web analytics
bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

Losses, Connections, and Costa Rica Birding Reflections- August and September, 2023

There is no late summer in Costa Rica. In this nation of uplifted land and high biodiversity, it’s August all year long. There is only the arrival and departure of rain, at times, on a daily basis. Even so, we are still touched by the weather cycles of the north.

Up north, the waning summer was and is marked by movements of Canada Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, and sandpipers. These were the “early” migrants, the avian signals of another nesting season come to an end.

During the 80s up north, August was walking on the northern Lake Erie shore and looking for shorebirds feeding in the algae. Migration was also happening in the fields and woodlands that approached the lake; utterly fantastic migration with Accipiters flapping by and passerines parading through the woods.

Sometime 1980s, maybe 1984, I had great August lifers there; my first Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, warblers, and a fantastic Loggerhead Shrike. During those years, there were lots more birds.

There was also wonderful music including this gem by the recently passed Robbie Robertson (RIP and so many thanks for the music!). To me, it was and still is a song of beautiful mystery, northern nights, and being 16 years old. At that time, I would have never have guessed that one of my brothers would eventually have children with one of Robbie’s relatives. We are all connected, eventually, in some way.

Sadly, Robbie wasn’t the only gifted person to have recently passed away. The extremely talented Sinead O’Conner has also passed on, always too soon. I loved her music, it was one of a kind, there was just nothing like it! Around the same time that CFNY was playing “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”, I was also seeing posters outside record stores that showed a bald woman and read, “The Lion and The Cobra”.

I wondered, what on earth is that? Answers came in the form of CFNY playing “Troy” by Sinead, over and over. There were other songs too, including “Just Like You said It Would Be“.

I could never have imagined that, in 1999, I would meet and befriend the guy playing guitar in that video while we both searched for our lifer Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager near Golfito.

Yes, not only has Robert Dean illustrated several field guides for birds, he also helped make lots of wonderful music, including songs with Sinead. He hasn’t stopped making music either, check out, Light of Day.

In the birding world, we have also lost a couple of cherished and irreplaceable people. Tom Johnson was one of the most innovative, expert, and well-liked birders in North America. His tragic passing was and will continue to be a terrible loss for his loved ones and the birding community at large. I often marveled over his amazing night photography of migrating passerines and saw him a couple times in Costa Rica while he led tours. I wish I would have had the fortune of knowing him as well as so many other birders did.

Sadly, Ron Pittaway also passed on recently. Ron created the fantastic Winter Finch Forecast and had an impact on birding in Canada, Western New York, and elsewhere in a number of ways. He was such a nice guy and I will always remember his smile while sharing the Niagara Gorge gull experience with his partner Jean Iron, friends Willy D’Anna, Betsy Potter, Dean DiTommasso, and other Larophiles. I particularly like this image and post by Alvaro Jaramillo.

These days, as I watch tanagers pick berries from cloud forest trees, and scan eternal ocean waters for seabirds, I’ll be thinking of these people and how they helped make the world a better place.

I will also think of them as I watch for the birds that connect us to Cape May and those northern shores of Lake Erie. I’ll be looking for many of the same shorebirds, and those “early” warblers, but we also find the first flocks of migrating kites, and Pacific shorebirds like the Surfbird.

It’s a good time to be birding in Costa Rica, it always is. Here are a few things to reflect and note while birding Costa Rica this August and September.

Helping a Hook-billed Kite in Costa Rica

Recently, Paz Irola and Ernesto Carman of Get Your Birds! and the Cabanisi Project helped rescue a young Hook-billed Kite. Watch this impressive video to see how they saved the life of this young bird by feeding it snails! It’s also interesting to hear the juvenile vocalize. Perhaps it’s antbird-like song is yet another adaptation to help hide these young kites from larger raptors that would eat them.

A young Hook-billed Kite from another day.

The First Fall Warbler Count for Costa Rica

A lot of warblers winter in and migrate through Costa Rica. Cerulean Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, and other species make important stops in the country as they make their way to South America. To promote this annual passage, encourage eBird use, and get more data about numbers of migrant warblers, some local guides and birders have organized a country-wide warbler count.

