Semiplumbeous Hawk – a rare appearance in our area

Semiplumbeous Hawk (Leocopternis semiplumbeus): Gavilán dorsiplomizo; Möwenbussard; Buse semiplombée

In vain visiting birders scan the skies in Costa Rica for soaring raptors, only to discover that the vast majority that they see turn out to be Black Vultures and, in lesser numbers, Turkey Vultures. Why is this so? I often think the main cause is that many of Costa Rica’s numerous hawks are forest species that spend much time sitting patiently in wait for their prey. Such is the case with the Semiplumbeous Hawk found recently at the Pacuare River Lodge just over the Limón Province boundary line. One source estimates its world population – distributed from northern Honduras to northern Ecuador – at between only 1,000 to 10, 000 adult birds.

Semiplumbeous Hawk at Pacuare River Lodge, Bajo Tigre; photo by John Beer

This beautiful picture shows the key features for identification of this small-to-medium-sized hawk: orange cere, pure white underparts and the dark grey upper-parts that give it its name. Think of ‘leaden’ skies and plumbers! The short tail separates it from similarly-sized forest-falcons.

Out in the open: the Semiplumbeous Hawk; photo by John Beer

The Semiplumbeous Hawk also sports two white tail-bands set off against the otherwise dark tail. These are unfortunately not visible in these photos, but Steven and John report that their bird was also identified by its distinctive call. Wish I’d been there to tick off what would have been a ‘lifer’ for me!

The Pacuare River Lodge – not to be confused with the upscale and similarly named Pacuare Lodge located on the other side of the river – attracts mostly river rafters seeking the thrills of the whitewater of the Río Pacuare. It is also an excellent lower elevation location for birding and is quickly reached from Turrialba via Santa Marta on the main road to Siquirres. This road also passes by Finca Tres Equis, a great birding spot in its own right that offers similar possibilities of seeing lowland Caribbean species not otherwise easily found in Cartago province.

See my next post for another hard-to-find raptor, the Tiny Hawk (Accipiter superciliosus).

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