Prior to arriving in Costa Rica, I looked over the bird list for the San Vito area, to see what I should be pursuing in the area that I had not yet seen. Among a few others, the bird I really wanted to see was the Fiery-billed Aracari, a medium-sized relative of a toucan that has a very limited range in western Panama and southern Costa Rica. Upon arriving in San Vito, Monique and Alison told me that they see them regularly and I should be able to see them on my visit.
|Fiery-billed Aracari (Pteroglossus frantzii) at Wilson Botanical Garden|
On my first afternoon at Wilson Botanical Garden/Las Cruces Biological Station, I went for a walk to a small mirador overlooking the valley. Not much was moving around, and it was pretty quiet. Just before I turned around to walk back, movement in the bushes below caught my eye, and I saw a large flash of red - the bill of a Fiery-billed Aracari! This young bird sat in a little clearing in the shrubby vegetation, and I watched it for a while. Not far away, 3 more aracaris were hopping through the trees, not far from me and easily visible. As I continued on my walk, I saw a few more aracaris on the property that day as well.
A few days later, while the nets were open at Finca Cantaros and we had a group of students visiting from the biological station. Chespi and I, birds in hand, had our attention focused on processing birds, while the students asked questions and took photos. Then Alison popped around the corner, with a Fiery-billed Aracari in her hands! She had just gone on a net run and managed to grab this bird as it was running through a tramel of one of the nets (they are too big to get tangled in the gauge of the nets used). Everyone grabbed cameras for photos, and Chespi carefully processed the bird. Even though their bill is hollow, they can do a lot of damage, so Alison and Chespi took good care to keep its beak in control.
The Fiery-billed Aracari, Pteroglossus frantzii, is a medium-sized member of the Toucan family, Ramphastidae. They are similar to the widespread Collared Aracari, but have a red-orange upper mandible and a red band across their belly, not black as in the Collared Aracari. Even though that bill looks big and heavy, it is actually hollow, and is used for reaching fruits and berries, their main diet. It is also believed to be used in temperature regulation. It is found only in southern Costa Rica (on the Pacific side) and in extreme western Panama.