Birds and Best Birdwatching

With over 850 bird species found in Costa Rica, birders of all experience levels will find a paradise to enjoy their passion for birds. From the Cloud Forest Region around Monteverde to the lowland rainforest of the Osa Peninsula in the South Pacific Region, a variety of rich bird habitats exist, filled with exotic and rare species. The local birders will tell you that the best way to start your birdwatching adventure is to get an updated list of "Birds of Costa Rica" and hire a tour guide to take you to the habitat you are interested in viewing. The guides end up giving complete details of what to bring, clothing to wear and what type of terrain you will be hiking. For beginners, it is just as important to be properly equipped for birding as it is being prepared to play any sport.

We have highlighted some of the top destinations in Costa Rica for birdwatching and a sample of some of the species you can see, however, it is far from a complete list of either category. There are a variety of books that can be purchased covering all species known to date with details of each bird, habitat and history of the species in Costa Rica.

San Gerado de Dota Highlands in the Talamanca Mountain Range is a wonderful spot for both experienced and beginner birders.  The altitudes of the majestic mountains produce sightings of the elusive Quetzal with over 170 known species being reported. You have the opportunity to move into the Sub-Alpine Rain Paramo with it's covered peaks and discover an array of species. Between these two habitats you can see the Volcano Hummingbirds, Streak breasted Treehunter, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Gray tailed Mountain Gem and Costa Rican Pygmy Owl to name a few. Using qualified guided tours in this area are recommended to allow you to spot the most species. There are some great lodges in this area and can be found on our accommodations menu.

In the outer regions around San Isidro del General in the South Pacific Region, you can choose a variety of lodges that offer birding tours. The elevation peaks and valleys make a good place to spot Buffy Crowned Wood Patridge, Red fronted Parrolet, Sulfer winged Parakeets, Red Headed Barbet, Ornate Hawk Eagle, Green fronted Lancebill, White winged Tanager and Spotted Barbtail.  There are lodges surrounding the perimeter of San Isidro del General to choose from offering tours into Chirripo National Park as well as the lower valley. Los Cusingos Preserve offers chances to sight Garden Emerald, Turquoise Cotinga, White throated Shrike Tanager, Ruddy Woodpecker, Biocolored Antbird, and the Bicolored Hawk to name a few species.

In the Southern Pacific near Piedras Blancas National Park, you can find lodges and tour guides that will lead through a variety of terrain, from river trails to mountain peaks, with many opportunities to view the hundreds of species found in the area.  A few species to look forward to viewing are the Orange colored Manakin, Fiery Billed Aracari, Spot Crowned Euphonia, Black bellied Wren, Crimson fronted Parakeet, Blue headed Parrot, Tiny Hawk, and Yellow billed Cotinga. Check availability of accommodations close to this attractiom.

Cara National Park and the Tarcoles River, with it's large Mangroves, provide an excellent destination for birders in the Central Pacific area. This general area marks the place where the tropical rainforest and the tropical dry forest merge giving an unusual habitat for a variety of species. There have been over 400 species registered in this area because of the merging climate habitats. A few extraordinary species to sight are Mangrove Cuckoo, Panama Flycatcher, Mangrove Hummingbird, Great Tinamou, Scarlet McCaw, Mangrove Vireo, White Ibis and Black Hawk. This area happens to be a favorite for first time birders to Costa Rica and many lodges can be found in the area with excellent guides.

Birding in La Selva and the Sarapique prove to be a fantastic with opportunity to see many bird and wildlife species at the same time. The station is surrounded by primary rainforest, secondary rainforest, Gallery Forest, rivers, creeks and areas in natural regeneration forming a variety of habitats.  With diverse habitats comes the opportunity to see more species making this area a birders paradise.  Sightings can be made of Slaty tailed Trogon, Keel billed Toucan, Collard Aracari, Red throated Ant Tanager, Green Kingfisher, Sunbittern, Gray necked Wood Rail and Fasciated Tiger Heron.  Combining this with a tour of Sarapique River with it's gentle flowing waters, you can mark off Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, and Bare throated Tiger Heron from your list. Guided tours are recommended in this area so all species can be located with ease.

Birding in Monteverde Cloud Forest is another favorite for the day and nighttime sightings that ensue. Three wattled Bellbird, the splendid Quetzal, Golden browed Chlorophonia, Azure Hooded Jay, Zeladonia and the Mottled Owl to name a few of the species you can see in this amazing forest. This region is filled with birding lodges and tours specializing in birdwatching due to the amazing number of species that can be found. Click here to see how the Cloud Forest play a part in the eco systems.

The Central Valley Highlands have a bundle of places for birding which include Poas Volcano National Park,San Rafael de Vara Blanca, La Paz Waterfall Gardens and La Virgin del Socorro. Species such as Black billed Hummingbird, Magenta throated Woodstar, Quetzal, Bare shanked Screech Owl and Dusky Nightjar to name a few that can be seen. There are bird tours offered in this area touching each location with very experienced guides. Click here to see how the Highlands play a role in the eco system.

Birding in the Caribbean lowlands of Turrialba brings you to a habitat with lush pre-mountain rainforest with an amazing array of species to be found. A good guide will take you to the higher altitudes to view the Snowcap and descend to sight species of Green Thorntail, White throated Crake, Garden Emerald, White lined Tanager, and White necked Jacobin to name a few.

Photo Credit: [resplandant quetzal in tree, costa rica 3] supplied by [Hemera] / Thinkstock