Exotic Woodpeckers

Costa Rica has a number of woodpeckers that are unfamiliar to European eyes. I’ve recently managed to identify these two from my archive of photographs from our 2017 trip: Hoffmann’s woodpecker and the lineated woodpecker. Both were in Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge.

Pecking upside down in a mass of vegetation, the rather large lineated woodpecker was hard to distinguish as a woodpecker, although its bright red head stood out.

There must have been some luck involved here to get half-decent shots with my Panasonic TZ80 travel zoom. In my experience woodpeckers do not often stay still long enough to be photographed.

Hoffmann’s is named after the German naturalist Karl Hoffmann.

Scarlet Macaw

It would be a shame not to cover the Scarlet Macaw in my intermittent series of posts on the birds of Costa Rica. This is arguably the most spectacular of them all, and seemed reasonably common, in that we had several sightings of them high up in the trees while by the Pacific coast. The featured image was the best shot we got, walking near our hotel in Manuel Antonio.

We did get up closer at the animal rescue centre Zoo Ave.

scarlet macaw feature
Scarlet Macaw feeding at Zoo Ave

The Scarlet Macaw is the national bird of nearby Honduras; Costa Rica prefers the Clay Colored Robin, herald of rain.

Simian encounter

We were quietly gliding through the peaceful mangrove swamps at Damas Estuary near Quepos, Costa Rica, and came across a troupe of capuchin monkeys, or white-faced monkeys as they are more colloquially called. As we edged into the bank two came over to size us up. The younger one was a bit disturbed.

Soon we got the warning baring of teeth, not to come closer, but the older monkey realised we were no threat. His face looks quite wise. Real natural wisdom.

Costa Rica has just four species of monkey: the howler monkey mentioned in a previous post, these capuchins, spider monkeys and the smaller squirrel monkeys. We saw squirrel monkeys, but they moved around too quickly to get good photos.

Broad billed motmot

‘There’s a motmot’, our guide at Hanging Bridges near Arenal volcano in Costa Rica exclaimed. It was hiding up in the branches and the first photographs were miserable. By moving around the tree I managed to get a better shot. This seems to be a broad billed motmot, part of the motmot family.


motmot tailThese birds are closely related to the kingfisher, see the beak, and have long tails, unfortunately cut off in the photo. But see this one.

Blue crowned manakin

I believe that this little bird we saw in Costa Rica’s Danaus Ecocentre is a female blue crowned manakin. It’s not at all blue, I hear you say. It seems the female is not, whereas the male has a beautiful iridescent cian cap

blue crowned manakin f

This picture from Flikr would seem to confirm the identification. The more obvious green manakin is theoretically only in Panama, but then that’s not far from Costa Rica.

Anyone got any better identification?



Green Honeycreeper

How perfectly camouflaged is this green honeycreeper, spotted briefly resting on a bush in the lush gardens of our accomodation near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. At a quick glance you might not even notice it.

green honeycreeper female

This is the female of the species. The male is an iridescent cyan colour, as you can see at the above Wikepedia link. These birds are part of the American family of tanagers.

I was quite pleased with the focusing on this quickly taken shot. The Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ-80 does impressive work for its size – almost as good as the huge kit of SLR body and two zoom lenses that I used to lug around.

Green Kingfisher

It is quite rare to see a kingfisher in the UK, so it was a treat to see quite a few of these birds in Costa Rica’s Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, referred to in an earlier post.

My first attempt at identification of the featured image came up with amazon kingfisher, but then I discovered that this is not much different to the green kingfisher, and the latter is probably what it is. The main difference between the two is simply one of size and the sort of waterways they frequent.

The bird in the picture looks more blue than green, but I guess that depends on the angle of the light.

It certainly corresponds with the description from Wikepedia: “Green kingfishers are often seen perched on a low shaded branch close to water before plunging in head first after their fish prey.”

I originally thought my second specimen was a different sort, but later decided it must just be a female green kingfisher. They were probably a pair, as it was on the same stretch of the river.


Alternatively, it’s also a bit like a banded kingfisher. Bird identification is not always straightforward!

Postscript: forgot to include this lucky shot of him flying.green_kingfisher_flying

Utility cables strung across the river provided a good lookout point for several of these kingfishers. Backlighting from the blue sky and significant distance prevented getting much detail shooting automatic with my travel zoom camera.green_kingfisher_cable

Northern Jacana

We saw a few of these waders in Costa Rica. The northern jacana  is reported by Wikipedia as being found mainly in central America between Mexico and Panama, sometimes also the southern US states.

The body colouring shows an interesting green/brown contrast, and the yellow beak and wattle are quite striking. The underwing flight feathers are also said to be yellow, but we did not see this.

See those huge feet, that are ideal for walking about on floating vegetation while feeding. As a result, Wikipedia reports that “in Jamaica this bird is also known as the ‘Jesus bird’, as it appears to walk on water”.

northern_jacana_portraitI prefer the portrait crop with reflections, but unfortunately the water was not quite still enough as the bird was walking about.



One of our great expectations on visiting Costa Rica was to see a sloth. We were soon rewarded by being shown, after much searching, this great lump of fur high up in a tree, you could hardly make out that it was an animal at all. Subsequently we saw a number of these balls of fur, and occasionally the odd limb or face, but no decent photographs for some time. Read More »

Black necked stilt

Perhaps the most prolific area of wildlife we saw in Costa Rica was the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge, in the north of the country near the Nicaraguan border.

One of many highlights during our boat trip on the river was this large group of black necked stilts, apparently fairly common throughout the central Americas. Fairly obviously, the name comes from those long pink stilt-like legs and the black rear of the neck.

Black Necked Stilts

According to the RSPB, stilts are rarely seen in the UK, apart from avocets, which are of the same family but have an upward curved beak.

I may be paranoid, but along the river there were just small signs of creeping low level development – the odd landing stage, clearing, dwelling, fishermen – along the banks of this magnificent wildlife haven. For how long?