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Rare Birds in Costa Rica- 12 of the Least Known Species

There’s a lot of birds in Costa Rica. More than 900 species on the official list of birds for Costa Rica. It’s a heck of a lot and I’m sure we’ll get a few more! In Costa Rica, as our great luck would have it, most of the resident birds are accessible. Factor in good infrastructure in a rather small area and Costa Rica becomes a wonderfully easy nation to see a huge number of bird species in a short amount of time.

However, as with birding locale, the birding isn’t always easy, not every species is as common as a Blue-gray Tanager. Many birds are rare, some naturally so, others because of habitat destruction, and others for reasons unknown. The following are a dozen of the least known birds in Costa Rica, rare species that can be a huge challenge (or nearly impossible) to see in this birdy country. It’s ok to have these species on your target list but you may need to curb your birding enthusiasm.

Masked Duck

Masked-Duck

Based on how little this bird enjoys being seen, the mask it wears is either one of shame or a reminder of its anti-social behavior. This duck might not be endangered and it is recorded on an annual basis but not as often as one would like. Visit seemingly nice habitat for the bird and it’s either hiding or just not there. We don’t know what it does and that’s the problem. Given its penchant for seasonal wetlands, Masked Duck in Costa Rica might be nomadic but if so, where does it go? Where does it host its off-season skulking parties?

Believe me, I wish we knew. I have some suspicions but no easy answers. What I do know is that the best spot for it is in wetlands near Ciudad Neily from August to November. The Cano Negro area is another good area to look for it as well as any shallow, marshy wetland.

Violaceous Quail-Dove

One of those wide-ranging, uncommon and spotty birds. Like the Masked Duck, this bird may also be somewhat nomadic, at least in the sense of moving around in search of some sort of suitable, not very obvious microhabitat. I suspect it uses some form of advanced or viney second growth within mature forest but who knows?

Although this dove is never common nor expected in Costa Rica, it does seem to be slightly easier to find around Rincon de la Vieja and in wetter forests of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Pheasant Cuckoo

One of the number one ghost birds of Costa Rica. Given the paucity of records, this cuckoo species surely has a very small population, especially compared to ther places. Too much competition with other species? Not enough nest hosts? Who knows what the reasons are but suffice to say, the ideal ecological situation for this species does not take place in Costa Rica. When birding Costa Rica, don’t expect to find it, even if you do look for it in the southern Nicoya and southern Costa Rica.

Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo

birding Costa Rica

Over the past few years, thanks to more birders looking for the ground-cuckoo, we know a bit more about where this bird lives and how to find it. It almost got left off this list. However, the cuckoo is still a decidedly rare, little known species. How many live in in a given area? What do they need? Do they still occur in lowland forest sites? Answers to these questions are lacking.

Oilbird

One of the most intriguing species on this list and not just because of its nocturnal habits. We don’t know where the Oilbirds in Costa Rica come from, we only know that they are most frequent during the wet season. There’s a fair chance some live in caves in southern Costa Rica. If so, hopefully those specual grottos can be located so the population can be assessed and safeguarded.

Crested Eagle

Oooh, one of the top prize birds in Costa Rica. A big rare and spectacular eagle. I have seen it a grand total of two times..in Tambopata, Peru. Is it still extant? We can only hope that some still occur in remote rainforests, especially in the Caribbean slope foothills, in or near Tortuguero, the Las Tablas area, and forests of the Osa and Golfo Dulce.

Harpy Eagle

Another elusive prize, this one probably the grand prize of Costa Rica birding. Unfortunately, we don’t know where it occurs, nor if it even still nests in Costa Rica. If so, the population is surely miniscule. I wouldn’t look for it on the Osa either, the last time one was documented in those forests was in 2006. Better chances are to be had in remote forests in northeastern Costa Rica, Tortuguero, and in the Caribbean slope of the Talamancas. The most recent documented sighting of a Harpy Eagle in Costa Rica was in 2017 in very little birded rainforests north of Rincon de la Vieja.

Perhaps be reintroduced to Corcovado National Park?

Solitary Eagle

This third of the largest eagles in Costa Rica is likewise missing in action. On account of frequent confusion with Great Black-Hawk, many past sightings are in doubt. If the species does still occur in Costa Rica, it probably lives in remote parts of the Talamancas, deep in Braulio Carrillo National Park, or in foresrs of the northern volcanoes.

Red-fronted Parrotlet

Unlike the big eagles, this species is recorded and on a regular basis. However, it seems sporadic, makes altitudinal migrations, and very little is known about its natural history. All of these factors make it a challenge to find. Look for the bird long enough in middle elevation and foothill forest and you may eventually find this unpredictable bird. I usually hear them in flight.

Speckled Mourner

This odd species hasn’t been recorded in Costa Rica for some time. Hopefully, it still occurs! If still extant, it must have a very small population. The best places to search for it may be flat areas along streams in the largest areas of mature lowland and foothill rainforest. My sole sighting for Costa Rica was in a large mixed flock near El Tapir in 2000.

Gray-headed Piprites

Luckily, we do know that this species is present and not overly rare in forests near Rancho Naturalista and El Copal. It should occur in other places too but where? It might be another of those bird species that requires some habitat mosaic of mature forest and older second growth, or perhaps such habitat combined with the presence of a healthy community of flocking understory species. Whatever the case, it’s not an easy bird to see.

Slaty Finch

Like the quail-dove, this is another bird infrequently seen in a large range. It may be tied to bamboo seeding events; at least that seems to be when it sings more often. In the meantime, what do they do, where do they go? The birds are out there somewhere, perhaps moving around in search of bamboo seeds.

Some of the other rare and little known resident species of Costa Rica include Rufous Nightjar, Lanceolated Monklet, Great Jacamar, Lovely Cotinga, and Botteri’s Sparrow. With some effort, they can be seen but only if you know how to look for them in the right places. The Costa Rica bird finding guide, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica has information for finding these and all bird species in Costa Rica. Get this 700 plus page ebook to support this blog and prepare for your trip. Costa Rica is closer than you think!

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Relaxed Birding in Costa Rica = 177 Species on Global Big Day

Global Big Day, 2022 has come and gone. Once again, thousands of birders around the globe recorded their observations in eBird to collectively identify more than 7,500 species! In Costa Rica, we always play our part and this year’s Global Big Day (GBD) was no exception. The local birding community captured 5th place for number of checklists (more than 2,500 were sent to eBird) and had a grand total of 685 species. Not bad for a country as big as West Virginia!

