Contact Patrick O’Donnell


Originally from Niagara Falls, New York, Patrick is a writer and birding guide who has worked in the travel and tourism industry from the cataracts of Niagara to the Peruvian Amazon. A serious birder since the age of 7, this passion has led him to Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, and his current place of residence- Costa Rica. A biologist and systematist by training, Pat has worked on research projects in Colorado, New York, Wyoming, and Washington as well as in Peru. When not looking for birds in Costa Rica, he attempts to practice Chinese martial arts.

He can be reached at

Skype: patrick-odonnell



55 replies on “Contact Patrick O’Donnell”

Your website has been hijacked by Chinese hackers. A few seconds after loading a page, I got taken to some Chinese page.

By the way, I was born and raised in CR and wish you luck in that beautiful part of the world.

* apta

Hey there Patrick-
Your blog is great! I saw some of your photos on Surfbirds. I need to come visit you soon. All is well in Buffalo – we are having an early spring. The hawkwatches have been busy and I just got my own banding license – raptors only for now. I am planning on opening my garden/nature shop on Elmwood or Hertel area this August/Sept. Hope your family is well. All the best, Alec

Good to hear from you Alec. Can’t wait to hear about the stuff you band and the opening of the garden store! Yes, you need to come down and visit soon!


Very nice site! Congratulations on your lovely family and life in Costa Rica. What is the unofficial motto there? Pura vida?

I’ve been living and working in the heart of southeastern Arizona for some time. The weather and the birds are great, but it doesn’t compare to Costa Rica!

A work colleague traveled to the Osa Peninsula last autumn and enjoyed it tremendously. I told her to keep an eye and ear out for the three-wattled bellbird. She enjoyed an extended study after being alerted by several stoked lodge employees. She was amazed to say the least. Her experience has me seriously considering a birding trip to Costa Rica and/or Panama.

Willie and Betsy visited last February. They’re doing well.

Best regards, Mike

Hey Mike! Good to hear from you. Man, you picked an awesome place to live. Costa Rica is great for birding but so is SE Arizona! That’s great that Willy and Betsy came down for a visit. Yeah, everyone here is always saying “Pura Vida” and it is pretty much the motto of Costa Rica.

Yes, the Osa is fantastic. Very wild forests with lots of wildlife and of course awesome birding.

Hope to see you down here sometime.

@Mike- Hi Mike! Yes, I see snakes every once in a while and on most trips to Quebrada Gonzalez.


I have been looking out for an Ornithologist from Mexico & Central America, who could help me with hummingbird and plant interactions.
Will you be able to put me through to someone please ?

best regards,

@Raul- Thanks! Have a good day too and keep taking pictures of Mexican birds. Yo pase bastante tiempo en Mexico en 95 y 96, viajando por el pais y mirando aves. Vivi en San Luis Potosi y Celaya por un rato donde ensene Ingles. Buenos tiempos esos!

When out in the forest there, do you ever run into poisonous species like snakes or insects? For examole, the fer de lance?

@Mike- Hi Mike! I rarely see any snakes and consider myself lucky to see a venomous one. They are around but prefer to stay hidden. Fer-de-lances are fairly common in many areas but you still have to search for them if you want to see them. No problem with the insects. Ants can sting and bite as can bees and wasps of course but you just keep that in mind and stay away from them. Also good to not touch or brush up against vegetation. Here is a post I did about poisonous snakes-

I have saved your website under Favorites. it is! I am coming on a tour in February 2013 and trying to learn about the birds before i come. Even tho I do not know you, I hope you and your family are safe and sound after the earthquake. Thank you for the beautiful pictures, great info, etc. Also, commentary @ the earthquake was very informative. Again, take care, be safe!

Hi Pat:

I’ve been reading about birding in Costa Rica and came across your site – it’s great! I like your writing style, and you seem to be a good birder who cares about birds AND habitat. I am a wildlife biologist but also an avid birder. I’m writing since my father has always wanted to fish in Costa Rica and is planning to go sometime early next year (Jan-Mar). I will hopefully go with him but have never been to Central America, so of course I have to go birding!

I’d love to take 3-5 days before or after the fishing to go birding. Although I would love to target as many endemics as I can, my main goal will simply be to observe as many tropical birds as possible (I have 600+ from US and have seen most of the neotropic migrants found in US). Also want to hopefully get some nice photos as well.

