Slate-colored Grosbeak – life bird

Slate-colored Grosbeak (Saltator grossus); Picogrueso piquirrojo; Rotschnabelsaltator; Saltator ardoisé

As can be seen from the scientific name and also the respective German and French names for this very handsome bird, it is perhaps best to call it a saltator. Garrigues’ field guide (The Birds of Costa Rica, ed. 2014) deals with it in this manner and presents the five Costa Rican saltators as the last representatives of Tanagers, Seedeaters, Allies, on pages 332-333. Three of these (Grayish Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator and Black-headed Saltator) can be readily found in my garden almost every day, but the fourth, the Streaked Saltator, is found almost exclusively in the southern Pacific region.

Slate-colored Grosbeak in northern Costa Rica at Parque Arenal, San Carlos; photo courtesy of Gilberto De la Cruz

Saltator number five is the Slate-colored Grosbeak. In our Turrialba area it is not frequently reported, and I saw it last week for the first time ever not too far away at the Las Brisas Reserve in neighbouring Limón Province. It’s a sleek, dark-grey bird with a huge red bill above a white throat.

This species has a very wide range from Honduras south to Bolivia and eastern Brazil but eBird reports indicate that it is a rare find in the Turrialba area. Friend and guide Steven Aguilar accompanied me on this occasion, and Steven was also responsible for what seems to be the only sighting made this year in our own province of Cartago. This was at Alfonso Pacheco’s Finca Tres Equis just off the main road from Turrialba to Siquirres, where Steven was in company with John and Milena Beer. This extensive reserve, with a young Tico owner who is a dedicated ecologist, is another great half-way stop between Turrialba and the Caribbean region.

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