Hailing from Niagara Falls, NY, USA, I have been birding since the age of 7. Ever since, studying and observing birds have played a very important role in my life. After several visits to Costa Rica since 1992, I ended up moving to this beautiful and biodiverse country in 2007. I write about birds at this blog and elsewhere and work on birding apps and books. I also love helping others see birds and is why I help in organizing trips for visiting birders as well as guide them. Want to see more birds in Costa Rica? Contact me at [email protected]
39 replies on “About Pat O’Donnell”
love the website!!!!!!!!!
congratulations, and keep us updated for the new arrival (so awesome)
abrazos i cuidate
This is great! Congrats! I wanted to send you and Tica a wedding gift but it got away from me. Lucas is almost 3 now and he runs us ragged but he is a good boy. Life is grand. Glad to hear you are doing well.
Best wishes on your new arrival. Parenthood is a whole different world.
Julie, Ray and Lucas
It is great that you followed your heart and moved to Costa Rica, I did the same in Brazil. It is wonderful to be able to do things we enjoy in our lives.
Congratulations to both you and your new wife!! Children are a blessing. I can’t wait to meet your new family.
Many congratulations on your move to Costa Rica. We plan to head there in January for our first visit. We are considering relocating to Central America. We’ve been to Belize, and CR is next on the list to visit.
Would love to email with you about life in CR.
AKA Costaricafinca from the bird forum. I had looked at your site before but didn’t leave a comment.
Nice photos and glad you are enjoying your life here.
Patrick, Found your site while doing some early planning for a bird trip to CR in February 2010 with my three brothers. Great site with terrific information! Thanks for the info regarding the effects of earthquake as well. The photos and site information is great.
Just reviewing your blog, amazing pictures… Thank you very much for your kind contributions to our project!
Amazing Blog Pat
My name is Paul Pickering and I live on the lower slopes of the Turrialba Volcano. After returning from a two-month trip to Europe I checked into your website to see what has been happening with birds in Costa Rica, and I find myself amazed once again at the wealth of information you offer. I hope you know that there must be many people like me who really appreciate what you are doing.
I keep promising myself to spend more time birding and less in my garden here near Santa Cruz de Turrialba, but it’s difficult because I’m really only just making a start in my wonderful Costa Rican life. I am so far really familiar only with the birds in my immediate area, and I try to keep a daily list with notes whenever I have doubts. I am particularly grateful for your tips on access to good birding sites and reasonable accomodations because I simply cannot afford to stay overnight in hotels with any regularity. Sleeping in the truck is my best option, but unfortunately it’s not a four-wheel drive vehicle. I also keep promising myself to send in blogs whenever I make any sightings, but it rarely seems that I have anything important to contribute. I marvel also at your ability to identify birds by their calls and wonder if there is a reliable source of recordings for Costa Rican birds.
Best wishes from
At least the garden is a good place to start. If you have enough habitat or are near good forest, interesting stuff could show up at any time, especially during migration (right now!). I hear you on the importance of having information about affordable hotels or other options for lodging- costs in Costa Rica have risen quite a bit since my first trip here in 1992.
It’s good you are keeping track of your sightings- having data about common birds is always important because we don’t know what’s in store for those species- some may become more common and others may become rare. For example, although I don’t have data to show support for this hypothesis, I feel like some “common” bird and butterfly species have declined around Tibas during the past 10 years. This would make sense since during this time period, backyards, gardens, and remnant coffee farms have been steadily converted into apartment buildings or other non-birdy concrete structures.
For songs of Costa Rican birds,the Costa Rican bird song sampler is nice even though it has songs of only 184 species: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Shop/agCostaRica.html
Other products with recordings (including my own) may be available sometime soon and you can always study at xeno-canto http://www.xeno-canto.org
Nice place !
Kudos to you on this great website, I echo other’s comments it is a real service to many of us. Nice you were able to follow your passion in your life. Hope to meet up perhaps when we are down this winter/summer. Mike Judd
It’s nice to hear that you and others are enjoying it and getting useful information for birding in Costa Rica. Yes, I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to make birding in the neotropics a part of my life. I kind of wish I could just live in the rainforest but my wife isn’t too keen on that idea. Yes, hopefully we will get the chance to meet up when you guys come down to Costa Rica.
[…] all know of the extraordinary number of bird species found in Costa Rica. Well over 850. Pat O’Donnell found the country so compelling that he moved there where he brings us updates on birding at the […]
Thanx so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. Good luck finding that Unspotted Saw-whet Owl in Costa Rica – nothing more fun than an owl quest. Actually, I managed to see Unspotted Saw-whet Owl in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico but no photo so maybe I’ll join you in Costa Rica to look for them one day!
Nice blog – wil come back and look around!
Thanks for stopping by. I need to put your blog on my birding blogroll so more people can read about your amazing owling adventures. Thats pretty good to get the Unspotted Saw-whet in Chiapas. I have heard of a few others seeing it there. I fully plan on finding locations for the bird in CR and will keep you updated.
Dec 28, 2010: I just came back from CR with a photograph of a bird that I’m having a hard time identifying. It wasn’t a birding trip – I was staying with my girlfriend at a recuperation villa after her surgery and I just luckily saw this bird. The villa is located near Ciudad Colon, which is about 10? miles west of San Jose.
