Antbirds on the Cahuita boardwalk

In my first years in Costa Rica I used to simply ignore the pages in the field guides dedicated to the 22 species of antbirds found here. Sounds stupid, I know, but I found that, with the exception of a couple of antshrikes, I just couldn’t get anything more than a glimpse of these prime skulkers.

Well, things are looking up. I have now positively identified 16 of them and am even becoming ‘familiar’ with a few of the more common species. The two species in this post are ones with whose identification I am increasingly confident, in terms of both voice and appearance. Antshrikes are generally larger and move more slowly than other antbirds and so I begin with the Black-crowned Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha), formerly called the (Western) Slaty-Antshrike (Thamnophilus punctatus):

Female Black-crowned Antshrike; photo by John Beer

Male Black-crowned Antshrike; photo by Larry Waddell

Faithful companions and ardent photographers John and Larry were pleased as punch to get the opportunity to shoot the antshrikes at close quarters from the boardwalk at Cahuita. This species betrays its presence, even at quite a long distance, with its penetrating chuckling call. The call has a distinctive upward hook on the end. So does the bill, but downward!

Patience at the boardwalk was rewarded when a pair of Chestnut-backed Antbirds (Myrmeciza exsul) also approached closely. Like the antshrike above this species is a common one but is even harder to photograph because it moves more actively than the antshrike and sticks to the forest floor for the most part.

Male Chestnut-backed Antbird among forest-floor debris at Cahuita; photo by John Beer

There are 5 antbird species with blue orbital skin around the eye. Given the darkness of the forest floor considerable caution must be used in order to identify with certainty. The chestnut back of the male is diagnostic but the female could easily be confused with, say, a female Zeledon’s Antbird (Myrmeciza zeledoni). We could not get a good view of a female Chestnut-backed on this occasion.

The Cahuita boardwalk also offers close encounters with monkeys:

An inquisitive Congo monkey on the Boardwalk; photo by Larry Waddell

White-faced monkeys are also usually easily seen in Cahuita but on this occasion Larry found only the following cheeky monkeys:

John adjusts his camera while I smile benignly

Here’s the link to the day’s sightings at the Cahuita Boardwalk:

See my next post for the Blue-chested Hummingbird (Amazilia amabilis).

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