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bird finding in Costa Rica Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica

Looking for Cotingas in the Rain

The rains have calmed down the past week or so. That doesn’t mean that the roaring precipitation has stopped and by no means should the sky tap actually be turned off. Water means life and the more the better! Well, maybe not to the degree of causing floods and landslides but yes, a steady series of downpours will work out fine. I see that rain coming down to smack the leaves and as always, I can’t help but wonder, how do birds deal? What do they do when it rains for hours? Do they get out and forage or do the tanagers and Russet Antshrikes hunker down to conserve energy and wait for their window of respite?

The Russet Antshrike is a common member of mixed flocks at many humid forest sites in Costa Rica, If you see a foliage-gleaner looking bird checking dead leaves in the canopy, it’s probably this species. 

I’m not sure what they do and it must vary by species but in general, it seems that most birds of forest and field get active when the heavy rains turn to mist; they seem to take advantage of that window when the pounding rain won’t drive them to the ground. As for raptors, it seems like they also take advantage of the almost dry window to use an exposed perch. Indeed, in such situations, I see Bicolored Hawk more often. Other birds can also perch in the open, some of them even doing so under the curtain of heavy tropical rains. It’s a good time to look for cotingas and not necessarily because you will find them, but because when it rains, there’s not a whole lot of other birding you can do. If it does pour, at least you can scope and scan the canopy from under a roof.

Bicolored Hawk perched in the rain.

This is basically what it takes to see some of the more esteemed and wanted members of this fantastic bird family. Although I would have to put the endangered and amazing Bare-necked Umbrellabird at the top of the awesome cotinga list for Costa Rica, the four classic cotingas are still very much desired and not just by those who travel to Costa Rica for birding. Those of us who live in Tiquicia want to see Snowy, Yellow-billed, Lovely, and Turquoise Cotingas just as badly and many a local birder has yet to lay eyes on any of these fab four. And even if you have admired the four classic canopy dwellers, they still get priority because you just can’t get enough of those cool birds. They look too weird and wonderful to not get excited about the prospect of seeing them, and, we just don’t see them that often.

Such a cotinga situation keeps me looking for them, keeps my eyes on the highest points of trees, keeps me looking for trees with cotinga food. And, especially when I’m birding with special people who have yet to see these local beauties. Recently, I have kept an eye out for cotingas on the Caribbean slope, rain or shine (I guess mostly rain). Whereas most birders in Costa Rica get a good visual taste of cotingas at the Rincon bridge, the duo on the Caribbean side of the country are much more evasive. Head south of Limon and the Snowy becomes much less of an issue but the Lovely is always rare, no matter where you bring the binos. Given its eye-catching appearance, I guess the shining blue and purple thing should be rare. Yes. Shiny and blue as Cheyenne turquoise, ornamented with amethyst. I have only seen it twice, I’d like to see it again! Most of all, I’d like to admire the bird with someone who likewise feels that cotingas are fantastic.

I have looked lately but not quite enough. Checking the treetops in the Sarapiqui area has so far failed to turn up any bright white birds. I drive through the rain and steal glances at the tops of every tree in range. I’ve seen a few other things; parrots, oropendolas, sloths, and caracaras, but no Snowy Cotinga. In the Socorro area, I have made a few concerted attempts to find a Lovely. The extensive canopy views are right and so is the elevation and timing but the birds are rare and I haven’t put in the many hours likely necessary to connect.

A good place to look for Lovely Cotingas.

But, there’s hope in cotingaland! Although the Snowy has certainly declined in Sarapiqui, it’s still around, if we keep looking, we will find it perched high in the rain, hopefully drying in the sun. As for the Lovely, I did notice fig trees beginning to fruit around Socorro including one massive tree that might even be hosting a living doveish jewel as I write this. I hope to check it tomorrow. I won’t be able to spend hours watching and waiting for the cotinga but the blue and purple bird has to be visiting that tree at some point, maybe even calling it its new temporary home. I’ll be there to check it, at least for a bit. If I see it, I’ll share the gen. on Facebook, Whatsapp, and Twitter because everyone should have a chance to see a cotinga, especially one of the lovely kind.

Want to learn more about finding cotingas and the best places to see them in Costa Rica? Support this blog by purchasing the 700 page plus e-book, How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica.

Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica caribbean slope

Is It Going to Snow when Birding Costa Rica?

