Text Box: Costa Rica Rare Bird Reports


Long-billed Curlew Reported at Colorado Salt Ponds


14 Sep: Adolfo “Fito” Downs, Paco Madrigal, Luis Vargas, and Gilberth Molina reported seeing a Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus in the salt ponds at Colorado.


I hope to publish more interesting results of the Shorebird Count, once I receive them.



Tricolored Munias Turn Up South of Palmar Sur


07 Sep: On his way to the Wilson Gardens, Jim Zook “stopped at a big rice growing area along the highway just south of Palmar Sur and guess what I saw? Tricolored Munia Lonchura malacca, a pair of adults. Amazing, the little buggers are making themselves right at home.” This locale is nearly 200 km SW of their previously known range within the country (see below for the earlier update of their status).



Buff-breasted Sandpipers Found near Chomes


03 Sep: Kevin Easley sent this report of an incredible outing.


“A group of Costa Rican birders got together to see what we could turn up at the Chomes shrimp farms located on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Nicoya. I awoke at 3:45 AM, coffee, and out the door and soon picked up Jim Zook en-route to the coast. Steven Easley and his wife Magda picked up Vernon Campos around the same time while Ernesto Carman and Elaida left even earlier from Platanillo near Rancho Naturalista - all with the same goal - to look for rare migrants that might be coming through this time of year. 


“Jim and I stopped along the entrance road to Chomes to look over swallows perched on the wire, our best bird there were two Purple Martins Progne subis, a transient migrant and not common to say the least. We also stopped and scanned a ploughed field which had many shorebirds since it was high tide but we decided to put that off till later in order to take advantage of the high tide at the shrimp ponds. 


“We met up with Steven, Magda, and Vernon at the first ponds - Jim and I caught up with the Least Terns Sternula antillarum and one winter plumage Black Tern Chlidonias niger they had located and noticed both Bank Swallows Riparia riparia and Cliff Swallows Petrochelidon pyrrhonota migrating through as well. There were lots of shorebirds present - the usual suspects - and the largest collection of Semipalmated Sandpipers Calidris pusilla I have ever seen in this country. After going through this group carefully, we continued to the ponds closest to the gulf. Here we found Franklin's Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan, Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia, Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa, and Collared Plover Charadrius collaris along with the other more typical shorebirds present. Ernesto and Elaida drove up at this point and I went with them back to the front ponds (they came in a different route) as Ernesto needed Least Tern as a life bird. We nailed that for him and joined the rest of the group at a viewing point over the gulf. The others had located an American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus so we caught up with that, Yellow (Mangrove) Warblers Dendroica petechia erythacorides were present as well which is always nice to see, but no sign of the Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus Steven photographed just 4 days prior with Magda and Bart Brown. 


“We drove around more ponds which were full of water thus no shorebirds but did see a Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus fly over. Back at the ploughed fields now and we could see shorebirds flying about at times along with MANY Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus but they seemed to disappear in the rows of the fields, out of sight. We decided to try and enter the farm and after Jim talked to the administrator we were able to drive around (aimlessly at times) to bird the fields proper. It was frustrating to still have distanct views of groups of shorebirds irratically flying over the fields but not get definitive looks at them. Possible Baird's, possible this, possible that was becoming the theme. A Pearl Kite Gampsonyx swainsonii flew over which took our eyes momentarily off the fields to the sky above. The habitat looked great and I felt like a rarity had to be in the next field, now the next, another, another...and this went on for a couple of hours. 


