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Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica

Some Costa Rica Birding Highlights from the Latter Half of January, 2013

The end of the first month of 2013 is nigh and I feel good about this year’s bird list. I am up to 389 species identified, have several that I missed in 2012, and have visited very few places. The birding has been good and even though I majorly dipped on Costa Rica’s first Clay-colored Sparrow (a bird seen at CATIE), I’m off to a good start.

Here are some of my recent highlights from birding the road to Manuel Brenes Reserve, El Tapir, Quebrada Gonzalez, Tapanti, and the Carara area:

  • El Tapir hummingbirds: A morning visit turned up 9 species of hummingbirds in about 5 minutes. Four or so Snowcaps were buzzing around along with a couple of Black-crested Coquettes, Green Thorntail, Brown Violetear, and others. Tanagers moving through the canopy of the forest edge also added to the excitement.

birding Costa Rica

birding Costa Rica

  • The El Tapir loop trail: Although the forest was looking drier than normal, the morning birding was fast and furious with a huge mixed flock that included everything from White-throated Shrike Tanager to White-flanked Antwren and Streak-crowned Antvireo. We also heard Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Lattice-tailed Trogon, and Spotted and Bicolored Antbirds. The sound of bill clacks was enticing until I realized that it was not a ground-cuckoo but a Black-billed Toucan that was making them.
  • Black Hawk Eagle: This isn’t a rare species in Costa Rica but it isn’t all that common either so it’s always a pleasure to see it. We had wonderful views of one flying near the El Tapir parking lot until it got chased away by an unexpected adult Peregrine Falcon! We also had another one fly high overhead at Kiri Lodge.
  • Prevost’s Ground Sparrow at CATIE: Although I can’t call it consolation for missing the Clay-colored Sparrow, it was still nice to see this uncommon bird species.

birding Costa Rica

It was also cool to see several Black-bellied Hummingbirds at Tapanti.

  • Olive-backed Quail Dove at Quebrada Gonzalez: We were very pleasantly surprised to see two of these shy birds foraging on the forest floor. Getting a chance to watch them for 5 minutes will probably be one of the year’s highlights.
  • Royal Flycatchers on the Laguna Meandrica Trail (the “River Trail”): This trail is reliable for this species but it was still nice to watch a pair near the stream crossing. It looks like they might build a nest there again.
  • Nutting’s Flycatcher and other dry forest species on the Cerro Lodge road: Just one hour on that road yesterday turned up a nice bunch of dry forest birds including Yellow-naped Parrot, Orange-fronted Parakeet, White-lored Gnatcatcher, the afore-mentioned flycatcher, Scrub Euphonia, Turquoise-browed Motmot, and Black-headed Trogon.

birding Costa Rica

Many of the birds were coming in to a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl.

Soon, I head down to the Dominical area where I hope to pick up a few more birds for the year. Guiding in February will mostly bring me to Carara but I should also get a chance to bird Manzanillo and might get to El Tapir again. The birding is going to be great no matter where I go so I’m looking forward to it!

Birding Costa Rica Introduction preparing for your trip

The First Birding App for Costa Rica is now Available

There seems to be an an app for just about everything in these digital times including an addictive game where seriously upset birds are launched through the air at nefarious pigs. However, there was no app that focused on birding in Costa Rica. Well, none until January 22nd when the first birding app for Costa Rica was released.

Yes, it’s at the iTunes store and although we realized a moment too late that the image of Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was missing (maybe it migrated south with the actual, feathered ones), there should be a quick fix for that in a jiffy. It would happen sooner but our programmer is sailing to Patagonia (yeah, talk about the mother of all pelagic trips!) so is not available on a 24/7 basis at this moment.

A quick rundown of some of the app’s features:

  • 400 plus species, including most of the more common birds and quite a few uncommon species (Peg-billed Finch, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, and Ornate Hawk Eagle).

birding Costa Rica

Peg-billed Finch- an uncommon, regional endemic.

  • Multiple images of many species.
  • Vocalizations for more than 200 species. No, we don’t have all of them but the birds we do have are many of the common sounds heard while birding in Costa Rica. We thought those were more important for this first version that finding sounds for birds like Great Egret, Anhinga, and Blue-winged Teal.

birding Costa Rica

Check out the bright colors of a male Flame-colored Tanager while listening to its burry song.

  • Range maps for each species.
  • Text that gives diagnostic field marks, habitat, and more.
  • A search filter to help find those unknown birds seen while birding Carara National Park, Sarapiqui, or the high mountains.

birding Costa Rica

Figure out the identification of that funky-looking owl.

  • An area to note your sightings and email them to yourself.

