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Birds of Finca Paraiso

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Everywhere I turned at Finca Paraiso, Honduras, there was something that took my breath away. Bougainvillea petals, fallen into a shallow reflecting pool. Probably something that needs to be cleaned out every few days. Oh, please leave them.

A fabulous jungle fowl, keeping an eye on his hens in the torch ginger plantation.

 But there was so much more than chickens and ginger here. This living logo is a crimson-collared tanager,  Ramphocelus sanguiolentus. Like many in that genus, its bill is reflective silver. Wish I could have gotten a better photo, but I wish that about almost every bird I shot in the rain. Some of those Ramphocelus tanagers have reds so vivid they hurt your eyes. There's the crimson-rumped tanager in the humid lowlands of Costa Rica that, when it flew up, made me yell WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?? from my seat in a small plane coming in to land on the Osa Peninsula. Same kind of red as this one. Ow!

And, doubtless hoping to eat said tanager, a FEPO--ferruginous pygmy owl. Cute little buggers, they're death on songbirds. And the FEPO's monotonous tooting whistle, easily imitated, can bring in clouds of scolding birds.

Like many owls, they have a hard stare. This one reminded me of a hawk-owl that had gotten put in the dryer.

Oh, torch ginger. How I would love to grow you in my yard. I dug around and scratched the root. Yep, ginger. Mmm.

A collared aracari, Pteroglossus torquatus, or Belted Feathertongue in ZickLatin. It's a small toucan with weird greasy green, yellow and red plumage. Love those things, their springy hops and their crazy white goat eyes. They're tough on small birds, too--nest raiders. Toucans can be quite rapacious. 

I'm old enough to remember seeing aracaris in pet shops. Yep. Hideous, to see an aracari in a mynah cage, covered in its own feces, to hear that hollow bill clanging on cage bars. And more to celebrate, now that we know that's crazy, and we aren't legally permitted to do it any more. 

I'm not sure anyone has ever tried to put a motmot in a bird cage. Here's a turquoise-browed motmot, oh delightfully diademed one. Who thought up your jewelry, your sea-turquoise wings?

The motmot sits and waits for a katydid, lizard or frog to make the wrong move, then swirls down like gaudy death. I've found several motmots by hearing them bashing their prey, kingfisher style, against a perch.

Imagine living in a place where this fantastical being was a yard bird. No wonder they call it Finca Paraiso.


Great Pygmy Owl photos! One of my favorite birds from Central America, a cute but formidable predator!

~ Kristen Martyn (

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Julie - I saw a motmot for sale in a pet store in the greater Miami area in 1998! It was in a tiny cage and was being fed some sort of pellet food. As a result of the poor conditions and wildly inappropriate diet, it had toes bending the wrong way and looked terrible. Heartbreaking to see it in there.

After the flower petals in that pool -- what a picture! -- I'm weak for all the wonderful colours that follow. Must have been mind-blowing to meet such sights coming out of a northern winter!

Nick, in Ottawa

Posted by Anonymous April 12, 2011 at 1:52 PM

Love the Monet-like petals on the pond.

Posted by Musicmom April 12, 2011 at 7:13 PM

that reflecting pool with bougainvillea petals was heart stoppingly beautiful--what a painting it would make...

Yikes! That Mot Mot is stunning.

If you ever start writing mysteries, I nominate "Swirls Down Like Gaudy Death" as the inaugural title. That, or it belongs in a Richard Thompson song.

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