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biodiversity Birding Costa Rica

6 Months of Birding in Costa Rica, 635 Species

Half a year has come and gone. In Costa Rica, the hot and sunny weather of the high season is a distant memory. April brought the rains and since then, they have been dutiful in humidifying and soaking this birdy nation. It’s expected and needed even if we could do without the landslides and local flooding. I should mention that the landslides haven’t been major but small ones do affect roads now and then, even closing the main highway between San Jose and Limon for a few days.

Such closures are an annual occurrence, all one can hope for is not having to use that important road when they do happen. One good way to avoid any such road issues is by avoiding that highway during days and nights of heavy rain. Luckily, I haven’t had to drive there this past week. Eventually, I will need to take Route 32 and as long as my driving happens during better weather, I look forward to it. I hope I can stop at an overlook on that highway to listen for uncommon birds and scan for rare raptors.

Some of those birds could be new for my year list. Not that I’m trying for anything in particular but needless to say, I’ve got a pretty good running total. Since January 1st, I’ve identified 635 species in Costa Rica, almost all of them seen while guiding or watching birds for fun.

Ironically, I’m not striving for any Big Year goal. Those 600 plus species are more of a hint at the incredible variety of birds that occur in Costa Rica, and the high number of species one can see after birding in key spots. Some of those 2022 birds include Red-fronted Parrotlets heard and briefly glimpsed flying over the entrance to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, hearing and seeing both Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles flying high overhead at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, the male Lovely Cotinga at Rancho Naturalista, other cotingas, migrant Cerulean Warblers gleaning rainforest leaves, 70 flycatcher species, Scaled Antpitta at Bajos del Toro, Black-chested Jay, and so much more.

Whether because of their rare status or memorable birding situations, the following highlights stand out:

Hudsonian Godwit

After missing it our first time around, Marilen and I were very pleased to see this choice mega migrant upon arrival at Punta Morales. With more birders in the field, more regular yet uber rare migrants are being found. The Hudwit is one of them.

Pacific Golden-Plover


Like the godwit of Churchill, Manitoba fame, this species might also visit Costa Rica on a regular basis. However, since “regular” could mean one or two birds per year, you gotta be pretty lucky to connect. Fortune was with me while birding in Puntarenas this past April.

Gray-hooded Gull

For the past few years, one of the nicer looking gulls has been showing its elegant self in Costa Rica. I assume it’s the same bird but it’s not here all of the time. It may pass through in spring and fall, or might be wandering around Central America. All we really know is that a birder has to be seriously lucky to chance upon it. As luck would have it, while dipping on the first appearance of the godwit, this gull flew in to make it onto the year lists of Marilen, myself, and other local birders.

Maroon-chested Ground-Dove

Views of this fantastic and uncommon species are always a treat but especially when you can share it with other birders. I was pleased to hear and see it at a reliable spot, the Museo Nochebuena on the high slopes of Irazu Volcano.

Bare-shanked Screech-Owl

Bare-shankeds from another day and place- we had much better views.

On one of those same Maroon-chested mornings, a client and I had fantastic looks at a Bare-shanked Screech-Owl. Sooty Thrushes were calling, other high elevation birds were singing and yet based on past experience, I wondered if this owl might also decide to call back, even during the light of day. After an imitation, sure enough, one of these beautiful owls responded and gave us perfect views, no flashlight required.

Mangrove Cuckoo

Cuckoos are always cool. I was happy to have seen this neat species around Ciudad Neily in southern Costa Rica, near Tarcoles, and a fantastic bird sunning itself in Tortuguero.


Watching one of these uncommon wintering species on a humid night near Esquinas Lodge was a treat.

48 Hummingbird Species

white-bellied mountain-gem
I’m partial to the White-bellied Mountain-Gem.

That means all of the regular ones except for the Garden Emerald, a bird I should come across at some point in 2022.

What else will 2022 bring? The only way to find out is by going birding. I’m eager to watch some mixed flocks and explore out of the way places. It can be drier in July, I hope you get a chance to bird Costa Rica soon!

2 replies on “6 Months of Birding in Costa Rica, 635 Species”

Hi Patrick. Did you start the count December 1st or January 1st? Because if you started in January you have 635 species in only 5 months.

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