Costa Rica probably hasn’t experienced a good snowfall since the last ice age and even then it was surely limited to the highest peaks. Treeline habitats probably experience frost once in a while but most of the country is consistently warm. The chance of even the tiniest bit of snow further diminishes when global warming is taken into account. Heck, with the winter of 2012 shaping up to be the year without cold white precipitation in most of the northern tier states and  southern Ontario, you might wonder how or why I would even mention “snow” in reference to Costa Rica. Well, the “snow” that I’m talking about isn’t the associated with the realm of jolly Saint Nick and Ivory Gulls.

It’s snow of the avian kind and anyone headed to Costa Rica for birding hopes to experience a flurry or two because it’s kind of hard to find this feathered weather elsewhere. Not that it can’t be encountered in Honduras, Nicaragua, or western Panama, it’s just that this most wanted avian snow is more accessible in Costa Rica. I had a welcome bit of avian snowfall yesterday while birding around Chilamate, Sarapiqui and hope that it’s a harbinger of more snowy days to come when birding Costa Rica in 2012.

Costa Rica’s snowfall comes in the form of the peaceful looking Snowy Cotinga. Is it a mutant dove? An overexposed, albino tityra? Nope, the Snowy Cotinga is an unmistakably, brilliant, December-white bird that swoops around the canopy of lowland rainforest in its search for delectable fruiting trees. In extensively forested areas you can sometimes encounter 6 or 8 of these magic birds as they forage together although such flurries are the exception. Typically, you have to be content with seeing just one or two but if you bird the right places, you have a good chance of snow.

You usually see Snowy Cotingas like this, sitting high up in some emergent tree.

You get better looks if there is a fruiting tree in the vicinity.

Even if they try to hide, Snowy Cotingas are still unmistakable.

Snowy Cotingas can show up at any forested site in the Caribbean lowlands. Scan the treetops and watch fruiting trees for them in the Sarapiqui area, southeastern Costa Rica, Tortuguero, and the area around Laguna del Lagarto. Wishing you snowy days in Costa Rica in 2012!

Birding Costa Rica caribbean slope Christmas Counts Introduction lowlands

The Veragua Christmas Count (part 2)

Sleep was almost as evasive as a Harpy Eagle or a dry day in Tortuguero National Park. This did not bode well for the long day of birding that awaited us in the Veragua count circle. Who knows how long we would have to hike in the humid Caribbean lowland heat? Not to mention, we also had to be as alert as hungry Bat Falcons to give an accurate count. Even though Christmas counts are more relaxed endeavors than the wild, wide-eyed craziness that happens on Big Days, you still need to give it your all and attempt to identify and count every single bird. You have to sort out the Social Flycatchers  from their Gray-capped relatives, recognize the steady, insect-like chipping notes of Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, and give an accurate count of the Cattle Egrets that fly by in white, flapping droves.

Oh, and need I forget to mention, you also have to do that all day long. You can’t give up because it is your mission to count those birds until the time is up or until you drop from heat exhaustion. And even if you are lying there in a puddle of sweat with your birding brain frazzled from counting too many gulls or cowbirds while attempting to asses numbers of Great-tailed Grackles by merit of their circus-like madcap vocalizations, it is still your duty to croak out their names and numbers with rasping, over-exhausted breaths. You can’t give up on providing that precious annual data that may or may not be used to asses avian distribution at some later time. You just don’t know what might happen with the data but that’s why it’s so darn valuable (seriously!). Or, if you don’t want to sacrifice yourself in the name of birds, you could always take a nap at some later point in the day. That is a far better alternative than sleeping in because the biggest peak of bird activity happens when the sun begins its long climb into the tropical sky. Miss those golden hours and you forgo making any real assessment of birds in tropical forested habitats.

So, when the clock struck 3:30 a.m., all 60 something participants jumped out of bed, rushed to get ready, and like sleep-depraved robots, walked over to the cafeteria to fuel up with coffee and gallo pinto. This was a very important morning of birding and each of us had a specific route to cover. Bagged lunches were handed out, people met up with route leaders and counters boarded minivans. I found my two fellow counters for the day in one of the minivans. They were Duaro and Einor (spelling might be wrong but the pronunciation isn’t); two guys who lived near and counted raptors at Kekoldi. When the minivan filled up, the driver closed the doors, put the air on full, and we shivered in the Caribbean lowlands (amazingly) as we drove through the dark to our count circle routes. At 4:30 a.m., Duaro, Einor, and I were dropped off at the entrance to the “Brisas de la Jungla“, we wished the other Veragua participants good luck, and officially started the count!

