Where to go birding in Costa Rica? Where to see birds in Costa Rica? These are pertinent question for any birder, and, for some, all important concerns. The right answers vary; they wholly depend on what you would like to see. Walk outside and look around, as the Urban Birder says, “Look Up!”, and you will see birds, even in the concrete byways of San Jose. However, if you carry out that same action in and near primary rainforest, you could see ten times as many birds.
If “quetzal” is in your personal birding equation, any number of forested sites in the highlands will work. The same goes for many of Costa Rica’s near endemics including birds like Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, an arboreal towhee with legs that sport yellow pom-poms.
As you can see, I wasn’t kidding!
Looking for tanagers? Well of course you are! The best sites tend to be in quality foothill and middle elevation rainforest. How about hummingbirds? Yes please and with sabrewings on top! You’ll find those and much more at various middle elevation sites.
Nothing like seeing a massive purple hummingbird to get the birding blood flowing!
Now if you would like to see lots of cool, choice tropical birds, all at once, there are good birding sites in Costa Rica for that fast and furious happiness too. One such place is Nectar and Pollen, these are some recent highlights and birds to look for at this easily accessible, gem of a spot:
Some of best places to see raptors in Costa Rica are sites with good views of the canopy and sky over extensive primary rainforest. Walk into the pasture at Nectar and Pollen and you’ll see what I mean, especially during a sunny morning, right around 9:00 a.m. This is high time for raptors to take to the skies and if you hit a good day at Nectar and Pollen you could see several of these species:
Hawk-eagles, even the rare Black-and-White
Great Black Hawk
Rarely, you could also see Hook-billed and Gray-headed Kites
Scan the canopy at an early hour and you might also get lucky with finding a perched Tiny Hawk, Bicolored Hawk, Laughing Falcon, or other raptor species.
White-tipped Sicklebill and Other Hummingbirds
Plantings can attract sicklebill, hermits, and several other hummingbirds. A recent visit turned up:
Crowned Woodnymph, and
On other visits, I have also had Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Green Thorntail, Black-crested Coquette, Brown Violetear, Long-billed Starthroat, and that minute mega, the Snowcap.
A Flurry of Birds
If you do pay a visit, be prepared, the birds often happen fast and furious! One after another and sometimes, all at once. So as not to miss anything, your best bet is to let go and do what the guide says. A good guide will get you on the birds that need to be seen at that moment instead of looking at species more likely to be seen later the same day or on other days.
Be forewarned, whether birding with a guide or not, sensory overload is likely! Just try to stay focused, try to recall field marks, and wait until a lull in the bird action to check your birding app for Costa Rica or field guide book. Trust me, if you try to look up each bird as you see them, you could miss a lot.
As with any site, the fast birding at Nectar and Pollen varies but often includes troops of Black-faced Grosbeaks and Carmiol’s Tanagers, other tanagers in fruiting trees, euphonias, hummingbirds, parrots doing flybys and more. It’s bird action at its best!
Red-fronted Parrotlet and Other Uncommon Species
Although you can’t expect it on every visit, this is a perfect site to see the rare Red-fronted Parrotlet fly past in the morning and late afternoon. Watch for them from the small hill in the pasture while also enjoying views of Long-tailed Tyrant, Cinnamon, Rufous-winged, Black-cheeked, and Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, and other species.
If you walk the forest trail, keep a close eye out for Olive-backed Quail-Dove on the ground, Dull-mantled Antbird in the ravines, and White-flanked Antwrem and other small birds in understory mixed flocks. The umbrellabird and other rare species are also always possible!
Tanagers and White-vented Euphonia
The number of tanagers can vary but fruiting trees usually attract Green and Shining Honeycreepers, Scarlet-rumped and Crimson-collared Tanagers, and various other species. Emerald, Silver-throated, Speckled, and Bay-headed are regular and once in a while, Rufous-winged, Black-and-yellow, and even Blue-and-Gold Tanagers occur! On a recent visit, although the tanager scene was somewhat subdued, we still had uncommon White-vented Euphonia and several other nice birds.
As you may have surmised, the birding at Nectar and Pollen can be pretty darn good. The same goes for bird photography, especially for hummingbirds, Rufous Motmot, and tanagers. Visits must be arranged in advance but that’s easy enough to do. Just send Miguel a message at the Nectar and Pollen Facebook page and give him the date of your visit. A visit for one to two people costs $25 per person, $20 per person for groups of three or more. If you go, please leave a comment with your sightings or link to eBird list at the end of this post. I hope to see you there!