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“Late” Migrant Birds in Costa Rica

The peak of the northern spring migration is over, especially in Costa Rica. The many thousands of Scarlet Tanagers, Red-eyed Vireos, Eastern Kingbirds, Purple Martins, raptors and other bird species that winter in South America and move through Costa Rica have come and gone. Although various wood-warblers and other May migrants are still entertaining birders way to the north, in Costa Rica, we won’t see any migrant Parulines until the late August return of Cerulean and Yellow Warblers.

That said, some birds are still migrating through Costa Rica. Even this late in the game, and so far south from their boreal breeding grounds, the remnants of spring migration can still be encountered. There aren’t a whole lot of migrant birds out there but based on the daily eBird reports, there are enough and I have been kicking myself for not venturing further afield to look for them. Although I do keep a close eye on the hedgerows visible from the homestead, locating most of these last minute migrants requires several hours of dedicated birding that covers more ground and reaches more habitats.

One of several Eastern Kingbirds that was using the hedgerow.

Fortunately, other birders have been spending more time in the field in more places. Some of the interesting stuff that has been seen:

White-rumped Sandpiper– Based on reports from Cano Negro, it sounds like now is a good time for this high Arctic migrant in Costa Rica. If we had more coverage at Palo Verde and various other small inland wetland sites, I wonder how many more reports we would have? I am sorely tempted to drive to a local reservoir to look for this bird, I still need it for my country list.

American Golden Plover– A few of this fine species have also been reported. With fewer birders in the field, I can’t help but wonder how many more are around. Still need this one for the year list although we will have a fair chance when they fly back south.

Broad-winged Hawk– This was a surprise! However, it turns out that a few are around or passing through during late May of most years. One of a few were reported this past weekend during a semi-Big Day carried out by Ernesto Carman, Paz Irola, and Juan Diego Vargas. The Broad-wing they had at the edge of Carara was one of more than 220 species they identified as part of the Rainforest Biodiversity Group bird-a-thon to raise funds for the Las Brisas Reserve. 220 species in a day is fantastic anywhere and they would have found more if they had not been rained out for the afternoon!

Nowadays, Short-tailed Hawks are more frequently seen.

Black-billed Cuckoo– I just saw the report and photos this morning! Always a rare migrant in Costa Rica, a good number likely pass through the country but since this species is so reluctant to take the birding stage, very few are seen. I think that most records are from fall migration, it was interesting to hear about this May bird. As with many records of this bird in Costa Rica, this one was also seen in the highlands. More are likely out there, I wonder how many? I’ll keep watching the hedgerow, maybe one is lurking nearby.

Flycatchers– Expected late migrants, we have still had a few reports of Yellow-bellied and Willow Flycatchers along with Eastern Wood-pewees. Last week, I had a flycatcher out front which sadly never called. I suspected it was an Alder but actually, it also looked a bit like a White-throated! So, I’m not sure what it was.

Whenever I read the daily rare eBird report, it reminds me that there is always more waiting to be discovered, waiting to be seen. I can’t wait to get in more birding to see what’s around, to see what’s nesting away from my place of residence. In terms of a good place to check, Villa San Ignacio comes to mind. I’m not sure if any migrants will still be around but I will see about doing a bird count there soon.

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