The Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) can be found here on the Osa Peninsula and can often be seen wandering through humid forest canopies and open areas with its other Honeycreeper relatives the Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza), the Shining Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes lucidus) and the Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana). For those novice birders trying to get their bird bearings here in the tropics, one can at first glance mistake the Blue Dacnis or the Shining Honeycreeper for a Red-legged Honeycreeper. At least I did the first few weeks, but all you have to do is look for the distinctive red legs or the long decurved bill if you’re not yet Dacnis proficient. Also, one surprise that the Red-legged Honeycreeper has for any onlooker is the bright yellow color of the underneath portion of the wing.
Honeycreepers used to be classified in a separate family with the Bananaquit and flowerpiercers, but are now part of the Tanager family which may seem a bit odd considering their nectar feeding habits and bill morphology. Any commentaries on why they were lumped with tanagers are welcome here by the way. But whether you’re a lumper or a splitter, tanagers display more colors and color patterns than any other tropical American bird and Honeycreepers definitely fit the bill. If you’re not sure what I mean find images of Golden-hooded Tanagers and Bay-headed Tanagers and you will see what I’m saying!
Female Red-legged Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreepers extract nectar from the flowers of Inga, Calliandra and other legume plants. They also eat small insects, arillate seeds and many other fruits in fairly open edgy areas. We have seen them moving in mixed-species flocks high up in primary and secondary closed canopy forests as well as right in the gardens of the Osa Biodiversity Center at Friends of the Osa during our early morning avian monitoring point counts.
This species is an open cup nester building a nest of fine rootlets and grass raising two young between February and June. Pairs are monogamous and both take care of incubation and nesting duties. Oh, and in case you’re curious Red-legged Honeycreepers weigh about 13.5 grams, about half the size of a House Sparrow.
Karen Leavelle presenting the Yellow-billed Cotinga spatial distribution project
The Costa Rican Ornithological Union’s second annual conference was held July 28 – 30th 2010 in the school of biology at the University of Costa Rica in the capital of San Jose. The conference was dedicated to Daniel Janzen and his pioneering work in the field of conservation and reforestation in Costa Rica over the last several decades. Attendees present represented national and international organizations working hard at avian science and conservation throughout the country coming together to share common interests in the more than 830 resident and migrant bird species found in this tropical landscape.
Friends of the Osa’s avian ecologist Karen Leavelle was in attendance to present a poster outlining the upcoming Yellow-billed Cotinga radio telemetry project slated to begin at the end of this year. Also in attendance were Liz Jones and Abraham Gallo to present their findings from a two year study looking at the current distribution of the Yellow-billed Cotinga, Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager and the Mangrove Hummingbird all of which are endemic species considered to be endangered by BirdLife International. This project was supported by Friends of the Osa, the American Bird Conservancy and the Evergreen Foundation producing vital information highlighting the conservation status of each species and the importance of the rainforest and mangrove habitats to species survival remaining on the Osa Peninsula and surrounding areas.
Elizabeth Jones presenting Yellow-billed Cotinga project results
The Yellow-billed Cotinga project was born out of Liz and Abrahams results on the species current distribution. This project will focus on tracking Cotingas throughout the Osa Peninsula in order to determine the spatial and temporal distribution of a population of Cotingas from the Rincon area. Essentially this project will show temporal habitat use and the spatial movements of the birds between feeding, nesting and roosting areas. Information gained will indicate forested areas in need of protection for this species and others that also depend on the same habitats for their survival. Keep your eye for more information on this project as its December date approaches.
The conference itself and Friends of the Osa’s participation proved to be important as a manner of disseminating information to a national and international ornithological audience on project results, upcoming studies and our role on the Osa Peninsula in avian science and conservation.