Many thanks to Jerry Oldenettel and flickr’s Creative Commons for this fine picture taken in New Mexico. Photos of this species taken here in Costa Rica are hard to come by. The Yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens) is one of those birds that I should have seen in many places where I birded in the western USA. However, it’s a skulker and so maybe it’s not too surprising that I’ve had to wait until today to get this one as a life bird shortly after my 68th birthday. I almost wrote birdthday.
I’m now getting close to 180 species identified for the village of San Antonio de Santa Cruz de Turrialba. This one was hidden away in some heavy brush below my biggest guayabo tree. It popped into plain view an hour before dusk after a refreshing rain shower on an otherwise hot day, but it was there for only a few seconds, after which all I could get was a sort of ‘chup’ sound. Fortunately, I had no hesitation with the identification. It doesn’t look like a warbler because it’s so big (hence its Spanish name, Reinita Grande, Big Warbler!!), and it certainly didn’t behave like one. However, the only other reasonably similar bird around here is the White-naped brush-finch (Atlapetes albinucha), which occasionally appears in the garden, also often low down in brushy tangles.
The white spectacles of the chat, quite absent from the brush-finch, left no room for doubt, however, even though I’d never seen one before. This was one of those cases where it helped that I am very familiar with the bird guidebook. I have somewhat neglected Shakespeare et alia in my nightly readings.
I’m putting this one in the rare bird category because: 1. It’s a life bird for me! 2. I’ve never seen one or heard anybody talk about seeing one around here in 6 years 3. Stiles and Skutch call it widespread and uncommon but Garrigues and Dean say it’s very uncommon. 4. The only local checklist in which it features is that of CATIE, which I helped compile. However, sightings seem to be very old and no status is recorded 5. The hordes of expert birdwatchers, many from the States, have not recorded one at Rancho Naturalista, Tuis, on the other side of Turrialba,
Life bird, and in my own garden. That’s Costa Rica.