Birding Costa Rica comes with lots of benefits. Mostly, they happen in the form of multiple birds no matter where you go! Much of that birding grace stems from Costa Rica providing easy access to quality birding habitats. Follow that classic good birding recipe in Costa Rica and you’ll get your birding dish, each and every day.
I’m reminded of this birding truth every time I head into the proverbial field. Some days, the field means a walk to a thread thin, neighborhood riparian zone. Other days, it’s a short trip to cloud forest with quetzals, the one and only Wrenthrush, and lots more.
However, the best reminders of Costa Rica’s adherence to the classic birding recipe are when I guide or bird for multiple days in different spots. This past week I was doing that in a few very different places; focusing on targets, peering into crowns of massive rainforest trees, exploring tropical wetlands, always listening for hints of hidden birds and avian surprise.
The following are some highlights and tips from these recent days of birding in Costa Rica:
Irazu Birding and The Nochebuena
The best way to see Timberline Wrens and Volcano Junco on Irazu are by getting up there nice and early. It’s cool up there at 11,000 feet, especially at 7 a.m. However, the extra fresh breeze is worth it. Later in the day, those birds hide, they often take longer to see.
We also birded the trails at the Nochebuena. You gotta be in some fair shape to walk them; there’s less oxygen up there and you’ll feel it! Take your time and do the walk though, it’s worth it. The birding is very good and reliable for the mega Maroon-chested Ground-Dove. We had at least three along with good views of Bare-shanked Screech-Owl, quetzal and various other high elevation species.
It’s also worth it have lunch at their small, cozy restaurant.
This cool little endemic can be tricky but go to the right places at the right time and you’ll see it. Yeah, you could try those Walmart woods in a pinch but there are better places. One of them is the Calle Viquez area and the road that goes by the Finca Rosa Blanca.
However, no matter where you try for them, make sure to do some of that classic early birding. You have a much better chance of seeing the ground-sparrow at like 6 in the morning than later in the day.
Buff-fronted Quail-Dove and Other Birds at and Near Cinchona
The quail-dove is still visiting the ground below the feeders at Cinchona. That would be the Hummingbird Cafe or the Mirador Catarata San Fernando. It’s sneaky as always but if you keep up a careful watch below the feeders, it should eventually show.
Cinchona has also been having the usual nice parade of birds however, now, there’s yet another cool option. If you can speak Spanish, and don’t mind hiking to see birds, ask the cafe owner Jorge (or whomever else seems to be in charge) if you can walk up to the area behind the barnyard stuff (you’ll see what I mean).
The abandoned town of Cinchona is up there along with lots of good birds. Take the main road that goes uphill and to the left. It eventually reaches forest. There aren’t many trails but recent birding turned up uncommon species like Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, and Black-banded Woodcreeper!
Sarapiqui- Always Good
As always, the lowland rainforest habitats in Sarapiqui make for easy, productive birding. While birding from a couple choice roads, we had White-fronted Nunbirds, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, Black-striped Woodcreeper, King Vulture, Blue Dacnis, and other lowland species.
It’s far out there and the roads in are not fun ones to drive but there’s always lots of birds at Cano Negro. Highlights during our morning boat ride with Chambita tours included several American Pygmy-Kingfishers, the tough Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher, two Sungrebes, Bare-crowned Antbird, Black-collared Hawks, and others!
The night birding also tends to be good at Cano Negro and our jaunt into the dark was no exception. During a quick drive on the main road towards Los Chiles, we had close looks at Great Potoos, Pacific Screech-Owl, and Striped Owl.
Heliconias Bridges Trail
It was nice to visit this classic site again. Over the years, I’ve seen it change and transform from a small and little known site to a fantastic birding site that offers good accommodation and a well-maintained trail.
Our main reason for visiting is called Tody Motmot but we also had several additional possible targets. The trails cost $14 and go through excellent humid forest. They are fairly well maintained and also include a few, long, hanging bridges.
During our visit, we lucked out with the Tody Motmot, seeing a pair on the main trail, and then two more pairs on the lower heliconias trail! The other top bird was another one easier to see here than many other sites; the Purplish-backed Quail-Dove. Before our birding was curtailed by rain, we also had some other species but nothing crazy.
However, the birds are in there, bird these trails slowly and carefully and you’ll see a lot! After birding them, if you enjoy craft beer, visit the nearby Blue River Brewery. This great and friendly little spot also has good views of nearby forest. With luck, you could scope a Lovely Cotinga and see a soaring Ornate Hawk-Eagle while enjoying your beer!
I hope this info. helps with your birding trips to Costa Rica. Check out the trip report. To learn about more sites and support this blog, get my bird finding guide to Costa Rica, “How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica”.
Use it to plan your trip and if you have any questions, just send me an email. I hope to see you here!