Friday, April 21, 2017

What Bird Is That?

Golden-browed Clorophonia female
In the US, all bird names are governed by the American Ornithologist Union. So when a familiar bird's name changes, that is who to blame. In the 1700's and 1800's, when birds in North America where being discovered, it was bad form to name a new species after yourself, so many species are named after a friend of the discoverer - Gambel, Wilson, etc. Or they might be named after the first place they were found, such as Tennessee and Kentucky Warblers, even though they don't nest here.

Yellow-thighed Finch
I don't know who is in charge of naming birds in Costa Rica, but they have a completely different naming scheme. Costa Rican birds seem to be named more descriptively, with colors. In fact, we often teased Glenn about making up the names of the birds. We had trouble keeping the Clorospingus and Clorophonia straight.
Ruddy Tree-runner
How many words can you think of that mean red? We played a game at lunch one day trying to come up with all the "red" or "beak" words that are used in bird names. Red, reddish, ruddy, chestnut, crimson, scarlet, bay, flame, fiery, rufous - you get it. Then add those names to a body part - necked, throated, crowned, capped, collared, breasted, rumped, thighed.I had never heard of the word "olivaceous" before, but several birds had it. Once in a while, they ran out of descriptions and just called a bird "plain."
Lesson's Motmot
What kind of bird is a Motmot? The one we saw has vibrant feathers, and a long tail with an extra tip on it. Woodcreepers are smaller than Tree-runners, but otherwise they seem to look the same. We saw a Streaked Xenops one day, but no Antshrikes, Antwrens, Antbirds, Antthrushes, or Antpittas. Glenn said he heard Potoos in the night.
White-colared Manakin
The White-collared Manakin does not model clothes in a store window, but courts his prospective mate by dancing in a "lek." He scrapes a bit of ground clear of leaves, and dances for any female who may be watching, snapping his wings so they sound like fingers snapping (that's how Glenn called them) and his call sounds like an electrical short. All I ever saw was a glimpse of him.
Boat-billed Heron
At first glance, I thought this was a Black-crowned Night Heron. When we took a closer look, however, Glenn pointed out his broad bill. It's the Boat-billed Heron.
Masked Tityra
I never did learn how to confidently pronounce the name of the Masked Tityra.
Black-billed Nightingale Thrush
But the small Black-billed Nightingale Thrush could sing duets with himself all day long and was one of my favorites.

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