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BirdNote: Costa Rica's Morning Chorus

Air Date: Week of

Purple-throated Fruitcrow is found in humid forests from southern Nicaragua south to northwestern Ecuador and to Bolivia. (Photo: Patty McGann FCC)

In Costa Rica, the vibrant colors of a winter sunrise are closely rivaled by the exuberance of its birdsong. BirdNote’s Mary McCann reports that while some of Costa Rica’s bird species hide from sight, their calls are highly distinguishable.




It’s still early in the winter season, and though it was a monster, we’ve only had one major snowstorm so far in the northeast. But that doesn’t stop some of us from dreaming about waking up somewhere warmer and more enticing…such as the landscape Mary McCann evokes in today’s BirdNote®.


Costa Rica Winter Sunrise

[Bay Wren song duet, https://soundcloud.com/encyclopedia-of-life/baywren]

On a winter morning in Costa Rica, a pair of Bay Wrens sings a brisk duet just before sunrise. Though the Bay Wrens stay well hidden in the underbrush, they have all the decibels they need to make themselves known.

Montezuma Oropendolas are highly dimorphic in size. The species is polygynous, and dominant males perform most of the copulations at a colony. (Photo: Robert Shea FCC)

[Bay Wren song duet, https://soundcloud.com/encyclopedia-of-life/baywren]

A breeze wafts in off the Caribbean Sea, less than a mile away, across the tropical lowland forest, fluttering the leaves of a tall giant fig tree hung with flowering bromeliads. Perched in the upper canopy, a small group of Keel-billed Toucans calls out.

[Keel-billed Toucan calls]

Their comically large bills are painted in lime green, turquoise, orange, and magenta. In a nearby tree, Purple-throated Fruit Crows add their voices to the sunrise chorus.


The male fruit crows are jet-black with reddish-purple throats. Alongside the fruit crows, a huge oriole-like bird pivots upside down and belts out an electrifying series of notes:

Keel-billed Toucan ordinarily utters a single note, a shrill, frog-like cree which it repeats in a series of about five to seven notes. Hatchlings have a buzzy call, while juvenal toucans whine or emit a wailing sound. (Photo: MLL-FCC)


It’s a male Montezuma Oropendola, with one of the most distinctive voices in the tropics.


Finally, a Bright-rumped Attila calls from its perch hidden deep in the canopy.


The Attila will repeat its maniacal phrases until well after sunrise, reminding us again and again that it’s morning in Costa Rica. I'm Mary McCann.

Twelve subspecies of Bright-rumped Attila are generally recognized across this species’ broad range, stretching from northwest Mexico to northwest South America. Their range spans much of the lowland in the northern two-thirds of the continent. Another population can also be found in the Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil. (Photo: Paul Bedell-FCC)


Written by Bob Sundstrom
Bay Wren from Xeno-Canto (XC11512] recorded by Nick Athanas; Keel-billed Toucan from Xeno-Canto recorded by Melinda Wood; Purple-throated Fruitcrow [187913] recorded by P K Donahue, Montezuma Oropendola [127299] recorded by C A Marantz and Bright-rumped Attila [113384] recorded by C A Marantz, all courtesy of The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org January 2016 Narrator: Mary McCann


CURWOOD: You’ll find pictures of these exotically named and feathered songsters at our website, LOE.org.



More about Costa Rica’s birds on BirdNote

Bay Wren (Cantorchilus nigricapillus) duet

About the Bay Wren

About the Keel-billed Toucan

Purple-throated Fruitcrows (Querula purpurata) call

About the Purple-throated Fruitcrow

Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius Montezuma) call

About the Montezuma Oropendola

Bright-rumped Attila (Attila spadiceus) call

About the Bright-rumped Attila


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