Birdwatching in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a bird republic. The weather, the myriad ecosystems, and the geographical richness have made it the home of more than 900 bird species, according to data from the
Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica (Costa Rican Ornithology Association). Yes, that is more than that of Canada and the United States…combined. Of the 900 species, three species are endemic of Costa Rica and 75 others of Costa Rica and Panama. 69 species are considered rare.
Costa Rica has the greatest density of birds in a land area that is smaller than West Virginia. The country is a bridge between North America and South America and belongs to the neotropical region, making it a frequent stop in the migration journey of plenty of birds from both poles. As birds flock the winters from the South and the North, Costa Rica and its year-round warm weather seem one of the obvious draws.
Costa Rica encompasses six birding ecozones and a multitude of ecosystems. Cloud forests, lowlands, dry forests, and mangroves are some of the habitats that house the variety of bird species in Costa Rica. Not to mention, the more than 25% of protected areas and nearly 55% of reforested land. So whether you’re deep in the mountains or lounging leisurely in the beach, bird spotting is easy and accessible.
BEST TIME FOR BIRDWATCHING IN COSTA RICA
It is estimated that 600 of the bird species in Costa Rica are residents. The remaining 300+ are mainly migratory birds. For this reason, the months of August to November (during the fall in North America) are some of the best to witness the great diversity of avifauna in the country. The months of February to May, during the Spring, are also prime times for birdwatching in all its splendor, as it is when birds migrate back.
BEST PLACES FOR BIRDWATCHING IN COSTA RICA
- Parque Nacional Carara
Located just 60 minutes from the International Airport Juan Santamaría and 14 miles north of Jaco, the Carara National Park is probably the most popular and important birding site in the country. Its accessibility, birdlife, and unique landscape make it the home of nearly 50% of the bird species in the entire country. It is the northernmost rainforest of the Central Pacific, which means the emerging dry forest makes for some prime spotting. Bird species you can find in the park include Scarlet Macaws, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Streaked Flycatcher, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, and many more!
- Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio
Manuel Antonio is one of the finest birdwatching destinations in the Central Pacific. The combination of mountain and beach gives birders the best of both worlds: terrestrial and seabirds. 683 hectares of protected land will have you hiking from lush forests to white-sand beaches, and sighting everything from Gulls and Pelicans, to Motmots and Keel-billed toucans, Birdwatching in Manuel Antonio is promised to be an unforgettable experience.
- Parque Nacional Palo Verde
Just one hour from the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, the Palo Verde National Park is home to the biggest concentration of seabirds and migratory birds from the Pacific. Lowlands covered in streams turn to wetlands and showcase an overwhelming display of birdlife. More than 60 bird species await at Palo Verde, including Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks Great Egrets, Anhingas, and more.
- Reserva de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro
Caño Negro is a wildlife refugee located halfway between the Caribbean and the Pacific slope. The diversity in avifauna makes Caño Negro a favorite among birdwatchers. More than 300 species have been recorded in this refugee, including Northern Shoveler, Short-billed Dowitcher, Jabiru, Limpkin, and Collared Plover! The natural sanctuary is one of the most biologically important places in the country and one of the 12 RAMSAR sites found in Costa Rica.