Our ears were eager and attentive as we trudged uphill in the dark. Ignoring the pleas of roosters and dogs to be included on the list, we listened in expectation after belting out the barking call of Mottled Owl and the wail of Black and White Owl.  Nary a response from those nocturnal creatures  but we did pick up the de facto night bird- Common Pauraque. They earned the distinction of being our first species for the day as they called and flew off the road ahead of us.

Common Pauraques live up to their name when birding Costa Rica.

It was still dark when we reached our focal point for the dawn chorus. This auspicious spot was an overlook that took in a vista of forest edge, distant forested hillsides, and farmland; ideal for parrot flybys, raptors, and picking up the sounds of both forested and open habitats. As the sun began to color the sky, the heralds of the dawn chorus made it onto the list by merit of their vocalizations. Two Collared Forest-Falcons called in the distance, a Black and white Owl sounded off to end its “day”, and Woodcreepers sang a few songs. As is typical of tropical latitudes, the sun ran above the horizon and the birds just as quickly jumped out of their roost sites. Gray-capped and Social Flycatchers were more common than Tropical Kingbirds. A few Great Kiskadees and Boat-billed Flycatchers joined in with their dawn songs and a flock of Plain-colored Tanagers and several Blue Dacnis flew into the top of a nearby tree.

The pretty Blue Dacnis is common around Veragua.

Scanning with binoculars turned up a distant flyby flock of Pale-vented Pigeons and Olive-throated Parakeets zoomed on past. As Cattle Egrets started to fly inland from roosting sites near the coast, we were  kept busy counting them while also picking up a sole Black-striped Woodcreeper, two Central American Pygmy-Owls and common birds like Buff-throated Saltator, Blue-gray Tanager, and Passerini’s Tanager. The plaintive calls of Long-tailed Tyrants also made us aware of their presence and two Striped Cuckoos started to sound off but refused to show themselves (cowards!).

Oddly enough, we didn’t see any raptors from the overlook nor did we see as many parrots as expected. Snowy Cotinga was also evasive despite being in a perfect spot to watch for it. Nevertheless, it was a good place to start the count because we racked up around 80 species in two hours (many by sound). Once the dawn chorus calmed down, Duaro, Einor, and I walked uphill through old cocoa plantations and continued to see more birds. We ticked Western Slaty Antshrike, a handsome little Double-toothed Kite, Broad-winged Hawk feeding on a lizard, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, and a short fruiting tree filled with birds. There were at least a dozen Gray-capped and Social Flycatchers, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, saltators, tanagers, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Montezuma Oropendola, Collared Aracaris, and other species feasting on the fruits.

The view from our first overlook.

Yes, it was as exciting as it sounds but even better was an extremely cooperative Central American Pygmy-Owl that came too close for binoculars after imitating its tooting song. Duaro actually took a National Geographicish video of the thing with his phone! I also got some pictures, including this one taken with the small zoom on my handheld point and shoot:

I swear, I felt like this beautiful little owl was going to use me as a perch!

Up on top of the hill, we reached some proper forest and oh did it look good for birds! Too bad we got there around 8:30 though; the requisite quiet time when birding in rainforest. We made our way to another overlook and, like the birds we were counting, rested for the next two hours. No need to walk around the forest between 9 and 11 unless you want to count insects or identify trees. Since that wasn’t part of our mission, we opted for hanging out on benches and scanning the forest canopy with the scope. Black and Turkey Vultures made their way onto the list but other than one, distant, Common Black Hawk, birds were absent from the scene. I bet that second overlook would be even better for starting the count because it overlooks intact forest. Maybe next year!

We figured our resting time was over when Purple-throated Fruitcrows started to call. They are pretty common in southeastern Costa Rica so I expected to get this one for the year on the day of the count. After a failed attempt to check out a lagoon hidden in the forest (due to it being inaccessible), we started walking downhill along one of the well-maintained trails at Brisas de la Jungla. The trail went through nice forest and old cocoa plantations with immense trees. It was pretty quiet during our time there but I bet it could turn up any number of rainforest species if you birded it during the early morning hours.

One of the trails at Brisas de la Jungla.

However, before venturing onto this trail, douse yourself with insect repellent. In fact, take a shower in the stuff until you reek of vicious chemicals. I didn’t and was literally chased out of the forest by a buzzing horde of mosquitoes. I must have gotten bit close to a hundred times and no matter how many I killed, they wouldn’t let up with their attack. Real blood sucking Ghengis Khaners in that place. I would definitely bird that trail again but not without an unhealthy supply of some seriously potent DEET spray.