If the count had taken place while wintering birds were here, we would have seen much more. Ditto if May 14th didn’t see Costa Rica doused with torrential rains. Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints, just stating the facts is all. Knowing that any degree of Big Day record breaking would be severly hindered by heavy rains and a normal lack of wintering species, my partner Marilen and I opted for more relaxed birding. An easy-going GBD if you will.

Our birding wasn’t so relaxed that we stayed home to watch birds between intervals of home-made pizza and refreshments, but we didn’t start birding at midnight either. Instead, we figured we would head out early and just see what we could find in the patches of cloud forest and foothill rainforest on Route 126. Having recently heard Azure-hooded Jay on that birdy road, I was reminded of the many birds always possible on this route.

Violet-Sabrewing-male
It’s a good route to get bedazzled by the purples of Violet Sabrewing.

Our relaxed birding day went something a little bit like this:

An Early Start

Wait, wasn’t this relaxed birding in Costa Rica? Yes, but you can still bird easy even if you get up at 4 a.m. That 4 a.m. part was important to drive to a nearby field and see if any Barn or Striped Owls were around. They weren’t but I’m still glad I tried and other birds were singing anyways. These were species like the ubiquitous Clay-colored Thrush along with our only Tropical Mockingbird, Blue Grosbeak, and Rufous-naped Wren.

We hit the road by 5 and made a stop or two in remnant green space of the heavily urbanized Central Valley. The songs of saltators, doves, Rufous-collared Sparrows, and kiskadees and kiskadee-type birds filled the air. That avian sound wave is why you get up early, even in urban settings, you can just about have the birds all to yourself.

Productive Drive-By Birding in the Highlands

Driving slowly but surely upslope, up towards higher elevations, we noted birds as they called and sang. Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrushes and Chestnut-capped Warblers calling from ravines, Brown Jays screeching from the trees. Many a Red-billed Pigeon, Yellow-faced Grassquit, and even one barking Northern Emerald Toucanet, our only one for the day.

At the highest point, easy drive-by birding gave us some sweet endemics, birds like Black-cheeked Warbler, Black-thighed Grosbeak, and Yellow-winged Vireo.

Other typical montane birds called and made it onto our GBD list, birds like Mountain Thrush, Mountain Elaenia, and Hairy Woodpecker (yes, it lives here too but it won’t look like the ones you see back home).

Misty Weather Pushes us to Lower Elevations

We birded from the car and a good thing too, the montains were shrouded in fog and spattered with light rain. It wasn’t surprising, we knew the weather could present some challenges but given the low visibility, we opted not to bird areas near Varablanca. Instead, we moved move lower, heading downhill to see if we could watch birds without an umbrella.

At a spot overlooking the Peace Lodge, the light rain was still happening but the birds were calling, lots of them. We saw Spangle-cheeked Tanagers, a surprise Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, and heard various other species including one of our best for the day, a Highland Tinamou (!) calling from the green, wet depths of the cloud forest.

We kept descending the road, eventually reaching honest to goodness sunshine! Alas, it was brief but a bit of warm air did push a Short-tailed Hawk and a Swallow-tailed Kite into the sky.

Nice Foothill Rainforest Birding

Seeing that we had more than enough time to bird the road between San Miguel and Virgen del Socorro, we made our way to that hotspot and spent the next couple hours hearing and seeing 100 species.

birding Costa Rica Keel-billed Toucan

The cloudy weather upped the bird activity and gave us a mixed flock of Carmiol’s Tanagers, Russet Antshrike, three species of woodpeckers, Gartered Trogon, and other birds. Toucans moved through the trees, a jacamar called from below, and other species flew onto our day list. It was great easy going birding, almost all of it from one strategic spot. When the rains came, we decided to head upslope and enjoy a meal with birds at Cinchona.

Lunch at Cinchona

Watching birds accompanied by good food and drink is a gift and Cinchona is Christmas, all year long. Prong-billed Barbets and other birds visited the fruit feeders while Violet Sabrewings and many a Green-crowned Brilliant zipped by our table. Once in a while, I would get up and look over the railing, look to see there was a quail-dove or brushfinch below the feeders. No such luck on GBD but it was still all good.

Racing the Rain

With nothing but rain going on, we figured we might as well head back home, maybe see some birds around those urban parts. It poured for nearly the entire drive, only letting up when we got much closer to our place. We weren’t the only ones headed that way. A monstrous block of deep dark gray was moving in the same direction, I only hoped we could see a few more birds before it gave us a big wet slap.

A stop at one frequently productive spot produced a few swifts but most other birds were absent. They weren’t fools, they had no doubt flew and found shelter from the approaching storm. We followed suit, hightailing it out of there, driving the final ten minutes back to our place, arriving there just in time.

Last Chance Birding from the Homestead

The rains came down hard and heavy, typical for May afternoons in Costa Rica. However, they can also let up, maybe enough for some birds to come out. Hoping for a few more species, wondering what might show in steady but light rain, I watched from the back balcony. I scanned the trees in the distance, kept an eye on roadside wires and for courageous birds flying through the rain.

White-fronted Parro

I also listened for the birds that sometimes call from out back, the laughing Barred Antshrikes and Lineated Woodpeckers, the whistling Rufous-and-white Wren. They were quiet on the afternoon of May 14th but my vigil still paird off for a few other species. That pair of White-fronted Parrots I had been waiting for eventually flew into view, Yellow-throated Euphonias called, and I managed to add a couple other birds.

When the sun set, we finished our GBD with 177 species; not bad for an easy-going day of birding in Costa Rica!

The birding day on May 14th, 2022 was done and then I turned on the news. A mass shooting..at a supermarket..in Buffalo, NY. Any evil occurrence is horrible but when it happens in places you know, at a supermarket chain you grew up with, it’s hard not to feel the tragedy hit you like a hammer. I have lived far away from WNY for many years but it is the place where I learned to play baseball, the place where I made many friends, where I started birding, where I grew up, where I once worked at a Tops Supermarket, the original home. It’s where I have also spent so much time in Buffalo, NY.

Yet another mass shooting, one that included callous murders of community leaders, of beautiful people for racist reasons. I’m not just saddened and horrified, in all honesty, I am really trying not to be pretty fricking angry. Evil atrocities such as this don’t happen for nothing. They are made easier by weapons designed and perfected for murder but they have their roots in the negative word streams of the great fomenters, the people who purposely extoll lies and sick ideas to large audiences. And why manipulate negative emotions? Because it works for making money, because it can work to help you get elected. What it doesn’t work for is anything good, not even in the slightest. May such misguided people be called out and exposed for who they really are; people making the world a worse place for personal gain.

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First Birding Trip to Costa Rica- Where to Go?

