Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush

In Costa Rica, the Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush (Catharus frantzii) is a fairly common, year-round resident in the mountains above 4500 to 5000 feet (1372 to 1524 m) on both the Pacific and Caribbean slopes. This bird of the moist cloud forests ranges from central Mexico to western Panama. I spotted this Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush lurking in the undergrowth of an oak cloud forest at about 7000 feet (2134 m) in elevation near San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica.

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush (Catharus frantzii)

The Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush is reddish brown above and white below with a rufous crown, gray cheeks and sides, and a faintly grayish-streaked breast. The sexes are similar. Unlike other similar Nightingale-thrushes, the Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush has a bicolored bill (black above and light orange below) and brownish (instead of orange) legs and feet, and its large, dark eyes are lacking an eye-ring.

The Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush is similar to the closely related Veery (Catharus fuscescens), however the Veery has a darker-streaked breast and throat and a less distinctly bicolored bill with a pale brownish (not orange) lower mandible, and the Veery is only an uncommon fall and rare spring migrant mainly along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrushes feed on berries and insects and other small invertebrates, and I often observed these and other thrushes (Family Turdidae) foraging for them on the shaded cloud forest floor or in low shrubs at the forest edge.

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrushes have hauntingly beautiful, flute-like and warbling songs, and they usually sing as evening falls or when the cloud forest is wreathed in clouds and the weather is wet and foggy. While I was in the Costa Rican cloud forest, the weather was often foggy and drizzling, and while this often made photography difficult to impossible, I was fortunate enough to hear the magical sound of the Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrushes singing in the mist.