Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Costa Rica: The Talamanca Highlands

By Lukas Musher
Barred Becard, Madre Selva, Talamanca Highlands, Costa Rica
I just got back (though still in Costa Rica) from two-and-a-half weeks in the Talamanca Highlands banding resident landbirds.  We didn't have internet most of the time so I never had a chance to post about all the great stuff I was seeing and catching.

To start, I was living on a finca consisting of hundreds of acres of primary and secondary cloud forest, a dairy farm, and three small lakes.  Needless to say I kept myself busy birding and banding, (and sleeping, waking up early is rough, ok...).

One of the interesting things about the Central Cordillera of Central America is the large number of northern or temperate taxa that inhabit the highlands.  Many of these species evolved from species that were able to disperse south during cold periods in earth's history. Examples of temperate taxa that call the Costa Rican highlands their home include Contopus (pewees; Ochraceous Pewee), Selasphorus (genus of hummingbirds; e.g. Volcano Hummingbird), Empidonax (genus of Tyrant Flycatchers; e.g. Black-capped Flycatcher), and Catharus (genus of Thrushes; e.g. Black-billed Nightingale Thrush).  Furthermore, the fact that the Costa Rican highlands, along with those of western Panama are well separated from other highlands in Latin America, allowed for speciation to occur in many taxa, meaning many endemic species to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Here is a complete list of birds seen and/or banded during my 18-day stint at CRBO Madre Selva, 2500 meters (>1.5mi) high in the Central Cordillera of Costa Rica:

Least Grebe
Black Guan (endemic to CR and western Panama)
Spotted Wood-Quail
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Swallow-tailed Kite
Short-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Quite rare in the highlands and a super lucky find by Sara, my banding partner.  It flew into a tree at our banding site and stuck around for less than a minute before taking off again.)
Barred Forest Falcon (In the hand, sweet)
Barred Forest-Falcon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon (In the Primary Forest at Tapanti National Park)
Bare-shanked Screech-Owl (Endemic to CR and western Panama)
White-collared Swift
Fiery-throated Hummingbird (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Magnificent Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird
Green-fronted Lancebill
Green-fronted Lancebill
White-throated Mountain-Gem (Endemic to CR and W Panama)
Volcano Hummingbird (Endemic to CR and W Panama)
Collared Trogon
Collared Trogon
Resplendent Quetzal
Acorn Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-faced Spinetail
Ruddy Treerunner (Endemic to CR and W Panama)
Buffy Tuftedcheek
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper
Silvery-fronted Tapaculo (endemic to CR and W panama; heard only in Tapanti)
Paltry Tyrannulet (a common bird in CR but super rare in Madre Selva)
Paltry Tyrannulet
Mountain Elaenia
Olive-striped Flycatcher
Torrent Tyrannulet
Yellowish Flycatcher
Black-capped Flycatcher (Endemic to CR and W Panama)
Black-capped Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
Barred Becard 
Brown-capped Vireo
Yellow-winged Vireo (endemic from CR to W Panama)
Blue-and-white Swallow
Ochraceous Wren (endemic to CR and W Panama)
House Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Black-billed Nightingale Thrush
Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush
Black-faced Solitaire (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Black-faced Solitaire
Clay-colored Thrush
Mountain Thrush
Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher
Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatcher (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatcher
Flame-throated Warbler (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Collared Redstart (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Collared Redstart
Black-cheeked Warbler (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Common Bush-Tanager
Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Juvenal and Adult Sooty-capped Bush-Tanagers
Flame-colored Tanager
Spangle-cheeked Tanager (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Spangle-cheeked Tanager
Slaty Finch
Large-footed Finch (endemic to CR and W Panama)
White-naped Brush-Finch
White-naped Brush-Finch
Yellow-thighed Finch (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Juvenal Rufous-collared Sparrow
Black-thighed Grosbeak (endemic to CR and W Panama)
Black-thighed Grosbeak
Bronzed Cowbird
Golden-browed Chlorophonia (heard only...damn)
This is just a species of Lizard that was everywhere.  No idea what it is though.


  1. got a few (more than a few) birds Dan and I missed. Super jealous of Lancebill!!!!! Did you see them outside the net much?

    I dig Barred Becards, nice portrait.

    Why does Barred Forest-Falcon so closely resemble Common and Oriental Cuckoo???? The mind reels.

  2. I actually replied to this from my iPhone over a week ago, but I guess it didn't go through.

    The Lancebill was sweet. We caught 1 and I saw 1. Such a cool bird. As for the cuckoo question, I don't know why. Barring seems to be common in forest birds, just off the top of my head. Maybe it serves to break up a bird as camouflage. Convergent evolution is super sweet.

    Pura Vida!