Birding in Costa Rica has been on your mind since the early 90s. A visit to Costa Rica has been in the mental works and you figured that some fine day, you would take that trip. You almost did in 2003 but then you saw that amazing deal to visit Jamaica. Streamertails and island birds that inspired Bob Marley took precedence and you have no regrets (!) but, it wasn’t Costa Rica. On that other occasion, you went a bit further with trip planning but then your faithful birding friends convinced you to go to Arizona instead. Once again, no regrets! That was a fun trip highlighted by hummingbirds, desert blooms, and roadrunners but you aren’t getting any younger and there be hundreds of beautiful birds in the tropical forests of southern Central America…

speckled tanager
Eye candy birds like Speckled Tanager.

Spurred by photos of quetzals and toucans on Facebook, hearing the rest of the birding community rave about visiting Costa Rica, or just realizing that it’s now or never, the time has definitely arrived for that inagural Costa Rica birding experience. Now you just have to figure out where to go. Should be easy enough, the country is pretty small, the best places to go should be pretty straightforward, right?

Not exactly. Costa Rica might be a small nation but it’s big on a few things that complicate trip planning. These factors are biodiversity, mountains, and birding sites. Mega biodiversity gives Costa Rica a bird list of 900 plus species. Whoah! Yeah, that’s a lot to work with, even after taking vagrants and pelagic birds into account. You gotta take mountains into consideration too because driving up and over them, winding your way through the naturally broken and uplifted land plays a big role with driving times.

You might also want to visit mountains because that’s where quetzals are, that’s where the biggest percentage of endemic species occur. Then there are the birding sites in Costa Rica. As with any birding trip, we need know about the best sites, about where to go to see more birds, or photograph more birds, or see certain species, or if the site has a certain degree of comfort we are looking for, or if we don’t mind hiking on steep forest trails, or if we would rather spend more to soak in hot springs after a morning of easy-going birding.

So where do we go?

To effectively entertain that complex answer, you need to start with some questions of your own.

How Do I want to Experience Birds in Costa Rica?

There are many ways to bird. For some, birding is sitting back and taking pictures of whatever species happen to visit feeders or fruiting trees. Other people enjoy a blend of easy, casual birding, good food, good company, and a dance lesson or two. Some birders would rather focus on birds 24/7 and eBird their way to a big old satisfying list.

Ornate Hawk Eagle
A list with nice birds like Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

This may sound controverisal, but all of the above is birding. For this reason, the best places to go on a birding trip to Costa Rica depend on how you want to experience our friends of the feathered kind. There’s a lot of options with some more suited to photography, othes better for individuals or smaller groups, and others for more adventurous birders.

How Much Time do I Have?

Once you know how you want to watch birds in Costa Rica, you can move on to the question of time. If the trip is less than a week, I would visit two sites at the very most. Staying for a week? You could visit three or four sites, or even just stay at one place. Once again, it all depends on how you want to watch birds. Have two or more weeks to work with? That opens the door to many more birding possibilities.

No matter how much time you have, keep in mind that in general, very diverse sites like the Sarapiqui area, Rancho Naturalista, or the Carara area merit at least two to three nights. You could also, easily stay at such sites for a week and still see new birds every single day (seriously!).

Zeledon's Antbird
Skulky species like the Zeledon’s Antbird might require a bit more birding time.

In the highlands, although you could stay longer and still have lots of fun, two nights will probably suffice. The same goes for dry forest habitats in Guanacaste. If you just wanted to stay in the Central Valley and do day trips, that can also work for such places as the Carara area, San Ramon area, Braulio Carrillo and nearby (as in Cope’s and Centro Manu), Poas, Irazu, and more sites.

How Much do I Want to See?

Chestnut-colored Woodpecker
You might really want to see a Chestnut-colored Woodpecker.

Perhaps the most vital question of all because you can’t see certain birds unless you visit the places where they occur. That’s right, Costa Rica might have a huge list but that’s because some birds only live in the high elevations, others in middle elevations, some in the lowlands on one side of the mountains, others on the other side, and so on.

If you want to see as much as possible, then you have to spend at least two or more days in each main bio-region. If you are fine with seeing a bunch of cool birds and don’t really mind which ones you espy, then you could stay at one or two places just about anywhere, Costa Rica.

In general, I would suggest spending at least two nights in the highlands, three nights in the Caribbean lowlands, and at least two (maybe three) nights on the Pacific slope, probably in the Carara area. Do that and you will get a pretty good taste of Costa Rica birds, not to mention, it would be a shame to NOT see a Resplendent Quetzal, even more so if the birds in Costa Rica and Panama end up being split from the birds in northern Central America (there’s a fair chance that will happen!).

But where to go? Which places to stay? I have mentioned so few places because, without first knowing how you want to bird Costa Rica, nor your budget, there are honestly too many really good sites to choose from (and they aren’t all on eBird either). A thorough birding site guide for Costa Rica will provide the right answers. In the meantime, I might also have an idea for an itinerary or two. Contact me at information@birdingcraft.com

Until then, happy birding, I hope to see you here!

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Quality Backyard Bird Conjunction in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a meeting place for continents, a natural bridge where life has mingled, mixed, and evolved for more than 3 millon years. It’s why , when birding in Costa Rica, we witness the same Acorn Woodpecker laughter and flights of Band-tailed Pigeons as birders raising binos and wine glasses in California. It is why visiting birders from Ecuador might be reminded of tanagers and spinetails from their own Andean mossy forests. This bio-bridge is also why I see some of the same migrants as my birding friends from Buffalo, NY.

Wilson's Warbler
Birds like the cutesy Wilson’s Warbler.

I see migrant birds in many parts of the country but I watch more of them in the green space out back. It’s a small riparian zone but it’s so important. During these days of climate emergency, continued destructive disconnect, and declining bird populations, all (remaining) green space is vital. Even in the small area out back, a narrow corridor dotted with bushes, undergrowth and trees, birds are present, more than you would think.

Yesterday morning, in addition to the usual loud singing of Cabanis’s and Rufous-naped Wrens, the more forest-based Rufous-and-white Wren told us it was still hanging on by way of its beautiful whistled song. A motmot hooted and various flycatchers took advantage of insect hatches brought on by recent rains. Great Kiskadees exclaimed their name while other, smaller flycatchers called from less obvious perches. Blue-gray Tanagers also sallied into the air to take advantage of the abundant food source, in doing so, becoming part time flycatchers, Mountain Bluebird imitators.