Back at the safety of our dawn overlook, we continued counting from benches at that spot and this time, the cotingas were in the house! Granted, they were pretty far away, but visible enough to count them. A scan with the scope revealed at least 5 Snowy Cotingas perched in the canopy of forest on distant hillsides. This was around 3 p.m. and I bet you would have a very good chance of seeing them from the same spot at the same time of day. Look for a white speck against the green. Put the scope on it and it will either be a tityra or a Snowy Cotinga. You can also see these peace-doveish birds around Sarapiqui but they seem to be more numerous in southeastern Costa Rica (which makes sense since there is more intact forest).

That white thing is a Snowy Cotinga.

By this time of day, we didn’t get too much else of note other than one flyby Giant Cowbird. The decision was made to bird the road back down to the highway and maybe even check the river. Although we didn’t pick up anything new for the day, the walk back down was busy with common, rainforest edge species. Down by the river, we picked up Northern Waterthrush and got a surprise bird for the day: American Dipper! I didn’t expect this one because in Costa Rica, they typically occur at middle elevations and not at the 150 meters above sea level spot where we saw it.

Down by the river, we also got our last bird for the day, Blue-headed Parrot! I was especially excited about this bird because it also happened to be my 600th species for the year! I guess I was too excited and relieved to take a picture so you will have to take my word for it. Although they are still outnumbered by White-crowned Parrots in southeastern Costa Rica, a few Blue-headeds usually turn up during a day of birding in this area.

Finishing up the count.

Our Brisas de la Jungla count ended when the minivan picked us up at 5 p.m. The other participants told us tales of ticking kingfishers, egrets, Green-breasted Mangos, and other birds along the coast. We also shared and compared stories of our battles with biting bugs and agreed that this was one of the more mosquito-ridden areas of Costa Rica. The total number of species for our count territory was 122 and the number for the entire count was 408! This could make it the highest Costa Rican count for this year if not the highest species total for all 2011 Christmas counts!

The Veragua count  got so many species because the count circle includes habitats such as coastal areas, quality lowland rainforest, edge habitats, and middle elevation forests at 1,200 meters elevation. A few of the highlights from this year’s count include:

Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon: As an indication of the quality lowland forest around Veragua, 6 of this rare species were recorded!

Violaceous Quail-Dove: Although just one was found, the forested habitats in southeastern Costa Rica may be the most reliable area for this bird in the country. It’s still rare but I have also had luck with this bird in the past at the nearby Hitoy Cerere Reserve.

Red-fronted Parrotlet: Ten were recorded as they flew over a route these birds take most days of the year when commuting between highland forests and some unknown lowland site.

Owls: 7 species were recorded including a few Vermiculated Screech Owls, 5 Crested Owls, and 33 Central American Pygmy-Owls! Veragua and surroundings has got to be the easiest place to see this bird in Costa Rica.

Great Potoo: 9 recorded. Yep, this is a good area for this bird.

White-fronted Nunbird: 15 found in the count circle. This species is still regularly encountered in the area.

Spot-crowned Antvireo: 6 of this localized species were found.

Speckled Mourner: 2 found for the count. A rare bird!

Bare-necked Umbrellabird: 2 found, probably more in the area.

Purple-throated Fruitcrow: 83 counted. Like I mentioned, they are fairly common in the area!

Black-chested Jay: Only 3 this year. Last year, 43 were found, mostly at Brisas de la Jungla (we saw none!).

Sulphur-rumped Tanager: Several of these. Veragua is the most reliable site for this species in Costa Rica.

It was quite the count. The area around Veragua is so good for birding simply because it still boasts sizeable areas of lowland forest. Many of the species that have disappeared or become rare around Sarapiqui are still fairly common around Veragua for this reason. It’s a bit off the regular birding circuit but it’s pretty easy to get to (3 and a half hours from San Jose on two-wheel drive roads). Brisas de la Jungla can be visited for birding although they charge $15 to do so and might even charge another $15 to walk their trail. Veragua is still being developed for birding and only offers very basic accommodation but they have fantastic trails, the birds, and excellent bilingual guides who know where to find them. You can only visit by reserving in advance. Their number in San Jose is 2296-5056. You can also write them at  [email protected]

I can’t wait to go back and bird in the area again albeit more prepared with insect repellent!

