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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!

3 replies on “Some Costa Rica Birding Highlights from the Latter Half of January, 2013”

Thanks for posting on the birds at EL Tapir. Were the Coquettes male birds? Black-billed Toucan? Same as Chestnut-Mandibled? It sounds like you are off to a good start for the year. We’ll nail down that Sulphur-rumped Tanager for you In Manzanillo!


@Steve- We had at least one and maybe two male coquettes and one female. Yes, Black-mandibled Tocuan is the new name for Chestnut-mandibled Toucan since it was lumped with the Black-mandibled of the northwestern Andean foothills. Thanks in advance for nailing down that tanager!

I had the privilege of being guided by Pat O’Donnell at the above mentioned sites (except CATIE). Without Pat’s assistance, I would have seen a fraction of the birds. Pat is great at all aspects of locating and identifying birds, and in particular, with vocalizations.

Not only does Pat know the songs, but he knows most of the chip and cal notes. these were invaluable in tracking down many birds.

My comp list of 355 species during my first visit to Costa Rica would have been probably 70 – 90 species less without the help of Pat O’Donnell.

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