COSTA RICA

BIRDING

Costa Rica is a perennial favourite among birders.  Though relatively small in size, Costa Rica is home to one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.

 

Whether heading to the Cloud Forest, humid Lowlands, arid mountain peaks, dry forests, mangroves or coral reefs, birds are highly accessible to visitors.

Visit throughout the year or focus on the Autumn migration from North America to South America (Aug-Dec) and the Winter migration, when the birds return to the North (Jan-May) to find higher numbers.  

The country is equipped with a series of excellent lodges &  amazing forest facilities.  

And, of course, it offers one of the world's must see birds - the Resplendent Quetzal.  

We work with a fantastic local agent who has more than 20 years guiding experience and is repeatedly the top rated birdwatching operator in Costa Rica.  

Packages can be customized to help you find the best birding places, to fit your budget, to search a particular bird, B&B thru to All-Inclusive, private & small groups, by 4x4 or luxury vehicle.

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EXAMPLE ITINERARY:  COSTA RICA SPICE MIX
Small Group or Private Expedition

Day 1:  Arrival
Arrive in Juan Santamaria International Airport where you will be welcomed by your guide and escorted to your hotel.Depending on arrival time, you may also be able to do some birding on the hotel grounds. 
Overnight in San Jose.

Day 2:  Caribbean foothills & Waterfall Gardens

Drive north from the Central Valley over the active volcanic zone, down into the Caribbean forest lowlands, towards one of the best spots for hummingbirds and middle elevation birds.  Waterfall Gardens is well known as "hummingbird’s heaven" with some endemic mountain species, not seen anywhere else in the world.

 Every day birds here are Coppery-headed Emerald (known only from Costa Rica),  Black bellied hummingbird, Brown violet-ear, Green Hermit, Ochraceous Wren, Crimson-collared Tanager, Emerald Tanager, and Silver-throated Tanager, White hawk, Prong-billed Barbet and Red-headed Barbet, American Dippers and Torrent Tyrannulets. The best place for Northern Emeral Tucanet.  Overnight at  Arenal Lodge.  

Day 3:  Arenal  National Park  and Hanging Bridges

Arenal Volcano is the most spectacularly active volcano in Costa Rica, with its perfect cone visible from almost anywhere in the area.   If you are lucky the volcano will be showing in all its glory, and possibly even erupting off and on!  Birding is productive from the roads around the Arenal Lake and the trails in the National Park.  

 

One the most beautiful environmentally-friendly projects in Costa Rica, Arenal Hanging Bridges is a natural corridor followed by migratory birds between North and South America.  Spend a half day walking the trails and bridges, birding this lowland tropical pristine rain forest. Looking at birds from this height gives you the chance to find raptors such as Swallow-tailed Kite, Double-toothed Kite, Tiny Hawk, Bicolored Hawk, and Gray Hawk.  Overnight at Arenal Lodge.  

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Day 4:  Sarapiqui Plains & Central Caribbean Lowlands

Sarapiqui area is located in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica, renowned for its high bird diversity, the number of National Parks, private protected forests and bird sanctuaries, and the huge raptor and hawk migration that passes the region every year.

 

The target birds in Sarapiqui  are the  highly endangered Great Green Macaw and Sunbittern. Along the Sarapiqui River birders can find Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Green Ibis, Keel-billed and Yellow- throated Tucans.      Overnight at Selva Verde Lodge.  

Day 5:  La Selva Biological Reserve

Early morning guided hike to La Selva Biological Reserve, owned and managed by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of universities dedicated to rain forest research. La Selva covers an expanse of lowland rainforest on the Caribbean slope of northwestern Costa Rica. It serves primarily as a research and educational facility and is a fabulous birding destination with over 400 species recorded in the area. La Selva is great for “big birds”, and we have the chance of seeing species such as Great Currasow, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Tiny Hawk, White-crowned, Red-lored, and Mealy Parrots.   Overnight at Selva Verde Lodge. 

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Day 6: San Gerardo Valley. Central Highlands

A pristine mountain valley located high in the Talamanca Mountains at 2200 meters of altitude (7220 ft) nestled in a steeply walled river valley where the cloud forest is filled with massive oaks and other highland native species.

