For those fortunate few who view a King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) for the first time, the experience will be unforgettable. King vultures are one of the largest New World vulture, second only to condors. It is not their size however that is visually arresting, but their bright white feathers with a vividly colored head. Certainly early native Americans would have immediately sensed the singularity of this majestic bird and would associate it with a god-like presence in their jungle world. In fact in Mayan legends, the bird was seen as a king who served as a messenger between humans and the gods. They would have observed its habit of displacing smaller vultures from a carcass and eating its fill while they wait, thus warranting the crown of a king among fellow birds. This bird was also known as the “white crow” by the Spanish in Paraguay. It was called cozcacuauhtli in Nahuatl, derived from cozcatl “collar” and cuauhtli “bird of prey”. [Read more…]
As part of my birdwatching tour of Costa Rica with Tropical Birding, we visited the Tárcoles River, also called the Grande de Tárcoles River or the Río Grande de Tarcoles, in Costa Rica. It originates on the southern slopes of the Cordillera Central volcanic range, at the confluence of Virilla and Grande rivers, flows south-west, passing by the Carara Biological Reserve, drifts into the Guacalillo Mangrove Estuary and eventually empties in the Gulf of Nicoya in the Pacific Ocean. Although the river is somewhat polluted, it is significant for the country’s residents, as nearly 60% of Costa Rica’s total population lives along its basins. The river is perhaps best known for its abundance of American Crocodiles. It’s said that the Tárcoles River has one of the highest populations of crocodiles in the entire world, up to 25 crocodiles per square kilometer. Several tour operators take advantage of this fact by offering river tours that guarantee croc sightings. Much of the time these large reptiles (which can grow to a length of thirty feet) can be spotted swimming through the river or sunbathing along the banks. In addition to the crocodiles, the river also supports more than 300 species of migratory, native and coastal birds. Located on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the Guacalillo Estuary and the Tárcoles River offer the chance to observe the one of the richest mangrove forests in the mid pacific coast and the most important conservation area for the Scarlet Macaw in the country.