The resident birds know when to eat from the early rain season buffet, they know that’s the best time to build a nest. The migrants follow that same instinct except they do the nesting thing thousands of miles to the north. One of those migrant birds was also present yesterday, sharing urban riparian space with the locals.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher had most likely spent the winter in the Andes, in some dramatically beautiful place where the birding is fantastic. Flying ants and other bugs in “my” riparian zone would help fuel its journey further north, all the way to pine forests in the Rockies, maybe boreal woods further north where the soundtrack includes wolf howls and the ancient yodeling of loons.

The same insects that fed a beer enthousiast flycatcher were also fueling the flight of a bird that lives behind waterfalls, the White-collared Swift. Because it uses the skies above the Central Valley, this large swift is resident and yet by spending every night in montane waterfall retreats, the bird is also a visitant. How far do these big masters of flight travel over the course of a day? For all we know, they might fly to Panama and back.

While the insectivores enjoyed the insect bounty, another, more colorful and seriously endangered bird species flew into the high branches of a nearby tree.

More interested in using its raucous voice than catching bug breakfast, this Yellow-naped Parrot called while its mate fed on seeds in a nearby tree. Although current field guides show this species ranging in the dry forests of Guanacaste and Puntarenas, updates should also include the Central Valley as part of its distribution. Some of the Yellow-napeds are probably escapes but I bet most have moved into the Central Valley in response to warmer, drier conditions.

I hope there is enough food for them. I dare say it will be easier for this endangered species to find food in the Central Valley than nesting sites. As with other large parrots, they need big, old trees with cavities; a rare combination in urbanized areas where large trees still get cut down to make room for a parking lot, small plaza, or housing complex. Maybe we could put up some nesting boxes? Maybe we could have a collective mindset that cherishes big old trees?

While looking out back, I hadn’t expected to see a bird that connects the lush forests of the Andes to the spruce bogs of the north. I hadn’t expected to see it next to an endangered parrot while a flock of waterfall living species scythed through the air over a vital thread of green in an urban zone. But then again, maybe I shouldn’t have been that surprised, Costa Rica still acts as a vital meeting place for biodiversity and life persists as long as it can.

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Some Costa Rica Birding News, March 2022

As March comes to an end, so does another high season for birding in Costa Rica. Quite a few trips happen in April and birders will still be visiting in the coming months but most folks are here from January until the end of March. With that in mind, whether headed to Costa Rica soon or at a later date, here’s a bit of birding news to help with your trip.

Turquoise Cotinga at Jaco

Topping this latest bit of Costa Rica birding news is the occurrence of a male Turquoise Cotinga near Jaco. Although this fantastic near endemic does naturally occur in that area, it is much more easily seen in the Osa Peninsula and other sites in southern Costa Rica. The bird has been frequenting a fruiting tree in the rice fields on the road to the Rainforest Aerial Tram (the Teleferico). It’s impossible to say how long it will stick around but who knows, with some birding luck, it will be joined by another male or female. If you go for it but don’t see this feathered beauty, consolation could come in the form of the good birding typically found at that site.

If you aren’t visiting the Jaco area and want to see Turquoise Cotinga (and of course you do) not to worry, there are other, more reliable sites for this mega. A couple of the best are around San Isidro del General, forest in the Osa Peninsula, and, for more adventurous birders, forest in the northern side of Carara near Macaw Lodge.

Other Cotinga News

The equally turquoise, purple, and coveted Lovely Cotinga is still being seen at or near Rancho Naturalista. Other good sites for it include the Tenorio-Bijagua area, El Copal, and other sizeable areas of middle elevation forest on the Caribbean slope. Forest at around 1,000 to 1,400 meters elevation seems to be especially good for this choice species.

Snowy and Yellow-billed Cotingas are also being seen in their usual haunts. If birding the Carara area, the best way to see the few remnant members of the local Yellow-billed Cotinga population is by watching for them from 7 to 8:30 in the morning from the tower at Cerro Lodge, along the Cerro Lodge Road, or from the Crocodile Bridge. Likewise, you may see them in those same areas between 3 and 4:30 p.m. These are the times when this endangered species moves between the Tarcoles mangroves and the rainforests of the national park.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird has been showing at Curi-Cancha, I wonder if a few additional birds might be frequenting the beautiful cloud forests of the Santa Elena Reserve?

Thanks to its frequent seriously loud voice, the Three-wattled Bellbird is much easier to locate and see than the other cotingas. This is also a good time of year to marvel over the male’s bizarre, worm-like wattles. Watch for it in the Monteverde area and sites near San Ramon (contact Ignacio at Nacho Tours!).

How to See More Hawk-Eagles

Hawk-eagles are like big, hefty goshawks with cool plumage patterns and a penchant to give distinctive whistled calls while soaring high above tghe tropical forest. That seems to make sense because if I could fly, I mean, I think I would do the same thing. Can you imagine the view?!?. Knowing about that behavior is one way to see more of them. The other big factor is knowing where they occur. In general, both Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles live in large areas of rainforest and cloud forest. The Black also occurs in patchy forest and may even prefer this type of habitat.

As for the Black-and-white, based on the decrease in sightings of this species in Costa Rica over the past twenty years, it has certainly declined and disappeared from various areas. Since this species doesn’t seem to vocalize as much as the other hawk-eagles, and tends to hide in plain sight by soaring high overhead, it being somewhat overlooked can’t be entirely discounted. Even so, this large bird and reptile specialist does seem to have declined. Amazingly, it might even be gone from the Osa Peninsula. Given fairly recent declines in populations of medium and large birds that it requires as a food source, populations of this hawk-eagle in Costa Rica aren’t likely to bounce back any time soon.

A Black-and-white Hawk Eagle flying high into the sky.

At present, the best sites to look for it in Costa Rica are in the forests of the Amistad National Park north and west of San Vito, and Veragua and other forested sites near Limon. Other areas to check include the forests of Sarapiqui, northern Costa Rica, and around Braulio Carrillo National Park. As a bonus, there is one bird that has been frequenting the Bosque del Nino area north of Grecia (!). Keep an eye out for it when birding Poas!

Want Hummingbirds? Check Flowering Trees

Brown Violetear

Hummingbirds don’t always visit feeders. Lately, there haven’t been as many hummingbirds at Cinchona but there have been more flowering Ingas and other trees that our favorite little nectivores are probably feeding on. Yesterday, while birding near Albergue del Socorro, the chipping calls of lekking Brown Violetears were a constant, common sound and I heard a few other hummingbird species that have been absent from the feeders at Cinchona. Look for flowering trees and work on your hummingbird identification skills. Keep an eye out for the likes of coquettes, thorntails, goldentails, and other species.

