis gutturalis) because the birds on the Turrialba Volcano slope do not look like the species illustrated in the bird guides. Our local birds mostly have a yellow throat and look like this:

Warbler, Flame throated (Turrialba variety) Bajos del Volcan (3)

Flame-throated Warbler (Turrialba Volcano variety); photo by John Beer taken at Los Bajos del Volcán.

Or the throat is yellow-orange, like this:

Warbler, Flame-throated, Wood above La Pastora

Flame-throated Warbler at the same location as on the Big Day; photo by John Beer

Finally, the group was treated to good views of a third species found only in Costa Rica and western Panama, the noisy Prong-billed Barbet (Semnornis frantzii):

Barbet, Prong-billed, Bonilla Arriba (3)

Prong-billed Barbet at Bonilla Arriba; photo by John Beer

And for a more complete view:

Barbet, Prong-billed, Bonilla Arriba

Prong-billed Barbet out in the open; photo by John Beer

This species is usually found in small groups and can be heard at a great distance shouting ‘cocora!’ I have occasionally heard it just above the village of San Antonio (1300 m) and seen it as high as El Tapojo, almost 2800 m above sea level.

You can find the brief list of species we found at the volcano road location on the Big Day on eBird at:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49028648

 

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