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Weekend Costa Rica Birding Highlights

On Friday, I traveled from my old home of Niagara Falls, New York south, way south back to my present home in Costa Rica. Family, cannoli from DiCamillo’s, serious pizza, and good friends in Niagara Falls will always be priceless but home is where the heart is and for me, that’s Costa Rica. Living there for eleven years surely also plays an important role with the “home” designation, and the birds aren’t that shabby either. My present Central American surroundings may be bereft of the cries of gulls against a backdrop of roaring water but I’m alright with a trade-off that includes 900 plus species of birds.

Turquoise-browed Motmot, a common species of tropical dry forest, is one of them.

With that in mind, of course I went birding the day after coming back from the Falls because birding is also part of being “home”. My birding companion and I spent Saturday looking for lowland birds and finding a few key species before the rains took over, and then worked the optics on Sunday in the much drier Pacific coastal lowlands. Without too much effort, as is usual for birding in Costa Rica, we had several choice species along with nice views of birds that are common and always fun to watch. Some of the highlights:

Gartered Trogon

Thanks to it preferring edge habitats, this beautiful mini trogon is common in humid lowland sites. I especially like when it perches on roadside wires because not only does that make it easier to see, but seeing a trogon out in the open, in a situation typically reserved for pigeons, doves, and other everyday birds is a succinct reminder that you are living a dream.

Cerulean Warbler!

I had hoped to find one of these mega wood-warblers but expected it in the foothill habitats of Virgen del Socorro, not in the Sarapiqui lowlands. Yet, there one was, quickly foraging with a mixed flock of small birds on the La Selva entrance road, and it was an adult male! Birders in other parts of the country also saw Ceruleans that day, maybe the last big push of the year for this regular yet uncommon migrant in Costa Rica.

Lattice-tailed Trogon

Costa Rica’s most challenging trogon made an appearance at a site for it near Virgen del Socorro. Since this species is a foothill purist and prefers mature forest, there are few reliable spots for it. Hopefully, the Lattice-taileds near Socorro will stay around so I can show them to visiting birders.

Lineated Woodpecker

Yeah, it’s common and widespread but who doesn’t like a big woodpecker? We enjoyed close views of one in the Central Valley while unsuccessfully searching for the endemic ground-sparrow. At one point, it was chased by a Lesson’s Motmot.

Pearl Kite!

As we made our way to sites for shorebirds, I figured that a stop in Puntarenas might be worth our while. Although most birds were a bit too far out on the water to see well, we hit the jackpot on the drive out of town with a Pearl Kite perched right next to the road. It even stayed long enough for pictures and for us to refer to it as a Raptor-Flycatcher on account of it perching on wires like a Tropical Kingbird. Actually, if anything, this falconet-like bird is more like a shrike than its raptor cousins.


We wanted to connect with the waders from the far north and eventually did so at Punta Morales. How do they cope living in the arctic and then in the steamy tropics? It’s always incredible to think about the places where those smart looking Black-bellied Plovers spent the summer, where the hundreds of Western Sandpipers built their nests. Although I have seen larger numbers of waders at Punta Morales on other occasions, it was still fantastic to see a few dozen Wilson’s Plovers, many Semipalmated Plovers, one Collared Plover, Marbled Godwits, many a Whimbrel and Willet, a small group of pigeon-like Surfbirds, and some other species.

I can only imagine what happens at Morales and other sites in the Gulf of Nicoya when no one is watching.

The weekend was birdy as always in Costa Rica. I don’t even know how many species we saw but there were the highlights above and other birds (and ice cream!). Hopefully, I will be searching for more migrants very soon, some species are passing through Costa Rica in large numbers, I want to silently greet them as they hurry their way south.

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