Costa Rica is well known as one of the top birding destinations in the world. More than 840 species of land and sea birds call Costa Rica home, far more than inhabit North America. A Costa Rica adventure should include some bird watching to really understand Costa Rica and its diverse habitats. It can be fun for amateurs and experienced birders alike.
The amazing diversity of birds that can be found in Costa Rica stems from some fortuitous circumstances. Millions of years ago, the continents were adrift and not in the same positions they are now. As they slowly floated about the oceans, the continents drifted together. With help from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the bridge of Central America slowly formed. The various species from North and South America met in the middle, and the mild climate allowed many of them to thrive and multiply. Migrants from both South and North America also visit Costa Rica during their respective winter seasons.
The current climate and terrain of Costa Rica provide excellent habitats for birds. There is an abundance of trees and bushes with fruit that birds feast on year round. The birds, in turn, pollinate the fruit and spread the seeds after feeding. A wide array of habitats, including mangrove swamps, wet Caribbean coastal plains, dry northern highlands, pacific lowlands and mountain ranges, provide a home for the various species.
When you visit Costa Rica, some of the bird species you may wish to find include the quetzal, the toucan and the frigate. The beautiful quetzal can be hard to spot, but with its long tail and glorious coloration it’s a favorite. Males have emerald green bodies with red breasts, and a long tail which grows during mating season. You may spot a quetzal in the cloud forests or mountainous areas in northern Costa Rica.
The jungles are full of toucans, easy to spot because of their large, distinctive yellow bill. While the bill seems too large for the body, they are actually hollow and very lightweight. Toucans eat mostly fruit. As the seeds pass through their bodies and are deposited in various places, trees are planted in other locations where they don’t have to compete for light with more mature trees.
Along the ocean, you can see frigate birds swooping and performing acrobatics. They often harass gulls or other sea birds into dropping their fish so they can fly in and steal them. There will always be more than one, and their formations while flying can be very entertaining.
When you’re in Costa Rica, make time to find and observe the amazing bird life. Whether it’s part of a hike, a river kayaking tour, a visit to a volcano or a formal garden, you’ll discover that birdwatching adds an exciting dimension to your Costa Rican adventure. Contact us to learn more about the best birdwatching spots in the country for your next trip.