Lifelist Series Continued
Costa Rica’s high-elevation cloud forests are rich with diversity. Birds found there are often found nowhere else or are restricted to a narrow range of habitat in the highlands of central America. The birds are colorful but easy to miss in the high canopy. Ecotourism helps bring people closer to the amazing species found in the cloud forest, which in turn helps conserve the delicate ecosystem. The opportunity to observe these birds in Costa Rica is one I will not forget and will continue to explore in my lifelist series by illustrating the diversity I saw there.
The resplendent quetzal is a stunning iridescent green bird. Adult males have long tail streamers and bright red bellies. Quetzals rely on wild avocado trees, colloquially known as aguacatillo, for food. They carefully select the ripest fruits, swallow it whole, and regurgitate the seed. When they drop the seed it can germinate and grow into a new tree, helping to regenerate the forest and provide food for other birds and animals that eat them. Quetzals are frequently found in indigenous central American culture because of their unique appearance.
Collared redstarts are a part of the large group of New World warblers of the Parulidae family. They are curious and energetic, flashing their lemon-yellow belly and rusty crest amongst the lower story of the cloud forest.
Blue-gray tanagers have a habit of gleaning for insects by looking underneath leaves and branches. Their plumage is a soft gray, tinted with many shades of blue that are especially prominent in their wings. Their large dark eye gives them a sweet, inquisitive expression that is a joy to paint. This one is depicted on the flower stalk of a Billia hippocastanum tree. The bright sunset pink of the flower contrasted nicely with the muted blues of the bird.
Brilliant hummingbirds are one of Costa Rica’s specialties, and the lesser violetear is no exception. Compared to the tiny Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds I’m used to seeing in the northwestern US, these blue-green hummingbirds seemed huge. I was fascinated by the way they fanned their banded tail in territorial display at feeders or prime flower spots. Their namesake violet “ears” added to their display. Learning to differentiate between the green hummingbirds as they raced between the trees was challenging but these were one of my favorite species.