To know where cotingas and other birds have been seen, eBird is a good go to source. Even so, keep in mind that in Costa Rica, there’s a lot of excellent habitat that sees few if any eBird visits. The birds are there too, go there and you will see some of them, maybe a lot of them. However, even then, it helps to know how to look for uncommon birds like cotingas and hawk-eagles. Get ready for your birding trip to Costa Rica and support this blog by purchasing How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica, a 700 plus page ebook with tips and site information to find every species in Costa Rica. I hope to see you here!

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High Season Costa Rica Birding Highlights, 2022

Tis the high season for birding in Costa Rica. Higher numbers of optic-associated folks began to arrive in December, more arrived in January, and by February, birders have become a common occurrence at hotels, in national parks, and on quiet country roads. Yeah, make no doubt about it, right now is high time for birding in Costa Rica. You can be entertained by birds in Costa Rica at any time of the year but it’s hard to beat escaping some of the winter’s cold frozen fingers while watching the long tail coverts of a quetzal stream behind it in crazy, colorful flight.

Birding Costa Rica

The influx of birders will continue right on through March. If you happen to be one of those lucky bino wearing people, these recent Costa Rica birding highlights will get you psyched for your trip. Some are from recent birding I was involved with, others stem for other reports. I hope all of them help with your birding time in Costa Rica:

Cotingas!

birding Costa Rica

Bright colors, loud voices, and odd shapes, who doesn’t yearn to see cotingas? In Costa Rica, they aren’t easy but if you go to the right places, you can get lucky. If you are headed to Rancho Naturalista, you will be in the right place for one of the toughest cotinga in Costa Rica, the Lovely one. Recently, a male Lovely Cotinga has been showing at Rancho just about every day. This is likely the same bird that visited this classic birding lodge on several occasions over the past couple of years. Up your cotinga odds by hiring one of Ranch’s excellent local guides.

The lovely cousin of the Lovely, the Turquoise Cotinga, has also been showing in patches of rainforest around Perez Zeledon as well as its stronghold in the Osa Peninsula. It can also be seen at Rincon de Osa but recently, the birds around Perez have been more reliable. Check eBird to do a cotinga stakeout or hire a good local guide.

As for the white cotingas, the Snowy is frequenting its usual Caribbean lowland strongholds while the endangered Yellow-billed is most easily seen at Rincon de Osa, in the Sierpe mangroves, and from the tower at Cerro Lodge right around 7:30 to 8:15 in the morning.

Quetzals

Resplendent Quetzals are waiting for you at most cloud forest sites. They aren’t common but if you go to the right place and know how to find them, you have a very good chance of seeing this mega spectacular bird. Recently, I have seen them calling and displaying at a site near Varablanca, on the Providencia Road (one of the bext spots), and in the Dota Valley.

Megas at the San Luis Canopy

A bridge at the San Luis Canopy

The San Luis Canopy (or the Parque de Aventura de San Luis) might be off the main birding routes but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the better birding hotspots in Costa Rica. Seriously. How else to describe a place that has been good for Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and Ochre-breasted Antpitta along with tanagers, hawk-eagles, hummingbirds, and more? You have to descend and ascend steps and cross canopy bridges but there are some serious birding prizes at the end of this cloud forest rainbow.

Owls and Potoos Oh My!

Great Potoo

Owls and potoos are always present, the main issue is where and how to find them? Here’s a rundown of some good recent spots for these crafty nocturnal creatures:

  • Great Potoo- As per usual, fairly common in the Caribbean lowlands. Recently, I had great looks at roosting birds in the Cano Negro area; both at the Caiman restaurant and in the Las Cubas area (hire Chambita to guide you!).
  • Common Potoo- These birds aren’t all that common in Costa Rica but do occur in many open and edge habitats. I have had recent, fantastic views of birds near Jaco and around La Gamba. Cano Negro is another of several great spots.
  • Spectacled Owl- This large owl occurs in many lowland foothill sites, especially (and perhaps appropriately) at ecolodges. I have had good recent looks at Quinta de Sarapiqui, while taking Cope’s tour, and at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge. They also occur in many additional spots.
  • Black-and-white Owl- One has been roosting on the Bogarin Trail, the birds at the Arenal Observatory Lodge are also still being seen, and one often visits the restaurant at Laguna del Lagarto.
  • Crested Owl- A couple have been showing very well on Cope’s tour and I also had them calling at Hotel Quelitales, Rancho Naturalista, and at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge.
  • Mottled Owl- There has been a roosting, extremely well hidden bird at Curi-Cancha and others are commonly heard and seen at many other sites.
  • Striped Owl- This uncommon species can show up at any number of open, wet habitats and is usually seen perched on a power line.
  • Screech-owls- Although not rare, all of the Megascops species in Costa Rica can be elusive unless they vocalize. Some of the better spots for Tropical have been at Talari Mountain Lodge, and around La Gamba. Pacific occurs in Cano Negro and most dry areas where large trees are present. Middle American has been showing on trails at Arenal Observatory Lodge as well as other lowland Caribbean sites. There is a supposed roost of Bare-shanked at Curi-Cancha and it continues to be common at most highland sites. The “Choco” has also been vocal at and near Esquinas Ranforest Lodge but its propensity to call from dense vegetation makes it tougher to see than the other Megascops.
  • Pygmy-owls- Ferruginous is common and easy in edge and open areas of the northern and Pacific lowlands and foothills, Central American has been showing well at Laguna del Lagarto, and Costa Rican has been ocassionally showing in its usual best haunts.
  • Unspotted Saw-whet Owl- This most challenging of owls continues to be a challenge but some have seen it around Paraiso Quetzal and the upper part of the Dota Valley.
"Choco" Screech-Owl
One of the few pictures of the undescribed local race of “Choco” Screech-Owl. I took this picture in 2016 at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge.

Hotel Quelitales

I have already mentioned this birding hotspot and with good reason; the birding is simply fantastic. Having an owner who is also a birder makes all the difference. This is why we had great looks at Green-fronted Lancebill, close Sooty-faced Finch, and saw various cloud forest species on the trails. On our one morning there, I also heard both Crested and Mottled Owls near the cabins and although they failed to appear during our brief visit, Scaled Antpitta and Black-breasted Wood-Quail have become regular from the blind on the birding platform. We topped off our morning with views of Barred Hawk and Hook-billed Kite. I can’t wait to go back!

Bogarin Trail

Uniform Crake

This excellent birding oasis has become a new classic hotspot. Roosting Black-and-white Owl, Uniform Crake on the trail (which we saw!), White-throated Crakes, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, and American Pygmy Kingfisher around the trail entrance…that’s some quality birding! Not to mention motmots, jacamars, and occasional visits by a juvenile Ornate Hawk-Eagle, this place is easy birding that rocks.

