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big year bird finding in Costa Rica

Special Birds in Buenos Aires

“Buenos Aires” means something along the lines of “good airs” or “good winds”, maybe even ” a place with a pleasant atmosphere”. Although the big city in Argentina is best known as Buenos Aires, that megalopolis isn’t the only place of “good airs” in Latin America. In Costa Rica, we also have a few “Buenos Aires”, one of which is situated in the lower parts of the General Valley. A landscape of pineapple fields and natural savannas, habitats near our Buenos Aires are good for a bunch of birds tough to see elsewhere.

Although you won’t see any Tango in this much smaller Buenos Aires, you might lay eyes on a few birds hard to see in other parts of the country. These be birdies like Ocellated Crake, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Rufous Nightjar, and White-tailed Nightjar.

In Costa Rica, all of these species are local residents and there is no better place in the country to see all of them than places near Buenos Aires. That’s why the Birding Club of Costa Rica did a trip there this past weekend. Thankfully, I was able to guide the trip and even better, Mary was also able to go. The end result was a successful weekend that involved each of the species mentioned above, at least a few lifers for all (including two for myself!), and a major boost for the Team Tyto year list.

Some thoughts about birding around Buenos Aires, Costa Rica:

Early morning and late afternoon birding– Expect hot and sunny. The birds mark that uncomfortable middle of the day with a siesta. Stick to early morning and late afternoon birding to see the specialties and most of everything else.

Special birds!– Most are in the natural grasslands in the hills above town. Listen to the crake (see below), scan for the very uncommon grass-finch, check dense viney vegetation for the thrush-tanager, and wait until dark for the nightjars. Local species easier at this site than other places also include Scaled Pigeon, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Bare-crowned Antbird, and Lesser Elaenia.

Lesser Elaenias were very common.

The crake- Easy to hear, nearly impossible to see. Yes, I know, most crakes are difficult and it’s tough to see that White-throated but senor Ocellated takes things to lower, more insidious levels of skulk. The Ocellated Crake is a rodent wannabe that will not leave the safety of its dense grass habitat. Once in a blue moon but in my experience, it is easier to see Black Rail than this one.

There was a crake somewhere in there.

More than grass birds– But there are more species than just grass birds! Rainforests down in the valleys and higher up also harbor antbirds, Streak-chested Antpitta, Marbled Wood-Quail, Fiery-billed Aracari, raptors, and much more. Even uncommon species like Turquoise Cotinga, Spot-fronted Swift, and White-crested Coquette have been seen in the area.

Seasonal– Some birds only show up when the conditions are right, namely seed eating species like Plain-breasted Ground-Dove and seedeaters. The best time for those birds might be from June to October.

Plain-breasted Ground-Dove.

Four Wheel Drive– The savannas on the road to Durika require four-wheel drive. If not, expect a long, hot (yet interesting) walk.

The Ujarras road– This road follows the course of river and passes near forest, second growth, and occasional houses. It was fairly birdy and really needs some annual breeding bird surveys. We went a ways down this road to successfully see Rosy Thrush-Tanager.

Bring your own breakfast– I doubt there is a place in town where one can have an early breakfast. Bring your own including coffee!

Support local birding, get in touch with Oscar Ortiz– Oscar is from the area and knows where many of the birds are located. He wants to promote birding and would be great to get more local folks interested and/or aware of birds around Buenos Aires. To help, contact him at his Facebook page.

If you are looking for some very interesting, quality birding off the beaten track, give the Buenos Aires area a try. Just make sure you have a four-wheel drive and are stocked with your own coffee and snacks. Good birding!