My Top Twenty-Five Bird Sightings Of 2013

Following on from last year’s post in which I highlighted only parrot sightings, this year I have expanded to all bird species.  There were just so many birds who made a major impression on me!  I have also increased the number to 25 since we did 3 birding trips this year.  I didn’t always get good shots so I will put my own photo when I got one.  Some of them were pretty quick!  They are being presented in chronological order.

1.  Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) – seen at Nimbokrang & Waigeo, Indonesia; March 2013

Palm Cockatoo2.  Lesser Bird-of-paradise, (Paradisaea minor) – seen at Nimbokrang, Indonesia; March 2013

I couldn’t get a photo as he stayed in the trees so here’s one taken in Jurong Bird park, Singapore.



3.  Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria) – seen at Nimbokrang, Indonesia; March 2013

Victoria Crowned Pigeons, Nimbokrang

Victoria Crowned Pigeons, Nimbokrang

4.  Western or Arfak Parotia (Parotia sefilata) – seen at Siyoubring, Indonesia, March 2013  I’ll never forget this feathered Lord of the Dance trying so hard to woo 3 aloof females!

One female Western Parotia comes in for a closer look while the male shows his best moves.  There were a couple other females higher up in the branches.

One female Western Parotia comes in for a closer look while the male shows his best moves. There were a couple other females higher up in the branches.

5.  Vogelkop Bowerbird (Amblyornis inornata) – seen at Siyoubring, Indonesia, March 2013

OK lady Bowerbirds, come and check out my awesome bower!

OK lady Bowerbirds, come and check out my awesome bower!

6.  Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus) – seen near Nimbokrang and on Waigeo Island, Indonesia, March 2013

IMG_78677.  Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, (Cicinnurus respublica) – seen on Waigeo Island, Indonesia in March 2013.   This little guy played hard-to-get with the camera.
Wilson's Bird-of-paradise, Cicinnurus respublica

Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, Cicinnurus respublica

8.  Red Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra) – seen on Waigeo Island, Indonesia , March 2013.

Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra), Waigeo- dancing in the trees

Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra), Waigeo- dancing in the trees

9.  Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis) – seen at Crooked Tree, Belize, Tikal, Laguna del Lagarto, Carara, Soberania, August 2013.  This was the first parrot we saw after arriving in Central America so I chose him to represent all the Amazon species seen all over Central America.

Red-lored Amazon or Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis)

Red-lored Amazon or Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis)

10.  Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) – seen at Crooked Tree, Belize, Tikal, Selva Verde, Laguna del Lagarto, Soberania, August 2013


11.  Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) – seen at Selva Verde & Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013

IMG_951112. Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013.


13.  Brown-hooded Parrot (Pyrilia haematotis)  – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013.


14.  Collared Araçari (Pteroglossus torquatus) – seen at Selva Verde, Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, Soberania.  August 2013.

IMG_982415.  Hummingbirds (all of them) – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Monteverde, Savegre, Soberania.  There is no way I can single out one species, they are all spectacular!


IMG_1486 IMG_1483 IMG_149616.  Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker (Celeus castaneus) – seen at Laguna del Lagarto, Costa Rica, August 2013

IMG_969917.  Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) – seen at Monteverde (Curi Cancha) & Savegre.  I will never forget both sightings of this stunning bird!  The first one because I found him by myself and the 2nd one because there were several of them and they hung around a while so I could watch them.


IMG_1092a18.  Sulphur-winged Parakeet (Pyrrhura hoffmanni) – seen at Savegre, Costa Rica, August 2013


I haven’t started the India & Sri Lanka series yet, we only got back a few weeks ago and I have been playing catch-up.  These birds will be covered first thing in the New Year.  The photos are a sneak-peek!

19. Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides) – seen in Coorg, India; Nov. 2013.  This time there were only fleeting glimpses of a flock flying overhead so the photo is one I took in 2011 in Kerala.

Malabar Parakeet A20.  White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) – seen at Kithulgala, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.


21.  Layard’s Parakeet (Psittacula calthropae) – seen at Kithulgala & Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.  They were swift flyers and refused to perch & pose.


22.  Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot (Loriculus beryllinus) – seen at Kithulgala, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.  At least he posed, albeit with the sun behind him!



23.  Alexandrine Parakeet – (Psittacula eupatria) – seen at Kithulgala & Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.


24.  Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus) – seen at Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.  He only let me get one shot before turning his back.


25.  Sri Lanka Blue Magpie or Ceylon Magpie (Urocissa ornata) – seen at Sinharaja, Sri Lanka. Dec 2013.

I didn’t get a photo of them since they stayed in the trees so here’s one from Wikipedia.




Part 3: Birding At Savegre, Costa Rica – Hotel Grounds

In this final chapter of my series about birding in Savegre, I would like to point out the delights of birding around the grounds of the Savegre Hotel.  In most places, there is a definite siesta time during which birds are inactive around mid-day and the best time to see them is in the early morning and late afternoon.  Hummingbirds, however need to feed every 15 minutes so you can spend many happy hours just watching them fly around the grounds and sipping nectar from the feeders.  There are also lots of flowers for them to feed on.  Not only can you see the Hummingbirds, there are also various Woodpeckers, Tanagers, Warblers and many other birds.  A complete bird list is here.  These photos were taken over 2 days just in the grounds of the Savegre Hotel.

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Part 2: Birding At Savegre, Costa Rica – Nature Reserve

After our visit with the beautiful Resplendent Quetzals, we went back to the lodge where Marino returned the SUV and we headed off on our walk.

Hotel Savegre is proud to offer visitors the opportunity to visit our private nature reserve of almost 400 hectares (988 acres) through a network of trails of around 30 km. (18.6 miles) that start and end at the hotel. The reserve has a spectacularly high level biodiversity that attracts visitors from all over the world. It is also a scientific field research site, but for our guests it is mostly a place of great peace and tranquility.
Part of the reserve is secondary forest regrowth, once felled for cattle grazing but which we decided years ago to return to its natural state. Four of the six trails are interconnected and visitors are given a trail map to explore the forest in complete safety. However, we recommend you use a naturalist guide to better see and interpret everything this life-giving world can tell you, and so you don’t miss a single detail that might otherwise escape you.

We invite you to explore our reserve by walking the trails we have carefully designed to meet the interests and physical capabilities of our guests. They are graded according to their difficulty from 1 (very easy) to 5 (technically challenging) in terms of length and terrain. To help you choose which trail is best for you, we also give the distance and approximate time it takes from and returning to the hotel:

It’s a beautiful area with streams running through, lots of trees except for one open field and a small lake.  We saw quite a few birds, including the Sulphur-winged Conure.  I had been hoping for Barred Parakeets as well but they are rare that time of year (Aug-Sept).  These photos are of the birds we saw on the forest walk.  A complete bird list for Savegre/San Gerardo de Dota is found here.


Marino Chacon

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Part 1: Birding At Savegre, Costa Rica – Resplendant Quetzals

Yesterday, I reviewed the Savegre Hotel & Spa.  Today I will tell you about the birding experiences and the guide.  Our guide was Marino Chacon, a member of the founding family of Savegre Hotel.  You can read the history of his family here.  Marino knows the local birds well and has a scope to help you see them better.

As with most birding excursions, you start early in the morning.  You can either book a visit to the Resplendent Quetzal area or a 5 hour tour which includes a birding hike in the forest behind the lodge which is your best chance to see Sulphur-winged Conures.

By the time we got to the Quetzal area, another group of birders had beat us there so it was easy to find them.  We saw 6 in all which is not bad for the slow season.  There were 2 adult males, 2 adult females and 2 juvenile males.  Here are a  few pics of the Quetzals and some other birds in their habitat.

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Lodge Review: Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa, Costa Rica

Eighty-nine kilometers (55.3 miles) south of San Jose in a private natural reserve of 400 hectares and just 9 km. (5.5 miles) from Los Quetzales National Park, Hotel Savegre is the ideal starting point for exploring Costa Rica’s magnificent tropical cloud forest in all its beauty.

This outstanding eco-lodge in the tiny town of San Gerardo de Dota was my favourite lodge of the trip!  The lodge and rooms are warm and comfortable.  The food was fantastic and reasonably priced.  The garden is full of hummingbirds, tanagers and other birds…………..and there are Resplendent Quetzals just down the road!


