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Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica Introduction preparing for your trip

Birding Costa Rica, March, 2014

March has always been the most popular month for birding in Costa Rica. The third month was sort of elected as high time to watch birds in Costa Rica because this is when the dry season coincides with a higher degree of bird song as well as such highlights as raptor migration and lekking umbrellabirds. While the umbrellabird show requires a hike down to the San Gerardo Field Station (until another more accessible lek can be located), it’s pretty easy to watch thousands of raptors stream north when birding the Caribbean lowlands, and yes, more birds do seem to vocalize.

Tropical Parulas have been singing at many sites.

As for myself, I was kept quite busy with guiding this recent March birding season. Trips to classic sites like Carara, and foothill birding around Lands in Love and Quebrada Gonzalez helped push my year list over 500 (without doing any real birding in the Caribbean lowlands!). One of my best year birds and an addition to my country list was the Cedar Waxwing. This uncommon, irruptive species showed up in the Central Valley at the end of February, especially around fruiting figs near the Finca Rosa Blanca. It was kind of surreal to see a bird species that I completely associate with warm spring and lazy summer days in upstate New York and Pennsylvania.

A Cedar Waxwing goes on vacation in Costa Rica.
Scarlet Macaw had been showing well at Cerro Lodge.
Lots of Black-hooded Antshrikes at Carara as always.

Over at Cinchona, the feeders have been visited by the usual Prong-billed Barbets, Emerald Toucanets, Silver-throated Tanagers, and others. The lost Prothonotary Warbler was still nibbling on bananas during the first days of March. Other nice birds near Cinchona included the usual array of flycatchers, tanagers, occasional Red-headed Barbet, White Hawk, Barred Hawk, and so on.

Prong-billed Barbet
There is a Prothonotary Warbler coming to a feeder in this image.

Lower down on the Caribbean slope, mixed flocks have been good at Quebrada Gonzalez. The mixed flock activity at that site is always sort of hit or miss but usually yields White-throated Shrike Tanager, Russet Antshrike, Western Woodhaunter, and several other tanager species. Sharpbill can and does show up and even Gray-headed Piprites is possible. During visits there in March, I also had Black and Ornate Hawk Eagles, Barred Hawk, Double-toothed Kite, and reliable Lattice-tailed Trogon. Streak-chested Antpitta has also been calling and showed well one day on the Ceiba trail.

Over at Lands in Love, antwarms have been alright and yielded views of the 3 obligate antbirds. No ground cuckoo but that mega is certainly a possibility if you hit an antswarm inside the forest (our’s was only at the edge of the woods). Raptor watching from the Loveats Cafe has yet to give me a Solitary Eagle or hawk-eagles but we did have very nice looks at King Vulture and Short-tailed Hawk on the last visit there.

Spotted Antbird.

In my own little backyard, in addition to the usual visits by Cinnamon and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, I have also been happy to see a female Canivet’s Emerald.

Canivet's Emerald

One memorable day, I was happy to meet up with Dani Lopez Velasco. Dani is a Spanish birding guide who leads tours for Birdquest. We had a fun morning looking for and seeing Prevost’s Ground Sparrow (Cabanis’s) at Ujarras while he entertained with tales of guiding adventurous trips to the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and an incredible trip to the southern, albatross filled oceans. He is guiding a tour in Costa Rica at this moment and has already helped clients see Unspotted Saw-whet Owl.

We saw many more White-eared Ground Sparrows than Prevost's. I suspect that the White-eared is displacing Prevost's in many areas.

Others have been seeing bellbirds at Monteverde, umbrellabirds at San Gerardo, and a pair of White-fronted Nunbirds at La Selva. So nice to hear that they are being seen again at the research station as they used to be a common bird there. Others have been telling me about seeing quetzals in the usual high elevation sites, and Jim Zook recently submitted an eBird report with sightings of both White-tailed and Rufous Nightjars from the Durika Road. Sounds like now is the time to get those rare species on your Costa Rica list (I still need them)!

The other big news for birding in Costa Rica has to be a nesting Savannah Hawk– first recorded breeding for the country by Fundacion Rapaces de Costa Rica! While the location of the nest hasn’t been revealed, the species has been regular south and west of Ciudad Neily.

Good luck with spring birding no matter where you may be doing it. I hope to see some migrants over the next few days as they make their way north.

8 replies on “Birding Costa Rica, March, 2014”

Hi Pat- Thanks for all of the Costa Rica information, including the posting about P-B Crake near Rio Claro. Could you let me know the KM marker or other landmarks for the site where you saw it, and any recommendations on lodging in Manzanillo, where you heard the CA Pygmy-Owl and Vermiculated Screech-Owl? Much appreciate the info- arrive in CR tomorrow. All the best

@R hopf- I hope the info helps. The rice field where we had the crake is about 4 ks east of Rio Claro on the north side of the highway. There were several rice fields along the road but this was the biggest and wettest. That said, if the field is dry or plowed, they probably won’t be there. I think they can show up in any wet rice field in that area. In Manzanillo, there are a several small guest houses. Most are also fair priced. Cabinas Manzanillo, Bucus, and Sumaqtikaq are located on the first road to the right upon entering town. Faya Lobis is also nice. Also, several hotels on stretch between Manzanillo and Puerto Viejo. Here is a link with ideas:http://www.costaricaguide.info/hotel/caribe/manzanillo.htm

hi Pat- thanks very much for the additional information. do you also have any recent info or opinions on safety traveling by public transport-bus to puerto limon down to manzanillo? Thanks again.

@rhopf- No, I don’t have any recent information but haven;t heard about anything happening public buses to Manzanillo.

Saludos Patrick:

I’m currently working on an itinerary for a two week trip starting in late Feb./early March. Have enjoyed reading your various blogs which have served to interest me in more sites than I can possibly see in one trip!! I am not a “birder” per se, primarily interested in photographing birds and wildlife. As part of my itinerary am thinking of staying at Tirimbina Lodge for 2-3 days with a day trip down to Virgen del Socorro.
I also have a day planned for photography in Guapiles (El Tapir and Cope Wildlife). My question: is there enough difference between birds/mammals at Tirimbina and La Selva Bio Station to spend a day at the La Selva Station on the way to Guapiles?

@Martha- Personally, I don’t think there is too much difference between the two in terms of wildlife and birds and Tirimbina is currently better for deep forest species. For photography, though, I think that La Selva is better than Tirimbina because more animals and birds come into the clearing at the HQ and thus into better light. Also, there seems to be more information about locations for roosting birds and where wildlife is hanging out. I hope that helps!


@ Michiel- It is the small Colibri Cafe about 15 minutes down the main road towards Sarapiqui from the La Paz waterfall gardens. There are no other cafes near it, just watch for the small place on the eastern side of the road.

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