Welcome to Birder’s Corner
By Patrick Dunn
|Patrick Dunn owner of Ave Azul de la Osa, a licensed avicultural compound supporting conservation through captive propagation firstname.lastname@example.org|
Costa Rica first crossed my radar screen in the mid-eighties when it kept coming up in birding circles as the hottestnew birding spot around. It was all the rage, so I bought a plane ticket and came to see for myself.
I have birded in many parts of the world, but Costa Rica has always drawn me back. When I first began coming to Costa Rica the Osa Peninsula was a fabled place and hard to get to. I made the rounds of the northern circuit of this country for nearly three years before I finally found my way south to the Osa.
After just one visit I knew I wanted to make the permanent move to this beautiful country and live here full time on this beautiful peninsula.
Living in Hawaii most of my life, there seemed to be, at least other than in underwater reefs, a lack of biodiversity.
There were, for instance, only two mammals, the rare and endemic Hawaiian hoary bat and the criticallyendangered Hawaiian monk seal. We also had seasonal North Pacific humpback whale migrations back and forth from Alaska, and a few other cetaceans. Even insects were not well represented. So I came to Costa Rica twice yearly to get my wildlife fixes.
Like much of the tropical Hawaiian flora, nearly all of today’s remaining birds, other than sea birds, are imports: cardinals, doves, mynahs, finches and others. Endemic forest birds were all but wiped out by the initial arrival of Polynesian sea farers around 1000 years ago and the domesticated animals that accompanied them: dogs, pigs, cats, as well as avian malaria. These statistics drove me to seek out other places to search for and satisfy my zoological interest and curiosity. Costa Rica solved that problem for me many times over. I continue to discover something new every day living here living in the jungle.
With nearly 850 species of birds, Costa Rica is tops as a birding destination. This country ranks alongside Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Tanzania, Kenya, New Guinea and parts of Asia as among the best birding on the planet. From my own farm in Agua Buena on the Pacific side of the Osa, I can typically identify over 70 species on any given day.
Birders flock from all over the world to this avian paradise to expand their “life lists.” Serious birders keep a list of all the species they have seen over the course of their lives. I started mine in 1966 when I was just 12 years old and living on an island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. As of this writing in October, 2015, my life list has grown to 3,452 species.
Back in 1966 there were only 8,450 classified species known in 28 different orders. If you include sub-species today’s count hovers at around 10,000. Even a new order or two has been added. One species of Kingfisher alone, the collared kingfisher, has 47 subspecies spread throughout Australasia.
New bird species continue to be discovered around the world constantly. Places like New Guinea are only partially explored, and new species are being inventoried and classified every year. Most recently, the first “poisonous” bird has been discovered. The Pitohui genus contains six species with 38 subspecies. It possesses in its feathers, the most toxic poison known in the natural world. Even more toxic than pomiliotoxin found in the skin of poison-dart frogs, curare extracted from plants, cyanide, or the venom of the most poisonous snake, the inland taipan. Only 100 micro grains—equivalent to two grains of salt—is enough to kill a human being. So little is known about this newly discovered bird that the question of why is still being researched. Who would have guessed . . . ? A poisonous bird! Makes one wonder what else there is to discover.
In this column I hope to explore and investigate such mysteries about birds along with species accounts and reports on resident, migrant and passage-migrants along with news of where and when to spot common, rare and accidental species.
So get ready and gear up for some real natural fun!