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Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Birding Wonderland

Look at a map of Central America and we see this small country (as far as modern day countries go) just about where the isthmus meets the Andes. That most mountainous part of southern Central America is Costa Rica and you would never know it from a geographical illustration but this place is a damn birding wonderland. There should really be a logo of some bird, any bird, placed on Costa Rica to indicate the birdiness of this nation.

I kid you not, sometimes, the bird situation in Costa Rica gets downright loco. A few recent personal examples of things that make Costa Rica a wonderland for birding:

150 plus species during a day around Carara: Spend a day birding the tropical ecotone of Carara and you are guaranteed to see a lot. How many is a lot? Last week, over the course of a normal day that started at six and ended around five, we saw over 150 species and heard more than 20 others. Nor did we have to kill ourselves to get that total. We stopped for lunch and enjoyed fresh seafood, birded one trail in the national park, the road in front of Cerro Lodge, and the road up to the Pura Vida gardens. This last stop was especially productive for adding species to the day list including Cherrie’s Tanager, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Fiery-billed Aracari, and Long-billed Starthroat. Other highlights from the day were Great Tinamou, Crane Hawk, Rufous Piha, Baird’s Trogon and three other species of Trogonidae, Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Black-faced Antthrush, and the list goes on.

This Great Tinamou was doing its best impression of a friendly chicken.

Mega mixed flock in Braulio Carrillo: The trails at El Tapir or Quebrada Gonzalez can be notoriously slow. But when the birding is good, it can be fantastic. At El Tapir, this one big assemblage of birds kept us so busy, they just wouldn’t let us leave. Every time I decided that the flock had moved off, it kind of came back and pulled us right back in. Although we didn’t notice anything rare, bearing witness to the constant flurry of vocalizations and flitting of birds was almost sort of too much. Like some avian rainforest rock festival, a couple dozen Carmiol’s Tanagers competed for “the loudest” prize with another dozen Black-faced Grosbeaks. They were cheered on by a pair of Scarlet-rumped Caciques, Russet Antshrikes, various tanagers, Striped Woodhaunter, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, antwrens, antvireos, warblers, and more while a White-throated Shrike-Tanager sat back and judged the event. Oh yeah, as an aside, we also had Olive-backed Quail-Dove both there and at Quebrada Gonzalez the same day.

The monklet makes an appearance: This almost plush toy bird made recent rare another appearance at Quebrada Gonzalez. Pretty much the final bird of the day, it called and showed itself just where we could see it. This is especially important because if it doesn’t call or happens to perch just out of sight, the feather ball monklet is nearly impossible to find.

Note the feather ball field mark.

Quetzals on cables: Lastly, this morning, we saw something both odd and extraordinary. A first for me was seeing two Resplendent Quetzals perched on roadside cables. Shortly after seeing a female fly across the road up to Poas Volcano, I noticed another bird perched on a cable. Although it was hard to accept, the long streaming tail and peculiar shape indicated that yes, it was indeed a male quetzal sitting on a wire! Although the perch was next to a fruiting avocado, it was nevertheless bizarre to watch first the male and then the female doing erstwhile impressions of Tropical Kingbirds. When they did the expected quetzal thing and flew into a tree, the male then made small mewing sounds while looking at us. I know, sounds like a dream but I can assure you that this birding bizarro world segment was all too real.

Nice of him to sit in good light! 

These are just a few of the reasons why you can call Costa Rica a birding wonderland. There are many other reasons why the country easily lives up to this name, as always, I hope every birder can experience the awesomeness for themselves.

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