In case you were wondering if the app was suitable for basic or advanced birding in Costa Rica, the answer is “yes” and “yes”. Whether you are new to birding, just curious about what you might see in Costa Rica, or simply want to know about the birds that visit feeders in hotel gardens, this Costa Rica birding app will be very useful. Practiced birders new to Costa Rica should get plenty of use out of it while planning their trip and out in the field.  Even advanced birders who have birded Quebrada Gonzalez on a dozen occasions should also find this app to be a useful birding accessory.

At the moment, it’s only available for version 4.3 or above iPod Touch, iPhones, and iPads but we hope to also eventually make it available for other devices.

I’m already using the Costa Rica Bird Field Guide app when I go birding in Costa Rica, I hope you do too!

Birding Costa Rica Costa Rica birding app preparing for your trip

Press Release for the First Costa Rica Birding App

Birding Field Guides releases first birdwatching app for Costa Rica

For Immediate Release: January 25, 2012

First birding app for Costa Rica is a digital field guide replete with photos, sounds, text, and range maps

San Jose, Costa Rica – The Costa Rica Birds-Field Guide app became available in the iTunes Store on January 22. This is the first app and digital field guide that is completely focused on birds that occur in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has been a top destination for ecotourists and birdwatchers since the early 1990s. Birders flock to this Central American country to take in the sights and sounds of hundreds of bird species, including more than 50 glittering hummingbirds, 6 toucans, and the breathtaking Resplendent Quetzal.

Michael Mullin, head of programming for Birding Field Guides, expects this app to make it easier for ecotourists and birders of all levels of experience to identify and learn about Costa Rican birds with images, range maps, and text for over 400 species. Vocalizations of over 200 bird species are also included along with a search filter and other features.

He said, “This digital field guide helps the user to quickly find images and hear sounds of birds they encounter while vacationing in Costa Rica. It’s also a valuable learning tool and represents a next step in the evolution of nature field guides”.

The app is currently available for version 4.3 or higher iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad devices.

About Birding Field Guides

Birding Field Guides was started in 2012 and develops birding and nature-related apps and products for digital devices. For more information, please visit http://birdingfieldguides.com.

To learn more about this product, please contact

Patrick O’Donnell, Media Relations

[email protected]


biodiversity Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica Introduction

A Few Highlights from Recent 2013 Birding in Costa Rica

I apologize to the folks who keep checking this blog for a new post. Guiding, writing, and finishing an app. for birding in Costa Rica have occupied most of my time and explain my virtual absence. As you can probably imagine, the birding in Costa Rica has been wonderful and I might be close to 300 species for the year after just three or four trips afield.

So, here are a few recent highlights and updates on the Costa Rica birding front to whet your appetite:

  • Carara is a great place to start the year: Last week, I visited Carara a couple of times for regular birding and guiding. The biodiversity of that area never ceases to amaze and at the end of the day, you always seem to end up with well over a hundred bird species identified. The only problem is that it’s as hot as blazes! Stay out of the sun, bring more than enough hydration supplies, and get ready for lots of birds. That’s what I try to do and it routinely pays off with crazy sightings of Great Tinamou, Rufous Piha, Thrush-like Schiffornis (or Brown or whatever the one in Costa Rica is called nowadays), woodcreepers galore, Green Shrike Vireo at the exit to the far set of HQ trails, and lots of other forest species. The first day, I recorded something like 140 species by sight and sound, and around 120 on the second day.

birding Costa Rica

A couple of Mealy Parrots were feeding in an understory shrub and gave unusually good photo opps.

birding Costa Rica

    This male Turquoise Cotinga was seen at Rincon de Osa, a reliable spot for them but the ones at Carara looked like this only much higher up.

    • Cotingas: I never see Turquoise Cotinga in Carara. Well, almost never because our group had two males in a huge fruiting fig! I also picked up two male Yellow-billed Cotingas that same day- the usual extremely distant one from Cerro Lodge and then another on the lower part of the Cerro Lodge road in the afternoon. It appeared to be just passing through and shows why we need to establish a better corridor between the mangroves and the  rainforests of the national park. It was great to get these for the year on the first day out, especially since I missed the Turquoise in 2012!

    birding Costa Rica

      A surreal image of the male Yellow-billed Cotinga from the other day.

      • El Toucanet birding: On the weekend, I was up at El Toucant. This was a much welcome, cool respite from the heat down on the coast. The feeders weren’t as active but we still got lots of wonderful looks at Scintillant Hummingbird. This is one darn tiny bird! We picked up lots of nice birds near the lodge and higher up in the oak forests including Yellow-bellied Siskin, Barred and Sulphur-winged Parakeets, Dark Pewee, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, White-throated Mountain-Gem, Golden-winged Warbler, and lots more. No quetzals but Gary, one of the owner’s of El Tocuanet, expects more to show up in a month or two when the local avocados are in fruit.

      birding Costa Rica

      The miniscule Scintillant Hummingbird.

