It's easy to see a lot of bird species in Costa Rica. Many of the hummingbirds, tanagers, and even toucans are common and easy to photograph. However, as with every country, Costa Rica also has a suite of species that are either very rare or just very difficult to see. One of those is the Tawny-faced Quail.
Even the uncommon Black-bellied Hummingbird is much easier to see.
A small quail of lowland and foothill rainforests, in Costa Rica, this species only occurs at sites with extensive mature rainforest in the north. Even there, because of its reclusive behavior, it's not exactly easy to find. In fact, this is one of the most difficult birds to see in Costa Rica and even birders who have been guiding for decades have never even heard one!
On May 4th of this year (during Global Big Day, 2019), Lifer guide Juan Diego found one or more of this challenging species during a bird photography tour at Laguna del Lagarto lodge. He was actually helping clients locate a Middle American Screech-Owl at night when he suddenly heard the mournful whistled call of what could have only been a Tawny-faced Quail. Realizing how rare it is to find this species, he played its call and got an immediate response.
He heard it two more times and thinking that the method of finding it might be similar to to that of locating another rare bird, the rare Nocturnal Curassow of the Amazon, he ventured into the forest to look for the bird. Unfortunately, it stopped calling but knowing how important it was to find this bird, the following dawn, he ventured once more into the forest to look for the bird. Despite dealing with mud and thorny vegetation on a misty morning, once again, the bird remained silent.
Where Juan Diego heard Tawny-faced Quail at Lagina del Lagarto, Costa Rica.
Not one to give up easily when a rare bird is around, Juan Diego tried again that night. This time, the quail called again on four occasions and he actually got recordings of it (one of the only known recordings of this species from Costa Rica). Despite some intense off-trail searching in the dark, he never saw the bird but at least he now knows a location for this tough species AND has some ideas to help clients connect with this mega rare bird on the next photography tour to Laguna del Lagarto!
On a final note, Juan Diego and clients also had many other bird species on that trip including a country first for Juan Diego, a rare Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle! Thanks to Juan Diego, this and the quail made it onto the 2019 Global Big Day list for Costa Rica.
The Black-and White Hawk-Eagle was flying a bit too high for close shots. Maybe next time, guides from Lifer Tours will find one perched and much closer. Want to find some of the rarer birds in Costa Rica? Contact us today.
Update on the Tawny-faced Quail- Not being one to give up, Juan Diego went back to Laguna del Lagarto on May 21 and this time found a roosting bird at night!