Common Birds of Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a very birdy country. What this means in birder terms is that Costa Rica is a good country for bird watching if you want to see 100s of bird species ranging from 6 Toucans to 17 species of Woodpeckers to 21 species of Wrens and so on; over 800 species in a country the size of West Virginia! Although it would take many years to see 800 bird species in Costa Rica, that’s all the more reason to come back again and again to this extremely biodiverse country. There are quite a few common birds in Costa Rica and some are simply tough to miss. The following small sampling of Costa Rica’s amazing avian diversity are 10 species pretty easy to see when birding in most regions of the country.
Raucous, bold and brightly colored, the Great Kiskadee is a bird with character. This highly adaptable species feeds on everything from bugs to fruit to small lizards and will even dive for fish! A common bird of non-forest habitats in Costa Rica, the Great Kiskadee is one species hard to miss.
One of the most common, widespread birds in Costa Rica, the “viuda” is a well-known bird of gardens and non-forest habitats. This well-liked, subtly beautiful bird is often seen singing its squeaky song from garden vegetation, forest edge, the tops of houses and phone wires in towns throughout Costa Rica.
Probably the most urbanized bird species in Costa Rica, Great-tailed Grackle might frequent plazas more than people. This large, long-tailed iridescent black bird will not be missed on any trip to Costa Rica and will likely be the first bird seen upon entering the country. You will also certainly hear the amazing vocalizations of the “zanate”; Costa Rica’s version of a crow.
Parrots, parakeets and macaws are quintessential tropical birds. Their bright colors and screeches are an inherent part of the jungle experience (at least our pre-conceived notions). In Costa Rica, not only do you find them in the rainforest, but also right in the heart of San Jose where the Crimson-fronted Parakeet zips in screeching flight down city streets.
Familiar, friendly bird song rings through the garden of your hotel in Costa Rica. Although this is your first time in this beautiful country, you swear you have heard this bird before. A careful search in the orange trees of the garden reveals a plump brown bird with a yellowish bill. You have found Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-colored Robin.
Driving along most any road in Costa Rica, a yellow and gray bird species is frequently seen perched on the telephone wires. This common, quintessential roadside bird species of Costa Rica is the Tropical Kingbird. The better you learn this common species, the more likely you will notice something different or rare.
Wherever dove species occur, there are always a few that become accustomed to living with people. Mourning Doves occupy this role in much of North America, Eurasian Collared Doves are common inhabitants of European cities, southern Asia has the Spotted Dove and the dove that mournfully coos the most in towns and cities in Costa Rica is the White-winged Dove.
A bird with stripes like a zebra that prefers to drum instead of sing and has vocalizations that sound like laughter, the Hoffman’s Woodpecker is a fun bird to watch. Fortunately it is also a common and easy bird to see in Costa Rica. Of the 16 woodpecker species occurring in Costa Rica, the Hoffman’s is the one seen most often.
High above the Central Valley and mountains of Costa Rica, Blue-and-white Swallows swoop, dart and zip after airborne prey. Friendly birds, they sometimes nest in the eaves of houses and hotels although you are far more likely to see them gracefully riding the highland winds, especially before and during rainstorms.
In any grassy field in Costa Rica, you are likely to hear the Blue-black Grassquit. However, you are also just as likely to overlook its brief insect-like song. Nevertheless, a close look in the field will probably reveal the singing male because each time he sings, he bounces into the air like a small, dark feathered ball.
by Patrick O'Donnell
His blog about living and birding in Costa Rica: