Big Day – Great Black Hawk at Rio Tuis

After ten years in the country I struggle to add a bird species to my Costa Rican life list. However, at the Big Day this weekend our group was surprised to find a Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga) soaring with some Black Vultures over the thick forest above the Rio Tuis, Turrialba. The species is considered rare in Costa Rica but is widely distributed. It soars only infrequently but our bird was an adult that gave us very good views of the white rump and tail band. These normally distinguish it from the Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) but that species, though common, is out of the question here so far from the coast, where it can be found relatively easily. Photographer Adrián Alvarado, from Turrialba, managed to take a long-distance shots of the hawk, seen here with an accompanying Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).

Great Black Hawk Adrian

Great Black Hawk above the Rio Tuis, courtesy of Adrián Alvarado


Our Big Day group was one of just two for Turrialba. With the expert help of Steven Aguilar, an experienced guide, and Lisa Erb, proprietress of the famous birding lodge at Rancho Naturalista, Tuis, we found numerous species at several locations that we had planned in advance to visit. Rancho Naturalista gave us a tour of the property, a great breakfast and a big packed lunch to eat in the field. We ended the day at the Albergue Cortijo el Quetzal

just below the Turrialba Volcano crater, where Juan Carlos and his family gave us a wonderful reception with snacks, coffee, hot chocolate and a bonfire to keep out the cold temperatures that prevail at that elevation.

The two Big Day groups came together there at the Albergue. Combining our lists we found that we had managed a total of 196 species for the day, even though several very common species failed to appear. There were many other highlights besides the Great Black Hawk so get ready for another couple of posts.

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