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The top 5 spots for bird watching in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is a privileged country for being in a biological corridor and being the bridge between North and South America, which allows migratory birds to make a mandatory stop in this beautiful tropical country.

To give you some important facts: More than 5 billion migratory birds come to Costa Rica every year. Most of them come from Alaska, Canada and other places in North America, where they escape the winter and come to South America, passing Central America. The migrations happen two times per year. The first one is the spring migration between February and May and the other one is the autumn migration from August to December, so if you want to see this event, you just need to come to Costa Rica this month' and keep your eyes open.

Migratory birds that pass through the country include raptors, shorebirds, warblers, orioles, washers, and hummingbirds. In Costa Rica, you can find almost 920 bird species (more than in the whole of North America). Around 600 species are residents and 103 endemics of the region, in an area of just 51.000 square kilometers. This represents 10% of all bird species of the world on 0.03% of the world's surface.

The type of relief, the climate, and the forests are the reason why magazines like Wanderlust in the United Kingdom and Reader’s Gigest in Canada have written Costa Rica on the list of the best locations in the world for bird watching.

But what are the best places to watch birds in Costa Rica? There are many, but in this blog, I will tell you which are in my opinion the best places to watch birds. Let’s start...

Carara National Park - Tárcoles

carara

These zones are located at the Central Pacific of Costa Rica and they are two of the most important points to watch birds in this region. Thanks to the climate here, there is a mix of the tropical rainforest and the tropical rainforest, something you can see in just some places in the world. There are many endemic plants and animals, as well as local and migratory birds.

Roseate spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Emblematic birds:

  • Fiery-billed Araçari (Pteroglossus frantzii)
  • Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao)
  • Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
  • Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius)

Other important species:

  • Common Basilisk (Basiliscus basiliscus)
  • Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor)
  • Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho peleides)

If you want to reserve a bird watching tour in this region, you can write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click at this button:

Reserve! - Bird-watching at Carara National Park

Central Valley- Heredia

heredia clay colored thrush

Clay- colored Thursh

Located at over 1100 meters over sea level, on flat terrain and surrounded by mountains, volcanoes, and forests, the Central Valley offers a privileged area for birds. Specifically in the province Heredia we can find a great number of birds, but the most interesting ones are the little hummingbirds with their unique colors.

colibri

Hummingbird

Emblematic birds:

  • Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus lessonii)
  • Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi)
  • Green-breasted Mango (Anthracothorax prevastii)
  • White-naped Brush-finch (Atlapetes albinucha).

Other important species:

  • Guanacaste tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum)
  • Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao)
  • Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae)
  • Forrers Leopard frog (Lithobates forreri)
  • Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis)

San Gerardo de Dota

dota

At this place, you will feel the cold wind of the mountains, lush nature and humid forests that are green all around the year. It is over 3000 meters above sea level. These conditions make the place the perfect home for hundreds of bird species, as the majestic quetzal, which is considered to be one of the most exotic birds of the world. 

If you come to this place, don’t forget to bring a sweater. We can help you to reserve a bird watching tour in this area, just write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click at this button:

Reserve!- Quetzal Tour

Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí

sarapiqui

The region of the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is considered to be one of the richest ecosystems of the world. This region is also popular to see migratory birds on their stop from or to South America. Here are many protected areas, tropical forests, rivers, and forests. Furthermore, it is called the capital of birds of Costa Rica, so if you love bird watching, this is definitively a place you have to visit.

Blue gray Tanager

Blue-grey Tanager

Emblematic birds:

  • Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus)
  • Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias)
  • Snowy Cotinga (Carpodectes nitidus)
  • Agami Heron (Agamia agami)

Other important species:

  • Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)
  • Brown Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
  • Black Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata)
  • Mountain Almond Tree (Dipteryx panamensis)
  • Blue Jeans Poison Frog (Oophaga pumilio)

If you want to reserve a bird watching tour in this region, you can write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click at this button:

Reserve!- Birdwatching in Sarapiqui

Arenal - La Fortuna

fortuna

This zone is located at the bottom of the Arenal volcano, full of forests, plains, lakes, rivers and many gardens and flowers that will make you feel like in paradise. This area is perfect to watch birds and wildlife. Located at the northern plain lands of the Caribbean slope, it corresponds to an area of migratory passage.

The wildlife reserve Caño Negro is located in this region and famous for the great number of water birds you can see here.

Furthermore, if you are in this region, don’t forget to visit “The Nest”, a 28-meter high tower to watch birds and other wild animals. Once you are on the top, you will have an incredible 360° view, from where you can see the Arenal volcano, the Arenal lake, the Cerro Chato volcano and the mountain range of Tilarán.

This is the perfect place to see birds and other wild animals in the treetops. If you have a good telephoto lens, you can see some waterbirds on Lake Arenal. 

Tucan

Keel-billed Toucan

Emblematic birds:

  • Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens)
  • Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata)
  • Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)
  • Passerini's Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii)
  • Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis)

Other important species:

  • Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata)
  • White-faced Monkeys (Cebus capucinus)
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus)
  • Coati (Nasua narica)

If you want to reserve a bird watching tour in this region, you can write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click at this button:

LA FORTUNA

Reserve! - Bird-watching and hike tour

 

CAÑO NEGRO

Reserve! - Bird-watching in cano negro

Costa Rica Birding Contest

The international travel agency ARA Tours is organizing the “Costa Rica Birding Contest” for 2020, a friendly competition for the passionate birders, who have to identify the biggest amount of species between September 29 and October 9. 

For this, the participants are divided into different groups, everyone with a local guide who will lead them through one of the 6 specific regions in Costa Rica.

The cost is $2.650, which includes lodging, transportation, a specialized guide, entrances to the parks and many other things. If you want more information you can visit https://www.costaricabirdingcontest.com and write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I hope that all the information is helpful for your adventure in Costa Rica. If you have something to add or if you have a question about that topic, don’t hesitate to write it in the comments down below or write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Greetings from Costa Rica!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020 13:30 Written by César Otárola
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