I covered the bus ride in the previous post.  If you advise the lodge you are enroute, they will meet your bus at the 80km spot and drive you to the lodge for $25 each way.  If you need advice on how to get to Costa Rica, see my posts on Central America awards and Costa Rica.



We were there in August which is low season and there weren’t a lot of people there.  Even though I had booked the cheaper room online, we were upgraded to a Junior Suite.  Everything is rustic looking but immaculately clean.  The reception area has a small gift shop next to it (yes I bought lots of Quetzal stuff).  The garden paths are well-maintained and we got a room right next to the bar (how convenient).  The fireplace kept us warm in the chilly mornings and got our laundry dry.  It was nice to have a bathtub to relax in and the back glass door that opened into the rainforest.

IMG_0988 IMG_0989 IMG_0990 IMG_0991 IMG_0992 IMG_0996 IMG_0997 IMG_0998 IMG_0999 IMG_1001 IMG_1002 IMG_1003 IMG_1004 IMG_1008 IMG_1009THE RESTAURANT

I was amazed at how good the food was, and it was reasonably priced too!   I didn’t get a shot of the dinner menu but there was a chicken dish cooked with some kind of fruit that was superb!  Since there weren’t many people, all meals were a la carte.  Breakfasts were excellent, especially the Ranch Style Eggs!  The windows look out into the garden and there are nice photos of the local birds and some bird art around the restaurant and adjacent bar.

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A cute little Collared Whitestart managed to get in.  We were happy to have company but he found his way outside again.

IMG_1291 IMG_1292 IMG_1293 IMG_1295 IMG_1298 DEL RIO SPA

This was a great place to relax and I love a jacuzzi with a view!  The one thing I would have preferred is a stronger massage.  The masseuse had a very light touch which was relaxing but didn’t do a lot for my aching muscles.  You can use the facilities as long as you want when you have a massage so it is a relaxing way to spend the afternoon while the birds are also relaxing.


Although you sometimes see this property on hotel booking sites such as & Expedia, I was unable to find availability so I am not sure if they still partner with these sites.  It is easy to book it online on their own booking engine.  Sometimes there are specials available.  Reviews on Trip Advisor are excellent, everyone loves this place!

Coming next: Birding Savegre!

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

All birds are beautiful in one way or another but the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is spectacularly gorgeous!   They look like little gods come down to earth and when you see one, you will wonder if you should be worshiping it or photographing it.

IMG_1092aThe Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) is a bird in the trogon family. It is found from southern Mexico to western Panama (unlike the other quetzals of the genus Pharomachrus, which are found in South America and eastern Panama). It is well known for its colorful plumage. There are two subspecies, P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis.

This quetzal plays an important role in Mesoamerican mythologies. The Resplendent Quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird, and an image of it is on the flag and coat of arms of Guatemala. It is also the name of the local currency (abbreviation GTQ).

In ancient Mayan culture, the quetzal bird’s tail feathers were used as currency.  The Resplendent Quetzal was considered divine, associated with the “snake god”, Quetzalcoatl by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. Its iridescent green tail feathers, symbols for spring plant growth, were venerated by the ancient Aztecs and Maya, who viewed the quetzal as the “god of the air” and as a symbol of goodness and light. Mesoamerican rulers and some nobility of other ranks wore headdresses made from quetzal feathers, symbolically connecting them to Quetzalcoatl. Since it was a crime to kill a quetzal, the bird was simply captured, its long tail feathers plucked, and was set free. Quetzalcoatl was the creator god and god of wind, often depicted with grey hair. In several Mesoamerican languages, the term for quetzal can also mean precious, sacred, or erected.


Their habitat is montane cloud forest from Southern Mexico to Panama.  I was lucky enough to see them in 2 locations in Costa Rica – Monteverde & Savegre/San Gerardo de Dota.  Use your airline miles to get to Central America, then use shuttles or public transport to get to these locations.

Red dots are Monteverde & Savegre in Costa Rica

Mature male with fully grown tail feathers