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

Big Cool Wrens of Costa Rica

Getting ready for a birding trip to Costa Rica? Hope to come to this birdy land at some happy, future time? If so, start learning about the Costa Rican avifauna now because we aren’t talking about 300 birds to look at but a country list of 900 plus birds. Some of those species are familiar, others are from your best birding dreams, and then there are the birds that supposedly belong to the same families as the ones at home, but look like the feathered variety of the X-Men.

The super White-throated Magpie-Jay.

Don’t believe me? Just raise your bins in Costa Rica and check out those big, bold wrens. While we also have the small and plain Troglodytes, I’m talking about the big, babbleresque birds thatd defy your definition of “wren”. Unlike their smaller cousins, these guys actually do have appearances that compete with their sonorous songs:

Rufous-naped Wren: Fun to watch, easy to see, and always singing. You can’t miss this one on a trip to Costa Rica.

Rufous-naped Wren

Band-backed Wren: Also arboreal but a bird of humid forest on the Caribbean slope. More common in the past, they can still be seen in lowland and foothill rainforest. It’s cool to watch these patterned wrens forage with a mixed flock.

Band-backed Wren.

Rufous-breasted Wren: Smart looking bird! It likes to skulk in vine tangles in Carara National Park.

The Rufous-breasted Wren is not as big as the others but too beautiful to leave off of the list.

Spot-breasted Wren: This one is much more a bird of Nicaragua north to Mexico but you can see also see them in Costa Rica around Cano Negro. Song of Spot-breasted Wren.

Stripe-breasted Wren: Learn one of the main songs given by this bird to know that you aren’t hearing a pygmy-owl. This one can be tough to see because it loves to hang out in the dense vegetation of wet rainforest.┬áListen to a Stripe-breasted Wren.

Riverside Wren: Yeah, they do like riparian zones but the name fails to hint at their exotic plumage. Watch for this one along forested creeks and streams from Carara on south. Riverside Wren song.

Bay Wren: This one is a real beauty and looks more like some babbler from the Sundaic bioregion. You will be happy to know that it’s also a common resident of second growth on the Caribbean slope.

Bay Wren

Rufous and white Wren: The name says it all when it comes to its appearance but the song is magic. Listen and watch for this wren in riparian zones and moist forest on the Pacific slope. Rufous and white Wren song.

Rufous and white Wren

Banded Wren: This common, dry forest species is another one to listen to. Banded Wren song.

Banded Wren

Plain Wren: Definitely the plainest of the bunch and a lot like a Carolina, you will hear it sing and call from coffee farms and second growth. Plain Wren song.

Plain Wren

Black-throated Wren: This wren likes to pretend that it’s an antbird but is all wren when it sings. Black-throated Wren song.

Black-throated Wren

Black-bellied Wren: Possibly the finest of the bunch, it’s nevertheless a pain to see. Learn the beautiful song to know what’s hiding in that dense second growth. With enough patience, you might see one at places like Rancho Mastatal, the Golfo Dulce lowlands, and other humid forest sites on the southern Pacific slope.

Black-bellied Wren

Black-bellied Wren song.

These aren’t the only wrens in Costa Rica but they are the bold and beautiful. If I can ever manage photos of Nightingale and Scaly-breasted Wrens, I will write about those gnomish wrens with amazing songs.

3 replies on “Big Cool Wrens of Costa Rica”

Hi Patrick,
Love the wren post, those beautifully singing tropical wrens are truly some of my favorite singers, like the Rufous-and-white and Black-bellied.

I’d like to subscribe to your blog but I don’t see a place to do so. Am I missing it?

It’s cool to see you birded with Josh and Kathi–I’m following their birding odyssey avidly.

I’m coming down to Costa Rica (my third trip) the first 10 days of Sept–a solo trip with my nonbirding husband. We’re staying 5 nights on the Golfo Dulce at the newly restored Playa Cativo (we were there in the planning stages 6 years ago and LOVED it, within Piedras Blancas NP and accessible only by boat), then taking 4 days to drive back up to San Jose. Last time we drove the coastal route down and the over-the-mountain route back, and both were fantastic. I’d love if you have some suggestions about great birdy places (with guides available) on either route–I’m leaning toward the highlands again, but am also considering Carara–is that easy to bird without a guide? or other places on the coastal route?

Thanks for any assistance, and I’m about to download your Birding Field Guides app now that I finally have an updated iPhone that can handle it ­čÖé

Mary Ann

@Mary Ann- To subscribe to the blog, click on the orange diagonal square thing below the title of the blog. Yes, it was great to meet and bird with Josh and Kathi. I hope I can meet up with them on another part of their trip.

The trip sounds exciting- such interesting birding around the Golfo Dulce. It’s easy to bird the trails at Carara without a guide but an experienced guide will usually result in more bird species seen and identified, especially if the guide is good with vocalizations. Another good stops to make on the coastal route is the area around Dominical (side roads going up into the forested coastal hills can be good), but the best areas are probably down by Golfito- road between Golfito and La Gamba, roadside birding near La Gamba and Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, and rice fields across the highway from Ciudad Neily stand out. A few stops on the mountain route are Vista del Valle- some good feeder action and views, La Georgina- more good feeder action and trails through excellent high elevation forest, and paramo at Cerro de la Muerte. Thank you for downloading the app, I hope it helps!

Hi Patrick,
After an awesome trip to Costa Rica, I’m finally getting around to trying what you suggest above. When I click the orange square I get a page with lots of code-looking stuff with this message at the top:
This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.
Do you think your subscribing mechanism is not working? Or am I doing something wrong.

Playa Cativo is a really stunning lodge on the Golfo–I hope you get a chance to visit. (It just opened in July under the new ownership after a hiatus of many years.) It holds great promise as a birding destination–I’m encouraging them to make this a priority. Their naturalist/birding guide was a birding guide at Esquinas Lodge for 4 years. He took us there after our time at Cativo. At Cativo we saw some fantastic birds like practically tame Great Curassows, King Vulture, Scarlet Macaw, Black-and-white Owl (a pair showed up outside the dining room every evening), Charming Hummingbird, 4 trogons, Golden-naped and Rufous-winged Woodpeckers, Olivaceous Piculet, Black-hooded Antshrike, Orange-collared Manakin, Scaly-breasted Wren (love it!), Turquoise Cotinga, and Spot-crowned Euphonia.

Mary Ann

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