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.
Bird watching is actually pretty exciting. It’s fascinating to learn about the different types of birds, their calls and characteristics and what makes them so special. People from all over the world come to see the magnificent birds of Costa Rica!
So here are some of the most famous birds of Costa Rica you may see on your trip and who knows? You may turn into bird fans like we did! (Post updated April 13, 2020).
Click the bird you’d like to read about.
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 are super cute birds and in Costa Rica, parrots range from very small to very big in size.
The Scarlet Macaw, an exceptionally beautiful bird, is the biggest parrot in the world. They mate for life so you’ll most likely see pairs of macaws flying together. If you see three, the third is most likely the juvenile who stays with the parents for 1-2 years. These birds are native to Central and South America. However, they are endangered due to deforestation.
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 as they are a hard to see so if you spot one in the wild, feel exceptionally blessed. Due to their connection to Mesoamerican myths, 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, Los Quetzales National Park and San Gerardo de Dota.
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.
Best places to see a variety of hummingbirds are Monteverde and any of the mountain areas.
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 national parks like Palo Verde, Tortuguero, Corcovado, and Rio Tarcoles. Common ones to see are the Green heron, Little-blue heron, Snow egret and Great-blue heron.
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 beginner bird watchers, tanagers are a great place to start since they are fairly common.
These birdsare 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.
There are 4 vultures in Costa Rica: Lesser Yellow Headed, Black, Turkey and King. They aren’t the prettiest of birds, but they are incredibly important. The King Vulture is incredible to see!
Other Costa Rica Birds
Here are some other birds we’ve seen in Costa Rica such as Wrens, Hawks, Seedeaters and more.
Read about other wildlife in Costa Rica!
Here are some great resources for birds. I personally love the birds of Costa Rica field guide book, it has all the information you ever want to know.