I am pretty sure that Carara National Park is one of the easiest places to see Great Tinamous anywhere in its range. That’s quite a statement considering that they carefully make their way through the understory of rainforests from southern Mexico way on down into the green depths of the Amazon. While it is true that such an ample range means that there are quite a few places where you could run into this pigskin shaped bird, it’s just not that easy to see in most places. Its actual or perceived scarcity is a side affect of being a sizeable, chunky, tasty looking ground bird. Locals seem to hunt them wherever they can and before you know it, they get extirpated or just too shy to see (the early 80s crazy haired group known as Kajagoogoo should do a remake of their one hit wonder , “Too shy” and dedicate it to over-hunted Great Tinamous although most crakes would make better candidates).
Costa Rica is no stranger to the unfortunate over hunting of Great Tinamous so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear or see them in unprotected areas even if the forest does look great. The Osa Peninsula comes to mind in this respect. They are fairly common in Corcovado National Park but you would be very lucky to hear a whisper of this hunted bird in forest near villages. Fortunately, when birding Costa Rica, you have got an excellent chance of seeing a Great Tinamou or two at Carara National Park. They are just as easy at La Selva but since access to the forest is easier at Carara, this factor also makes Great Tinamous that much easier to see at Carara. I see one or two on most guiding trips to the park and insist that if you spend an entire day on the forest trails that leave from the HQ, you have got a very good chance of seeing this strange bird up close and personal.
They are so tame at Carara that seeing Great Tinamou in those beautiful rainforests can be a surreal experience (especially so because they look so weird). My sightings usually go like this: As I carefully walk along the trail, eyes and ears open to the slightest movement and hint of a shuffle in the leaves, no matter how much I scan the understory, a tinamou suddenly appears just off to the side of the trail. Just standing there unconcerned with my presence like a subject in a living museum, it takes a step or two, maybe pecks at the ground and then stands some more.
The last time I was at Carara, I had the best views I have ever had of Great Tinamou. These sightings beat out my perfect views of a singing bird at Palenque, Mexico, any number of flushed Great Tinamous in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon, and any other nice, close looks at them from past visits to Carara or La Selva. These were the best because for at least 15 minutes, three birds let us watch them sit in the leaf litter
and attempt to hide behind a sapling in shame.
Seeing Great Tinamou just doesn’t get any better than that!