Brown-billed Scythebill

Brown-billed Scythebill (Campylorhamphus pusillus): Trepador pico de hoz; Brauner Sensenschnabel; Grimpar à bec brun

The Brown-billed Scythebill turned out to be just one of 6 woodcreeper species that we found on that wonderful excursion to Tausito. With its outrageously long and decurved bill, it was certainly the pick of the bunch. Our attention was first called by its very loud and stuttered trills and whistles, which lasted quite a few seconds. Its dense forest environment prevents full appreciation of the rich brown and chestnut parts of its plumage. My first visual impression was that it was very similar to our commonest woodcreeper, the Streak-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii), an almost daily visitor to my garden. But a glimpse of the slender scythe-like bill dispels all doubt.

Brown-billed Scythebill, almost out of the shade at Tausito; photo by John Beer
Scythebill in silhouette; photo by John Beer

This is a medium-sized species, which at 9″ is not much larger than the aforementioned souleyetii, the Streak-headed Woodcreeper. Years ago, in an earlier post, I mentioned my finding a dead Scythebill here in San Antonio, strangely distant from any heavy forest. This week’s Tausito sighting was actually my first of a live bird and I consider it a great find. But though rated uncommon it’s not a rare species. John and Steven also had one in August of last year on a trip that I unfortunately missed, at the rather surprisingly high elevation of 2300 m, at the high point on our Los Bajos del Volcán road. At this elevation the usual woodcreeper is the Spot-crowned Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes affinis), which once turned up at the bird-banding station at CATIE, several hundred meters below its usual range, The streaked head of souleyetti should have been the expected species there. Here now is Steven and John’s high-country Scythebill:

Brown-billed Scythebill before the drop down to Los Bajos; photo by John Beer

I’ll end this post with a final pic of the Los Bajos Scythebill. When not in mating season, just one individual bird is to be expected, generally accompanying mixed-species flocks. I’ll be sure to keep a sharp lookout for it on my next trip uphill.

Brown-billed Scythebill, Los Bajos del Volcán; photo by John Beer

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