Birding in Costa Rica

I was attracted to Costa Rica to explore its lush jungles, mighty volcanoes and the dramatic coastline. Little did I know that I would return home with a new hobby. I was well aware of Costa Rica’s reputation as the most biodiverse country on Earth and I was eager for the opportunity to spot monkeys, sloths, coatis, wild cats, frogs and whatever else I was lucky enough to observe. I also knew that Costa Rica was a birding paradise but I really didn’t give much thought to that. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy birds but honestly I really didn’t pay that much attention to them. Costa Rica changed that.

Three flights and one hour long bumpy jeep ride delivered me to the Osa Peninsula  in the remote Southwestern portion of Costa Rica, the lodge my new Eden. Set on a cliff overlooking the Pacific surrounded by rainforest this area was full of sights and sounds unlike any I’d experienced. Within minutes of arriving flashes of red gracefully gliding through the sky caught my eye. Scarlet macaws call the Osa home and its impossible not to be fascinated by these sunset colored beauties.

Scarlet Macaw Osa Peninsula, CR

Scarlet Macaw

I soon started noticing the avian bounty around me. Fierce raptors, zippy little hummingbirds and a variety of jewel toned songbirds beckoned. Often we’d have great sightings right from the dining area, eating with binoculars and cameras at the ready. It wasn’t uncommon for a small hummingbird to cause the dining area to jump up and leave half eaten breakfasts in hopes of capturing the tiny bird’s antics.

Crested caracara Osa, CR

Crested caracara

hummingbird Costa Rica

Stripe throated hermit hummingbird

Arenal, famous for its volcano, thermal hot springs and adventure activities is another haven for birders. I was woken in the morning by the work of woodpeckers, joined on a hike by a curious broad billed mot-mot(he followed us for a good 10 minutes!),  and caught the silhouette of the turkey like guan roosting in the treetop at dusk.

woodpecker Costa Rica

Black- cheeked woodpecker

Mot-mot Costa Rica

Broad billed mot-mot

guan Costa Rica

Crested guan

On my last morning I got quite the show during breakfast. We heard a ruckus in the trees about 40 feet away and spotted the distinctive bills of a pair of toucans. I focused my binoculars on the pair to find them raiding another bird’s nest and eating the eggs! Who knew they were predatory?!? It was in that moment I discovered how much was going on above me if only I took the time to look up. I was hooked.

toucan Costa Rica

Chestnut-mandibled toucan

I once thought birding to be the province of retirees and die hard naturalists but I’m happy to now count myself among their ranks. I wasn’t a birder when I went to Costa Rica but I certainly came back as one.

58 Comments on “Birding in Costa Rica

  1. Beautiful pictures! It must be so nice to see the birds in the wild. Animal encounters is always the best part of travel, I think (except for food, haha). Osa Peninsula is on my list for when I visit Costa Rica, but I’m lazy and it seems like such a hassle to get there!
    Anna | slightly astray recently posted…Thanks for the memories, Santiago!My Profile

    • It’s totally worth the effort to get there if you’re a wild life fan but I really don’t think you can go wrong anywhere in Costa Rica.

    • Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed them. Its really not hard to bird in Costa Rica, they’re everywhere!

  2. Wow that is spectacular! I’ve always had a fascination with Costa Rica; I’ve love to visit. I never thought of going bird watching but if I ever make it there, I’ll make sure to look up! 🙂
    Marsha recently posted…Berlin Travel TipsMy Profile

    • Costa Rica is a spectacular destination. Npo matter what you do you’ll have a blast!

    • They are so much fun to watch, whether its a little sparrow in my backyard or a beautiful scarlet macaw.

    • Costa Rica is one of my favorite destinations to date. The views, vibe and wildlife are all spectacular.

    • Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the photos :). I came home to discover I live in a pretty good birding area myself.

  3. That sounds like a fantastic adventure! Love your pictures, especially the hummingbird! 🙂

    • The hummingbirds were so fun to watch! Its just hard to snap a picture of them since they’re so quick.

