Exotic Bird World
Exotic birds are amongst the most loved creatures

Costa Rica Birds


Map of Costa Rica showing locations of major birding destinations.

Of the 850+ species of birds recorded in Costa Rica, nearly 800 occur on a regular basis. This great diversity of species reflects the diversity of habitats found in the country. Most Costa Rican avifauna is found in forests. Aquatic species don’t vary much across the country. The same is generally true of the 30-50 bird species found in open pastureland and scrub, except in high elevation paramo where some species are found nowhere else. Species composition is different on the Pacific and Caribbean slopes and changes with increasing altitude. That’s why the best birding tours visit locales on both slopes and in several altitudinal zones.

The highest number of bird species occurs in lowland wet forests, where some 200 breed in any given area and another 100-200 pass through or regularly appear. Lowland dry forests support little more than half the number of species found in lowland wet forests. Some of the best lowland forests are Carara National Park and Corcovado National Park. Some of the best middle elevation sites are at Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in the northwest, La Selva Biological Station on the Caribbean slope, and San Gerardo de Dota in a valley of the Talamanca Mountains south of San Jose. Each site has its own special character, and each offers a somewhat different mix of forest birds. Carara is especially notable in featuring a transitional zone that includes both wet and dry forest.

Resplendent Quetzal - © Laura L Fellows and Exotic Birding ToursCertainly one of the big attractions of Costa Rica birding is the Resplendent Quetzal. This extraordinary trogon with sweeping tail plumes is best seen before breeding season during January and February at Monteverde and throughout the dry season from December-April in the Talamanca Mountains, especially around San Gerardo de Dota, which is most reliable place to see this species.

As one moves upslope, the number of species generally declines but the species composition is quite distinct from the lowlands. At higher elevations only 40-50 breeding species occur, while still higher in the paramo less than 25 species occur. A notable high elevation birding locale is the area around Cerro de la Muerte in the Talamanca Mountains.

The most popular Costa Rica birding tours generally visit Carara, La Selva, and the Talamanca Mountains. Some tours visit Monteverde as well. Few tours visit Corcovado and the more tropical areas around San Vito and Golfito near the border with Panama because those sites are less publicized and accommodations tend to be more basic. Even so, the south features more tropical forest that attract a variety of bird species not seen on typical tours.