Motmots 4 in 1: a Costa Rica story

Motmots are one of my favorite families of bird species. When I make my annual pilgrimage to Costa Rica, they are one of the priority subjects on my photographic scavenger hunt. Normally we only see one or two of the six species living in Costa Rica. This year we were mesmerized with, not only sightings of, but great photo opportunities of four species of the family Motmot!

I don't know if it's their larger size, amazing coloration or that nifty little two-paddle tail, but something about them draws me inexplicably toward seeking them out and putting them in my viewfinder. Whether in the forest, the open savannas, or even the beach, there is always an opportunity and potential to find a Motmot and photograph it.

First sighting: a Rufous Motmot near Arenal Volcano
A Rufous Motmot in the primary rainforest captured during a hike near the Arenal Volcano

This Motmot was a challenge to photograph. The dense foliage, dark under-the-canopy conditions and a constantly moving target had me moving all over the trail to keep the bird in sight. Coupled with the numbers of people passing on the trail—some eager to glimpse the bird as well—getting a tight, relatively unobstructed shot was difficult. My patience was rewarded and the first Motmot of the year was in the bag!

Second encounter: an atypical Broad-billed Motmot
A Broad-billed Motmot missing it's tail

The same day, on the same trail, we chanced upon this Broad-billed Motmot. This was an easier capture. This bird stayed out in the open, offering a clear line-of-sight, in spite of the fellow hikers and birders trekking past on the trail. The light was good and the bird was well-behaved resulting in some nice closeups of this large forest Motmot. Only day three in Costa Rica and I already had two Motmots digitally captured.

Number Three: Blue-crowned Motmots everywhere!
On the trails at Monteverde we encountered surprisingly numerous Blue-crowned Motmots.

After moving from the Arenal area to Monteverde (not a car ride for the smooth road lovers), we encountered species number three. On the trails, in the gardens at our hotel, seemingly everywhere we crossed paths with the Blue-crowned Motmot. This particular shot was taken some fifty feet inside the gate at Monteverde National Park Reserve. It was dark and rainy and though the camera resisted autofocus, the bird was patient enough to allow me to get my best Blue-crowned photos ever!

Four: a long pause till Turquoise-browed Motmots
A Turquoise-browed Motmot out my front door. (Side note: this is also the national bird of Nicaragua)

Days passed and we made our way from the mountains, across the dry tropical savanna toward the Pacific coast. The Turquoise-browed Motmot is most ubiquitous in Costa Rica. Normally, they are everywhere but thus far they had been scarce. We arrived well-down the Pacific coast and started seeing the Turquoise-browned Motmots every day. This particular shot was take just outside the door of my hotel room as I was hanging up my swimming suit to dry. It was the closest look I'd ever had at this bird.

A Motmot perched typically on a wire.

Anytime you can get four Motmots in a single trip it is a good outing. Over all, the looks were some of the best I've ever experienced. This many quality shots in one adventure brought a definite uptick to the score of this vacation. I am already plotting to get back and find the elusive Tody Motmot and the Keel-billed Motmot and add them to my collection.

Parting shot
The last Motmot of the trip says farewell we drive to the airport.
Rikk Flohr

Rikk Flohr — Copyright © 2015

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