One tree, many birds

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Great Kiskadee looking adorable in the big tree in front of our rental condo in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

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I thought this bird looked a bit like a robin. I figured out it is a Clay-colored Thrush, same family as robins.

From eastern Mexico to northern Colombia, this plain gray-brown thrush is very common in lowland habitats, including parks and gardens. In recent years it has become a regular visitor to southernmost Texas, especially in winter, and it has even nested there a number of times. It was formerly called Clay-colored Robin.

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A strange and wonderful bird, this is the Black-headed Trogon.

This beautiful yellow-bellied trogon is found in open forests from southern Mexico south and east through Central America to northwestern Costa Rica. It easily is  distinguished by its solid black upperparts, black tail with broad white tips to the outer rectrices, and dark eye with a pale blue eye ring.

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Other side.

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I got a good look at a Summer Tanager.

The Summer Tanager is a bee and wasp specialist. It catches these insects in flight and kills them by beating them against a branch. Before eating a bee, the tanager rubs it on the branch to remove the stinger.

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So many birds in this one tree. Makes you realize how important even individual trees – not just forests – are to birds.

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Blue-gray Tanager.

The Blue-gray Tanager is one of the most widespread, and ubiquitous, birds of the humid lowland neotropics. At almost any location between southeastern Mexico and central South America, it is a familiar presence at forest edge, in second-growth, along roads and rivers, in plantations, and even in urban parks and gardens. Blue-gray Tanagers prefer semi-open habitats; they are not found in interior of closed canopy forest, but they can quickly colonize fresh clearings. They are flexible as well in their diet, eating a wide variety of fruit, and also foraging for arthropods. Blue-gray Tanagers typically travel in pairs or small single-species flocks. They may briefly join mixed-species flocks, but do not travel with such flocks; however, Blue-gray Tanagers often join mixed-species aggregations of birds that are attracted to fruiting trees.

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The Clay-colored Thrush is Costa Rica’s National Bird.

The clay-colored thrush was chosen as the national bird for several reasons. Due to its wide range and tendency to live close to humans, it is well known and therefore mentioned in many of Costa Rica’s folk songs, short stories and novels. The males are also cherished for their exquisite song; during mating season, they serenade potential mates with an unmistakable tune. In Costa Rica, their mating season (usually April-June) coincides with the beginning of the green season, and therefore farmers have always taken the yigüirro’s song as the first sign of coming rains.

Warblers and tanager in town

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When I saw these little birds a couple of blocks from home last night, I went back and got my camera.

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Warblers, I guessed, stopping in delicious Sewall’s Point on their way north. Delicious because we have lots of mature vegetation, fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs, and tasty little bugs.

Feed the birds… with habitat!

At home I reviewed the pics and decided these were Cape May Warblers, a first for me!

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This one is a female. There were four birds in this tree, flying out now and then to nab a tiny insect.

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Setophaga tigrina, their name means “moth-eating tiger-striped.”

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The Cape May Warbler breeds across the boreal forest of Canada and the northern United States, where the fortunes of its populations are largely tied to the availability of spruce budworms, its preferred food. Striking in appearance but poorly understood, the species spends its winters in the West Indies, collecting nectar with its unique curled, semitubular tongue.

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A little further north on River Road, I spotted a red bird near the top of a fruiting tree (ficus?) It was not a cardinal.

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Photos not great, but good enough to post on the Facebook group “What’s This Bird” and get an ID: a male Summer Tanager, his plumage changing from non-breeding to breeding colors. Also a first for me, what an evening!

The only completely red bird in North America, the strawberry-colored male Summer Tanager is an eye-catching sight against the green leaves of the forest canopy. The mustard-yellow female is harder to spot, though both sexes have a very distinctive chuckling call note. Fairly common during the summer, these birds migrate as far as the middle of South America each winter. All year long they specialize in catching bees and wasps on the wing, somehow avoiding being stung by their catches.

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Summer Tanagers specialize on bees and wasps on both their breeding and wintering ranges. They also eat other aerial and terrestrial invertebrates—such as spiders, cicadas, beetles, ants, termites, grasshoppers, flies, moths, and bugs—as well as fruits such as mulberries, blackberries, pokeweed, Cecropia, citrus, and bananas. They capture flying insects during short sallies, carrying their prey back and beating it repeatedly against the perch. They glean terrestrial insects from the leaves and bark of trees and shrubs. To harvest fruit, they may hover and pluck individual fruits, or glean from a perched position.

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That red color in the setting sun! There were a few Cape Mays in this tree too.

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I should have flicked over from autofocus to manual focus, but I was so worried it would fly off while I looked down.

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Soon this bird will be red all over.

These are my 84th and 85th Florida birds and 63rd and 64th 2018 birds.