“After making it back out to the main road we decided to give the original ploughed field one more try.  With patience we watched as shorebirds would occasionally take flight only to disappear again except for the numerous Whimbrel which did not hide as effectively. We could see size difference in the Whimbrel flocks but were still not able to make out the species as they were quite distant. Steven spotted something of potential, gave me directions and I quickly had my scope on it. My announcement of "BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER!!!" Tryngites subruficollis was first met with a sense of shock or disbelief (as it would me as well), but my insistence gave everyone cause for hope and soon we had 4 scopes on this mythical transient migrant through Costa Rica. A new Costa Rican bird for everyone in the group and a life bird for Jim, Ernesto, Elaida, and Vernon. Our determination had paid off in a big way - this is a bird that I thought I would perhaps never see in Costa Rica. There are very few records of this species in Costa Rica - perhaps overlooked but also because there is only a narrow window of opportunity, late Aug and early Sept being what we thought would be the best time to find one here. Soon Baird's Sandpipers Calidris bairdii made an appearance - another life bird for several in the group. Steven decided to try and photograph the Buff-breasted and set off across the field. Jim and Ernesto noticed a number of shorebirds on the back field and they headed out that way while the others watched from the road. Both were successful - Steven was able to get excellent photos of the Buff-breasted and Jim and Ernesto found a lone Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda which didn't stick around long enough for the others. We joined Jim and Ernesto and although we missed the Upland, we did have exceptional views of two Buff-breasted and several Baird's Sandpipers which were much enjoyed. A pause at the aqueduct to get rid of extra pounds of mud on our shoes and we were out of there. In the end we were all delighted with the day of birding, everyone had something to celebrate.”


In a follow-up email, Jim Zook added that, as if the above weren’t enough, they also had a Harris’s Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus and a Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca that day—the significance of the latter being that it was most likely a rare austral migrant.


Both the Buff-breasted and the Baird’s Sandpipers were still in the fields on 07 Sep, when Julio Sánchez and another group of birders went looking for them. Unfortunately, a week later, when the family and I visited Chomes as part of the Shorebird Count on 14 Sep, there was nothing to be found in the fields apart from a pair of Double-striped Thick-knees Burhinus bistriatus. According to a local fellow, there hadn’t been any rain there for a week. The conditions had caused the plowed fields to dry up and, most likely, had spurred the peeps to continue their journey.



Another Black-cowled Oriole Sighted in the Southern Pacific Region


25 Aug: Noel Ureña observed a Black-cowled Oriole Icterus prosthemelas in San Cayetano, west of San Isidro de El General. This is now at least the eighth site on the Pacific side of CR where this (normally) Caribbean slope species has been seen in the past five years.



Participate in the Second Annual Gulf of Nicoya Shorebird Count


Coming up on the weekend of 13/14 September, the newly formed Unión de Ornitólogos de Costa Rica will be organizing the Second Annual Gulf of Nicoya Shorebird Count. Last year’s survey of four sites yielded a total of more than 3,000 individual birds—including a new species for the country: Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva, photographed by Johan Fernández.


Anyone interested in helping out in this year’s effort is invited to contact the Ornithological Union at 2280-6609, or uniondeornitologoscr at gmail.com, for more information.



American Bittern Reported at Chomes


19 Aug: Luis Sandoval and Gustavo Flores came across an American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus during a visit to the old shrimp ponds at Chomes. Luis reported that the bird was in the third empty pond—counting as one heads towards the coast from the village along the track bordering the southern end of the pond complex—at about 08:30. When they found it, the bird was perched in a small mangrove shrub growing in the pond. It stayed there for about three minutes before dropping down into the mangroves. They went looking for it, but never saw it again.   


Luis described the bird as having a small black crown and a well-defined black malar stripe. The neck was whitish with narrow brown streaks and the body was brownish. It perched with its bill pointing upwards. Curiously, Luis mentioned the size as being similar to that of a Green Heron Butorides virescens, but a bit slimmer and with a longer neck. [This could just be an example of how confusing the appreciation of a bird’s size can be, since an American Bittern would be significantly larger than a Green Heron. However, it does cast some degree of doubt on the identification, even though the description of the bird otherwise fits American Bittern.] Luis eliminated the possibility of the bird being a Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis by the lack of dark patches on the wings and back.

Unfortunately, neither Luis nor Gustavo had a camera at the time.



Nesting Uniform Crake in Guápiles


06 Aug: Pablo “Chespi” Elizondo sent the accompanying photograph of a Uniform Crake Amaurolimnas concolor that was found nesting in Unión de Guápiles. The nest had five eggs and was situated about 1.5 meters above the ground in a dense tangle of vines.



Striated Heron Photographed at Esterillos


02 Mar: Though several months have now passed, I recently received this report of a Striated Heron Butorides striatus that Walter Coto and his wife, Ruth Ulate, discovered in the estuary at Esterillos Centro (09.31.770 N,  084.28.557 W). They were able to observe the bird for about five minutes and take the accompanying photos before the bird flew off.





Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon in Southern Caribbean


19 Jul: On his birding blog, Lance Barnett posted news of seeing a Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon Micrastur mirandollei while birding the trails at Pizote Lodge in Puerto Viejo de Limón. That same afternoon, he also had a group of six Black-chested Jays Cyanocorax affinis.



Tricolored Munia Spreading in Northwest


I had the opportunity to meet Cindy Beckman (winner of WildBird Magazine’s Birder of the Year Award) and her husband for a book signing in mid-July and they mentioned that they had seen several Tricolored Munias Lonchura malacca a few days earlier along the road to Ensenada Lodge. Since this was the farthest south I’d heard of the species being sighted in CR, I emailed local birders with the news. Much to my surprise, Luis Sandoval replied that he’d observed a flock of some 500 birds near Miramar de Puntarenas in 2005! And in 2006, he’d seen some 50 individuals, including adults and juveniles, in the same area. He also mentioned having found two adults at Chomes in 2006. These sites are 34 km and 18 km, respectively, to the southeast of Ensenada Lodge, which in turn is some 50 km southeast of Guinea, the area where this species was originally discovered in CR.


Kevin Easley added that he has now seen munias twice in the Bagatzi rice fields, just before entering Palo Verde NP. This area is 18 km to the east of Guinea.


And in October 2007, Carlos Jiménez spotted two adult Tricolored Munias in an area of sugar cane fields along the new road from Comunidad to Playa Panamá, which is some 21 km to the northwest of Guinea.


In summation, it now appears that munias can be found throughout a swath stretching more than 110 km from Comunidad to Miramar.



Yellow-throated Euphonia in Sarapiquí


08 Jul: Joel Alvarado sent word that a male Yellow-throated Euphonia Euphonia hirundinacea had turned up outside his house in La Virgen de Sarapiquí and was feeding on bromeliad fruits. A life-long resident of the Sarapiquí area, this was the first time that Joel had seen or heard this species in the region. Seeing as it is common in the Arenal area, it is probably just a matter of time before the species spreads to the Sarapiquí lowlands.


Interestingly, this euphonia has been reported on several Guápiles Aerial Tram CBCs—an area even farther beyond its current range on the Caribbean side of CR.



Two Other Spreading Species at Solimar


30 Jun: Paco Madrigal had a pair of Southern Lapwings Vanellus chilensis at Solimar. He and his birding group also saw a Pearl Kite Gampsonyx swainsonii there. Though not the first time either of these species have been reported from Guanacaste, these are the first reports to come from Solimar.


Sharpbill Nest Found in Tapantí


21 Jun: Elidier Vargas and a few other lucky local birders were treated to great views of the seldom seen Sharpbill Oxyruncus cristatus when news of a nest circulated in mid-June. Apparently, Randall Ortega discovered the nest, which was in a tree right beside the road traversing Tapantí NP, not too far beyond the ranger station. The nest contained two young that fledged a few days after Elidier took the accompanying photo.


The only nest of this species to ever be studied was in SE Brazil.



A Potential New Species for CR seen off the Pacific Coast


As reported in the previous edition, Bruce Mactavish was acting as a marine mammal monitor on a seismic ship working off the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua this past spring. He saw and photographed a dark shearwater that has been the subject of an interesting (and potentially unsolvable) debate. You can read the opinions of several seasoned seabird experts by visiting this thread on the Google Seabird group.



For reports prior to these, please check previous Costa Rica Rare Bird Reports:


Feb/Mar/Apr/May 2008

Jan 2008/Dec/Nov 2007

Oct/Sep 2007

Aug/Jul/Jun 2007

May/Apr/Mar 2007

Feb/Jan 2007

Dec/Nov/Oct 2006


For reports prior to those, please check the Gone Birding Newsletter.




Have you seen a rare bird in Costa Rica, or a species in an unexpected locality, or exhibiting odd behavior? If you have any noteworthy sightings, I (and the rest of the birding community) would appreciate hearing about them. Please send reports to Richard Garrigues gonebirdingcr@gmail.com and include pertinent details such as location (as precise as possible), date, time, and observers’ names. If you have digital images, all the better; however, please send images at file sizes of less than 500 kb.


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