White-throated Flycatcher – an Empidonax Flycatcher resident in Costa Rica

White-throated Flycatcher (Empidonax albigularis); Mosquerito gargantiblanco; Fahlkehl-Schnäppertyrann; Moucherolle à gorge blanche

Determining the exact species of flycatchers of the Empidonax genus can drive to exasperation even the most practised of birdwatchers here in the New World. As regards Costa Rica, having determined that the bird you’re looking at is not actually a pewee – a task in itself for many of us – you are left with a choice between some 7 or 8 species of these small, generally dull-plumaged flycatchers. I say 7 or 8 simply because of the extreme difficulty of distinguishing between the migrant Alder and Willow Flycatchers, which are often lumped together for convenience and termed Traill’s Flycatcher. Only 4 ’empis’ are resident species in Costa Rica, but, fortunately only one of these is difficult to separate in the field from the North American migrants, which can be found here only from late August through May. I’m referring to the White-throated Flycatcher (Empidonax albigularis), featured here below:

White-throated Flycatcher at Angostura, Turrialba; photo by John Beer

Look at the throat! What’s so tough about identifying this bird, you ask? Even without hearing its distinctive rasping call, identification seems to be a cinch! However, lighting conditions in the field rarely permit such an excellent view, and 3 of the migrant species also have a ‘whitish’ throat. John’s most recent photos clearly show that this is indeed Empidonax albigularis. It is a species of limited distribution in Costa Rica but is reported regularly by many observers at this very location. It’s an uncommon or even rare resident in other parts of the country but occurs fairly frequently in some parts of the province of Cartago. This is especially true of lower, often marshy locations well below the Irazú and Turrialba volcanoes.

White-throated Flycatcher with obvious white throat, brownish plumage and buffy wing bars; photo by John Beer
John’s final photo of a seemingly confiding White-throated Flycatcher at one of its favourite perches.

That’s the White-throated Flycatcher. Congratulations to John on capturing such detailed up-close images. As migration season draws to a close in Costa Rica, my next post will feature a few of Costa Rica’s brightly-coloured endemics, just to remind potential visiting birders of what is in store.

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