I was able to get a very good photo with just a Panasonic Lumix – it has a zeiss lens. So even with an absolutely complete and clear photo I don’t know what it is! My best guess is an immature bare-crowned antbird, which would be awesome because that would be a lifer for me – it’s just a guess though because nothing I have describes an immature form.
Quick description: about 6″, generally brown wings, head, and tail. Underparts much lighter, chin and throat lighter still. Tail long, some sort of black/white pattern on back, head vaguely streaked with darker brown, bare orbital area yellow in front of eye, blue in back, lower mandible yellow.
@Rick- Sounds like your bird was a Lesser Ground Cuckoo, maybe of the same inquiry posted at Bird Forum? Like some of the antbirds and other tropical, understory species, they have a patch of blue near the eye.
My name is Ariel and a resident here in Costa Rica. I would like to know if you offer guiding tour services in the Tapanti area and how much it costs for a full day of tour.
Kindly send me a private PM.
Thanks in advance!
I’ve been enjoying your site for a couple of years. I’m making my 6th trip to C.R. in a couple of weeks. Your stories have been enjoyable to read and very informative as well. Keep up the great work.
White Lake, Michigan
@Tom- Thaanks, glad you like the blog!
Brilliant website! I visited CR in march/April 2012 on a 3 week Birdquest trip;578 species including some belters.Fell in love with the place.Keep up the great work, I know I’ll be back some day!
@Paul- Glad to hear that you had a good trip. The Birdquest tours usually do quite well in Costa Rica. Matt Denton has done a great job of leading them and this year, an excellent Spanish birder named Dani will help lead the group. He’s a great guy and excellent birder, I hope to meet up with him for a day of birding.
Great birding site of Costa Rica. Going to Costa Rica in March 2013 and real excited about it. Tried to come up with a bird list but kind of gave up..til I ran accross your site. We will be in the central valley around Grecia. I would be oh so gratful if you could give me any pointers or birds to watch out for.
Thanks oh so much!!
As a writer for Fodor’s Travel Guides, I’m trying to update our guidebook to Costa Rica. However, there is no answer at either of your ph#s. Can you let me know if you still offer bird watching tours? Thanks!
@Yes, I offer custom birding tours, mostly day trips.
Greetings again . . .(nearly a year later!) As a writer for Fodor’s Travel Guides, I am updating our guide to Costa Rica. Thank you for your valuable information on your blog. I wanted to ask you about the Sarapiqui loop; We include it as a top highlight in the area and I was confused as to the current status of the roads. I”ve been told that the Sarapiqui Loop is a bit of an outdated term, since the road going up one side of the loop got destroyed by an earthquake.
If we were to advise readers the best route for the loop, what would you suggest?
San Jose…Poas…back to Alajuela…across San Jose…take road to Limon…about 2 hours…detour to Sarapiqui…
San Jose to Poas the NW on to Bosque de Paz, then around the backside of Poas volcano, north and then east to reach Sarapiqui before ending your loop back in San Jose.
Perhaps you have a better (and more direct) suggestion. Unfortunately my inspections this year did not allow me to do the loop so I’m hoping you can offer your advice.
ps. I just tried to skype you but think email might be better.
Enjoyed your site and am envious of your sightings. We plan to be in Costa Rica at he end of January towards the beginning of February. Do you offer guided trips around Carara NP or Manuel Antonio NP around that time? If so, what would be the cost. An off line reply would be fine and thanks.
We are a group of 3 photographers who have been photographing the hummingbirds of Costa Rica for 5 years now. Our specialized equipment requires that we have access to feeders and that we are protected from the rain.
By now, of course, we have been to most of the ‘normal’ sites that are open to the public.
I see that you might have a Canivet’s Emerald coming to a feeder. We are looking for and would gladly pay for access to any private feeder location that has species that we have not yet been able to get good images of, mostly the smaller and less common species. We are in Costa Rica 3 to 4 times per year and plan to be there at the beginning of June. Can you suggest anywhere where we might be able to rent accommodations with active hummingbird fears or pay for the ability to photograph hummingbirds at a feeder? We would, of course, be happy to pay for your services.
Hope to visit Costa Rica Pat later this year including birding I also practice wing chun Kung fu.
@John- Glad to hear that John and cool to hear that you practice Wing Chun.
I enjoyed your blog. I would like to ask you some questions about birds in Costa Rica. May I contact you via email?
Loving the site! Unorthodox question: I would like to hire a birding/naturalist guide for a trip this fall and I’ve reached out to half a dozen reputable people with zero response. Hoping you can help. Email is my preferred method of communication.
thanks a million!
My wife and I met you briefly in March this year at Cinchona we were with Johan Chaves, we have just read your article about the Bogarin trail, and are looking forward to visiting the area in March 2019 again with Johan Chaves. Keep up the good work with the site.
Hope this gets to you Pat. Great to be able to connect with you. Your picture must have been taken when you were still a tour guide in Niagara Falls, NY; as you have not changed through these 2 decades+
Just wondering do you bird guiding or could you recommend a good guide. We are two guys from UK keen to visit Costa Rica Sometime 2019. Probably Nov 2019 but open to advice and suggestions
Gary & Chris
@Gary and Chris- Yes, I guide in Costa Rica for general and as well as targeted birding and can help arrange your trip. Please send me an email at [email protected]
My wife and I will be returning to Costa Rica in May and wondered if you have any recommendations for a field guide book on the wildlife in the area. We hare sorted for bird books but would like to know more about the animals and plants.
We will be staying near Manuel Antonio.