Cerro Lodge is one of the main accommodation options for birders visiting the Carara area. It’s also one of the only real options but that doesn’t take away from its value in terms of proximity to the park, service, comfort, and (best of all), good, on-site birding. Given that reforestation efforts have resulted in more birds at the lodge itself, more fruit feeders, hummingbird bushes, and an overlook that can turn up everything from raptors, macaws, parrots, parakeets, Yellow-billed Cotinga (typically distant), trogons, and flyby Muscovy Duck, don’t be surprised if you feel completely satisfied with birding from the lodge restaurant. But, if you feel like stepping off the lodge property, get ready for more great birding on the road that runs in front of Cerro Lodge.
This road gets birdy by way of patches of roadside dry forest, second growth, mango orchards, fields, a small seasonal marsh, and a flat, floodplain area near the Tarcoles River. As one might expect, that mosaic of habitats has resulted in a fair bird list, and I suspect that several other species could show. In addition to a wide variety of common edge species, these are some other key birds to look for:
This raptor might be the star of the Cerro Lodge bird assemblage. Although not exactly abundant and never guaranteed, the lodge and the road are probably the most reliable sites in Costa Rica for this species. In this country, the raptor with the long, red legs prefers riparian zones with large trees in lowland areas, mostly on the Pacific slope. The proximity of the Tarcoles River to the road and the lodge apparently works well for this cool bird because it’s seen here quite often. If you don’t get it from the restaurant, a day of focused birding on the road should turn up one or more of this nice raptor. In addition to both caracaras, other raptors can also show up including Short-tailed, Zone-tailed, Common Black, and Gray Hawks, Gray-headed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, and Collared Forest-Falcon. Down in the floodplain, keep an eye out for Pearl Kite.
It might not seem exciting but it’s still worth knowing that this area is a good one for wild Muscovy Ducks. One or more can fly over the lodge, road, or be visible from the lodge restaurant. The abundance of this species probably varies with water levels in the surrounding area. I usually see one or more flybys in the morning but there are times when I haven’t seen any, and I recall one morning when more than a dozen were seen from the restaurant.
Double Striped Thick-Knee
If you still need this weird one, watch for it in open fields anywhere on the road, but especially in the floodplain area just before dawn.
Striped Cuckoo and Lesser ground-Cuckoo
The Striped is regular from the lodge and along the road and the ground-cuckoo is probably increasing.
Although Black and White used to be a given at the lodge, unfortunately, it’s not as regular as in the past. It still occurs in the area though and does still visit the lodge on occasion. Other owl species that can show up include Barn, Spectacled, Mottled, and Pacific Screech. Striped is also heard and seen from time to time. The most common owl species is Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.
Various dry forest species
Many dry forest species are common at the lodge and along the road including stunners like Turquoise-browed Motmot and Black-headed Trogon.
These two can occur at the lodge and anywhere on the road along with species like Stripe-headed Sparrow, Brown-crested and Nutting’s Flycatchers, and White-lored Gnatcatcher. Checking spots with dense vegetation and a more forested aspect can turn up Olive Sparrow, Banded Wren, Royal Flycatcher, and even Stub-tailed Spadebill. Beauties like Blue Grosbeak and Painted Bunting are also regular in scrubby habitats along the road.
This cool bird seems to be increasing at this site and is now regular along the road and even at the lodge itself.
Macaws, parrots and the like
Thankfully, Scarlet Macaws are doing very well in Costa Rica. While watching them fly past and perch in trees at and near Cerro, you can also watch for flyby Yellow-naped, White-fronted, and Red-lored Parrots, White-crowned Parrots, Orange-fronted and Orange-chinned Parakeets, and, when certain trees are seeding, hundreds of Crimson-fronted Parakeets. At times, Brown-hooded and Mealy Parrots can also occur for a fine Psittacine sweep.
This stunner is always around.
Last but not least, watch for this spectacular jay on the road and at the lodge feeders.
Enjoy birding at Cerro and vicinity, I hope to see you out there! Please see an updated bird list below:
|List of birds identified at Cerro Lodge and the road in front of the lodge, with abundance as of 2017|
|This list probably awaits more additions, especially from the more heavily wooded area on the northern part of the property.|
|c- common, u- uncommon, r – rare, vr- very rare and vagrants|
|Please send additions to the list or rare sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Area covered includes the vicinity of Cerro Lodge and the road to Cerro Lodge from the highway to where it dead-ends on the river flood plain.|
|Keep in mind that the abundance of various species is likely changing due to the effects of climate change.|
|Great Blue Heron||u|
|Little Blue Heron||c|
|Black and White Owl||c|
|Pacific Screech Owl||c|
|Costa Rican Swift||u|
|Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift||u|
|Northern Barred Woodcreeper||r|
|Northern Beardless Tyrannulet||c|
|Southern Beardless Tyrannulet||r|
|Southern Rough-winged Swallow||c|
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow||c|
|Rufous and white Wren||u|
|Black and White Warbler||c|