If you will be birding in Costa Rica in September, you can participate too! All you need to do is go birding in Costa Rica on September 9th, and share your lists with user name, “ReinitasCR”.


Recently, an Oilbird was sighted in a night tour in the Monteverde area. August is a great time of year to see this bird in Costa Rica. If you will be visiting the Monteverde area soon, ask if they have been seeing Oilbirds at the night tour for the Monteverde Wildlife Refuge as well as other night walks. If so, you have a very good chance of seeing one on that night walk tour!

Umbrellabirds and Tiny Hawk at Centro Manu

Umbrellabirds are definitely back at Centro Manu. Recently, several local birders have gotten excellent shots of this rare and endangered cotinga. It may take a while to see one but birding this site will give you a fair shot.

Not to mention, the lowland-foothill forests are good for lots of other species too. Great Potoo has been roosting near the parking area, Song Wren has been seen in the forest, and local birders have also had good looks at a Tiny Hawk!

Ciudad Neily

Last but not least, this is one of the best times to year to go birding near Ciudad Neily and visit the Coto marshes. It’s probably also the easiest time to find Paint-billed Crake, see other crakes, and find Masked Duck. Check for vagrant shorebirds and other odd, rare birds among the thousands of waterbirds that use the area! Not to mention, folks are still seeing a pair of Lesser Kiskadees on the road in the Las Pangas sector of Coto 47.

To get ready for your trip and see where to go birding in Costa Rica, check out my 900 plus page ebook, “How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica”. As always, I hope to see you in Costa Rica!

bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica planning birding trip Costa Rica preparing for your trip

Some Costa Rica Birding News, March 2022

As March comes to an end, so does another high season for birding in Costa Rica. Quite a few trips happen in April and birders will still be visiting in the coming months but most folks are here from January until the end of March. With that in mind, whether headed to Costa Rica soon or at a later date, here’s a bit of birding news to help with your trip.

Turquoise Cotinga at Jaco

Topping this latest bit of Costa Rica birding news is the occurrence of a male Turquoise Cotinga near Jaco. Although this fantastic near endemic does naturally occur in that area, it is much more easily seen in the Osa Peninsula and other sites in southern Costa Rica. The bird has been frequenting a fruiting tree in the rice fields on the road to the Rainforest Aerial Tram (the Teleferico). It’s impossible to say how long it will stick around but who knows, with some birding luck, it will be joined by another male or female. If you go for it but don’t see this feathered beauty, consolation could come in the form of the good birding typically found at that site.

If you aren’t visiting the Jaco area and want to see Turquoise Cotinga (and of course you do) not to worry, there are other, more reliable sites for this mega. A couple of the best are around San Isidro del General, forest in the Osa Peninsula, and, for more adventurous birders, forest in the northern side of Carara near Macaw Lodge.

Other Cotinga News

The equally turquoise, purple, and coveted Lovely Cotinga is still being seen at or near Rancho Naturalista. Other good sites for it include the Tenorio-Bijagua area, El Copal, and other sizeable areas of middle elevation forest on the Caribbean slope. Forest at around 1,000 to 1,400 meters elevation seems to be especially good for this choice species.

Snowy and Yellow-billed Cotingas are also being seen in their usual haunts. If birding the Carara area, the best way to see the few remnant members of the local Yellow-billed Cotinga population is by watching for them from 7 to 8:30 in the morning from the tower at Cerro Lodge, along the Cerro Lodge Road, or from the Crocodile Bridge. Likewise, you may see them in those same areas between 3 and 4:30 p.m. These are the times when this endangered species moves between the Tarcoles mangroves and the rainforests of the national park.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird has been showing at Curi-Cancha, I wonder if a few additional birds might be frequenting the beautiful cloud forests of the Santa Elena Reserve?

