Yellow-thighed Brushfinch and Collared Trogon: Highland species with name changes

Yellow-thighed Brushfinch (Atlapetes tibialis): Saltón de muslos amarillos; Gelbschenkel-Buschammer; Bruant à cuisses jaunes

On any trip up the Turrialba Volcano slope beyond around 1600 m elevation we regularly see this ground-loving, all-black bird. For example, my home in San Antonio is located at 1300 m and I have never found it here despite abundant habitat in and around the village. Now I suddenly discover that recent DNA studies have made necessary an English name-change to what we always called simply a Yellow-thighed Finch. I’m not yet sure whether or not this has affected the respective accepted names in Spanish (Costa Rica), German and French (see above).

Yellow-thighed Brushfinch near La Pastora; photo by John Beer

Look for the bird at or near ground-level in thick vegetation. This Costa Rican/Western Panama endemic is not a particularly timid species and is often found in pairs or small groups. Though juveniles lack the diagnostic yellow thighs, a good view easily excludes for purposes of identification the few similar grey-black birds at this elevation.

Yellow-thighed Brushfinch out in the open at San Gerardo de Dota; photo by John Beer

Here’s a shot taken in our area at Larry Waddell’s favourite patch above La Pastora:

Yellow-thighed Brushfinch coquettishly shows just one thigh; photo by Larry Waddell

And here in flight:

Yellow-thighed Brushfinch in flight; photo by Larry Waddell

Remember the new name!

Another name no longer to be found on Costa Rican checklists is that of the Orange-bellied Trogon. Bird watchers have long been bemused by the often seemingly arbitrary distinction between the so-called Orange-bellied (Trogon collaris aurantiiventris) and the (red-bellied) Collared Trogon. Is the belly red or is it orange? Larry, I know it hardly mattered to you! Despite or because of his colour-blindness, Larry is now vindicated and the species are finally (we hope) lumped together as the Collared Trogon (Trogan collaris):

Larry can tell me later where he took this excellent shot of a male Collared Trogon; photo by Larry Waddell

The male below appeared on the Turrialba Volcano slope very recently:

This one also looks red to me! Collared Trogon above La Pastora; photo by John Beer

We have no images of supposed Orange-bellied Trogon in our area. The Collared Trogon is the only trogon species that we normally encounter high on the volcano slope, excepting of course the wonderful Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomacrus mocinno). See my earlier posts. Note that on our volcano slope the quetzal is actually easier to find than the Collared Trogon.

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