biodiversity Birding Costa Rica birds to watch for in Costa Rica Introduction preparing for your trip

The Best Sites for Seeing Cotinga Species when Birding Costa Rica

Cotingas! An appropriately evocative sounding name for breathtaking birds that look like the results of someone’s wild imagination. They all seem to be odd or wacky because birders familiar with temperate zone families just don’t know what to make of them. Purple-throated Fruitcrow- hmmm, if it’s a crow then why does it have shiny purple throat? Three-wattled Bellbird- why does the male have long, black wormy things hanging off of its bill? Bare-necked Umbrellabird- what mad scientists combined a Magnificent Frigatebird with a long lost dwarf cousin of the king of rock and roll?

Before a birding trip to Costa Rica, we flip through the pages of Garrigues and Dean or Stiles and Skutch to feed our excitement and prep for our trip. As if those antbirds with blue around the eyes and delicate, fancy manakins weren’t enough to make you want to change the date of your flight for tomorrow, when the pages fall open to the cotingas, you almost question whether such fantastic looking birds can actually exist. In addition to the three mindblowers above, there are four other species that consistently grasp the attention of birders headed to Costa Rica. These are the two Carpodectes species (Snowy Cotinga and Yellow-billed Cotinga) and the two Cotinga species (Turquoise Cotinga and Lovely Cotinga).

We try to make sense out of their strange dovish shapes and brilliant white or glittering blue and purple plumages and can only come to the conclusion that we MUST see these birds! After ungluing our eyes from the page that showcases these avian treasures, this quartet of Costa Rican birds become major targets. Upon reading the text, however, our elation is given a serious blow by dreaded descriptions of status such as “uncommon” and “rare”. They don’t cease to be target birds but we now know that it’s going to take some serious effort to see them because they are pretty tough no matter how good your best birding aim might be.

Nevertheless, as with any challenging bird species, the probability of seeing them goes up if you know where and how to look for them. The following are my hints and educated guesses for ticking off all four of these major targets when birding Costa Rica.

All four species: Find fruiting trees that attract these hardcore frugivores. Since Costa Rica strangely lacks canopy towers (a major aid in seeing tree-top loving cotingas), this is the most guaranteed means of ticking off the cotinga quartet. Ficus and Lauraceae species trees in particular are goldmines for these birds but also watch for them at any fruiting trees within their ranges. If you notice a tree in fruit, scan those branches and hang out for a bit. Even if a cotinga doesn’t show up, other birds and monkeys might make an appearance.

Snowy Cotinga (Carpodectes nitidus): To make things easier, let’s start with this most frequently encountered member of our cotinga quartet. It lives in the Caribbean lowlands and despite the tragic, extensive destruction of lowland rainforests in its Costa Rican range, still hangs on and is regularly seen in a number of areas. It is often seen in riparian forest although this could also be a function of more forest being found along river corridors or that it’s easier to see into the canopy. It isn’t common but you have a fair chance of seeing it by looking for it at the sites below:

  • La Selva and Sarapiqui- Look for white or light gray (the female) birds where the canopy is visible along the Sarapiqui River, the La Selva entrance road, and around the La Selva buildings. I have also seen it at such lodges as Selva Verde and El Gavilan.
  • Tortuguero-  Snowy Cotingas are regularly seen in the forest canopy visible from the canals.
  • Hitoy Cerere- Good, quality lowland forest means nunbirds, Great Jacamar, and Snowy Cotingas! I saw small groups of this species at the HQ on several occasions during visits in 2000 and 2001.

Yellow-billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae): The other gleaming white cotinga in Costa Rica is much rarer than the Snowy. It isn’t overly difficult to see in appropriate habitat but therein lies the problem. The Yellow-billed Cotinga has evolved on the Pacific slope of southern Costa Rica  and western Panama to be a rather finicky species that requires lowland rainforest adjacent to mangroves. Take away one of these habitats or remove forest that connects the two and this fancy species gradually disappears. Because of limited habitat within a small range, this bird is in trouble. I bet strategic reforestation and planting native fruiting trees would help it though.

