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  • Writer's pictureLisa Cappello

Birdwatching in Costa Rica

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Would it surprise you to learn that Costa Rica is home to over 900 bird species? This is quite remarkable considering our size. At 19,760 square miles, Costa Rica is roughly the size of the states of New Hampshire and Vermont combined (which have a total of less than 300 bird species for comparison). Birders are in for a special treat when they visit Costa Rica. Whether in search of Scarlet Macaws, or Keel-Billed Toucans, or the most renowned Resplendent Quetzal, you will be amazed at the variety and beauty of our bird population.

Why does Costa Rica have so many bird species?

Costa Rica is often counted in top ten lists for bird watching around the globe. This is due in part to the many different types of ecosystems which are found here. Buckle up – we have:

  • tropical dry forests

  • lowland tropical rainforests

  • semi-deciduous mid-elevation forests

  • mangroves forests

  • cloud forests

  • highland mountain rainforests

  • wetlands

  • coral reefs

  • Pacific and Caribbean coastlines – and that’s not even all of them!

Each of these ecosystems are the perfect habitat for various bird species. Knowing which birds to look for and where and when to find them can make for some spectacular bird watching!

When is the best time to see lots of birds?

No matter what time of year you come to Costa Rica, you will see beautiful birds. But if you want to maximize your chances of seeing the greatest variety of species, plan to visit between August and December. That is when many migrating species fly to Central and South America. You should be aware that this is also when Costa Rica experiences “green season” or “rainy season.” It can be a lovely time to visit. Foliage is lush, and the rain is usually confined to a quick afternoon shower. However, if you want to avoid the rainiest times of year, you may want to skip coming in September and October.

Which birds are on your bucket list?

For many who visit Costa Rica, high on their list is the Resplendent Quetzal. This beautiful endangered species was a sacred bird in both Mayan and Aztec cultures. Their preferred habitat is the cloud forest, and a perfect spot to see one is Monteverde. A cloud forest has constant cloud coverage, ample precipitation, and a high elevation. Our full day Monteverde Cloud Forest tour, with a private naturalist guide, will give you the best chance of spotting this Costa Rica beauty. Click here to learn more.

Another popular bird is the Scarlet Macaw. Described as raucous, you will probably hear them before you see them, gathering in bunches in high treetops, or flying overhead. Their beautiful rainbow colors make them attractive to the illegal pet bird trade, resulting in these majestic beauties now being endangered. They can be found in deciduous forests along the Pacific coast. They are often spotted in small groups of 2-4, but occasionally you may spot larger flocks of 20+ birds.

Perhaps the bird best known by sight is the Toucan, distinguished by their massive and colorful beak. Costa Rica is home to six species of Toucans. These social birds use their large beaks to eat fruit, insects and even some small creatures. They also like to visit fruit feeders. You are likely to see them in pairs or small flocks and one of the places to spot them in Costa Rica is in the area of one of our active volcanoes, Rincon de la Vieja. We have a fun full day tour at the Buena Vista Del Rincon Eco Adventure Park which includes a naturalist guide. Top notch guides are invaluable to bird watchers, and we work with the best in the business. Click here to learn more.

With 900 species of birds, we clearly can’t cover them all. But we know that whether or not you come to Costa Rica as a birdwatcher, you’ll very likely leave as one! Have fun out there, and keep looking up!

We have a great bird watching vacation package that takes you to the high elevation of Póas Volcano, and to some of the best bird watching locations in the cloud forests, and in the rainforests near Arenal volcano. It's 8 days, and 7 nights of bird watching delights! Learn more here.

To learn more about all of our services, visit our home page.


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