Alma del Arbol in the Dota Valley, Stella’s Bakery in Monteverde, and Casa Tangara dowii on the road up Cerro de la Muerte.

All of these spots combine great food and drink with great birding. Alma del Arbol is a small restaurant/cafe/bistro in San Gerardo de Dota. Located across the street from Savegre at Batsu, one of the best bird photography hotspots in Costa Rica, this well run gem of a spot has a delicious, fusion menu and some desserts to die for.

Stella’s is a landmark bakery and cafe in Monteverde that serves excellent, creative cuisine and some of the best desserts in Costa Rica. Given the euphoric delicousness generated by the brownies, it’s probably good that I don’t live near this special place.

Casa Tangara dowii is a wonderful spot to have lunch accompanied by locally brewed beers and cloud forest birds. Designed with birders in mind, owner Serge Arias (who also runs Costa Rica Birding Hotspots) will make you feel very welcome. Our group sure did, another place I can’t wait to go back to!

I could mention more birding highlights but isn’t that always the case? Visit the right places for birding in Costa Rica and it’s going to be more than good. Use the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app and How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica to get ready for your trip. To get connected with the best local guides, contact me at information@birdingcraft.com. I hope to see you in Costa Rica!

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A Day in the Life of a Gray Hawk in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to a wide variety of raptor species but most are scarce or rare birds of forested habitats. Not so for the Gray Hawk. This tropical relative of the Red-shouldered Hawk is one of our more common raptors, in many places, the de-facto urban hawk.

Gray-Hawk

Go birding in remnant green space or edge habitats in many parts of Costa Rica and it won’t take long to see a Gray Hawk. One or two might soar high overhead or you might glimpse a bird as it moves from one patch of trees to the next. Quick flaps and a glide, you might be reminded of a chunky Accipiter. It often calls, listen for its clear whistled song.

You won’t see them inside rainforest or cloud forest but bird the edges and semi-open habitats and a Gray Hawk will eventually appear. Its also one of the more regular raptors of roadside wires (along with the rightly named Roadside Hawk). These small-medium raptors persists because they don’t require much more than habitat with enough small lizards, birds, and other creatures to feed on, large trees for nesting, and nobody shooting them. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they occur in much of Costa Rica’s Central Valley?

From what I have seen in the riparian zone out back and while birding other bits of rich remnant green space in the Central Valley, I figure a Gray Hawk’s day in Costa Rica goes somewhat like this.

As its gets light outside, a Gray Hawk watches for movement from its curtain of leaves. Will a lizard creep into view? Has some large katydid neglected to find cover in time? Maybe a small bird looks tired or a bit too slow. There are more of those more catchable birds when the vireos and kingbirds are moving through, that’s the best time to catch them but a bird never knows, hungry raptors have to be ready to literally seize any opportunity.

Seeing nothing of promise, the adult Gray Hawk flies to its next hidden perch. A Tropical Kingbird twitters and flies after it, kiskadees calls and other birds give the alarm. They would have to be much slower to catch but they aren’t taking any chances. A few Brown Jays pick up the alarm and join in with their own raucous calls. Big enough to intimidate, the Gray Hawk races to find cover before the big, long-tailed birds can bother it. The hawk is in luck, the jays also need to find breakfast and so they move on. Not that they could directly hurt the hawk but they could certainly scare away prey and give the raptor more stress than it needs.

Watching from its new perch, it scans the sunny edge of a large patch of bamboo. The bamboo was imported from Asia but it can still host something to eat. This fine morning, it looks like breakfast may take the form of a Spiny Lizard. The lizard didn’twant to leave cover but it didn’t have much of a choice. It needed that sunny spot, needed to recharge its cold blooded bio batteries so it could find something to eat and run from being eaten. All it could hope was that its coloration would keep it hidden. Unfortunately for the lizard, the bright sun was lighting it up, turning it into an unwritten sign that said, “Free Meal Here!”.

The hawk saw that sign and didn’t hesitate to make its move. With straight, steady flight, the bird flew in and thrust its legs out. Still too cold to react, the lizard was caught and pierced with talons. It died while carried away to a neaby perch; where the hawk enjoyed its breakfast.

After resting, rising warm air encouraged the Gray Hawk to take flight and soar high above its territory. It could see a green sliver among a mosaic of fields and rocky looking housing. Once in a while, it flew over that rocky stuff but not that often, there wasn’t usually much to catch there. The green thread ran up to a larger area of trees but that place was already taken by a pair of Gray Hawk who objected to its presence. At least this patch of green, this bit of area with food could sustain it, at least for now.

High above it flew and called in the warm skies, always hoping to find a mate. No other Gray Hawk called back on this day but it might eventually happen. In the meantime, the raptor flew back down to a favored patch of tall Eucalyptus. It was another tree that would have been foreign to the hawk just 200 years ago but not anymore. They made a fine perch, an excellent vantage point to watch for unwary birds, lizards, and rodents.

Watching from the tall Australian trees, the Gray Hawk could see large noisy things moving dust, throwing the dirt into the air. It was a spot that used to have some trees and bruchh, a place where it had caught food, where bobwhites and Blue Grosbaks had sang. The area had given it a little extra breathing room. Not any more. It was being changed to more of those rocky things and it was bereft of green.

Looking in the other direction, the hawk noticed a small bird on the ground, an Inca Dove that fluttered wrong. Automatically noting a bird that might be in trouble, something that could be easy to catch, the hawk’s attention was immediately focused on the dove. It readied itself for an attack.

This was automatic, it needed to eat and if it didn’t catch it, something else would, maybe one of the Short-tailed Hawks that also hunted this area. As the dove continued to flutter, the Gray Hawk made a quick, straight lfight at it and easily caught it with its sharp talons. It wasn’t every day the hawk caught a dove. This one had some sort of problem. Maybe it was too old, maybe sick, either way, nature doesn’t hold any place for the weak. The hawk almost never caught a dove but this day, this bird was an easy invitation and the hawk gladly came to dinner.

After eating the dove, the lesser light of the late afternoon, the noisy chattering of Crimson-fronted Parakeets flying to roost reminded the raptor that it was time to do the same. The Gray Hawk moved back to the shady tree where it had began the day and readied itself for night. This came quickly, it always does in tropical latitudes. Bats eventually chittered and a Mottled Owl barked but the day raptor didn’t pay them any attention, it was already asleep.

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Why is the Black-crowned Antpitta So Rare?

What makes a bird rare? Is it because, like the Red-cockaded Woodpecker or Aquatic Warbler, it is threatened by various factors related to its ecological needs? Is a bird naturally rare because it requires certain types of uncommon habitats or situations? Or, is the species something like a Boreal Owl in not being really threatened but just hard to see?