Would you be available to guide at that time? From what I have read and been told the later I go (toward end of March), the more variety I might observe. To do a really good trip, how many days would you recommend? And how would the cost be structured? As far as I know it will be just me, my Dad is not a birder. But I may try to recruit someone else so by the end of 2012 there may be another person who wants to go … so, are you able to guide 2 or more people, or do you prefer to keep it to 1 at a time?

I hope to get a date for the fishing nailed down in next month, and will keep you posted and see if you are available.

Thank you!

@Jeff- I have emailed you with some answers to your questions. Yes, I guide more than one person at a time. March is good because more birds are singing and migrants are around but tours also go at that time because it is drier on the Pacific slope than other times of the year.

Interested in hiring an experienced Bird Guide for a day or two between Nov 30 and Dec 8. We are staying in the Gunacaste Region at the Barcello Langosto. I would need a driver and car as we will not be renting one. Thanks Elise

Just read your essay on the difference between CR and temerate birding. Maybe one of the most concise and accurate descriptions…ever. Well done.

Buying 20 acres bordering Las Cruces in San Vito next month, we hope.

Regards; Greg


Further to our previous conversations – I would like to go birding with you when we dock in Punta Arenas. As previously advised, we dock at 0700hrs on the 30th April and sail at 1800hrs.
Carara NP was mentioned which seems like a great idea – I read about a river close by for maybe herons / kingfishers?

Wait to hear from you – all the best


@Paul- Sounds great, I am sure we will see a lot. Yes, there is a large river near there that is good for wading birds.

Hello, My name is Marianna, I am going to doing a special event here on Some Sundays called breakfast with the birds. I live in Jaco and have a great view of many tropical and interesting birds. Some actually come right to the penthouse and eat out of my hands and other peoples. We have Toucans, Macaws, Cranes,Wrens, Kisskadees of course, Grackles, doves, wood peckers, ducks, Falcons, vultures, tanangers, and many more. My idea is this is a private venue its my house with a wrap around balcony that is huge many 20 people at one time, enter very early at 5:45 am this is when they are very active we would have great breakfast while enjoying the view and activity of all the birds. I have River view and Mountain view and ocean view. I Want to know if you are interested and if you could help in promoting this great private event? I am thinking to begin soon in OCT. Please let me know Marianna In Jaco

Hi Patrick,

I was in Costa Rica some years ago and I am a birdwatcher from Europe. I am trying to complete my personal bird list and I was wondering if you could help me with one question. I am looking for the bird name that we saw quite often in the streets of San Jose sitting on the electric wires. The bird was dark cloared, not shy and pretty big.

If you have any idea could you please give me the name?

Thanks a lot!
Erwin Lenting
The Netherlands

Hello Patrick.

I have been reading your blog since I discovered it a little over a year
ago. It has been one of the best things available on the Internet, featuring
a great mix of birding hotspot tips, living the Tico way, and humorous bits
that get me laughing out loud. It has also helped me daydream through nightmarish
winters like the one currently affecting the Great Lakes region.

I’m in Costa Rica now, heading to El Tapir tomorrow morning and to two days
at La Selva after that. Wish me luck, or better, wish me Snowcaps, Bell-
birds and King Vultures.

I was wondering if you were aware of a nice Central Valley spot that my
wife and I stayed in two nights ago – the Hotel Mango Valley. We ended up tHere
because Poas Lodge was full. It’s located north of Grecia at 1400 m above
sea level. The back of the property abuts the forest around Volcan Poas, while
the rest of the property features grassy areas, fruit trees, a Porterweed
hedge (!) and a long treed lane way from the (paved) road. The place is very
nice and reasonably priced.

While there, I was surprised as to the quality of the birds. Here’s a list
of the highlights, omitting the Great-tailed Grackles, Wilson’s Warblers
, and other things you can see anywhere.

Golden-browed Chlorophonias
Blue-crowned Motmot
Long-tailed Manakin
Short-tailed Hawk
Green-crowned Brilliant
Black-throated Green Warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler
Greyish Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
Masked Tityra
Spotted Woodcreeper

The Manakin was a lifer for me.

