April 7, 2018.

992 World Life Birds

On the trail back from Lake Calamito, unbeknownst to me, I saw my 1,000th world bird species!

I knew when I started the day that I was close to 1,000 and in fact I would reach this milestone because I was only eight species away. As I was ticking off birds, it was hard to keeps track of whether I had seen the species before. I had seen about 350 species the previous summer in Costa Rica and there is some overlap between the two countries.

As we recrossed the footbridge, some movement to the right caught our attention. Some drab birds were working under the dark understory. They were long-tailed birds, about the size of a California towhee. Alex identified them as the doubled hyphenated red-throated ant-tanager. These birds lacked the red throat because they were females, three in fact.

Now my 1,00th bird could have been tiny hawk, great black-hawk, or brown-hooded parrot, but if I counted correctly (an almost 20 year effort) then my 1,000th world bird species was a rather drab, towhee-sized bird that, in reality, is not a tanager but is related to cardinals.

A male red-throated ant-tanager later seen on Pipeline Road.

Somehow this seems fitting because while we place the larger or more colorful “sexy” fauna such as the harpy eagles, king vultures, or blue continga on a higher plane, it is the smaller, drabber birds that force us to look more closely and notice the details. Details that whisper in your ear instead of smacking you with full force in the face!

And the rain forest does not always give up it’s secrets, sometimes it’s a fleeting glance of a small brown bird, but to look at the three females foraging in the understory is to see a piece of the ecosystem and they will be such, whether I had a good look or a poor look, whether it was bird 999 on my life list or 1,001.

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