Thanks to its frequent seriously loud voice, the Three-wattled Bellbird is much easier to locate and see than the other cotingas. This is also a good time of year to marvel over the male’s bizarre, worm-like wattles. Watch for it in the Monteverde area and sites near San Ramon (contact Ignacio at Nacho Tours!).

How to See More Hawk-Eagles

Hawk-eagles are like big, hefty goshawks with cool plumage patterns and a penchant to give distinctive whistled calls while soaring high above tghe tropical forest. That seems to make sense because if I could fly, I mean, I think I would do the same thing. Can you imagine the view?!?. Knowing about that behavior is one way to see more of them. The other big factor is knowing where they occur. In general, both Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles live in large areas of rainforest and cloud forest. The Black also occurs in patchy forest and may even prefer this type of habitat.

As for the Black-and-white, based on the decrease in sightings of this species in Costa Rica over the past twenty years, it has certainly declined and disappeared from various areas. Since this species doesn’t seem to vocalize as much as the other hawk-eagles, and tends to hide in plain sight by soaring high overhead, it being somewhat overlooked can’t be entirely discounted. Even so, this large bird and reptile specialist does seem to have declined. Amazingly, it might even be gone from the Osa Peninsula. Given fairly recent declines in populations of medium and large birds that it requires as a food source, populations of this hawk-eagle in Costa Rica aren’t likely to bounce back any time soon.

A Black-and-white Hawk Eagle flying high into the sky.

At present, the best sites to look for it in Costa Rica are in the forests of the Amistad National Park north and west of San Vito, and Veragua and other forested sites near Limon. Other areas to check include the forests of Sarapiqui, northern Costa Rica, and around Braulio Carrillo National Park. As a bonus, there is one bird that has been frequenting the Bosque del Nino area north of Grecia (!). Keep an eye out for it when birding Poas!

Want Hummingbirds? Check Flowering Trees

Brown Violetear

Hummingbirds don’t always visit feeders. Lately, there haven’t been as many hummingbirds at Cinchona but there have been more flowering Ingas and other trees that our favorite little nectivores are probably feeding on. Yesterday, while birding near Albergue del Socorro, the chipping calls of lekking Brown Violetears were a constant, common sound and I heard a few other hummingbird species that have been absent from the feeders at Cinchona. Look for flowering trees and work on your hummingbird identification skills. Keep an eye out for the likes of coquettes, thorntails, goldentails, and other species.

To know where cotingas and other birds have been seen, eBird is a good go to source. Even so, keep in mind that in Costa Rica, there’s a lot of excellent habitat that sees few if any eBird visits. The birds are there too, go there and you will see some of them, maybe a lot of them. However, even then, it helps to know how to look for uncommon birds like cotingas and hawk-eagles. Get ready for your birding trip to Costa Rica and support this blog by purchasing How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica, a 700 plus page ebook with tips and site information to find every species in Costa Rica. I hope to see you here!

bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica

Birding in Costa Rica News, June and July, 2021

Getting ready for a birding trip to Costa Rica? Maybe just dreaming about coming to Costa Rica. Either way, this information is for you, for the birders, future birders, and birding curious folks of the world. This post will be especially useful for people on the edge of coming to Costa Rica.

In any case, I’ll start by saying that even if the following information doesn’t include birds you hope to see nor sites you expect to visit, there are no worries in this birding house. Rest assured that all of those other birds, the dozens of hummingbirds, chipping flocks of tanagers, haunting calls of antbirds and wrens, toucans, and the rest are present in Costa Rica and waiting to be seen.

Exquisites such as the Green Thorntail included.

In other words, the birding is fantastic as usual. As for myself, I’m looking forward to getting out and exploring sites old and new. I sort of always feel that way, am touched by that instinctive curious pull to explore the mossy forest, the places where biodiversity lurks and chirps from the shade, where countless life hides high overhead, in plain sight.

