Did you know there are over 800 species in Costa Rica? So if you’re a bird lover, Costa Rica is one of the best countries for you to visit.
In this post, we will talk about the types of birds to see in Costa Rica, best places for birdwatching in Costa Rica and best birding lodges to help you plan an amazing birding trip!
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Best Places for Birding in Costa Rica
The best places to go birdwatching in Costa Rica are Sarapiqui, Boca de Tapada, Osa Peninsula, La Fortuna, Monteverde, San Gerardo de Dota, Braulio Carrillo, Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Palo Verde, Bijagua, Uvita and Jaco.
All of these places offer wonderful birding opportunities and where you go will largely depend on if you have a specific bird you want to see.
Best Birding Lodges in Costa Rica
Due to the fantastic birding in Costa Rica, there are some hotels and lodges that are set up specifically for birding. Some of the best birding lodges in Costa Rica are Arenal Observatory Lodge, Maquenque Lodge, La Cusinga Lodge, Villas Lapas, Cerro Lodge, Selva Verde Lodge, Rancho Naturalista, Santa Juana Lodge, Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Trogon Lodge, Savegre Lodge, Tifakara Botique Hotel and Birding Oasis, Hotel Suria, Tapirus Lodge, Rancho Humo Estancia, Macaw Lodge and Selva Bananito Lodge.
There are many more excellent hotels and lodges that have great wildlife watching on the property but those ones are known for excellent birding in Costa Rica. Most of them will be able to help you put together a dedicated birding itinerary.
Below are some of the popular birds in Costa Rica visitors like to see.
Toucans You Can See in Costa Rica (6 species)
Six species of toucan are found in Costa Rica: Black-mandibled (yellow throated or Chestnut mandibled), Keel-billed, Emerald Toucanet, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Fiery-Billed Aracari and the Collared Aracari.
The biggest toucan is the Black-mandibled. The most popular toucan is the Keel-billed which has a rainbow beak, yellow chest and blue feet. To spot a Keel-billed toucan, first listen for them as they have a very unique call. They sound like frogs!
Great places to see toucans in Costa Rica are Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Dominical, Uvita, Osa Peninsula, Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero, Monteverde, Bjagua and Sarapiqui. The Black Mandibuled toucan is particularly common and easily seen in the South Pacific and Osa Peninsula due to their large size. Keel-billed toucans are very common on the Caribbean side.
The Emerald Toucanet is seen up in high elevations areas like Monteverde. The Yellow Eared Toucanet is very hard to see but can be found in the La Fortuna and the Northern Lowlands area.
These birds have a distinct call and like to fly in groups so if you see one, there’s most likely a few other ones around. Read more about the 6 toucans in Costa Rica here.
Parrots range from very small to very big in size. Costa Rica is home to the Scarlet Macaw, an exceptionally beautiful bird that is the biggest parrot in the world. These birds are native to Central and South America. However, they are endangered due to deforestation. There are several projects in Costa Rica to restore their population.
You can commonly see the macaws at Jaco, Corcovado National Park, Carara National Park, Tortuguero, Osa Peninsula and Manuel Antonio. You’ll hear them before you see them as they squawk very loudly!
Other parrots you can see are the Great Green Macaw, the Red-lored Parrot, White-crowned parrot, Orange-fronted Parakeet and Blue-headed Parrot.
Trogons & Resplendent Quetzal
The Resplendant Quetzal are prized birds due to their connection to Mesoamerican myths, so this bird is of great importance in Central America. Guatemala named their currency after it and it is their national bird.
The long tail is the Quetzal’s defining characteristic and both males and females are vibrantly colored. You can spot the Resplendent Quetzal in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Santa Elena Cloud Forest, San Ramon, San Vito and San Gerardo de Dota. There is even a national park in Costa Rica called Parque Nacional Los Quetzales!
One of the best places to see Quetzals in Monteverde is Curi-Cancha Reserve. We saw 5!
The quetzal is part of the Trogon family, which has many others such as the Barid’s Trogon, Collared Trogon and Black Headed Trogon. All the trogons have a different distribution so if you want to see them, research the birds beforehand.
Male trogons are fairly colorful and their eye-ring color, bill and undertail pattern are particularly unique to this species.
Costa Rica is home to many vibrantly colored hummingbirds. Some which are endemic to certain places in the country!
The coloration varies between species from a dazzling green to vibrant purple. Some species you can see are the Green hermit and Violet sabrewing. The most common hummingbird in Costa Rica is the Rufous-tailed and the migratory Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Herons and Egrets
Herons are commonly seen in Costa Rica as they are freshwater and coastal birds. You can find them in almost all wetland habitats. Egrets are are herons but are normally smaller with a mostly white body or decorative plumage.
Some species of heron are migratory and can be seen in many places like Palo Verde, Tortuguero, Corcovado, and Tarcoles and in mangroves. Common ones to see are the Green heron, Little-blue heron, Snow egret and Great-blue heron.
Although this bird is a stork, the Jabiru is also found in Costa Rica. The Jabiru is the largest stork in the Americas and there are not too many of them left in Costa Rica (population around 100 or so). You can see them up in the Guanacaste province mostly near the Tempisque Valley by Palo Verde National Park and marshy areas around there.
Known for a colorful plumage and long tail, Motmots are a beautiful bird to see. They can be found in a variety of habitats but it likes tropical forest and the forest edge. They’re commonly seen commonly in Guanacaste, northern Puntarenas and in the lowlands.
Turquoise browed motmots love to perch in plain view on wires, trees and fences and they have a unique call.
Other species are the Blue-crowned Motmot (the most common), Rufuos motmot, Keel-billed motmot and the Broad billed motmot.
The Tanagers have a huge range of characteristics and distribution in Costa Rica. They are generally small birds. Their classification are mainly split into “dull coloration” and “typical colorful.” Tanagers have a sole American distribution.
Some common Tanagers are the Cherrie’s Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Rufus-Winged Tanager, Summer Tanager and Gray-Headed Tanager.
For the casual bird watchers, tanagers are a great place to start since they are fairly common.
There are 4 vultures in Costa Rica: Lesser Yellow Headed, Black, Turkey and King. These birds are essential to keeping the circle of life how it is as they eat the flesh of dead animals. They are common throughout the country and you can see them flying high in the sky as they search for their next meal.
The turkey vulture relies on its sense of smell to find food. Black vultures rely on their vision which is why they are always flying high up in the sky.
The King Vulture is an incredible bird to see with a unique white coloring and fiery throat colors. Two great places to see King Vultures are the Osa Peninsula and up in Boca de Tapada.
Read about other wildlife in Costa Rica!
Critters, Insects and Reptiles