For the non-birder, the title of this post surely sounds like some crude joke. For us birders, though, we know that it must refer to some kind of weird bird. At least we hope it does because how could you not want to see something called a “treehunter”? Because, really, how does one hunt trees? After all, they aren’t about to exactly sprint out of sight. To clarify the treehunter situation, here is some information about the one that lives in Costa Rica:

  • Streak-breasted Treehunter (Thripadectes rufobrunneus): The official name for the only Thripadectes species that occurs in Central America. The other hunters of trees live in South America where they chase and bash down various trees with their super power beaks. Ok, so they don’t but wouldn’t that be a frightful sight!

    Streak-breasted Treehunter hanging on a tree.

  • Poorly named: Now that we know its name, we also have to sigh and admit that the title is nothing but power down fluff. It sort of has buff streaks on the breast but would never hunt a tree. A more honest and descriptive name might be “Gray-crowned, cloud forest monsterette”.
  • Hefty brown bird: Like other Thripadectes, this one looks like it could kick some cloud forest butt. I bet the Red-faced Spinetails keep their distance.

    What you looking at spinetail?

  • Not that rare: Breathe a sigh of relief because this bird is fairly common in cloud forest from 1,200 to 2,600 meters. I have heard and seen them around Poas and they turn up at most cloud forest sites (but see the next bullet).
  • A Part time skulker: Stevie Wonder sang about a part time lover. This bird preaches part-time skulking. That is obviously much better than full-time skulking (ahem tapaculos).

    How this part time skulker is often seen.

  • A burrow nester: Like a wannabe motmot, this bird nests in burrows! How’s that for cool, troglodytish weirdness!
  • A loner: Although it might get curious about scolding bush-tanagers, don’t expect to see it in a mixed flock.

    "I forage alone..."

  • A Costa Rica-Panama endemic: This species is one that you want to see in Costa Rica or western Panama because the binos aren’t going to espy it anywhere else. Like several other species, it evolved into a genetically and phenotypically distinct organism in the highland forests of this corner of Central America.

Look for the Streak-breasted Treehunter at any cloud forest site above 1,200 meters elevation. Since it nests in burrows, this bird is often seen near embankments and forested streams. Listen for its loud “chack!” call and distinctive, weird nagging laugh vocalization, and then run for your lives because if it can hunt a tree, what do you suppose it might do to a human?


This tree is mine!