Look and listen close and you will find treasures, especially in biodynamic Costa Rica. Now for some news:

Maroon-chested Ground-Doves

Yes, that’s right, we got the plural going on up in here! A small group of this uber elusive almost wannabe fruit-dove have been showing at one of the best sites for it; the trails of the Museo Volcan. Situated on the upper slopes of Volcan Irazu at the Noche Buena Restaurant, these trails access edge, second growth, and high elevation forest good for a number of uncommon birds. In addition to the ground-doves (which rarely show this well), Slaty Finch, Peg-billed Finch, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl and other nice birdies are also possible. Needless to say, a number of lucky local birders have been twitching those doves!

Rains and the July Dry Spell

The rainy season is here and that’s good for the birds and the wet , tropical ecosystems they depend on. In most places, it rains every afternoon. In the mountains, the water falls or mists or soaks for much of the day and night. A few places have been subjected to some flooding but so far, there have been few landslides or other typical occasional effects of the annual rains.

On the bird front, the rains also generate insect hatches that help many species raise broods. That wealth of flying insects can make it much easier to see various swifts. On recent mornings when thousands of recently hatched ants have helicoptered up above the trees, I have been gifted with rare close looks at Chestnut-collared, Black, White-chinned, and Spot-fronted Swifts among the more commonly seen Vaux’s and White-collareds.

As for July, according to the local weather forecast system, the annual mini dry spell is expected although mostly for the Central Valley and Pacific Northwest. It might also be hotter and drier in August than July.

Range Expanding Dry Forest Species

Keep an eye out for lowland and Pacific slope species that have been expanding their ranges into the Central Valley and elsewhere. Recently, such dry forest species as Turquoise-browed Motmot, Common Ground-Dove, and Orange-fronted Parakeet have been spotted at typically wet sites near Cartago. This is unheard of but perhaps not unexpected during the current climate crisis. As far as birding goes, don’t be surprised if you see some birds away from where they would be more expected.

Hotel Quelitales

As this hotspot sees increased birding exploration, its potential continues to be realized. Some of the more interesting and coveted recent sightings have included views of Black-and-white Becard, Sharpbill, Ochre- breasted Antpitta. Many other “good” birds are also possible and the birding at Quelitales is always excellent.

Casa Tangara Dowii

Another fairly new, classic birding hotspot, the headquarters of the Costa Rican Birding Hotspots Route continues to be an excellent easy place to see Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, and other nice highland species. Lately, a Chiriqui Quail-Dove has also been showing!

White-cheeked Pintail Surprise!

Apparently, this mega for Costa Rica has not flown the coupe! Recently, it was spotted near Ciudad Neilly, the same region where it was being seen earlier this year. Maybe it has been there since then, hiding somewhere out in the rice fields? Hopefully it will stick around for much longer. Since this birding site (Coto 47) gets flooded now and then during the rainy season, if you visit, access may or may not be possible.

This area is a good site for Masked Duck. What else is hiding in those tropical wetlands?

The Local Bird Information Keeps Getting Better

I wouldn’t know about the pintail, ground-doves, nor other sightings (such as umbrellabird seen recently at Arenal Observatory Lodge), if it weren’t for local birders heading into the field and reporting their sightings. Many thanks go to them! As the birding community in Costa Rica has grown, more information about bird distribution and sites have become available. The more people interested in birds and nature the better, let’s look forward to having more sites for uncommon species.

What About the Pandemic?

Yes, it’s still happening but in some places, things are certainly looking up. In Costa Rica, a sudden rise in cases happened in May and there are still a fair number of daily cases BUT, it has also been steadily decreasing and some experts believe that we had our peak. Vaccinations in Costa Rica continue to move forward, at the moment, 15% of the country is totally vaccinated. Hopefully, the rate of vaccination will increase especially since we are expected to receive another shipment of vaccines any day now.

In the meantime, mask wearing and other protocols are still in place and it seems that most people and businesses follow them. Visitors must still fill out an official online health form and need to have a certain type of health insurance (even if you have been vaccinated). See more details about those requirements here.

