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Why Costa Rica Birds Are Some of the Best in the World

Discover photos of Costa Rica birds that showcase why the birds of Costa Rica are some of the best in the world. Go birdwatching in Costa Rica.

If you like birdwatching and love to travel, I highly recommend planning a trip to Costa Rica. Costa Rica birds are some of the best you'll find anywhere in the world. 

On past trips, we've sought out Uganda birds (including the world-famous shoebill stork) and the birds of Patagonia so I don't give this high praise to the birds of Costa Rica lightly. 

Read on to learn more about the birds of Costa Rica and inspire your own birdwatching trip to Central America.

Looking for a definitive guide to read up on and get a sneak peek of the Birds of Costa Rica? Check out this one: Photo Guide to Birds of Costa Rica

Costa Rica Birds: Chestnut-mandibled toucan or yellow-throated toucan

Where to See The Birds of Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a country with extreme biodiversity so it makes perfect sense to add some birdwatching to your Costa Rica itinerary. While Costa Rica represents only 0.03% of the earth's surface, the country contains 6% of the world's biodiversity. There are over 900 species of birds that call Costa Rica home. Visit a variety of Costa Rica's climate zones and you'll find an astounding array of birds. What are some places I recommend for Costa Rica birds?

  1. Visit the area around La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano and keep an eye out for colorful song birds and toucans.
  2. Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to the rare and resplendent quetzal, a top prize for many birders around the world. Hire a guide and explore Curi Cancha Reserve with Nature Tours CR
  3. Manuel Antonio National Park and the surrounding area along the coast is home to colorful and social scarlet macaws. If you stay at the GAIA Hotel and Reserve like we did, you can take a guided hike through the nature reserve on the property which hosts a reintroduction program for scarlet macaws. 
Costa Rica Birds: Quetzal by Paradise Catchers
Quetzal captured by Paradise Catchers on a trip to San Gerardo de Dota

Now let's talk about some of the Costa Rica birds you might find on your trip and why I think Costa Rica birds are some of the best birds in the world.

Some Costa Rica Birds Live in the Cloud Forest

Cloud forests exist under a very narrow range of conditions, typically on the side of a mountain between 6500 - 11,500 feet above sea level and feature a frequent and persistent cloud cover at the level of the canopy which helps both plants and birds to flourish. Listen and then look for colorful and unique birds like Lesson's motmot with its beautiful tail feathers, and the compact toucanet. 
Costa Rica Birds: Lesson's motmot
Costa Rica Birds: blue-throated toucanet

Costa Rica Birds Have Amazing Colors

One of the best things about the birds of Costa Rica is the richness of colors. Look for a flash of color darting among the trees and flowers. Some of our favorite birds that we spotted include a shining honeycreeper, Slate-throated whitestart, and a Scarlet-rumped tanager.
Costa Rica Birds: Shining honeycreeper
Costa Rica Birds: Slate-throated whitestart
Costa Rica Birds: Scarlet-rumped Tanager

Costa Rica Birds Are Understated

While many Costa Rica birds are flamboyant and colorful, others are delightfully understated. Don't overlook the pleasing shape of a brown-crested flycatcher or the piercing yellow eye of the great-tailed grackle. Costa Rica birds like the white-lined tanager seem to light up in the sun.
Costa Rica Birds - Brown-crested flycatcher
Costa Rica Birds: Great tailed grackle
Costa Rica Birds: White-lined tanager

Costa Rica Birds Are Shy

Some of the birds of Costa Rica are shy. We spotted a rufous-naped wood rail peeking from the brush near a small pond when we stayed at Aguti Lodge in Monteverde and explored the trails of the Aguti Reserve.
Costa Rica Birds: Rufous-naped wood rail

Costa Rica Birds Will Come To You

I consider myself to be an opportunistic birdwatcher. I'm not the type of person who will sit quietly in a hide for hours waiting for that perfect sighting. Lazy breakfast birdwatching is popular in Costa Rica, particularly near Arenal, and I found this type of birdwatching to be just my style. Many of the hotels, resorts, and lodges near Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna town put out fruit near the outdoor breakfast room to attract birds. We stayed at Secreto La Fortuna and the array of plants and flowers on the property were like a beacon to birds. Some of my favorite sightings include: black-cheeked woodpeckers, thick-billed euphonia, olive-backed euphonia, and a blue-gray tanager.
Costa Rica Birds: Black-cheeked woodpecker
Costa Rica Birds: Thick-billed euphonia
Costa Rica Birds: Olive-backed euphonia
Costa Rica Birds: Blue-gray tanager

Costa Rica Birds Are Great Nest Builders

Costa Rica birds are particular about their nests. We watched this great kiskadee ferry bits of cotton and other material back to their nest at Secreto La Fortuna in La Fortuna.

