Another unusual sighting: Cinnamon Becard at 1300 m in San Antonio de Santa Cruz

After the excitement of finding two species new to my house list this week, yet another appeared yesterday. The Cinnamon Becard (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus) is a common bird in the Caribbean lowlands but my garden, where a pair appeared yesterday morning, is at 1288 m elevation in San Antonio de Santa Cruz, Turrialba, well above this bird’s normal range. I have seen it quite frequently at nearby San Diego, close to 1000 m, but even there the elevation is considered too high for this species. Naturally I am delighted to record yet another new species here but clearly something is different. Is this merely range expansion or is it climate change?

Cinnamon Becard peeps out of its hiding place at the CATIE canal, Turrialba; photo by Larry Waddell

There are 5 species of becards in Costa Rica but the Cinnamon Becard is the only one in which males and females are of identical plumage. These birds are mostly insectivorous but it is still not clear if they are more related to the flycatchers or to the cotingas. My pair showed the fluttering flight typical of the species as they took both berries and insects without alighting.

Here’s another of Larry’s photographs with less exposure to light, showing the paler underparts and making the bird look rather different:

Cinnamon Becard in upright perched position; photo by Larry Waddell

Our final pic shows why the bird bears the name Cinnamon Becard:

Cinnamon Becard near Siquirres, courtesy of John Beer

There is little chance of confusing this becard species with any other. Only the female Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae) has similar plumage but with a very dark crown. In addition, the Rose-throated Becard is only a casual migrant in the Caribbean lowlands and the only one I have seen in our area was considered a very rare bird when it appeared at the CATIE canal in late October 2017:

Female Rose-throated Becard in John Beer’s excellent file photo.

The weather continues to be muggy and hot with afternoon rain. In view of the rarities showing up here in the garden this year, maybe I’d better just stay by the window and see what else turns up!

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