The second site in our upcoming research trip to Costa Rica is at Curu Wildlife Reserve. It is a very unique site in all senses of the word. Curu was purchased in 1933 by Frederico Schutt and used for a number of years as a cattle ranch. Feeling the pressure of squatters and other financial strife the Schutt family looked to the Costa Rican government for help. In 1981 their land received protected forest status and in 1983 the Curu National Wildlife Refuge was created. Their property encompasses approximately 1500 hectares of which about 75 hectares is protected under the terms wildlife reserve. The Schutt family has done a number of things to try and help the wildlife or restore natural habitat on the preserve. Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) no longer breed on the Nicoya Peninsula due to loss of habitat and the pressures from the pet trade. The Schutt family has implemented a breeding and release program to try and re-establish breeding pairs to the reserve.
They have had some success in this endeavor. I have even witnessed what appeared to be a nesting pair outside of the preserve in a close location. Geoffroy’s spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) is another species that has been extirpated from the Nicoya Peninsula due to loss of habitat and competition. Curu has tried a few different programs to reintroduce this species back to their reserve. However, the level of success is unknown. With the preserve being such a large area to cover some of the habitat where the species might have reestablished itself is hard to access.
Curu boasts a wide variety of different habitat, thus the reason for being such a unique site with diverse wildlife. The site has over 250 species of birds seen so far. One of the reasons we were most attracted to the site is that it has a large section of mangrove habitat. Not only does Mangrove habitat come with a denizen of native birds but it is also some of the best habitat for migrants. We have caught 20 species of Neo-tropical migrants at the site including MacGillivray’s Warbler (Geothlypis tolmiei), Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus), and Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), just to name a few.
The site also boasts a spectacular diversity of resident species and some of our highlights have been: Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa), Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana), American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea), and Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus). Honestly there are too many species to name and I could go on all day.
You will soon see what we are catching and get to experience our excitement as we try to add to our diverse species list. Curu has a lot of other unique species in all other taxa and I will be highlighting mammalian, herpetological, and entomological fauna as well. Another aspect I will be talking about a lot is Curu’s Mangrove habitat and all four species of mangroves are present on the site. Some of the Mangrove denizens are facing steep declines and losing their habitat at alarming rates. Mangrove conservation is one of the most important things we are trying to work on and one of the mains reasons is because the Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi), a Costa Rican endemic, is already IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red-listed endangered. This means that there are only between 2,500 and 10,000 left in the wild with the population still decreasing. I will talk more on this subject and introduce you to this species in the coming weeks.
The next site I will talk about is our main base camp which we call Finca Pura Vida. It is also where the majority of our hummingbird banding takes place. Stay tuned!
Photos © Sean Graesser