If you’re passing through the area, check it out.

Thanks again,

David McNorton

@David- Glad you like the blog and hope you got those targets. Thanks also for the info about the Mango Valley Hotel0 will be checking that out!

The Dean and Garrigues book suggested Hooded Warbler is not that common in Costa Rica. I’m sure I saw one in the Grounds of the Natural lodge Cano Negro (a hotel that doesn’t quite live up to its name). Our river guide mamaged to find me Nicaraguan Grackle as well.

Hi, Patrick, I got your name from our local Audubon leader. My husband and I will be in CR between 4/26 and 5/3. We are thinking of taking a 2 days birding trips with you. Do you have days available that week? We don’t mind joining with other birders if you happen to have one planned. Would you send me the itinerary and the cost? We will stay with my brother in San Jose. Thanks.

Hi, Patrick, I am thinking about birding in Costa Rica, and was glad to find your blog. One question I need to ask someone who knows CR: is late Fall a bad time to visit? I gather the rainy season is not over, and there are far fewer records on eBird from that time of year. Is that just because there are fewer visitors then, or because there’s less singing, etc.? Any other comments about time of year? (I see your blog entry on July.) I’m most interested in Central American specialties I wouldn’t have observed in South America, and don;t care that there will be fewer boreal migrants.


@Steve- Typically, late fall is not the best time to visit Costa Rica because this is the rainiest time of the year. November is the worst but October and December can also be rough. It can be especially bad on the Caribbean slope. That said, it probably won’t rain the whole time and if you can work with rainy spells, can still see the same resident species as other times of the year.

Yikes, I thought the dry season started in December, and Lawson’s guide (which I got after I posted this question) says “there is no bad time to visit CR”. So this is not what I hoped to hear, but thanks a lot, that’s what I wanted to know. I am more interested in the highlands and south-Pacific side, but still doesn’t sound ideal.

@Steve- It’s good to keep in mind that it can rain at any time of the year in Costa Rica, especially in the mountains and on the Caribbean slope but yes, I would say that October and November are the rainiest times of the year. That said, it shouldn’t rain the entire time and birds are more active in cloudy weather or days with showers than hot, sunny weather.

Hi Patrick,
Your website has been a wonderful source of information for us and has helped so much to enhance our trips to Costa Rica from the UK. I have recently tried to purchase the Costa Rican Birding Route (sending the purchase fee) and have had no response from the Rainforest Biodiversity Group at all despite several emails. I was wondering if you could offer me any advice on this.
We’re looking forward to another trip in January so thanks again for all your helpful information.


@Kathy- Glad to hear that the blog has helped. Sorry, I don’t have any connection with the CR Bird Route so can’t give much advice. Maybe posting on their Facebook page to try and get their attention?

Hi Patrick,
I will be in CR over the Holidays and I have Dec. 25 – Dec. 30 during which I would like to focus on birding in CR. I would be interested in retaining your guiding services if available and I am also open to recommendations on locations, itinerary, etc. Please let me know if you are available during that time…I am happy to continue the conversation off line. Your site has been a great help and a wealth of information already..Thanks!

Steve Mc.

What are your bird guiding rates in late February ’15 for either 1 or 1 1/2 days of birding in the SJ vicinity?

Hi Patrick.

We love your sight and all of the helpful information that you provide. My wife and I are in the early stages of planning a birding trip to Costa Rica. I hope that you will be available as a guide (but we will try to make plans accordingly). Not sure when we are coming yet.

I wanted to ask you for your recommendations for 4 or 5 bird-friendly places to spend a few overnights (lodges, etc.). Important Note: My wife is not comfortable staying in places that are too rustic or rough, so if possible, please provide the names of a few spots that she might enjoy. She is kind of spoiled when it comes to hotels and lodges 🙂

We love birds, but are only amateur birders. I particularly enjoy photographing hummingbirds.

Thanks for any info that you can provide.


Dear Sir,

I have been to Costa Rica (Guanacaste province) with my father the last week of December and we have done a lot of birding. However, we have a certain number of birds we cannot identify and we do not know who to contact to have them identify. Can you help us identify them?

Sorry to bother you,


P.S. : If yes, I will send you a few pictures via my email.

Hello Pat, I am a birder from the UK on holiday. I’ve been at Cano Negro the past two days, and thought you might like to know that there is a flock of American White Pelicans there. I’ve just been looking in the guide bok and have seen how big a deal that could be: I’m sorry for not contacting sooner.
We saw six fly over the river during a boat trip yesterday morning, and counted 18 in the field/grazed marsh on the opposite side of the river to where they start the boat trips, first thing this morning. They were put up by a couple of locals going to work across the field, and flew towards some of the big lagoons west of the town.
I hope they stick around for you to enjoy.
All the best
Ian Hawkins

@Ian- Thanks for the gen, glad you got to see them! Yeah, really rare bird for Costa Rica, I’ve been hearing about the reports and been dying to get up that way.

Hello Pat,
We have just returned to the US from a three-week birding trip to Costa Rica (my third), where I saw a Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo. I’m writing you because my non-birding friends here in California and my family were “not sufficiently impressed” by my sighting, and I need to tell someone who is more likely to care.
While staying at Arenal Observatory Lodge, we spent our first full day birding with a local guide, Anthony Arce, who found many great birds for us and recommended several sites around the lodge to continue birding during the following days. On May 11th, about 7:30am, I was walking briskly on the Danta Waterfall Trail, aiming to check out the Hanging Bridge before returning for breakfast. Suddenly, about 100 meters beyond the waterfall, and less than 40 feet in front of me ,“The Bird”, like a stocky roadrunner with its head, body and tail held perfectly horizontal, ran from the stream-side trees on my right, across the path, and into the dense forest on my left. I had an unobstructed, two-second view, in good light – able to clearly see the “thick bill, crested head, stout body, elongated tail” outline of the dusky brown bird, as well as its distinctive blue spot at the eye. Stunned, I grabbed my field guide to verify that it could not have been a wood-rail, tinamou, chachalaca, or anything else. It was, as the book said, “Not likely mistaken!”
Coincidentally, Richard Garrigues, guiding two photographers, was at the Lodge’s restaurant when I arrived, so I told him my story. He noted that the altitude and habitat were appropriate and that the blue spot was “the clincher”. Though not certain, he believed that the bird had never been previously reported at that location. When I asked Richard to autograph my field guide, he added an inscription congratulating me on my ground-cuckoo. Wow!
John Hendrix
P.S. I want to thank you for your website, which I have followed for years, and birding app. Both were inspirational before our trip and very helpful as we traveled. Thanks!

@John-Thanks very much for sharing that report and congrats on seeing a super tough bird! I heard of a sighting on the waterfall trail at Arenal Obs. Lodge from 2-3 years ago. The fact that the one from a few years ago and your sighting are the only ones I know of from that site despite lots of birding coverage shows how rare and elusive that species is. Even though antswarms are regularly encountered around there, still no regular sightings. It has also shown up only once or twice at other sites with regular coverage like El Copal and Villablanca. Last year, one was also documented by camera trap from Cangreja National Park on the Pacific slope, and there are two sightings I know of from Carara. Quite the unreliable, surprise species!
Thanks for the kind words about my blog and the app I work on, happy to hear that they have been useful.

Hi Pat:

a couple of friends and i are going to panama in august for a week.

do you have any contacts for independent guides there?

we are looking for 1/2 or full days, probably 3 days or so.

if you have any info on guides you could recommend, please get back w/ me.

Gerald Duhon
Beaumont, Texas

Hi Gerald, Cool to hear that you are going to Panama. No, I’m sorry I do not know who to recommend there as an independent guide.

Hello Patrick,

We (my wife and I), are planning a trip to Costa Rica in April 2018. I am in to bird photography and my wife enjoys generalised wildlife watching/spotting. I want to get the most out of the bird sites we are going to, and understand the value of a good guide to do this. Would you be available for a days bird guiding in any of these areas:

* Turrialba April 2nd- 3rd 2018
* San Gerardo de Dota April 5th- 7th 2018
* Osa Peninsula April 9th- 11th 2018
* Carrara National Park April 13th 2018
* Monteverde Cloud Forest April 15th – 17th 2018
* Volcan Tenorio National Park April 19th – 20th 2018
* Puerto Viejo de Saraapiqui April 22th – 24th 2018

Many thanks.

Karl & Sheila Baker