Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica

Cerulean Warbler Count and Other Suggestions for Birding Costa Rica

Summer is still happening up north but not for long. The cooler nights of autumn are just around the corner, and for most birds, the big seasonal insect boom is over. For species like Cerulean Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush, the chicks have been fledged and the time has come to once again take the long trip south. In Costa Rica, we are already seeing this trio of wood-warblers and we hope to see many more in a month or two. Yes, the exquisite Cerulean Warbler passes through Costa Rica in as good numbers as its threatened population allows and right now is the time to see them. They mostly occur on the Caribbean slope, especially so in foothill and middle elevation forests and can be encountered for much of September in small numbers although the best place in Costa Rica to see this choice warbler of the deciduous canopy seems to be at the Las Brisas Reserve.

This private protected area in the foothills above the town of Siquirres seems to be especially good for migrants as well as nice resident species like Royal Flycatcher, White-tipped Sicklebill, and other birds. Since it’s an excellent place to count Ceruleans while looking for other migrants, local birding guide and ornithologist Ernesto Carman has organized an annual Cerulean Warbler count at this site for the past several years. Past counts have turned up several Ceruleans along with flocks of migrating kites and many other birds shared in good company. This year’s count promises to be just as good and also includes a bird walk at the EARTH University, an excellent site for species of the lowland rainforest. To participate in the count on September 2-3, contact Ernesto at

Le Royal Flycatcher

When not counting Cerulean Warblers, here are some suggestions for birding in Costa Rica during the final week of August and the first week of September:

Visit Albergue del Socorro– Off the beaten track, but not too far off for an easy visit, this small lodge is run by a friendly local family who care deeply for the excellent middle elevation forests and biodiversity in their neighborhood. Needless to say, the birding is excellent and I can’t wait to go back. This is a site to look for Lovely Cotinga and Bare-necked Umbrellabird among many other species.

Check out wetlands in Guanacaste– The waterbirds are more spread out but with more wetlands to access, it seems like it’s easier to find major targets like Jabiru and Spotted Rail. Don’t overlook the rice fields, especially if they are being harvested. Sit back and see if you can identify the rails that are flushed by the tractor!

The Jabiru is more or less king of the Western Hemisphere wading birds.

Look for the Aplomado Falcon in Coris– There has been a juvenile Aplomado in Coris, Cartago terrorizing the local blackbirds and doves for more than a month now. Park across the road from the entrance to the Kimberly-Clark factory and watch for the Falco fun from there!

Expect flooded conditions near Golfito– It’s been raining Jaguars and Maned Wolves in southern Costa Rica. As has often happened when massive amounts of water come to that part of the country, fields and other areas have become flooded. Be careful when driving any side roads from the La Gamba area to the border.

Keep an eye and ear out for Saw-whets and Oilbirds in the highlands– This is a good time of year to at least hear the little known Unspotted Saw-whet Owl up on Irazu and Cerro de la Muerte. It’s also a good time to look for Oilbirds. Although there have only been a few sightings this year, there are probably more of those weird nocturnal birds up in the mountains.

Enjoy the great birding in Costa Rica, as always, I hope to see you in the field!

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