        • Franklin’s Gull: This was a highlight because I missed the prairie seagull the previous year! Luckily, I was birding with Seagull Steve because he noticed one that I had passed one off as a Laughing Gull!

        birding Costa Rica

        I used to be excited to see vagrant Franklin’s Gulls on the Niagara River. There are like thousands of them in Lima, Peru right now.

        I still need to head to the Caribbean slope but that should be remedied tomorrow when I am scheduled to guide for the morning on the road to Manuel Brenes. The client wants to catch the dawn chorus- sounds good to me!!

        Hope to see you birding in Costa Rica soon!

        biodiversity Birding Costa Rica

        My Costa Rica Birding Resolution for 2013

        Here comes another new year along with the tradition/obligation to try and improve oneself by thinking about the things you would like to change. However, if you are already totally satisfied with whom you are, you can just resolve to do more of the things you like to do. It seems like both of those resolution strategies make sense so I propose picking out at least one thing that you would like to drop or be better at, followed by choosing one or more things that you would like to do more often.

         Would such a mixing of resolutions cancel each out or would such a Yin-Yang strategy make you feel more balanced as a person? Well, as for myself, instead of conundrumming myself with such questions, I think I will just do a lot more birding. Speaking of birding, here are some resolutions that I may or may not try and fulfill:

        • Do more birding: Ok, so that should be easy enough but I have to find solutions to earning money while not birding (since I have a family to support) and time spent on family duties. Since I can’t clone myself, I hope to bring the family on more trips where I can watch birds.

        birding Costa Rica

        More time spent birding means seeing more cool looking species like the Streak-chested Antpitta.

        • See an Ochraceous Pewee: I heard a few in 2012 but just could not find the time to head back up to the mountains and actually see this oddly uncommon Contopus. I am going to take care of this O. Pewee business in 2013, though, by going to where I have heard them and hanging out until they show up. It could be hours but I’m sure I will see some other eye-opening diversity at the same time.

        birding Costa Rica

        Where the O. Pewee dwells.

        • Make a more concerted effort at a Big Year: Enough of this casual Big Year stuff. Just the sound of that makes it seem as if I lounge around some “deck” in loafers while casually cupping an ear in one hand and taking a sip from a Martini in the other. While it would be hilarious to do just that while saying in my best Mister Howell voice, “Lovee, I’ve just picked up Spot-fronted Swift for the year. Just smashing.”, that’s just not how I roll. I’m more along the lines of jumping onto a horse, yelling “Hoka Hey!” and chasing down the vagrant birds that happen to stray within the Costa Rican border.

        birding Costa Rica

        Seeing beautiful Magnificent Hummingbirds shouldn’t be a problem.

        • See more vagrants: Speaking of vagrant species, according to eBird and the AOCR Bird Alarm Facebook page, some crazy birds have recently been seen in Costa Rica! Clapper Rail at Chomes! Aplomado Falcon in Tarcoles! Rusty Sparrow just ten minutes from my house! I need to go and see them!


        • Bird the Buenos Aires savannahs: To try for such specialties as Ocellated Crake, White-tailed Nightjar, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, and others of course. All of those have been recently seen there!


        • Record more bird species: I already have a fair-sized library of Costa Rican bird sounds but I plan on augmenting it and making much of that available in a birding related product.


        • Ignore a Masked Duck when I see it: I would have stated that I planned on not looking for Masked Duck but since I already made that resolution 2 months ago, I’ll just have to ignore that nefarious nemesis of a “pato”!


        • Get the highest Big Day total ever: Ok, I said it and we tried it last year but I’m telling you, this year, I have got a much better plan! The weather would still have to cooperate but I’m already getting prepared for it.

        And here are a few wishes for the New Year!:

        • See a Harpy Eagle in Costa Rica: I will also settle for a Crested!

         birding Costa Rica

        The Ornate Hawk Eagle is much easier to see than a Harpy Eagle in Costa Rica. Speaking from personal experience, a Harpy is kind of like a massive, mutant Ornate Hawk-Eagle on avian steroids.

        • Meet more birdwatchers from Costa Rica and elsewhere: I love meeting birders. If you see a guy with a kind of weird bino harness, say hello, it might be me!


        • Get the chance to bird Hitoy Cerere: I haven’t been there since 2001, it was the best Caribbean lowland birding I have experienced in Costa Rica, it’s the type of place where anything can show up, and another visit is long overdue!


        • Find time to help organize a Costa Rican Birding Festival: If we can start now, maybe we can set up an even better birding festival than last year.

         birding Costa Rica

        Collared Trogon was one of the many species seen at the 2012 festival.

         Hope to see you while birding in Costa Rica in 2013!