If you are headed to Costa Rica soon, get ready for fantastic, easy birding in beautiful tropical settings. If the trip is later this year or the next, get the Costa Rica Birds field guide app to start studying those birds now, there’s a lot to see!

bird finding in Costa Rica

News for Birding in Costa Rica, September, 2019

Not many birders visit Costa Rica in September. The 9th month of the year and October see minimal visits for birding. This is on account of the rain and because most birders coming to Costa Rica prefer to coincide their visit with home equaling freezing cold, ice rain or other challenging conditions. I can’t blame them, if I still lived in the northern temperate zone, I would probably do the same. But what about that rain? What about the birding during fall in Costa Rica? Is it really that wet?

Although it does rain more at this time of year, it doesn’t rain all of the time AND, on the Caribbean slope, it can actually be quite dry. Throw in some millions of migrating birds and now is as good a time as many to go birding in Costa Rica. The following is a bit of birding news for the next two months:

Aplomado Falcon Twitch

The juvenile Aplomado Falcon that has been living in the middle of San Isidro del General is the biggest twitch that Costa Rica has ever seen. Even though we have had very few twitches, this one would always take the cake. In Costa Rica, the Aplomado Falcon is a vagrant species that has typically occurred closer to Nicaragua and just for a day or two. This bird has been present much further south since July and a good percentage of local birders have made the trip to see and photograph it. As a bonus, the falcon has also acted as a bird ambassador of sorts with its human neighbors and will hopefully spur more interest in birds and birding in the General Valley. We have yet to go, I sure hope the bird stays long enough for us to feel like making that long drive over the mountains.

Rufous-crested Coquette Twitch!

I suppose the discovery of an adult male Rufous-crested Coquette shows that one good twitch deserves another. This rare vagrant also showed in the southern zone, this time near San Vito. Various birders have gone to see it, even a few that had already done the Aplomado Falcon trip! Unlike the falcon, this special little bird probably won’t stay that long, likely leaving after the trees it has been feeding on have stopped flowering. Since we already did a long trip to San Vito earlier this year, I doubt we will be trying for this one. Hopefully, we could get extremely lucky and find our own coquette and falcon. I’m sure that a few more of both species are in Costa Rica, especially the coquette.

San Vito is also one of the few places to see Crested Oropendola in Costa Rica.

More megas on the way

With fall migration taking place, more rare and vagrant species for Costa Rica are surely in-country now or will be here soon. As always, the challenge is finding them. There could be several skulking Conn. Warblers near any number of regular sites but if no one birds there, they will never be found even if they decide to do a wood-warbler waltz in the middle of the road. Luckily, we do have more people in the field these days and that will increase the chances of locating choice megas.

The First South Caribbean Bird Count!

I am so pleased this is happening as I have always hoped for a bird count during fall migration on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The migration is excellent, the resident birding is also excellent, and this little birded area always has a lot to offer. Sadly, I don’t see how I can participate in the count but I am happy that many other local birders will be counting birds on the first weekend of October.

A typical site near Manzanillo.


Major shorebird movements are happening in Costa Rica, mostly on the Pacific Coast but there are smaller numbers of birds that appear in estuaries and other bits of limited shorebird habitat on the shore of the Caribbean. The best shorebirding sites are the salt ponds at Punta Morales and Chomes but the birding can be likewise fantastic at Colorado, Ensenada, other sites in the Gulf of Nicoya, as well as near Parrita and any number of river mouths on the Pacific. Personally, I am hoping that we can get in at least one other trip to the Pacific Coast as well as a couple of trips to a couple of reservoirs to see if we can find Long-billed Dowitcher, Baird’s Sandpiper, and White-rumped Sandpiper.

Regarding places to visit, it’s hard to think of new sites that might stand out. The birding in Costa Rica is typically great and there are many many places to go birding. If I could make one suggestion, it would be to just get in as much birding time as you can in or near the largest areas of mature forest. These are the areas more likely to host populations of rare birds along with all of the common species along with lots of other wildlife. To learn more about where to go birding in Costa Rica, support this blog by purchasing my 700 page plus e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica. I hope to see you in the field!