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Birding Costa Rica birding lodges birds to watch for in Costa Rica

A Few Birds To Look For On The Cerro Lodge Road

Cerro Lodge is one of the main accommodation options for birders visiting the Carara area. It’s also one of the only real options but that doesn’t take away from its value in terms of proximity to the park, service, comfort, and (best of all), good, on-site birding. Given that reforestation efforts have resulted in more birds at the lodge itself, more fruit feeders, hummingbird bushes, and an overlook that can turn up everything from raptors, macaws, parrots, parakeets, Yellow-billed Cotinga (typically distant), trogons, and flyby Muscovy Duck, don’t be surprised if you feel completely satisfied with birding from the lodge restaurant. But, if you feel like stepping off the lodge property, get ready for more great birding on the road that runs in front of Cerro Lodge.

This road gets birdy by way of patches of roadside dry forest, second growth, mango orchards, fields, a small seasonal marsh, and a flat, floodplain area near the Tarcoles River. As one might expect, that mosaic of habitats has resulted in a fair bird list, and I suspect that several other species could show. In addition to a wide variety of common edge species, these are some other key birds to look for:

Crane Hawk

This raptor might be the star of the Cerro Lodge bird assemblage. Although not exactly abundant and never guaranteed, the lodge and the road are probably the most reliable sites in Costa Rica for this species. In this country, the raptor with the long, red legs prefers riparian zones with large trees in lowland areas, mostly on the Pacific slope. The proximity of the Tarcoles River to the road and the lodge apparently works well for this cool bird because it’s seen here quite often. If you don’t get it from the restaurant, a day of focused birding on the road should turn up one or more of this nice raptor. In addition to both caracaras, other raptors can also show up including Short-tailed, Zone-tailed, Common Black, and Gray Hawks, Gray-headed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, and Collared Forest-Falcon. Down in the floodplain, keep an eye out for Pearl Kite.

Muscovy Duck

It might not seem exciting but it’s still worth knowing that this area is a good one for wild Muscovy Ducks. One or more can fly over the lodge, road, or be visible from the lodge restaurant. The abundance of this species probably varies with water levels in the surrounding area. I usually see one or more flybys in the morning but there are times when I haven’t seen any, and I recall one morning when more than a dozen were seen from the restaurant.

Double Striped Thick-Knee

If you still need this weird one, watch for it in open fields anywhere on the road, but especially in the floodplain area just before dawn.

Striped Cuckoo and Lesser ground-Cuckoo

The Striped is regular from the lodge and along the road and the ground-cuckoo is probably increasing.


Although Black and White used to be a given at the lodge, unfortunately, it’s not as regular as in the past. It still occurs in the area though and does still visit the lodge on occasion. Other owl species that can show up include Barn, Spectacled, Mottled, and Pacific Screech. Striped is also heard and seen from time to time. The most common owl species is Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

Various dry forest species

Many dry forest species are common at the lodge and along the road including stunners like Turquoise-browed Motmot and Black-headed Trogon.

The motmot

The trogon

These two can occur at the lodge and anywhere on the road along with species like Stripe-headed Sparrow, Brown-crested and Nutting’s Flycatchers, and White-lored Gnatcatcher. Checking spots with dense vegetation and a more forested aspect can turn up Olive Sparrow, Banded Wren, Royal Flycatcher, and even Stub-tailed Spadebill. Beauties like Blue Grosbeak and Painted Bunting are also regular in scrubby habitats along the road.

Stripe-headed Sparrow

White-lored Gnatcatcher

White-necked Puffbird

This cool bird seems to be increasing at this site and is now regular along the road and even at the lodge itself.

Macaws, parrots and the like

Thankfully, Scarlet Macaws are doing very well in Costa Rica. While watching them fly past and perch in trees at and near Cerro, you can also watch for flyby Yellow-naped, White-fronted, and Red-lored Parrots, White-crowned Parrots, Orange-fronted and Orange-chinned Parakeets, and, when certain trees are seeding, hundreds of Crimson-fronted Parakeets. At times, Brown-hooded and Mealy Parrots can also occur for a fine Psittacine sweep.

This stunner is always around.

White-throated Magpie-Jay

Last but not least, watch for this spectacular jay on the road and at the lodge feeders.

Enjoy birding at Cerro and vicinity, I hope to see you out there! Please see an updated bird list below:

List of birds identified at Cerro Lodge and the road in front of the lodge, with abundance as of 2017
This list probably awaits more additions, especially from the more heavily wooded area on the northern part of the property.
c- common, u- uncommon, r – rare, vr- very rare and vagrants
Please send additions to the list or rare sightings to [email protected]
Area covered includes the vicinity of Cerro Lodge and the road to Cerro Lodge from the highway to where it dead-ends on the river flood plain.
Keep in mind that the abundance of various species is likely changing due to the effects of climate change.
Great Tinamour
Little Tinamouu
Muscovy Ducku
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducku
Blue-winged Tealr
Masked Duckvr
Gray-headed Chachalacar
Least Greber
Magnificent Frigatebirdu
Wood Storkc
Neotropic Cormorantu
Bare-throated Tiger-Heronc
Great Blue Heronu
Great Egretc
Snowy Egretu
Little Blue Heronc
Tricolored Heronu
Cattle Egretc
Green Heronc
Boat-billed Heronr
Yellow-crowned Night-Heronr
White Ibisc
Roseate Spoonbillu
Black Vulturec
Turkey Vulturec
King Vulturer
Pearl Kiter
Hook-billed Kitevr
Gray-headed Kiter
Double-toothed Kiter
Plumbeous Kitec
Tiny Hawkvr
Crane Hawku
Gray Hawkc
Common Black-Hawkc
Broad-winged Hawkc
Short-tailed Hawkc
Zone-tailed Hawku
Swainson’s Hawkr
Red-tailed Hawkr
White-throated Crakevr
Purple Gallinulec
Gray-cowled Wood-Railu
Double-striped Thick-Kneeu
Southern Lapwingu
Northern Jacanac
Black-necked Stiltu
Solitary Sandpiperu
Spotted Sandpiperu
Lesser Yellowlegsr
Pale-vented Pigeonvr
Red-billed Pigeonc
White-winged Dovec
White-tipped Dovec
Inca Dovec
Common Ground-Dovec
Plain-breasted Ground-Dover
Ruddy Ground-Dovec
Blue Ground-Dover
Squirrel Cuckooc
Groove-billed Anic
Lesser Ground-Cuckoor
Mangrove Cuckoou
Barn Owlu
Spectacled Owlr
Mottled Owlu
Black and White Owlc
Pacific Screech Owlc
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owlc
Striped Owlr
Common Pauraquec
Lesser Nighthawkc
Northern Potoovr
White-collared Swiftc
Chestnut-collared Swiftu
Black swiftr
Spot-fronted Swiftr
Vaux’s Swiftu
Costa Rican Swiftu
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swiftu
Long-billed Hermitr
Stripe-throated Hermitu
Scaly-breasted Hummingbirdc
Canivet’s Emeraldu
Steely-vented Hummingbirdc
Blue-throated Goldentailc
Cinnamon Hummingbirdc
Rufous-tailed Hummingbirdc
Charming Hummingbirdr
Mangrove Hummingbirdvr
Ruby-throated Hummingbirdc
Plain-capped Starthroatu
Green-breasted Mangoc
Slaty-tailed Trogonr
Black-headed Trogonc
Gartered Trogonc
Lesson’s Motmotu
Turquoise-browed Motmotc
Ringed Kingfisheru
Belted Kingfisherr
Green Kingfisheru
Amazon Kingfisherr
American Pygmy-Kingfisherr
White-necked Puffbirdc
Yellow-throated Toucanr
Keel-billed Toucanvr
Fiery-billed Aracarir
Olivaceous Piculetr
Hoffman’s Woodpeckerc
Lineated Woodpeckerc
Pale-billed Woodpeckeru
Bat Falconr
Peregrine Falconu
Collared Forest-Falconu
Crested Caracarac
Yellow-headed Caracarac
Laughing Falconc
Crimson-fronted Parakeetc
Orange-fronted Parakeetc
Orange-chinned Parakeetc
White-crowned Parrotc
Brown-hooded Parrotu
White-fronted Parrotc
Red-lored Parrotc
Mealy Parrotr
Yellow-naped Parrotc
Scarlet Macawc
Barred Antshrikec
Olivaceous Woodcreeperu
Streak-headed Woodcreeperc
Cocoa Woodcreeperu
Northern Barred Woodcreeperr
Northern Beardless Tyrannuletc
Southern Beardless Tyrannuletr
Paltry Tyrannuletu
Northern Bentbillr
Stub-tailed Spadebillr
Royal Flycatcherr
Yellow-bellied Elaeniau
Yellow-olive Flycatcherc
Greenish Elaeniac
Common Tody-Flycatcherc
Bright-rumped Atillac
Tropical Peweeu
Yellow-bellied Flycatcherc
Willow Flycatcherc
Alder Flycatcheru
Panama Flycatcherr
Great-crested Flycatcherc
Brown-crested Flycatcherc
Nutting’s Flycatcherc
Dusky-capped Flycatcherc
Boat-billed Flycatcherc
Great Kiskadeec
Social Flycatcherc
Streaked Flycatcherc
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcherc
Piratic Flycatcherc
Tropical Kingbirdc
Western Kingbirdr
Eastern Kingbirdu
Scissor-tailed Flycatcheru
Yellow-billed Cotingar
Three-wattled Bellbirdvr
Long-tailed Manakinu
Rose-throated Becardc
Masked Tityrac
Black-crowned Tityrac
Scrub Greenletvr
Lesser Greenletu
Yellow-throated Vireoc
Philadelphia Vireoc
Yellow-green Vireoc
Red-eyed Vireor
White-throated Magpie-Jayu
Brown Jayc
Cliff Swallowc
Southern Rough-winged Swallowc
Northern Rough-winged Swallowc
Barn Swallowc
Bank Swallowc
Mangrove Swallowu
Gray-breasted Martinc
White-lored Gnatcatcherc
Tropical Gnatcatcherc
Long-billed Gnatwrenu
Rufous-naped Wrenc
Rufous-breasted Wrenu
Banded Wrenu
Rufous and white Wrenu
Cabanis’s Wrenc
House Wrenc
Clay-colored Robinc
Swainson’s Thrushc
Wood Thrushu
Tennessee Warblerc
Yellow Warblerc
Hooded Warblerr
American Redstartr
Prothonotary Warbleru
Rufous-capped Warblerc
Chestnut-sided Warblerc
Black and White Warblerc
Northern Waterthrushc
Gray-crowned Yellowthroatc
Summer Tanagerc
Western Tanageru
Blue-gray Tanagerc
Palm Tanageru
Cherrie’s Tanagerr
Gray-headed Tanageru
Red-legged Honeycreeperc
Stripe-headed Sparrowc
Buff-throated Saltatorc
Grayish Saltatoru
Blue-black Grassquitc
White-collared Seedeaterc
Variable Seedeaterc
Rose-breasted Grosbeakc
Blue Grosbeakc
Indigo Buntingu
Painted Buntingu
Eastern Meadowlarkc
Red-winged Blackbirdu
Melodious Blackbirdc
Great-tailed Gracklec
Baltimore Oriolec
Orchard Orioleu
Bronzed Cowbirdc
Montezuma Oropendolau
Yellow-crowned Euphoniau
Scrub Euphoniac
Yellow-throated Euphoniac
Birding Costa Rica Introduction lowlands Pacific slope

