Costa Rica is a bird lovers paradise, boasting over 850 species of birds throughout the country, it hosts more bird species than in the United States and Canada combined.
About 600 of the species are year round residents and the remainder migrate seasonally, either as passage migrants or as winter residents. Birders will find birdwatching in Costa Rica to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
In Southern Costa Rica, both the lowland tropical rain forests of the Osa Peninsula and the highland cloud forests around La Amistad International Park offer an amazing opportunity to discover a rich variety of diverse groups of birds.
On the Osa Peninsula, including Corcovado National Park, the mangroves of Golfo Dulce, Piedras Blancas National Park and other forest locations in this tropical jungle offer excellent opportunities for viewing neotropical species. The scarlet macaw population on the Osa Peninsula is the largest in Costa Rica.
The tropical cloud forests around La Amistad International Park near Pittier Station in Progresso, the Wilson Botanical Gardens near San Vito and the wilderness areas in Los Tablas are home to many species not easily found in the low lands. Some of the highlight are spotting the resplendent quetzel, the three-wattled bellbird, and the endangered harpy eagle.
Tips for birdwatching:
1. Visit several different locations and habitats.
Look in areas on the forest fringe where there are clearings, and also on rivers and waterways where birds often come to drink and eat.
2. Hire a local guide to help you find the best birding spots.
Local guides often know where nesting sites and food sources are located. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience locating birds in their natural environment.
3. Carry a field guide.
A good field guide will allow you to quickly identify species by anatomical features and range distribution. There are several excellent ones available. I like “The Birds of Costa Rica” by Richard Garrigues & Robert Dean, and “A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica” by Gary Stiles.
4. Watch for:
- mixed flocks foraging on different types of food in the forest canopy - especially fruit.
- ant swarms that stir up insects from the forest floor, attracting birds to feast.
- dead trees, grasses, and stalks where birds often perch.
5. Wear neutral colored clothing.
Neutral colored clothing blends best with a bird's environment and is less likely to cause alarm.
6. Move slowly and stop often.
By limiting your movement you also minimize man-made noises such as stepping on dry leaves or snapping twigs which often startle the bird.
Costa Rica has become one of the worlds’ most popular birdwatching destinations. You can expect to see several dozens species in any given day depending on which season and location you explore. Given the excellent diversity of habitat, safe and accessible trails, and the availability of knowledgeable, local guides, birders leave Costa Rica with their highest expectations fulfilled.
Written and contributed by Jaguardman