Costa Rica is a bird lover’s dream with the luscious country home to 850 distinct species, more than 600 of which are native to the country.
That’s an impressive concentration of feathery treasures given Costa Rica’s compact size and, in fact, more species than found in all of North America. Given this forested paradise lies in the heart of the corridor of bird migration between North and South America, moreover, even the migratory birds tend to spend considerable time here, further enhancing your chances of spotting a wide array of birds.
For birds and bird-lovers alike, Costa Rica is an idyllic destination.
You need not be an avid ornithologist to enjoy a stint of bird-watching in Costa Rica. Head here on an adventure vacation and we guarantee half your time will be spent just looking to the skies and the trees: colorful, exotic and magnificent birds are simply everywhere. Although if you do happen to be an ornithologist, there are also plenty of dedicated guides who’ll help you seek and identify the species in some of the most revered birding hot-spots. A good Bird Guide to Costa Rica can help you get acquainted with the species you’re likely to see and a local knowledgeable guide can be an invaluable source of information once you’re actually here. You’ll want to pack a pair of binoculars and, to immortalize your unforgettable finds, a good camera with a zoom.
Costa Rica’s Most Impressive Birds
With a birding population that numbers in the hundreds, it is impossible to list them all yet some species have become ‘world famous’ either due to their colors, size or rarity.
Resplendent Quetzal – An elusive bird that’s said to have been revered by the ancient cultures which inhabited these lands, the Resplendent Quetzal is majestic, colorful and incredibly difficult to spot. Your best chances to spot them is during their mating season, in April, when they are at their most active. If a dedicated ornithologist heads to Costa Rica on a bird-watching expedition, it’s usually the quetzal he/she seeks.
Scarlet Macaws – The Costa Rican bird equivalent of a resplendent rainbow, the Scarlet Macaw is not just impressive in color but also in size: this is the largest parrot in the world. Macaws mate for life and can live for over 50 years. Unfortunately, they are also victims of illegal wildlife trade and are avidly protected here.
The Keel-billed Toucans – The bird with a boat for a beak is a fascinating sight and wonder to hear sing. They travel in groups, are immensely colorful and are quite easy to spot all over Costa Rica.
The Motmot – There are six species of Motmots in Costa Rica to look out for, with the blue-crested kind, with its long green tail, being perhaps the most distinctive and definitely the most prolific.
Hummingbirds – Costa Rica is believed to be home to more than 50 distinct species of hummingbirds and chances you’ll see them are super high, especially once you learn to spot feeders and some of their favorite fauna on which they feast. Being so energetic and relatively small, however, the hummingbird can be difficult to photograph so include a visit to one of the many hummingbird gardens in the country.
Red-capped Manakin – The Manakin is renowned worldwide as the bird that does the Moonwalk when it’s trying to attract a mate, a spectacle that’s awesome to see. With its vibrant red head and silky black body, the Red-capped Manakin is a magnificent specimen to spot in Costa Rica.
7 Hot Spots for Bird Lover’s in Costa Rica
La Selva Biological Station – Home to more species of birds than any other spot in the entire Central America region, La Selva is a one-stop-shop for bird-lovers in Costa Rica. Almost half of the native and migratory birds in the country are found in these verdant tropical rainforests, making it ideal if you can only set aside one destination for bird-watching on your adventure tour. Moreover, La Selva is easy to reach, boasts great walking trails and is and home to a fantastic resource center, making it an invaluable addition to any itinerary.
The cloud forests of Monteverde – The country’s prime cloud forest is undoubtedly the best place to see the most birds, home to almost half the overall species. Over 90% of Monteverde is unspoiled prime forests and its unique landscape boasts several distinct ecozones, home to endemic birds not found anywhere else on earth. One of the best places to spot the Resplendent Quetzal, Monteverde is also home to over 30 species of hummingbirds.
Rancho Naturalista – This private reserve is aimed at attracting bird-enthusiasts, something it does with superb ease given the sheer concentration of birds in its astonishing property. Bird feeders attract guests (both human and feathered) in the early morning and walking trails to water holes offer great chances of seeing many different species. The Ranch organizes bird-watching tours to several national parks in its vicinity as well, maximizing your bird-watching adventures.
The Talamanca Mountains – The varied elevation of the Talamanca and the fact the range stands directly on the birding flight path in Costa Rica, make this a stunning spot to enjoy a bird-watching tour. During the peak of migration, it is not unusual to see upwards of 200 distinct birds here in just a single day!
Manuel Antonio National Park – The reason Costa Rica is such a great bird watching destination is that you need not go out of your way to see an impressive array of birds. Every single park, in every single corner of the country, offers sensational chances for bird spotting. This is definitely the case with Manuel Antonio, the #1 tourist destination in the country and the park everyone will visit at some point in their journey. What makes MA so special is that it boasts mountains, rainforests and beaches, offering safe shelter for a wide variety of birds.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens – This gorgeous place boasts its own private aviary and hummingbird garden, an absolute must if you want to photograph these tiny treasures up close. Over 25 distinct species of hummingbirds, and dozens more birds, feats on the fruit and seed feeders here, all day long.
The Osa Peninsula – Renowned for being home to the most remote and pristine rainforests on earth, the Osa Peninsula is off the beaten tourist path but definitely not off the birding flying path, making it perhaps the best destination for bird lover’s in the entire country. Bird watching in the Osa Peninsula is an adventure in its own right and here you can see more than 350 distinct species of birds, along with a wealth of other exceptional wildlife. If you have the time, include a stay in an eco-lodge in the Osa and plan on early morning wake-ups for bird-watching extravaganzas.
At Costa Rica Rios, we organize fantastic adventure tours which always combine plenty of wildlife watching to boot. Contact us to know more about the places we go and the thrilling adventures we offer, as well as how to best incorporate a bird-watching excursion into your itinerary.