In complex tropical habitats, birds can be “rare” because of these and additional factors. In the case of the Black-crowned Antpitta, this big understory player is probably affected by all three of the factors mentioned above. Hard to detect, difficult to see, we don’t know much about this northernmost Pittasoma but what we do know is that it’s one of the most challenging species to connect with in Costa Rica.

Even the skulking Thicket Antpitta is easier to see than the Black-crowned Antpitta.

During birding tours to Costa Rica, this cool looking species has the tragic distinction of being one of the least likely birds you will run across. In part, the paucity of sightings is related to few tours actually visiting places where it occurs. However, even then, it can still be a challenge and worse, it seems to be getting rarer with each and every year.

This wasn’t always the case. Although, seeing a BC Pittasoma in Costa Rica has never really been easy, some years ago, it was petty reliable at Quebrada Gonzalez. When the foothill rainforest at this excellent site was perpetually dripping wet, this Pittasoma was regularly heard and seen. At one point, I recall hearing and seeing birds right behind the station and at two different points along the trail. Incredibly, it was a regular bird at this site! You still had to know how to look for it but it could be expected.

Antpitta habitat

That began to change as the forest became hotter and drier. Bit by bit, as the forest at the beautiful forests of Quebrada Gonalez saw longer days with less rain and decreased humidity, there seemed to be a concurrent decrease in the numbers and types of birds. One of the most affected species was the Pittasoma. It still seems to occur on occasion but much much less than in the past.

With that in mind, this is my take on why this mega bird of the forest floor has become much more rare in Costa Rica:

It Needs an Especially Wet Microhabitat in Areas of Intact Habitat

The Black-crowned Antpitta seems to be a bird of very wet forest replete with plenty of streams and muddy, wet soil. At least that’s my impression and those are the only places I have encountered them. I suspect they are adapted to this type of microhabitat because it harbors more of the worms, large insects, and other small animals they feed on. Perhaps there are other factors associateed with this microhabitat they also require?

But that’s not all! It seems that they also need this microhabitat to occur in large areas of intact habitat and even then, they can seem to be absent from what appear to be suitable sites (which hints at this species maybe requiring more specific needs than expected or apparent).

The Pittasoma Mostly Occurs in Less Accessible Places or Does Best in Habitats that Have Beeen Destroyed

The bird is rare but I do think inaccessible areas are part of the situation. Most of the intact foothill forests where it occurs are in less accessible spots, especially in the Talamanca Mountains, its likely stronghold in Costa Rica. Another idea is that the bird might be most suited to the places where foothill forest meet lowland rainforest; places that have been largely destroyed. This idea is supported by more observations of the Pittasoma coming from sites like Hitoy Cerere and Kekoldi.

Additional places to look for it are in Barbilla National Park and less accessible spots in and near Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Top of the Understory Food Chain = Low Reproductive Rate

One of the other main factors that make this species such a rare bird is its likely low reproductive rate. That’s just a guess but given its status near the top of the forest floor avian food chain, I bet this is true. As with many other tropical birds, it may have a long lifespan over which rather few young are successfully raised. This adds up to there being few birds to find over a large area.

Hopefully, we can find more accessible sites to see this spectacular bird of wet forest. Sadly, I fear that if/as climate change continues to decrease rainfall and humidity in foothill forests of Costa Rica, the Black-crowned Antpitta will either move upslope or it will continue to decline and maybe even disappear. Populations also occur in Panama (although birds typically seen are of another subspecies) but if the same factors affect the species there, it could become one more of many amazing facets of life eventually obliterated by a long, lethal combination of greed, ignorance, and refusal to accept that long-term sustainable living is of crucial importance.

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A High Octane Birding Itinerary for Costa Rica

Birding itineraries can take many forms. They can range from easy-going, relaxed trips that put more emphasis on sampling local culinary delights to focused birding jaunts where sacrifices to see as many species as possible are the norm. Such sacrifices include proper food, proper sleep, maybe feeling the creeping fingers of hypothermia, you know, that sort of thing.

As one might expect, the latter type of trip makes for an exhausting, exciting, mind-numbing adventure. Given that such birding trips require propious energy and concentration, they are perhaps more suited to the younger crowd (or birding ninjas).

I have done such trips, have sweated by fair share of electrolytes and been bitten by ants, I’m not sure I would be so keen on doing them again. I enjoy all the wondrous facets of birding but I don’t feel the need to get too crazy to see birds. I don’t think you have to. Bird the right way, get in the Zen birding mode and you’ll do alright. Focus is important, working with local guides can help, and coffee is paramount (organic dark chocolate ispretty good too…).

With all of that in mind, I would like to present an idea for some high octane birding in Costa Rica. This itinerary can be done the crazy way or with more time on your hands. Either way, I carefully constructed it to see a solid number of uncommon or rare species that frequent highland habitats and the southern Pacific slope of Costa Rica. It’s chock full of endemic/near endemic birds, this is how it goes:

Start in the Central Valley

No, not the birdiest of places but do it to save travel time to and from the airport and have a chance to look for Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow the day of arrival and the next morning. While checking for this endemic towhee, you will also run into various other common birds. Keep an eye on the skies for swifts, even Spot-fronted and White-chinned are possible (although they are a challenge to identify when flying high and being silent).

Stay in the right place and you could also pick up various dry forest species.

Irazu

Head to the mountains! Actually, a big volcano with some nice birds on top. On the way, try for Grass Wren and then spend the afternoon on the Nochebuena trails to look for Maroon-chested Ground-Dove and other high elevation species. Additional specialties include wood-partridge, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Rough-legged Tyrannulet, Peg-billed Finch, Slaty Finch, and maybe Blue Seedeater too. If you enter the national park or bird in nearby paramo, you can also try for the junco and Timberline Wren Stay until it gets dark and you could look for Unspotted Saw-whet Owl too. If so, dress for November weather!

Hotel Quelitales

After Irazu, head to this newish site; a real hotspot with chances at Scaled Antpitta, Crested Owl, and other nice middle elevation birds! Hummingbirds are fantastic and the food and lodging are pretty darn good too. This is also a good base for birding Tapanti National Park.

Rancho Naturalista

After Quelitales, go to Rancho, one of the classic birding lodges of Costa Rica. It’s still really good and is an excellent place for Tawny-chested Flycatcher, Bicolored Hawk, and many other birds including Sunbittern and Snowcap. The elusive and weird piprites may be present as well as Lovely Cotinga. If not, they could be at other nearby sites. Other possible places in the area fit for lower budgets (and comfort) but with excellent birding include El Copal and La Marta.