 

The best birding spot in the country for regional endemics. More than 50 endemic birds are found in the central  highlands of Savegre. Before reaching the lodge you’ll bird along the road at about 9000 feet elevation, and have your first chance at a number of the regional endemics found in these mountains, including fancy species such as Volcano Hummingbird, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and both Yellow-thighed and Large-footed Finch.   Overnight at Savegre Lodge.  

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Day 7: Quetzal Quest

Start the day looking for one of the most attractive birds in the world: The Resplendent Quetzal!   Over 170 bird species have been observed in the area and among birders  San Gerardo  is treasured as the best place in Costa Rica to see this target bird.

Whilst seeing a Quetzal will be our main goal, the valley is also an excellent place for all the specialty birds of the region, including Highland Tinamou, Red-tailed Hawk, Black Guan, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Ruddy Treerunner, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Sooty Robin, Ruddy Pigeon, and many hummingbirds like White-throated Mountain-gem, Scintillant Hummingbird, and Purple-throated Mountain-gem.  Overnight Savegre Lodge.  

Day 8:  Ensenada . Northern Pacific dry forest

Northwest Pacific contains some of the last remnants of the endangered life zone know as tropical lowland dry forest. Its large salt pans offer birding opportunities for shore birds, locals and migrants.

 

Target birds are the rare Jabiru (one of the trip favorites) and the handsome Three-wattled Bellbird.  Best chance for rare endemics and local dry forest specialties including birds that are not readily seen farther south, such as Spot-bellied Bobwhite, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Spotted-breasted Oriole, Streak-backed Oriole, Snail Kite, Roseate Spoonbill, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Yellow-naped Parrot, Mangrove Hummingbird, Banded Wren, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Limpkin, Scrub Euphonia, White-throated Magpie-Jay.  Overnight Ensenada Lodge.

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Day 9:  Hacienda Solimar wetlands

Private preserve located on the Palo Verde Wildlife Refuge area, in which thousands of birds inhabit during the migration from the north.  Also a fabulous place to find dry tropical forest specialities such as Thicket Tinamou, Long tailed Manakin, Lesser ground Cuckoo, and the rare Jabiru stork.

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The area is a seasonal flooded flatland with semi deciduous forest evergreen riparian vegetation, small shrubs and bushes.  Birding Ensenada Lodge during the morning and visiting Solimar in the afternoon, when the temperature is fresher and the sunset paints the wetlands  in orange.  Overnight Ensenada Lodge.

Day 10:  Central Pacific lowlands. Tarcoles River Estuary 

The Central Pacific area consists of transitional lowland forest where the more humid forests of the southern Pacific coast blend and overlap with the drier forests of the northern Pacific coast.

 

The ranges of many birds found to the north extend to central pacific and beyond, no wonder the list for this area exceeds 300 species of birds!  The result is a unique zone of overlap where both northern and southern species can be seen in the same place. In the afternoon, after lunch, the group takes a tour along the Tarcoles River and Guacalillo mangrove estuary. Here is  the largest population of American Crocodiles in Central America. You will see many of the biggest ones on the sand banks. Great opportunity for fresh water birds, waders and shorebirds.  Overnight Villa Lapas Lodge.  

Day 11:  Carara National Park
Carara National Park is considered by many to be one of the best birding locations in Costa Rica. The national park is famous for its population of Scarlet Macaws, and you are certain to see many, particularly at dusk. Great opportunity for raptors and scavengers like Yellow-headed Caracara, Hook-billed Kite, Laughing Falcon, King Volture, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Striped Owl, Northern Crested Caracara.The excellent birdlife includes up to five different species of Trogons, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Royal Flycatcher,  King Vulture, Grey-necked Wood-rail, Elegant Tern, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Smooth-billed Ani, Scaled Pigeon,  Costa Rican Swift, , Panama Flycatcher and  some rarities like Mangove Hummingbird (one of the country´s endemic), Mangrove Vireo, Mangrove Warbler, Rufous-necked Wood Rail!!  Overnight Villa Lapas Lodge.

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Day 12:  Tarcoles Grounds and Departure Day
Early morning take a birding walk in the lodge trails for the last birds of the trip. After breakfast leave to the international airport - a short trip of approx 1.5 hours.