Costa Rica Birds: Great Kiskadee

Costa Rica Birds Have Fierce Names

Some Costa Rica birds have awesome and fierce names like this bare-throated tiger heron spotted on a Safari Float tour of the Penas Blancas river in Arenal near La Fortuna.
Costa Rica Birds: Bare-throated tiger heron

Costa Rica Birds Have Great Hairdos

We spotted some amazing Costa Rica birds with unique and resplendent feathered crowns. Two examples include the great currasow that we spotted on a hike near the volcano in Arenal National Park. In the same area tucked up in the rafters of a shaded picnic gazebo, we spotted a few white-throated magpie-jays.
Costa Rica Birds: Great currasow
Costa Rica Birds: White-throated magpie-jay

Costa Rica's National Bird Brings the Rain (Or So It's Told)

Considering how bold and colorful many of Costa Rica's birds are, it's a little surprising that Costa Rica's National Bird, the clay-colored thrush, is surprisingly not. The clay-colored thrush is held in such high esteem because their mating call was believed by farmers to be a harbinger of rain and the coming of the green season that meant successful crops.
Costa Rica National Bird: Clay-colored thrush

Costa Rica Birds are Fast

Costa Rica is known for a wide array of hummingbirds. Make sure to bring a camera with a fast shutter and large zoom to get some decent photographs. Only then may your patience be rewarded although you may get lucky and see hummingbirds sipping nectar from a flower or feeder at your hotel. 
Costa Rica Birds: Green-crowned brilliant
Costa Rica Birds: Lesser Violetear

Costa Rica Birds Are Strange

One of the most delightful activities on our trip to Costa Rica was a birdwatching tour of Curi Cancha Reserve in Monteverde with Nature Tours CR with our guide, Herberto. Sadly, we didn't get to see a Quetzal on this tour despite trying really hard to find one. Herberto was not one to give up and we drove to the entrance of a lesser known private reserve. Soon, Herberto's ears perked up. It wasn't a quetzal but something equally fascinating. Using Herberto's expert tracking skills, we soon narrowed the gong-like call to a particular tree. Looking up among the foliage, we saw it: a three-wattled bellbird. This species of bellbird looks sort of mustachioed and is one of the strangest birds that we've ever seen in our travels. We could have stood their watching for hours. 
Costa Rica Birds: three-wattled bell bird
Of course, the three-wattled bellbird is not the only strange bird in Costa Rica. We also spotted a boat-billed heron on our River Safari near La Fortuna. 
Costa Rica birds: Boat-billed heron

Costa Rica Birds Are Watchful

Some Costa Rica birds appear to have laser sharp focus. Just look at this white-eared ground sparrow to see what I mean. Other watchful birds include the crested guan and green kingfisher.
Costa Rica Birds: White-eared ground sparrow
Costa Rica Birds: Crested guan
Costa Rica Birds: Green kingfisher

Costa Rica Birds Are Intelligent

Did you know that the scarlet macaw is thought to be one of the world's most intelligent and sociable birds? Keep an eye out for scarlet macaws near Jac√≥ and Manuel Antonio National Park. You can visit a flock of macaws at GAIA Hotel and Reserve on a guided walk open to guests. The walk must be guided due to the high concentration of venomous snakes on the reserve. Eek!
Costa Rica Birds: Scarlet Macaw
I hope you'll agree that the birds of Costa Rica are some of the most varied and amazing in the world. I look forward to returning again someday to see more. 

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Why Costa Rica Birds Are Some of the Best in the World
Why Costa Rica Birds Are Some of the Best in the World
Discover photos of Costa Rica birds that showcase why the birds of Costa Rica are some of the best in the world. Go birdwatching in Costa Rica.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog