web analytics
bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica planning for a birding trip to Costa Rica preparing for your trip

Is Summer a Good Time for Birding in Costa Rica?

Summer is here! Yeah, it’s still May but why beat around the bush? On the northern breeding grounds, a bevy of warblers are singing from fresh-foliaged woods. Ruffed Grouse are mixing it up with sub-sonic beats, Scarlet Tanagers are blazing through the woods, and Eastern Kingbirds are back on their royal territories.

An Eastern Kingbird pausing in Costa Rica on its way north.

I haven’t been up that way in many summers but the memories play easy. Mental recordings of American Goldfinches potato-chipping as they bounce through the air over sweet June hayfields. Chestnut-sided, Canada, and Mourning Warblers singing from Southern Tier thickets.

Warm weather was back and with it came baseball parades and the many other hallmarks of the grateful summer respite. It’s a fun and relaxing time up north, a fine span bereft of ice scrapers and eerie polar whispering. The weather is so generally welcome, travel can take a back seat and why not?

Why fly south when you can sip cold drinks in the warmth of your own backyard? Why travel when home is a bastion of garden beauty?

Whether you get on that plane or not depends on priorities. For example, unless you live in Monteverde, you can’t see Three-wattled Bellbirds at home. Can’t catch a glimpse of the secret glittering on Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, scan for soaring hawk-eagles, or stalk antbirds.

An antbird worth stalking.

Get on that plane to Costa Rica though, and you’ll be in range of those birds. Those and 100s of other species, even in the summer months. The resident birds don’t leave and summer might even be a better time to see them! Hundreds of bird species should be reason enough but of not, here’s some additional benefits of summer birding in Costa Rica:

A Time for Swifts

I know, maybe not the most colorful birds, perhaps not the birds that look like living feathered jewels. Birds nonetheless though, not easy to see at other times of the year, and with their own set of amazing abilities.

The swifts are always here too (at least as far as we know) but trust me, some species are far and away easier to see and identify than the winter months. “To see and identify” is key for these high-flying birds.

Let’s say you are birding Costa Rica in the winter and hit gold with a high wheeling King Vulture. As way up there as that jungle condor flies, you might pick up a few other birds above it. No, probably won’t spot them with the naked eye but in your binos, there they are, specking way up there, unidentified although you figure they must be swifts.

They are indeed swifts but which ones? Unless they call, no way to tell. Sorry, swift sp. they are and nope, that doesn’t help any but what can you do?

It’s not right but short of a super telescopic lens or mega focused listening device, those are the birding breaks.

The good news is that it’s not that way all year long. Once the rains start, all the swifts fly lower, even close enough to see actual, honest to goodness field marks!

Where do they fly you may ask? Oh, in lots of places, like even above my urban neighborhood. Just today, during post lunch relaxation on the couch, I swore I heard the pip pips of a Black Swift. At first, I thought I may have been tricked by some odd, distant calls of a Great-tailed Grackle but I went outside, looked up, and sure enough, yes!

There they were, swifts scything through nearby skies, even swooping low over houses. Black Swifts! Chestnut-collared Swifts zip zipping and either Spot-fronted and/or White-chinned Swifts higher up. Although they didn’t give away specific identification by calling or flying lower, they have on many other days. I’ve even seen both species flagrantly courting right over non-natural rooftops and urban streets.

Summer is a good time to connect with these birds, a nice bonus after watching a wealth of other, easier birds to see.

Bellbirds Anyone?

Summer is a darn good time to see bellbirds, and I mean ones with three crazy wattles. Although these mega cotingas are always present in Costa Rica, they aren’t always easy. During their non-breeding season (September to March), Three-wattled Bellbirds are mostly in less accessible areas.

Visit Costa Rica in winter and you might get lucky and see one but you’ll really be taking your chances. Go birding in Costa Rica now and it’s some pretty easy birding pie. Sure, you gotta go to the right places but that’s easy enough.

Try Monteverde, give the San Ramon cloud forests a shot, check out a few other breeding areas. The males are calling, put in some time and you should see them!

Male Three-wattled Bellbird.

Crakes and Masked Ducks

In these modern, connected birding days, we’ve got a lot of crake action locked in, all year long. Even so, the skulky ones are easier in the wet season. In Costa Rica, that would be summer.

Boat ride with a guide in Medio Queso and you’ll probably see Yellow-breasted Crakes. You might also see them in Coto 47 near Ciudad Neily. If not, save the birding at that big rich site for Paint-billed Crake and Gray-breasted Crake. Summer is a really good time to look for these challenging birds!

The rice fields are wet and those birds can be pretty common. With some effort, they can also be pretty easy to see! Same for Spotted Rail in Guanacaste rice fields.

The Zorro Duck is out there too, always a pain and unfriendly to birders but summer is a better time to see them. Check seasonal lagoons with lots of emergent vegetation, especially in Coto 47. Check them well too because Masked Ducks are aquatic, web-footed ninjas. Don’t worry, they don’t carry throwing stars or sharp knives but these masters of stealth can still cut in other, less visible ways. Scan carefully to bring the joy and avoid missed lifer pain.


What About the Rain?

All those birds sound nice and dandy but aren’t we missing something. Isn’t it going to rain all the time? Yeah, probably not.

Yes, there will be rain and it’ll probably be heavy. But, them sky torrents won’t be rushing 24/7. The natural tap doesn’t usually get turned until the afternoon. Morning is typically good and if it rains on and off, you’re in luck! Expect avian action all day long.

Yes, heavy rains can affect some roads and cause other issues but it shouldn’t be an entire wash out. Bird here in summer and you should connect with a good number of birds, uncommon and challenging ones included.

Thinking of birding in Costa Rica soon? It is summer and there’s rain but I wouldn’t worry too much. Instead, study field guides and birding apps for Costa Rica. Get “How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica” to prepare for birding in Costa Rica and pick the best birding sites for your birding needs. Get ready because the birding in Costa Rica is excellent and exciting, even in the summer.

One reply on “Is Summer a Good Time for Birding in Costa Rica?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *