In my Costa Rican garden: Yellow-throated Euphonia

Yellow-throated Euphonia (Euphonia hirundinacea): Eufonia gorgiamarilla; Schwalbenorganist; Organiste à gorge jaune

Euphony‘ means sweet sound and that certainly describes most of the song repertoire of this small songbird. In the period since my return to Costa Rica this species has delighted me with its presence in my garden almost every day. This cheered me up in particular during the first weeks of quarantine imposed on me after my arrival by the ‘pandemia‘, the usual term of reference here for the coronavirus.

Of the nine species in Costa Rica bearing the name ‘euphonia’, this is the one most likely to be encountered at this elevation (approx. 1300 m) on the Turrialba Volcano slope. Be aware, however, that some distribution maps make it seem an unlikely species on most of the southern Caribbean slope. Remember too that our favoured location here in Turrialba is where the Central Valley meets the entrance to the Caribbean.

Many euphonia species are seed eaters, but the Yellow-throated prefers berries, especially mistletoe. Euphonias are sexually dimorphic, with the males being easier to identify than the females:

Nesting pair of Yellow-throated Euphonias at nearby Santa Rosa; photo by John Beer

When in Turrialba, note in particular the yellow throat of the male and the restriction of the yellow to the forecrown. This will help to exclude the Yellow-crowned Euphonia (Euphonia luteicapilla), which occurs here almost as frequently, and the male of which has a fully yellow crown, as indicated by its name. Both features just mentioned are clearly identifiable in the next photograph of a male Yellow-throated Euphonia:

Male Yellow-throated Euphonia; photo by John Beer

Here’s a close-up shot of a female. She sings just as loudly, though less sweetly, than the male. Female euphonias are not always easy to identify. On this species look for the grey-white lower belly, which is unfortunately often quite difficult to spot:

Female Yellow-throated Euphonia in full voice; photo by John Beer

A similar species, the White-vented Euphonia (Euphonia minuta) prefers more forested areas below around 1200 m. It can be seen in the Turrialba area, even quite close by here, but has to my knowledge never appeared in my garden in San Antonio. Other euphonia species combining chiefly blue-black upper parts and yellow underparts can be discounted at my location and in most of the Turrialba area on the basis of range alone.

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