Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bulletin 230 - Costa Rica #9 - Thrushes, and Cardinals

Thrushes are a worldwide family of birds. The family name is turdidae. There are about 180 living species and several species have gone extinct in the past century (Hawaii, Grand Cayman). They are popular and well known with the American Robin being familiar to everybody in North America.

In general thrushes are beautiful singers and the sexes are similar. The catharus genus includes several North American species and I saw one migrant in Costa Rica, the 7" Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus). It is IDed by the spotted breast and prominent eye ring.

Swainson's Thrush
The 5 local catharus thrushes must be beautiful singers as they are called Nightingale-Thrushes and they all occur in the mountains. The Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus gracilirostris) is a 6" gray and olive brown bird with a black bill.

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush

The 6" Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus frantzii) is rufous above and unspotted gray below with a yellow beak.

Ruddy-caped Nightingale-Thrush
Myadestes thrushes are called Solitaires. There is one species in Costa Rica, the 7" Black-faced Solitaire (Myadestes melanops). It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama. It is found in mountain forests (3300 to 9000 feet elevation). It has an orange bill and legs and is uniformly gray with a black mask.

Black-faced Solitaire
The largest thrushes are the turdus genus like the American Robin. The 9" Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi) is uniformly drab olive brown, with a yellow bill. It is a beautiful singer and occurs throughout Costa Rica and is their national bird. It occurs in south Texas and its range extends to Columbia.

Clay-colored Thrush
The 10" Mountain Thrush (Turdus plebejus) is plain gray and has a black bill.

Mountain Thrush
The last is the 10" Sooty Thrush (Turdus nigrescens). It is black with an orange bill and legs and a pale eye. It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Sooty Thrush
The Cardinal family is another New World family of 65 colorful birds including cardinals, grosbeaks, buntings, saltators and some tanagers (recently reassigned to this family).
The Grayish Saltator (Saltator coerulescens) is an 8" gray bird with white throat and eye stripe.

Grayish Saltator
The 8" Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus) is olive above and gray below with a buffy throat surrounded with a black border.

Buff-throated Saltator
The male Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides) is a 7" blue bird speckled with black and a large black bill. The female is brownish.

Blue-black Grosbeak - male
The Black-faced Grosbeak (Caryothraustes poliogaster) is a 7" yellowish bird with a black face and gray belly. The sexes are similar.

Black-faced Grosbeak
The next 2 species were formerly in the tanager family. The Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata) is a 7" bird that occasionally occurs in the USA. The male is bright orange with dark wings and a streaked back.

Flame-colored Tanager - male
The female is dull yellow green.

Flame-colored Tanager - male

The male 7" Red-throated Ant-Tanager (Habia fuscicauda) is reddish with a bright red throat and the female, shown here, is olive with a bright yellow throat.

Red-throated Ant-Tanager - female

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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