White-throated Crake

White-throated Crake (Laterallus albigularis): Polluela gargantiblanca; Râle à menton blanc; Weißkehlralle

Infuriating. The bird is calling, loudly, perhaps even from a small ditch right at your feet, yet it never reveals itself. The White-throated Crake is by far the commonest crake in Costa Rica and can be heard not only in marshes but also on almost any trip through wet pastures. Its call, a fairly long churring sound, is easily learnt but it’s a red-letter day if you catch even a glimpse. The small lagoon in the Aquiares coffee fields always, yes always, contains breeding pairs. Friend John Beer remarked that he has been hearing this bird at this and many other locations for some 30 years but only this week did he manage finally to catch sight of it! This is by no means unusual, I believe.

White-throated Crake at Aquiares; photo by John Beer

“What’s white-throated about it?” was his immediate reaction. Grey head, rufous breast and black-and-white bars on the underparts combine to make a quite handsome bird, but only on the immature was any hint of a white throat visible:

Immature White-throated Crake appears for a split second; photo by John Beer

Friend and expert guide Steven Aguilar Montenegro (see https://www.facebook.com/Birding.Hiking.Turrialba/) was able to coax the birds into view on the path at the side of the lagoon.

Over the years I myself have not had much better luck than John. But on one occasion an adult crake fell into the net at a CATIE banding station when I was assisting. Here’s one of the better photos from that occasion:

White-throated crake in the hand; still no sign of a white throat! Photo by Paul Pickering

Here’s a final close-up of one of the adult birds at the Aquiares lagoon:

Head shot of White-throated Crake at Aquiares; photo by John Beer

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