White-fronted Nunbird and Brown-capped Tyrannulet

White-fronted Nunbird (Monasa morphoeus); Monja frentiblanca; Weißstirntrappist; Barbacou à front blanc

Brown-capped Tyrannulet (Ornithion brunneicapillis): Mosquerito gorricafé; Tyranneau à tête brune; Braunkappen-Kleintyrann

Birding hotspots such as Finca Tres Equis are making an excellent contribution to the growth of environmental tourism in the Turrialba area. Our area offers a wonderful mix of high-, middle- and low-elevation locations, ranging from the heights of the more than 3000 meter-high Turrialba Volcano, down to the Angostura Dam on the Río Reventazón, and finally to lower Caribbean areas on the Río Pacuare.

A pair of noisily squawking White-fronted Nunbirds appeared at Finca Tres Equis this week, close to the Río Pacuare. The nunbird is a member of the puffbird family (Bucconidae), of which there are 5 species in Costa Rica ‘ see my earlier posts. None of them is easy to find in our area. Reports of the White-fronted Nunbird are particularly scarce here and come almost exclusively from the Caribbean lowland forest areas to the east of Turrialba. I myself have still never seen one. It’s a fairly large, mostly grey bird which, like other puffbirds, employs a sit-and-wait feeding strategy. The file photo below shows a good general view. It was taken by Costa Rican field guide author Richard Garrigues and reveals the striking head pattern with white forehead and chin around a bright red bill.

White-fronted Nunbird; courtesy of Richard Garrigues

Steven Aguilar is a highly skilled local bird guide and the excursion with John and Sean to Finca Tres Equis brought numerous highlights and some good photography opportunities.

White-fronted Nunbird – pair at Finca Tres Equis; photo by Sean Beer

While observing the nunbirds Steven noted the “enormous wide black tail that it spreads out when gliding from branch to branch”. Above we see the nunbird pair – sexes are alike – and below a final view of a single bird:

White-fronted Nunbird at Finca Tres Equis; photo by John Beer

Another rarity for the Turrialba area is the Brown-capped Tyrannulet (Ornithion brunneicapillis). Like the nunbird it is primarily a Caribbean lowland forest species. This tiny flycatcher is yellow below with an obvious white eyebrow that might superficially recall the ultra-common Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola), which is seen in gardens almost everywhere. But serious confusion is only really possible with the look-alike Yellow- bellied Tyrannulet (Ornithion semiflavum), a bird that has not been recorded in this part of the country. Semiflavum is distinguished by its grey cap and could be thought of perhaps as the Pacific-side version of the Brown-capped Tyrannulet. Both these tyrannulets are notoriously difficult to photograph. Here, from the Finca Tres Equis excursion, are perhaps the first-ever shots from the Turrialba area of the Brown-capped Tyrannulet :

White eyebrow and yellow underparts: Brown-capped Tyrannulet; photo by John Beer
Thick bill tells you it’s not a warbler; Brown-capped Tyrannulet at Finca Tres Equis; photo by John Beer
Brown-capped Tyrannulet, almost out in the open! Photo by John Beer

Small, hard to find and not very colourful, but how I wish I could have been there with Sean, John and Steven!

Check the following link to see what other great birds were found at Finca Tres Equis. My next post will look at just a few of the many species observed that particular day.


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