Costa Rica Birds Collared Aracari Toucan Birdwatching

3 Reasons You Should Visit Costa Rica for the Birds

costa rica birds

There are many amazing creatures to see in Costa Rica, including adorable monkeys, lazy sloths and colorful frogs, but the Costa Rica birds will make your vacation! Colorful, active and musical. Costa Rica birds are spellbinding and mystical. Even if you’re not interested in birdwatching, Costa Rica will make you a temporary enthusiast. Here are 3 Reasons you should visit Costa Rica for the birds:

1). Costa Rica birds are easy to spot

Costa Rica Birds Black Bellied Whistling Ducks Palo Verde National Park Birdwatching
Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

Unlike sloths and monkeys, Costa Rica birds are easy to spot. Even a lazy birdwatcher will stumble across dozens of buzzing, beautiful hummingbirds in Monteverde National Park. If you’re a little more adventurous, I suggest hiring an English speaking guide while visiting Monteverde to seek out the famous Resplendent Quetzal. Guides are absolutely worth the extra money. Without one, you may never see a single animal.

Costa Rica Birds Quetzal Male Monteverde Birdwatching
Male Quetzal

2). Brilliant coloring and unique feathers

The male Quetzal is the arguably the most famous (and sought after) bird in Costa Rica due to it’s long tail feathers and magnificent coloring. Also, the male Quetzal has a fohawk! He’s a hipster! Another favorite Costa Rica bird is the Motmot, which has distinctive tail feathers with two barbs sticking out at the end.

Costa Rica Birds Broad-Billed Motmot Arenal Hanging Bridges Birdwatching
Broad-Billed Motmot

3). Crazy other-worldly bird calls

What the heck was that sound?” The birds in Costa Rica sing the most surprising calls, some of them lasting for 15 seconds or more. Our favorite bird call was easily that of the prehistoric-like Montezuma Oropendola. This bird has some lungs! The Oropendola belts out his bird call so dramatically, he almost topples over.

Video credit: Alexander Grimwade

Top Birdwatching Locations in Costa Rica

While we only visited the north west regions of the country, we had a lot of luck in the following birdwatching locations during May. As a general rule, the best time to view wildlife is early in the morning. Keep your eyes on clearings in the forest. Most of the time, you’ll hear the birds before you see them!

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde is one of the best places to spot the highly sought after Quetzal. My guide was able to spot two right away: a male and a female. Other birds spotted: variety of Hummingbirds, Emerald Toucanets, Tanagers and Thrush.

Costa Rica Birds Emerald Toucanet Toucan Monteverde Birdwatching
Emerald Toucanet
Costa Rica Birds Green-Crowned Brilliant Hummingbird Monteverde Bird Watching
Crowned Brilliant Hummingbird
Costa Rica Birds Purple Throated Mountaingem Hummingbird Monteverde Birdwatching
Purple Throated Mountaingem
Costa Rica Birds Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird Monteverde Birdwatching
Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird
Costa Rica Birds Green-Crowned Brilliant Hummingbird Monteverde Bird Watching
Male Green-Crowned Brilliant Hummingbird

Palo Verde National Park

While Palo Verde National Park is also an excellent place to spot a multiple monkey species, the marshy terrain is one of the best places to see birds in the dry Nicoya Peninsula.

Costa Rica Birdwatching Palo Verde National Park

Costa Rica Birds Palo Verde National Park Green Heron Birdwatching
Green Heron
Costa Rica Birds Great Egret Palo Verde National Park Birdwatching
Great Egret
Costa Rica Limpkin Palo Verde National Park Birdwatching
Limpkin

La Fortuna / Arenal

If you’re a motmot fan (like me) I suggest visiting Hanging Bridges in La Fortuna. We spotted several motmots, among other birds, and the hike through the bridges is fantastically fun.

Lake Arenal is a birdwatcher’s paradise! We spotted Chestnut-Mandibled, Great Egrets, Turkey Vultures, Grey Hawks, Tanagers, Thrush, Great Currassow, and many Aracari while driving around the lake. Word of warning, you may not be able to drive all the way around the lake in wet season! Parts of the road is gravel with a few precarious bridges. It’s prone to flooding. We had to turn around, but the trip back was spectacular for wildlife viewing.

Costa Rica Birdwatching Lake Arenal

Costa Rica Birds Great Egret Arenal Birdwatching
Great Egret
Costa Rica Birds Grey Hawk Arenal Birdwatching
Grey Hawk
Costa Rica Birds Great Curassow Arenal Birdwatching
Great Curassow
Costa Rica Arenal Rainy Season
Impossible river crossing on the road around Lake Arenal!

Quick Tips for spotting Costa Rica birds

  • Hire a guide. I can’t recommend it enough. Guides WILL spot birds (and other wildlife) that you never knew was there. Plus, hiring a guide is relatively cheap (usually $20 per person).
  • Download this Bird Watching App on your smart phone. The Costa Rica Field Guide was my birdwatching bible in Costa Rica. I identified birds using the app’s images and bird calls. It’s worth $14.99 and works offline.
  • Stay at an Ecolodge. First of all, Ecolodges are super cool and economical in Costa Rica, especially if want to get out of the resort mentality. Second, ask the local owners for the best Costa Rica bird watching spots. They will point you in the right direction and, if you’re lucky, they might even take you themselves!

Hanging Bridges Arenal

  • Bring the right equipment. If you really want to see the Costa Rica birds close up, binoculars are super important. You can rent them at most National Parks in Costa Rica, but you’ll end up spending a lot of money. Bring your own binoculars. We recommend Steiner Safari 8×22 binoculars, they are ultra sharp and compact. A scope is great tool as well, we used the Alpen’s Waterproof 15-45×60 scope because it’s wonderful and affordable. My friends thought I was a super-nerd for hiking with my scope, but soon enough they were asking to borrow it. Who’s laughing now?? If you have photography equipment suitable for capturing birds, by all means, bring that as well. Guillaume recommends the Tamron 150-600mm lens.
  • Don’t forget rain gear. It’s not fun to trek through a rainforest without the proper clothing and rain covers for your equipment. Come prepared to get wet, but don’t let it ruin your birdwatching adventure.
Costa Rica Birds Blue Crowned Motmot Birdwatching
Blue Crowned Motmot

Are you convinced that Costa Rica is for the birds?

2 thoughts on “3 Reasons You Should Visit Costa Rica for the Birds”

  1. Amazing pics and tips. I couldn’t download the app in my cell phone. It is a Nokia. Does the app only work with Apple phones?

    BTW, I had the opportunity of filming the motmot saying “mot-mot”. You can check it out at porqueamoacostarica.blogspot.com

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