Red-legged Honeycreeper at Santa Rosa

Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus): Mielero patirrojo; Türkisnaschvogel; Guit-guit saï

Honeycreepers are small songbirds of the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. They eat mainly fruit and insects are currently still considered to be in the same family (Thraupidae) as the tanagers. However, they have thin, sharp and often decurved bills, which they use to extract flower nectar. Two closely related Costa Rican birds are the Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and the Blue Dacnis, both of which are regularly found here in our area, but of Costa Rica’s three actual honeycreepers only one, the Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza), is easily observed here.

It was thus with considerable surprise that John found a male Red-legged Honeycreeper at his banana feeder. We’re still awaiting official confirmation from eBird, but John’s photos leave no room for doubt and the bird has so far stayed faithful to his garden. This particular species, common in the lowlands, is well out of range here in Santa Rosa, which is just a little way upslope from the town of Turrialba.

Male Red-legged Honeycreeper at Santa Rosa; photo by John and Milena Beer

The few sightings for our area include one of a bird that was found at CATIE in December of 2010. I was with a group of 8 local birders but I don’t remember any great surprise expressed at the time and the sighting was accepted by eBird without indication of rarity for the area. Of course, the CATIE location is at a much lower elevation of around perhaps 600 metres.

I’ll finish with another fine photo of the Red-legged Honeycreeper, this time from the La Fortuna area, near the Arenal Volcano.

By contrast, this male Red-legged Honeycreeper at Arenal is within its normal Costa Rican range; photo by John Beer

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