    • It’s almost impossible not to take good pictures in Costa Rica, its a visual feast!

    • Thanks Mary, the variety of birds and wildlife is amazing. Costa Rica is a fantastic destination for kids too!

  4. These pics are just fab. I love Costa Rica so much. I also wrote a recent blog about it. The animals and jungles and beaches and people. All so wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, you can’t help but fall in love with all of the wildlife in Costa Rica!

    • Costa Rica is a fabulous place to start your life together!

  5. I would think of birding just like you (BTW, like your “die hard naturalists” expression 🙂 ). I missed Costa Rica due to the bad weather back in time when I worked on a cruise ship (we were supposed to dock in Limon). Still regret this and planning to visit it on my own one day. And now your gorgeous photos make me plan that Costa Rica trip sooner. Wildlife there really seems impressive.
    frankaboutcroatia recently posted…Traveling light in CroatiaMy Profile

    • Costa Rica is one of my favorite destinations to date, just so much to see and do.

    • I don’t know anyone who has visited Costa Rica who hasn’t loved it

  6. Excellent photos. Birds are not so easy to capture since they often fly away just when you’ve got them lined up! We plan to be in Costa Rica in November 2014 and will certainly take your advice as to where to enjoy the natural setting. I’m glad there are so many choices!
    Neil recently posted…Chihuly Glass Spectacle in the Desert GardenMy Profile

    • I’ve really just scratched the surface of birding in Costa Rica, the birding and wildlife is off the charts. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful trip.

    • Thanks, I’m glad you enjoy them. For me the Osa is one of the Earth’s special places, there really is nothing like it.

  7. Beautiful shots! I totally agree with you-it’s hard not to fall in love with Costa Rica’s birds. My husband and I have been here for about 10 months now and are becoming increasingly obsessed. If you ever have the chance, visit the ARA Project on your next trip to CR. They breed and release Scarlet and Great Green Macaws-it’s awesome to see so many of them flying free in the wild. Cheers!
    Jenn T. recently posted…The Cost of Owning a Car in Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Glad you like my photos. CR is really a visual feast isn’t it? I’ll be sure to check out the ARA project when I’m nearby, I love supporting animal rehab projects.

    • Thanks 🙂 With the sheer abundance of birds in CR I was bound to get some good shots!

    • You can’t help but notice the bird and other wildlife in Costa Rica. It’s one of my favorite destinations to date.

  8. My mom loves bird watching and I’ve always thought it was kind of funny. Now my husband is crazy for birds and loves photographing them. His interest started more as a photography thing when we traveled, but as he saw how intricate their feathers and colors are in the photos, he started paying more attention to the birds themselves.

    • I had always found it a bit odd too but that trip really showed me a new side of birds that I hadn’t noticed before. As a photographer I also think its about the challenge of getting a good shot, birds don’t always make the most cooperative models.

  9. Great pictures, even better animal choices!

    Would love to see them first hand some time in the immediate future.

  10. Amazing photographs! The clarity of your photos is excellent. Thanks for sharing you new found love of birding. I believe you’re right, Costa Rica can convert anyone into a nature lover.

    • I didn’t expect to love Costa Rica as much as I did. With wildlife that prolific and spectacular its hard not to get great photos!

    • Thank you. It’s hard not to get a few good shots in with the Osa’s abundant wild life.

  11. Pingback: Getting back to nature at Bosque del Cabo - Casual Travelist

  12. Wow, birding in Costa Rica looks simply incredible! I just finished up a unit on the rainforest with my first graders, so I recognized quite a few of these birds. It must have been amazing to see them and other animals so close up!
    Jen Joslin recently posted…Tarot Card Reader in Phnom PenhMy Profile

    • Still to this day one of the most amazing places I’ve been. THe wildlife of all kinds is so abundant.

    • Seriously, its crazy how much drama is going on overhead if we just take the time to look up.

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