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Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica middle elevations

Expectations and Changes at the Cinchona Colibri Cafe

Last week, as usual, I made a stop at the Colibri Cafe during a day of guiding. I usually spend an hour or so at the Cafe after a few early morning stops on the route between there and Alajuela. There have been a few recent changes at the Cafe but the birding expectations are just as good, if not better. If you plan on checking out the Cafe while traveling to or from Sarapiqui, or as a day trip from Sarapiqui or the San Jose area, here are some suggestions and expectations:

More Feeders, More Birds: The owners have steadily updated and improved the cafe ever since the original was destroyed by the 2009 earthquake. Now, instead of watching one set of feeders, there is another set of feeders lower down and accessible by concrete steps. Recently, they also put up a large bunch of bananas at eye level that might eventually pay off with large toucan species and parrots. Maybe, but at least that’s what goes on with a similar set up at Laguna del Lagarto Lodge. If you can do the stairs (there aren’t that many), make sure to check the feeders below because these are closer to forest vegetation and might end up attracting different species.

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This site continues to be an easy spot for Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet.

Both Barbets: The Prong-billed has always been regular but the Red-headed has been scarce ever since the earthquake. It has been showing up a bit more from time to time, though, and with luck, will become a regular visitor again especially with the vegetation growing back.

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Prong-billed Barbet- we actually did not see this one at the Cafe on Saturday but did catch up with it up on Poas.

White-bellied Mountain-Gem and other hummingbirds: Expect a good hummingbird show with six to eight species. This varies depending on time of year and what’s flowering out there in the woods but is always worth a look. The bird to look for is White-bellied Mountain-Gem, a local species seen at very few sites. Other regulars include Violet Sabrewing, Green-crowned Brilliant, Coppery-headed Emerald, Green Thorntail, Green Hermit, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.

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The other day was good for the mountain-gems.

More birds in the morning and on cloudy days: As is typical of bird activity just about everywhere, expect to see more at the Cafe between 6 and 7, and on cloudy days.

Cool souvenirs: The Cafe also sells a fair variety of quality souvenirs. Check it out and know that anything purchased there supports this bird and birder friendly locale.

Good, local food: Want to sample some delicious, Tico country cuisine? This is the perfect place to do just that, the prices are fair, and once again, you will be supporting a business that has helped thousands of people see Violet Sabrewings,  barbets, and other species at close range. In essence, the owners have acted as unofficial bird and birding ambassadors.

Photography Fee: On my last visit, one of the owners explained to me that they are now charging a fee of $10 for people with professional looking cameras. This pretty much means anything beyond a simple point and shoot. They hadn’t put a sign up about that yet but hopefully will. I was actually going to suggest something like this because setting up the feeders and keeping them stocked has been and continues to be a substantial investment. Although they have a contribution box, that clearly isn’t working, and according to the owner, they haven’t been very pleased with the behavior of some photographers, saying that more than one had set up shop for a few hours without leaving a donation. Given the photo chances, especially now, $10 is a pretty good deal and they aren’t even charging by the hour. Who knows if that might change, though, so just be clear about the cost of using a DSLR at the Cafe Colibri upon arrival at the Cafe.

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Some shots will be worth it.

Raptors: The good view of a forested canyon has also always made this site a good one for raptors. It varies but species to look for include White Hawk, Barred Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, and Gray Hawk, along with such possibilities as Red-tailed Hawk, Great Black-Hawk, Bat Falcon, and even Ornate Hawk-Eagle. Keep in mind that Solitary Eagle, Black Hawk-Eagle, and Black and white Hawk-Eagle have also been seen near there in the past. Maybe they could turn up again, especially by scanning the other side of the canyon with a scope.

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This white blob is an over-exposed White Hawk that was soaring around a few days ago.

Enjoy the birds, good food, and view at this special place!

6 replies on “Expectations and Changes at the Cinchona Colibri Cafe”

@Steve- Yeah, it does seem to be getting better. One morning, I heard Black-breasted Wood-Quails calling very close to there. Hopefully, they will eventually show up. There’s also another new spot just up the road called the Orchidea Soda that might do feeders.

Hello, thanks for the write up! Looking forward to visiting the cafe, do you have the GPS coordinates for it?

@Omair-I don’t but it’s easy to find. It’s on the road that passes in front of the La Paz Waterfall Gardens- maybe 5 kilometers (?) north of the gardens.

Does Jorge the owner of Chinchona Colibi cafe has a phone number? I was there last week and did not ask him for it. I have need to communicate with him.

Thanks

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