  • Rincon de Osa- Extensive, tall mangroves next to primary rainforest make this the most accessible and reliable site to see Yellow-billed Cotinga when birding Costa Rica. You still may need to locate a fruiting tree but you have a pretty good chance of getting this rarity around here.
  • Bosque del Rio Tigre- Yellow-billed Cotinga is often seen near the lodge and if not, the owners offer day tours to see this species at other sites. They should know where it is because they have done studies to assess its status.
  • The Osa Peninsula in general- Yellow-billed Cotinga can show up along rivers just about anywhere in forested parts of the Osa.
  • The Sierpe River- Watching the mangroves from the village of Sierpe or taking a boat ride through them offers a very good chance at seeing more than one as mangroves along the Sierpe River are indeed the main stronghold for this species anywhere in its small range.
  • Ventanas de Osa- Traveling south from Dominical, one comes to a small plaza with a high end liquor store and souvenir shop. Across the street is rainforest that sometimes harbors Yellow-billed Cotinga.
  • Carara National Park- I wouldn’t list this among the best sites to see this rare species but include it to give you an idea of your chances for seeing it there. It still shows up at fruiting trees along both trails in the park, sometimes makes an appearance on the mangrove boat tour, and is occasionally viewed from the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles or from Cerro Lodge BUT don’t expect to see it. The population here probably can’t cope with the lack of forest between mangroves and the national park because it seems to have seriously declined over the years and might even become extirpated from around Carara at any time.

birding Costa Rica

birding Costa Rica

This Yellow-billed Cotinga was at Rincon de Osa.

Turquoise Cotinga (Cotinga ridgwayi): This gorgeous bird of birds is uncommon but seen with regularity at several sites. Once again, fruiting trees are the way to see it and it could turn up in any forested lowland or foothill area from Carara (where it is very rare) south to Panama. A few of the more reliable sites are listed below.

  • Wilson Botanical Garden- It might turn up, it might not but you have a fair chance of laying eyes on it here and resident birders might also be around to let you know where it has been seen.
  • Los Cusingos- This small reserve and former farm of Alexander Skutch could be the best site to get this species.
  • The Osa Peninsula- The Turquoise Cotinga seems to be most common in the lowland rainforests of the Osa Peninsula. A visit to any lodge here could turn up one or more and perched birds are often scoped from the front of the Bosque del Rio Tigre.
  • Talari Mountain Lodge- Although this site isn’t extensively forested, Turqoise Cotinga is seen quite often.

birding Costa Rica

A glowing male Turquoise Cotinga from Talari Mountain Lodge.

birding Costa Rica

This one was at Rincon de Osa. One often sees both Yellow-billed and Turquoise at this site.

birding Costa Rica

A backlit Turquoise Cotinga.

Lovely Cotinga (Cotinga amabilis): The most difficult of the quartet, this is somewhat of a mystery species in Costa Rica. I suspect that it has declined with deforestation in the Caribbean Lowlands because what little information we have of this bird in Costa Rica points to it being an elevational migrant. Skutch studied a pair that nested and visited a fruiting Lauraceae tree near Varablanca several decades ago and discovered that like several other frugivorous species on the Caribbean Slope of Costa Rica, it nests at middle elevations during the start of the wet season and likely descends to the lowlands at other times of the year in search of fruit. I scan the treetops every time I visit the Varablanca area but because so much forest has been cut since Skutch’s day and since I have never heard of anyone seeing it at the Waterfall Gardens or Virgen del Socorro, I wonder if it still occurs there. It seems to be espied more often in Honduras and southern Mexico but if you are headed to Costa Rica, you might get lucky by scanning the canopy and watching fruiting trees at the sites below.

  • Silent Mountain- This excellent middle elevation site near Rancho Naturalista is probably the most reliable site for Lovely Cotinga in Costa Rica. It’ a long walk uphill and is probably seasonal but even if you don’t see a cotinga, you might get other rare birds such as Sharpbill or Rufous-rumped Antwren. This is offered as a guided trip at Rancho Naturalista.
  • Arenal- The Observatory Lodge is just about the only place where this species is sighted with regularity in Costa Rica. It might also turn up at fruiting trees along the road into Arenal, around the lake, at the hanging bridges, or at the waterfall near La Fortuna.
  • Tenorio, Miravalles, and Rincon de la Vieja- It has occurred a few times at Las Heliconias lodge during April and should occur on the Caribbean slope of these volcanoes at other sites too.
  • El Copal– During the second week of August, more than one Lovely Cotinga has shown up at fruiting Melastomes right in front of this community owned lodge and reserve!

Since all of the cotinga quartet seems to be prone to wandering, they could show up at a number of other sites as well. Keep watching those fruiting trees, scan the canopy, and if you seen one or know of other sites for these species, please comment about it below!