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Birding Costa Rica pandemic birding

Birds Seen and Heard from Home in Costa Rica

These days, most of us are birding from home. Some, yes, are heading into the outdoors but many of the world’s birders either by following official quarantine orders or by doing the stay at home thing on their own, are restricted to the realm of the yard list. In Costa Rica, as with any other place, the better the habitat, the more ample the list and up in tropical here, birding from home can get downright biodiverse.

I see these fly by and even do their elaborate display from time to time.

At our present place of residence, we at Team Tyto have the chance to watch two different hedgerows bordering a small farm, a few distant taller trees, and to listen for birds calling from a riparian zone around 200 meters away. Throw big views of sky into the mix and we have plenty of birds to see and listen to right from the front door.

Looking out the front door.

During much of the past week, windy weather and sunny days have kept the bird activity to a minimum but now that the wind has died down and the days have approached the breeding season, more birds are making themselves known. These are some of what I have been seeing the past few days:

Pigeons and Doves

Familiar but many are as beautiful and exotic as a bird can get. Perhaps not the good old Rock Pigeons nor the usual urban doves but even those ones can be appreciated. In the Central Valley of Costa Rica, Red-billed Pigeons rule and perhaps because they are a choice sighting for the ABA region, I do enjoy watching them. In my neighborhood, this bird species feeds on fruits in trees and bushes and gives its “whoeeew…whip, wup wup whooo” calls from those same vantage points. I also see it in flight where it’s dark and bulky appearance separates it from the even more common White-winged Dove. The dove scene is rounded out by the soft gentle calls of Inca Doves perched on roadside cables.

Obligatory sing to listen to while watching White-winged Doves. Maybe she can compose a follow-up where a near senior is associated with Red-billed Pigeons..


It really is worth it to follow the suggestions of David Lindo, the Urban Birder. His catchphrase is “Look up!” and he’s right. No matter where a birder may be, keep eyes to the sky and you will see things, you will see birds that surprise you because we share more space with the avian than most people realize. As with many places on Earth, around here, we share sky space with swifts. Big White-collared Swifts slice the air with long sharp wings flying in groups high overhead and then zipping lower, even just above the house, during cloudy weather. The common small species is the Vaux’s Swift, I usually see these flying with larger groups of Blue-and-white Swallows and in the morning, a few Chestnut-collared Swifts also forage in the aerial vicinity. On stormy days, the skies can also reveal much less common Spot-fronted Swifts and even a few Black Swifts. Where do they come from? How far do the larger swifts fly to during a day of foraging? Nobody knows, I would love to find out!


Big, bold and in the skies, these are some of the birds easiest to see during yard birding. Where I live, Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture are typically up there and a pair of neighborhood Yellow-headed Caracaras can also be found. Looking skyward can also yield views of everything from Short-tailed Hawk and Gray Hawk to an occasional Zone-tailed Hawk and groups of migrating Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks.

Other Usual Birds

The common garden birds of my yard list include this list of species that are seen or heard most days in the hedgerows and other patches of green space near here. These are the species that awake me in the morning, that accompany me during exercises to begin the day:

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker,

Lineated Woodpecker, Lesson’s Motmot, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Yellow-green Vireo, Brown Jay, House Wren, Rufous-naped Wren,

Clay-colored Thrush, Baltimore Oriole, Great-tailed Grackle, Melodious Blackbird, Yellow Warbler, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, and Grayish Saltator.

The Odd Ones

These are some of the birds that occasionally show up to feed on fruit or flowers or just fly through the airspace of the yard. More are possible especially during migration.

White-tipped Dove, Striped and Squirrel Cuckoos,

Ringed Kingfisher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Blue-vented Hummingbird, Crested Caracara, White-crowned and White-fronted Parrots, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Masked Tityra,

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn, Cliff, and Bank Swallows, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Montezuma Oropendola, Giant and Bronzed Cowbirds, Orchard Oriole, Rufous-capped Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Buff-throated Saltator.

Birds Heard but not Seen

These are the species whose vocal capabilities bring them into my sphere of identification yet I never see them because their required habitats just don’t make it onto my street. They include the rollicking calls of Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl,

occasional Common Pauraque, Mottled Owl and Rufous-and-white Wren, and very rarely, Tropical Screech-Owl.

Birding efforts will continue to be home bound in the coming days but with migration just around the corner, it’s only going to get better. I hope you are all staying healthy, keeping busy, and watching the birds in your respective yards. Eventually, we will be back out in the field, I hope to see you there.