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biodiversity Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica caribbean foothills Introduction

Two Ornate Bird Species at El Tapir

One of the innumerable cool things about watching birds compared to say, mammals, is that many tend to be colorful, decorative, and downright ornate. Not that there aren’t ornate mammals too but let’s face it, the general color scheme for mammal species happens to be brown. Some bird species have even managed to get “ornate” included in their common English name. Ornate Antwren is one of them and although its plumage isn’t exactly decked out with fancy plumes, compared to other dead leaf inspecting Myrmotherula, it’s a brightly colored bird.

With its striking plumage and fancy feathered spike on top of its head, the Ornate Hawk Eagle earns its name with flair. However, there are many more ornate looking birds that don’t get that adjective included in their names than the birds that do. I saw two such ornate bird species during recent guiding in the Caribbean slope foothill forests of El Tapir.

One was right out in the open among the flowering Porterweed (Stachytarpheta sp.).

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This male Black-crested Coquette entertained on two recent mornings at El Tapir. If you haven’t seen one of these gems in person, it’s like a feathered flying bug that has been decorated for a fancy little nectar party. The wispy crest makes this and other coquette species about as delicate and elegant as a bird can be.

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They like to perch on bare twigs to show off those crazy plumes.

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“Behold my plumes!”, says the coquette (which only hummingbirds and bats can hear because it has such a high-pitched tinkly voice).

The other sort of ornate species we saw is much larger than a coquette and hangs out on forested streams and rivers. It’s a nemesis bird for many but eventually turns up if you take enough boat rides on the Sarapiqui or check enough rocky rivers.

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The pristine stream at the end of the main trail at El Tapir is a good spot for Sunbittern. It’s also a good trail for many other things but be prepared for ticks!

This fancy blend of heron, rail, and crane was pretty shy but eventually let us take pictures once it ventured out to the middle of the stream. It slowly swayed back and forth as we admired everything from its reddish eyes to the white spots on its wings and sunburst pattern in the primaries as it took flight

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My, what orange legs you have!

Sunbittern, the neotropical Kagu.

The main species that people hope to see at El Tapir was also present. In fact, there were at least four Snowcaps buzzing around the flowers. I wouldn’t refer to these snowy-crowned gems as being ornate but I would venture to say that the males look like surreal birds only seen in dreams.

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Crazy purple and glaring white. What’s up with that!

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The female brings you back to reality with much more homely hummingbird plumage.

Nevertheless, she still strikes a coy pose now and then.

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