Barred Forest-Falcon at La Marta

Barred Forest-Falcon (Micrastur ruficollis): Halcón de monte barreteado; Carnifex barré; Sperberwaldfalke

Here´s a bird that´s much more frequently heard than seen. Its call is often likened to the bark of a small dog. In our Costa Rican forests I have heard the Barred Forest-Falcon on several occasions but only once was I lucky enough to get a really good look at this diminutive but beautiful forest raptor. This encounter occurred some 8 years ago at Quebrada Bonita on the Pacific slope during a wonderful trip out of San Ignacio de Acosta. Good photographs were taken of an adult bird that stayed for almost half an hour on an exposed forest-edge perch, but, disappointingly, I never received the promised copies of the photos.

John’s photo of an adult of the species at the La Marta reserve near Pejibaye now remedies the situation:

Adult Barred Forest-Falcon at La Marta; photo by John Beer

The bars on the underparts, which extend all the way down, exclude confusion with any of the country’s small raptors with the exception of the Tiny Hawk (Accipiter superciliosus), which chiefly preys on hummingbirds. However, the (even tinier) Tiny Hawk lacks the yellow orbital skin of the adult Barred Forest-Falcon.

John has had the good fortune to take photographs of the species on at least one previous occasion, coincidentally also at La Marta. As the following photos show, however, the immature Barred Forest-Falcon looks disconcertingly like a completely different species:

Immature Barred Forest-Falcon at La Marta; photo by John Beer

Raptor plumage is often highly variable and, while immature Barred Forest-Falcons may also have barred or even buffy underparts, our bird here is mainly white below with dark head and incomplete white ‘collar’:

No bars! Immature Barred Forest-Falcon at La Marta; photo by John Beer

It should be noted that the specific genus name of the Barred Forest-Falcon, ruficollis, i.e. red-collared, was first applied to the populations in southern Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. Our Costa Rican subspecies is termed Micrastur ruficollis interstes.

Congratulations to John on yet another local ‘scoop’!

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