Great day at Aquiares – Red-headed Barbet and 74 other delights

Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii): Barbudo cabecirrojo; Rotkopfbartvogel; Cabézon à tête rouge

Any day with a sighting of the Red-headed Barbet is one to savour. This is especially true if both male and female of the species can be observed. The female is already a strikingly good-looking bird:

Female Red-headed Barbet; courtesy of Fernando Burgalin

….but the male tends to bring gasps of admiration from any visitor lucky enough to see one. This is only easy to do at well-established bird feeding tables at a few select tourist restaurants. These have to be in middle-elevation rural areas adjacent to wet forest. This is a generally rather timid bird which only very rarely betrays its presence vocally. I personally know of no one who has heard the male’s “somewhat toad-like trill….delivered from high in a tree” (Alexander Skutch). This guy here looks rather peeved to have been caught on camera, but I’m sure not a peep was heard.

Male Red-headed Barbet at Cinchona, Varablanca; courtesy of Fernando Burgalin

Fernando’s beautiful photo was taken at Cinchona near Varablanca, Heredia Province, a place that became tragically famous in 2009 when an earthquake took the lives of 42 people.

Friends John and Larry have on several occasions found this bird at Aquiares, the coffee town just above Turrialba as you head uphill towards the volcano, but opportunities for good photographs of this species are rare out in the field. The following photo is one that featured in an earlier post. It comes from the exact same location near the Mirador, where John and I found a pair earlier this week.

Male Red-headed Barbet; photo by Larry Waddell

The birds were inspecting a leaf cluster and were momentarily out in the open. However, we caught not much more than a few brief but exciting looks as the pair quickly retreated into adjacent thick foliage.

Aquiares is a top-class birding location year round, though rarely, if ever, visited by birding tours. One difficulty for the casual visitor is the danger of getting lost in the maze of rough tracks that run through the coffee fields. The terrain starts at perhaps 800 m but supports a wide range of bird species because of the higher elevations in the northern section. This is well up above the town. A not always very well-defined footpath near the top even goes through to the village of La Pastora, which is at 1700 m and where the principal road to the Turrialba Volcano begins.

74 other delights? Here are just a few. These are all reasonably Costa Rican residents. First, a female Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris), rather dowdy in comparison to the glossy green and red male:

Female Collared Trogon at Aquiares; photo by John Beer

Trogons sit still and are relatively easy to study quite closely for minutes at a time. This is much less the case with euphonias, for example, but the male Tawny-capped Euphonia (Euphonia anneae) below posed quite nicely. Although a common resident of middle elevations, it’s mostly a forest species. I have recorded it in my garden in San Antonio only once.

Male Tawny-capped Euphonia; photo by John Beer

Warblers are in constant movement, which for the bird watcher is both good and bad. Good, because you know you have a good chance of seeing their next movement after they’ve blended with the foliage, and bad, because you rarely get a long look at a perched bird. The Rufous-capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons) is the last bird featured in today’s post. It tends to forage at lower levels and is often found in shaded coffee fields, such as the ones here in Aquiares. It’s a pretty resident mostly found in Costa Rica’s northwest and also in the southern Pacific region. Here in Turrialba it is at the extreme eastern edge of its Central Valley range:

Rufous-capped Warbler; photo by John Beer

Although we encountered no rarities, it really was a great day’s birding at Aquiares. Look for mountain species in my next post as we go much higher up the Turrialba Volcano slope.

You can find the full eBird checklist for this excursion, including a few more of John’s photographs, at:

2 thoughts on “Great day at Aquiares – Red-headed Barbet and 74 other delights

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s