Costa Rican Owls: Black and White Owl (Ciccaba nigrolineata)

All owls are very cool birds. If Fonzie was a birder he would give a resounding two thumbs up, “Aaaeeyyyyy” for Owls. They are way up there on the bird coolness scale because:

1. They are raptors: All raptors are automatically cool; even Common Buzzards and Red-tailed Hawks.

2. They are nocturnal.

3. They can see in the dark.

4. We hardly even see them even where they are common.

Of the 16 species of owls that have occurred in Costa Rica, the Black and White Owl is one of the most stunning. Like its name says, it is as black and white as an oreo cookie. It also has an orange bill and legs to brighten thing up.

They occur from the lowlands to middle elevations (1,500 meters) and are mostly found in humid forested areas. A bird of the forest interior as well as forest edge, their distribution is probably limited for the most part by availability of large trees for nesting and their main food source; large insects bats. Here is a link to an article that describes how Black and White and the related, similar sized Mottled Owl avoid competition by food source. In short, the Mottled takes rodents while the Black and White sticks to bats. Black and White Owls are sometimes seen around streetlights located near primary forest or old second growth. They might prefer microhabitats where it is easier to catch bats. Places like tree-fall gaps and forest edge. In fact, the only places I have heard and seen Black and White Owls at night are in just such situations such as the soccer field and buildings at OTS (open areas surrounded by old second growth), and at streetlights adjacent to old second growth at nearby Selva Verde and Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Where I have seen Black and White during the day, though, is where 1,000s of people (birders and non-birders alike) have seen Black and White Owls; at the main plaza in Orotina.

The plaza owls and their offspring could be the most frequently seen owls in the world.

Orotina is a small town in the hot, humid foothills of the central Pacific slope. Not far from Carara, the surrounding area hosts some humid forest and dry forest species. The main plaza is like other plazas in Costa Rican towns; busy and noisy, a meeting place for everyone in town under the shade of several large trees.

Despite all of the people activity, it has also hosted a pair of Black and White Owls since at least 1998. They can be found roosting in any of the trees and can be surprisingly difficult to find. The quickest way to see them is to ask the plaza ice cream vendor, “Victor Hugo”. He may have been the first person to find the owls in the plaza. He usually knows where they are and might also attempt to sell you real estate as happened on my past visit. Even if you don’t want to buy land and become an Orotinian, at least buy an ice cream or “shaved ice” from him if he shows you the owls.