One of the coquettes from Rancho…

With this itinerary, Rancho will also be your main chance for Caribbean slope species. To see some marsh and low elevation birds, do day trips to the Angostura area and sites between Turrialba and the lowlands.

Cerro de la Muerte

It’s time to head back into the mountains! Go up to the Cerro de la Muerte area to check the birding in the high elevation rainforest. There are several places to do this and see birds like Resplendent Quetzal, Spotted Wood-Quail, and all the highland endemics. The toughest ones are the pygmy-owl, the pewee, and the jay. Peg-billed Finch can be tough too.

The General Valley

Descending Cerro de la Muerte, Bosque Tolomuco can offer up some fine middle elevation birding. Further down, differents sites in the valley can turn up Turquoise Cotinga, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and lots of other new birds for the trip. If you have enough time, you can also try for Ocellated Crake, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, and a few other specialties of the savanna habitats near Buenos Aires.

San Vito and or Ciudad Neily

If you want birds for your Costa Rica list like Lance-tailed Manakin and Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, you will need to visit San Vito. That’s not a bad thing, the birding is exciting and excellent! If you have enough time, the trip is worth it. If not, a trip to Panama or northern Colombia will get you a few of those same specialties.

Whether going to San Vito or not, Ciudad Neily is worth a visit! Not necessarily the town but you should visit the nearby open wetlands. This newish hotspot can turn up any number of odd rarities, can provide a good chance at Masked Duck, Paint-billed Crake and other rails, and local birds for Costa Rica like Red-rumped Woodpecker, Savanna Hawk, and some other species.

Masked Duck
Masked Duck from Costa Rica

Golfo Dulce

Just up the road from Neily are sites in and around the Golfo Dulce including the Osa. Pick some good ones and you can harvest a bonanza of southern Pacific endemics along with many other species of forest and edge habitats. The owling can also be very good (and provides your best chance at the local variety of Choco Screech-Owl (likely a distinct undescribed species), and Common Potoo is present.

The Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager only occurs in and around the Osa peninsula.

During your visit, make sure to check Rincon de Osa for cotingas, raptors, and other species.

North-Central Pacific

It’s a long drive from the Osa but now that we have a good coastal highway, the trip is worth it. There are also several good stops for food. I personally love Pizzatime and Bageltime (?) in Uvita but that might just be me missing some good old NYC pizza and bagels. Other nice food options also exist especially in the Jaco area.

Aside from food, as you make your way north, once you cross the Tarcoles River, there are several opportunities for dry forest species. Shorebirds are also possible especially at Punta Morales or Chomes (where Mangrove Rail also awaits).

Monteverde

To cap off the trip, spend some time in the cloud forests of the Monteverde area. You will have seen some of those birds at Quelitales but not all of them! Spend a couple nights there to connect with Ruddy Woodcreeper, bellbird (in season), and lots of other birds. You could also hike to more rugged sites on the Caribbean side of Monteverde to try for umbrellabird, Sharpbill, and the monklet.

After Monteverde, head back to the airport zone and celebrate a fantastic, mega birding trip with appropriate drinks and meals. How many birds will you see? That all depends on how much time you have and if you go with an excellent local guide. If all goes well, 500 species are possible but even if you don’t reach that high water mark, the birding will still be fantastic. Get ready for your fantastic Costa Rica birding trip with the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app and How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica”.

Soon, I will be doing a trip somewhat like this, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Costa Rica Birding News, January, 2022

I can’t believe it’s 2022 but here we are! Time for a new year list, time to make some annual birding plans, maybe time to sit back and enjoy bird and biodiversity no matter where you may bring your bins. Here in Costa Rica, these are a few of the latest birdingworthy items.

Recent Pelagic in the Pacific Finds Band-rumped Storm-Petrel

A recent long range pelagic trip done by Wilfredo of Cabuya Birding didn’t find any new birds for Costa Rica but they did get close looks at an apparent Galapagos subspecies (or species) of Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. Although this species is expected and has been seen on some previous trips, it is rarely seen and little known in Costa Rican waters. What will they find next?

Recent Pelagic Trip in the Caribbean Finds Manx and Audubon’s Shearwaters

Another pelagic trip in late December found a rare Manx Shearwater in addition to more expected Audubon’s Shearwaters. Since the Audubon’s breeds on nearby islands in Bocas del Toro, they aren’t unexpected. The Manx Shearwater is another matter!

Results Published from Vital Study of Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow

The Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow is a Costa Rican endemic with much of its range in the heavily urbanized Central Valley. Given the seemingly uncommon nature of this bird with a very limited range where many areas of green space are under constant threat, natural history studies have been urgently needed. Now, thanks to years of efforts made by paper authors Roselvy Juárez, María de la Paz Angulo Irola, Ernesto M. Carman, and Luis Sandoval, crucial information needed to conserve this endemic towhee is available! See the paper here.

By following 21 pairs and carrying out various other studies and observations, they deduced territory size, what this bird requires, potential threats, and more. Hopefully, this important information can be used to create adequate plans to conserve this threatened species. Many thanks goes to the authors of this vital study.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird Still Being Seen at Centro Manu!

The umbrellabird that has been spending its non breeding time at centro Manu is still present. Hopefully it will still be there for the next month or so. To try and see it, contact Kenneth at Centro Manu.

Crested Owls with Cope

A day trip with local artist Cope has often been a good way to see roosting Crested Owl. However, because the owls move around, they are never guaranteed. Lately, participants on Cope’s tour have been lucky to see one or two of these roosting beauties. Let’s hope they keep using the same spot for the next two months!

Yellow-billed Cotingas and Tiny Hawk at Rincon de Osa

Yellow-billed and Turquoise Cotingas are still frequenting Rincon de Osa. They aren’t always present but you might find them if you keep scoping from the bridge. Another good spot to check is looking towards the hill next to the mangroves from the edge of the village. In late December, we noticed several males moving through this area.

Another bird to watch for is Tiny Hawk. On a visit in late December, we had two distant birds perched in and near mangroves visible from the bridge.

Crimson-backed Tanagers in Costa Rica

Lastly, an additional bird seems to have definitely made it onto the Costa Rica list. Although the Crimson-backed Tanager seen near Dominical was deemed to be a possible hybrid, views of a bird near Horquetas and another possible sighting elsewhere seem definitive. Based on these sightings, I would guess that this edge species from Panama is probably breeding in a few places somewhere in Costa Rica. How many more are in country? If you see one, please get a picture and eBird it!

More can always be said about birds in Costa Rica but that’s all for now. If you are visiting during the next month or so, I hope to see you in the field. Happy birding!