Blue-chested Hummingbird – Paraiso Road at Punta Uva

Ranging from north-eastern Nicaragua to northern Ecuador the Blue-chested Hummingbird (Amazilia amabilis) in Costa Rica is the Caribbean coast version of the Charming Hummingbird (Amazilia decora) of the Pacific Coast. Actually, decora (previously called the Beryl-crowned Hummingbird), is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama and was previously considered identical to amabilis.

The dirt road from Punta Uva near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca that leads to the main highway to Sixaola and the Panama border is not sign-posted but is called the Paraiso Road. It leads up and down through the Talamanca foothills for a distance of perhaps 10 km. The terrain is mostly open but with considerable forested sections and some interesting side roads that should be explored, particularly those to the left that approach the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.

Our sightings began with both species of large toucan, the Yellow-throated (Ramphastos ambiguus), previously known as the Black-mandibled Toucan, and the Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus). However, at the first sign of porterweed, a big attraction for hummingbirds, we discovered, among others, a Blue-chested Hummingbird. Here I had the same experience that I had previously had with the Charming Hummingbird on the Pacific side: the species is described by Skutch as ‘non-descript’, yet when it catches the light the blue chest and green forecrown flare up intensely and impressively. John’s photo, where the crown looks blue, cannot catch this fully but is nonetheless a beautiful shot. The bird perched only briefly but hovered and flitted almost without stopping between the porterweed (rabo de gato) flowers for long periods.

Male Blue-chested Hummingbird; photo by John Beer

In the next shot Larry got the aforementioned crown and throat colours, but blurry:

Male Blue-chested Hummingbird at rabo de gato. What a beauty! Nondescript? Photo by Larry Waddell

No blur on the next one, however!

Blue-chested Hummingbird is now one of my all-time favourites; photo by Larry Waddell

The Blue-chested Hummingbird is considered uncommon, but not rare, within its range. More common on the Paraiso Road is the Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris), one of Costa Rica’s largest hummingbirds:

Long-billed Hermit in flight; photo by Larry Waddell

A soaring raptor with a long, accipiter-like tail was identified as a Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus) . The ‘puffy white’ undertail coverts show as a good field mark. We could only get distance shots:

Soaring Double-toothed Kite, one of 5! Photo by John Beer

To our great surprise this individual was subsequently joined by 4 more, all soaring together. This species is said to follow troupes of monkeys to catch prey that they flush. Here’s what a Double-toothed Kite looks like when perched:

Young adult Double-toothed Kite at Finca Estrella way down south on the Pacific side; photo by John Beer

No perching problems with the next species: Another beautiful bird that is common on the Paraiso Road is the Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena), a species found mostly in the lowlands but on both coasts in Costa Rica. Its call note sounds to me like a small dog barking. Trogons sit patiently while their food comes to them, so both Larry and John were able to get very nice photographs of the following individual that was right by the road:

Male Slaty-tailed Trogon (no bars on the tail of this trogon species!) on the Paraiso Road; photo by Larry Waddell

I very much encourage further exploration of the Paraiso Road by birders living on or visiting the Puerto Viejo area of the Caribbean coast; we often roasted in the sun during the 4-hour trip but it was well worth. Check out our full list, with additional species and photos, at the following link:

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