Birding Without Borders

Day 110: Brown Birds

Noah chases flashy types across Costa Rica.

April 20, 2015, La Selva, Costa Rica — The first bird I saw in Costa Rica this morning was a Clay-colored Thrush, which was appropriate, because the Clay-colored Thrush is Costa Rica’s national bird. Most other countries picked something flashy (a Bald Eagle in the U.S.; a Harpy Eagle in Panama; a Resplendant Quetzal in Guatemala) but Costa Ricans long ago decided that they are best represented by a familiar, plain brown bird with a nice song. In a country full of rare and achingly beautiful feathered creatures, there’s something to be said for the friendly bird-next-door, and I tip my hat to whoever suggested it.

Today, though, I was more concerned with chasing the flashy types. I have connected through BirdingPal (a website where birders can find contacts in other countries) with two excellent Costa Rican birders, Roy Orozco and Johan Fernandez, and we’re on a mission this week to track down some of Costa Rica’s most eye-catching beauties. The three of us got off to a good start today: Between dawn and dusk, from San Jose to La Selva (in the Caribbean lowlands), we found 170 species of birds! 

We debated about the bird of the day over dinner. I think it was the pair of Great Green Macaws that we watched fly into their evening roost this evening against a flaring orange sunset, or maybe the Great Curassow stalking a path at La Selva. Roy, meanwhile, prefers the Uniform Crake that we found sneaking in the undergrowth—a bird every bit as brown as a Clay-colored Thrush! The list is logically impartial, anyway: For my big year, the macaw, curassow, and crake count exactly the same as a House Sparrow.

New birds today: 49

Year list: 2156

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