Return of Bird of the Week: Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Costa Rica

A close cousin to last week’s Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, this is another of the eight Catharus Nightingale-Thrushes. The species has the smallest range of that genus, extending across the highlands of central Costa Rica and into the mountains of western Panama. Within that range it is confined to the higher slopes, from about 1,800 meters up to the tree line.

It forages mostly on the ground, but occasionally on lower epiphytes in the forests. Its foraging behavior is much like the American Robin’s, probing the ground, scratching, occasionally tossing leaves and moving by hopping from place to place. It feeds mostly on insects, but occasionally on fruit.

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Panama

The systematics of the species are unsettled, with the authorities arguing there are between two and four subspecies. The populations tend to be isolated from each other by the higher slopes of the two mountain ranges, which are themselves separated by Costa Rica’s central valley. It’s another very poorly studied Neotropic species, with almost no data on breeding or even populations sizes.

It tolerates human disturbance fairly well. While it is a very impressive singer, it has not seemed to suffer depredation from the captive songbird trade like other songster species. Because its population, on scanty evidence, appears to be stable, and because of its apparent tolerance for human disturbance, it is regarded by IUCN as species of Least Concern.

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