There is no doubt that Costa Rica attracts nature-lovers of all types, and for good reason – whether you’re looking to explore volcanos, hike mountains, surf the swell, or scuba dive, Costa Rica has got it all. However, one nature-loving activity you won’t want to overlook when visiting is the art of birdwatching. Birdwatchers from all over the world flock together in Costa Rica to enjoy this feather-filled paradise. Costa Rica is home to over 800 species of birds, and you don’t have to be an ornithologist to appreciate the impressive variety and diversity among the list.
Whether you decide to book a nature tour to see the best birds of Costa Rica or venture off on your own treasure hunt, you’re bound to be captivated by Costa Rica’s feathery friends. Costa Rica boasts some of the world’s best bird sanctuaries as the natural eco-regions within the country, ranging from foothills to highlands, allow hundreds of diverse species to call Costa Rica their home. This means that some of the most beautiful species of birds are on display in their natural environment, no matter what region you’re in. Check out these fun facts about a few awe-inspiring birds in paradise.
With a bright red cap and white-masked black head and beak, you’ve spotted a lively Acorn Woodpecker. As one of the most beautiful woodpeckers in Costa Rica, it is also the largest of the woodpeckers out of 16 total species. The Acorn Woodpecker is a common inhabitant of the highlands and is considered to be very social, whereas they are often seen in small groups of 3-6 individuals. Quick birdwatching tip: if you’re able to fixate your binoculars to the exact spot where a loud tap-tap-tap comes from the treetops, you’ve found yourself a woodpecker!
With an easy-to-distinguish under tail pattern and colored eye-ring, this colorful little gut is known as the Gartered Trogon. You can distinguish between the male and female versions of this bird by noticing the eye-ring – the male obtains a bright yellow ring whereas the females have a broken white pattern. However, in both sexes, the under tail is white-striped with distinct horizontal black bars, a yellow belly, and a magnificent mix of dark blue, royal blue, dark grey, and green feathers. Gartered Trogons prefer humid lowland forests. You should be able to spot these colorful birds at Palo Verde National Park.
With a flash of brilliant red, blue and yellow, and a loud raucous squawk, you’ve spotted a wild Scarlet Macaw. Their distinct noisy cry carries for miles, so you usually hear them before you see them. When you do sight a Scarlet Macaw, they are a breathtaking rainbow of colors – because of which these birds’ striking colors make them a favorite on the world illegal pet market. Between poaching and loss of habitat from deforestation, Scarlet Macaws are now an endangered species. However, there are still roughly, 500 Scarlet Macaws living in the wet tropical lowland forests along the Pacific Coast. You can see them along the Central Pacific Coast from the Carara National Park to Manuel Antonio, and throughout the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce region in the South Pacific. These incredible species can live to be over 60 years old and are known to mate for life.
In Costa Rica, Blue Herons are almost always found in wetland habitats – on shorelines, in marshes or mangroves, or along rivers and lakes of places such as the Tortuguero Canals, the Terraba Sierpe Wetlands or the well-known retreat of many different migratory birds in Palo Verde National Park. These magnificent long-legged and long-necked birds are well adapted for hunting in the water. Although some of the heron species in Costa Rica are migratory, others live here year-round.
Finally, we’ve spotted the holy grail of birds – the Resplendent Quetzal which is often considered the most beautiful Costa Rican bird (though Scarlet Macaws may disagree). Considered sacred by Mayan and Aztec civilizations, the quetzal was associated with Quetzalcoatl, the serpent god believed to have created the Earth and water. The quetzal’s defining characteristics are its iridescent green-blue body, vibrant red breast, and lustrous long tail. The males’ tail streamers grow to an average of 30 inches but can reach up to an impressive 40 inches in length. This unique species is classified as “near threatened,” with an estimated 50,000 left in the world. Sighting this rare bird in the wild is a brag-worthy tale that will last a lifetime. Meghan’s tip for spotting quetzals was learned from a guide in Monteverde – look for Avocado trees! Quetzals eat avocados, in fact, they eat the entire avocado at once!
Which bird is your favorite? Leave us a comment below to share!