White-nosed Coati (sp. Pizote)
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a private non-profit reserve (not a national park) administered by the Tropical Science Center. There are 6 distinct ecological zones in this reserve. It is called a cloud forest rather than a rain forest because of it's altitude: the clouds go thru the forest. The canopy is extremely rich with birds, insects, butterfly, and thousands of plants. Great bird watching, Resplendent Quetzal is usually seen in the March-April nesting season. Bring a warm jacket, raingear (a green poncho is just fine) and footwear for trail use. Rubber boots are usually not necessary due to the well-maintained trails. E-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 506 645-5122 , fax 506 645-5034
Of all the exotically named bird species in Costa Rica, the hummingbirds beat all contenders. Their names are poetry: the green-crowned brilliant, purple-throated mountaingem, Buffon's plummeteer, and the bold and strikingly beautiful fiery-throated hummingbird. There are more than 300 species of New World hummingbirds constituting the family Trochilidae (Costa Rica has 51), and all are stunningly pretty. The fiery-throated hummingbird, for example, is a glossy green, shimmering iridescent at close range, with dark blue tail, violet-blue chest, glittering coppery orange throat, and a brilliant blue crown set off by velvety black on the sides and back of the head. Some males take their exotic plumage one step further and are bedecked with long streamer tails and iridescent moustaches, beards, and visors.
These tiny high-speed machines are named because of the hum made by the beat of their wings. At up to 100 beats per second, the hummingbirds' wings move so rapidly that the naked eye cannot detect them. They are often seen hovering at flowers, from which they extract nectar and often insects with their long, hollow, and extensile tongues forked at the tip. Alone among birds, they can generate power on both the forward and backward wing strokes, a distinction that allows them to even fly backwards!
Understandably, the energy required to function at such an intense pitch is prodigious. The hummingbird has the highest metabolic rate per unit of body weight in the avian world (its pulse rate can exceed 1,200 beats a minute) and requires proportionately large amounts of food. One biologist discovered that the white-eared hummingbird consumes up to 850% of its own weight in food and water each day. At night, they go into "hibernation," lowering their body temperatures and metabolism to conserve energy.
Typically loners, hummingbirds bond with the opposite sex only for the few seconds it takes to mate. Many, such as the fiery-throated hummingbird, are fiercely territorial. With luck you might witness a spectacular aerial battle between males defending their territories. In breeding season, the males "possess" territories rich in flowers attractive to females: the latter gains an ample food source in exchange for offering the male sole paternity rights. Nests are often no larger than a thimble, loosely woven with cobwebs and flecks of bark and lined with silky plant down. Inside, the female will lay two eggs no larger than coffee beans.
Although Costa Ricans don't worship the quetzal with the same fervor as pre-Columbian Guatemalans, the bird is most easily seen in Costa Rica, where it is protected in four national parks--Braulio Carrillo, Poás, Chirripó, La Amistad--and the Monteverde and Los Angeles cloud forest reserves. Everywhere throughout its 1,000-mile range (from southern Mexico to western Panama) it is endangered due to loss of its cloud-forest habitat. This is particularly true of the lower forests around 1,500 to 2,000 meters to which families of quetzals descend during breeding season (March-June), and where they seek dead and decaying trees in which to hollow out their nests. This is the best time to see narcissistic males showing off their tail plumes in undulating flight, or launching spiraling skyward flights which presage a plummeting dive with their tail feathers rippling behind, all part of the courtship ritual.
At other times, the wary birds aren't easily spotted. Their plumage offers excellent camouflage under the rainy forest canopy. They also sit motionless for long periods, with their vibrant red chests turned away from any suspected danger. If a quetzal knows you're close by and feels threatened, you may hear a harsh weec-weec warning call and see the male's flicking tail feathers betray his presence. The quetzal's territory spans a radius of approximately 300 meters, which the male proclaims each dawn through midmorning and again at dusk with a telltale melodious whistle--a hollow, high-pitched call of two notes, one ascending steeply, the other descending--repeated every eight to 10 minutes.
Nest holes (often hollowed out by woodpeckers) are generally about 30 feet from the ground. Within, the female generally lays two light-blue eggs, which take about 18 days to hatch. Both sexes share parental duties. By day, the male incubates the eggs while his two-foot-long tail feathers hang out of the nest. At night, the female takes over.
Although the quetzal eats insects, small frogs, and lizards, it enjoys a penchant for the fruit of the broad-leafed aguacatillo (a kind of miniature avocado in the laurel family), which depends on the bird to distribute seeds. The movement of quetzals follows the seasonal fruiting of different laurel species. Time your birdwatching visit, if possible, to coincide with the quetzals' rather meticulous feeding hours, which you can almost set your watch by. They're fascinating to watch feeding: an upward swoop for fruit is the bird's aerial signature.
The forests and grasslands flare with color, some flamboyantly so, for plants like to advertise the delights and rewards they have to offer, including the ultimate bribe--nectar. Begonias, anthuriums, and blood of Christ, named for the red splotches on the underside of its leaves, are common. My favorite plant is the "hot lips" (labios ardientes), sometimes called "hooker's lips" (labios de puta), whose bright red bracts remind me of Mick Jagger's famous pout or--more appropriately--Madonna's smile. The vermilion poró tree (the bright flame-of-the-forest), pink-and-white meadow oak, purple jacaranda, and the almost fluorescent yellow corteza amarilla are trees that all add their seasonal bouquets to the landscape. And morning glory spread their thick lavender carpets across lowland pastures, joined by carnal red passion flowers, unromantically foul-smelling--a crafty device to enlist the help of flies in pollination.