In my Costa Rican garden: Streak-headed Woodcreeper

With a minimum of 17 species of woodcreeper in the country, all of which are basically brown in colour, identification is a notorious problem. European birdwatchers familiar with what they call lbj’s (little brown jobs) will be able to sympathise. To these can be added many more fairly similar birds of the Furnariidae family such as leaftossers, foliage-gleaners, spinetails, xenops, etc. This very large family of mostly forest birds is restricted to Central and South America and is unrelated to the treecreepers of the Old World.

Happily the identification problems are not much of a concern in my garden in San Antonio de Turrialba. In more than a dozen years I have recorded here only one woodcreeper species, the Streak-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii). I hear its sputtering, downward-rolling trill quite frequently.

Streak-headed Woodcreeper at Santa Rosa de Turrialba; photo by John Beer

This particular woodcreeper is the one most likely to be seen because it tolerates habitats with only small forest patches. Its back and tail, as with many other woodcreeper species, show bright reddish-brown in good light. The juvenile at Santa Rosa shown below is not yet full grown. The pinkish tone of the bill, again only obvious in good light, shows to good advantage:

Juvenile Streak-headed Woodcreeper; photo by John Beer

This young bird doubtless hatched in John’s garden. Woodcreepers are hole nesters and I have found several Streak-headed nests both in my garden and near the house. If you can get a close-up view, it’s best to note the streaks (not spots) on the head to avoid possible confusion with the very similar Spot-crowned Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes affinis), even though the latter is rarely found below around 1500 m above sea level.

Karel Straatman’s photo here below gives very clear identification of the salient field marks. Hi Karel!

File photo of a Streak-headed Woodcreeper in Costa Rica in 2011; photo by Karel Straatman

The final photograph, also taken at Santa Rosa. shows how the tail is braced against the trunk of the tree as the bird works its way upwards.

Streak-headed Woodcreeper investigates a beautiful orchid, not yet in flower; photo by Larry Waddell

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