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Birds at Pacific habitats of COSTA RICA

Spend 2 weeks with discovering the best birding habitats on the Pacific side. From volcanoes through sandy and rocky beaches, form lush tropical lowland forests, through wetlands and mangroves, till middle-elevation “foothills” up to high elevation cloud-forests and paramo we visit all the most interesting bird- and wildlife rich areas of the Pacific Costa Rica. We will encounter loads of birds, mammals, butterflies and other wildlife for sure during the tour.

Trip Report of Pacific Birding March2020

Fact File

- 14 days in Costa Rica visiting National Parks, reserves & hidden places
- start and finish in San Jose
- using most of the accommodations for 2nights (except upon arrival and departure and at our lodge), all of them offer great on-site birding


- Savegre Reserve, high mountain cloud forests, Paramo
- visits to Pacific Coast sanctuaries, National Parks and reserves
– SW corner of the coutry, close to Panama
- optional boat trip on Tarcoles River, Carara NP
- birding at several different habitats
-birding at Volcan Tenorio area, one of the richest areas for birds in CR
- wide variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and habitats


1 night San Jose
2 nights at a Lodge in Bijagua, Volcan Tenorio, close to Nicaragua
2 nights at either Ensenada Lodge, NPacific or Villas Lapas,Carara NP
3 nights at Toucan EcoLodge at Southern Central Pacific
2 nights at either Wilson’s Botanical Garden or Esquinas Lodge, South Pacific, close to Panama
2 nights at San Gerardo de Dota at Savegre Mountain,
1 night at San Jose (1overnight flight home if you came from Europe)


Our price includes
- all travel within the country as noted in the itinerary;
- all accommodation based on shared rooms, single rooms for extra charge;
- 3 meals per day, generally breakfast, box lunch, dinner - services of the leader(s);
- trip materials

Price does not include
-drinks, but you can fill your water bottle during the day;
-any personal expenses; tips
-entrance fees to places not included in the itinerary
-price of optional programmes such as Boat Tours: Mangrove; Whale/Dolphin; Turtle Tours

Activity level

Easy to moderate walks; some areas are hot and humid; up in the cloud forest can be cool, rain is possible however it is dry season

Itinerary with highlight species

Day 1 Arrival to San Jose and transfer to our hotel, birding on site if possible.

Days 2-3 Bijagua at Volcan Tenorio, close to Nicaraguan border

The Volcan Tenorio National park covers 12,000 hectares and it is part of the Tenorio-Miravalles Biological Corridor. The area has a special microclimate and has a special geographical location as well partly because it is at the dividing line between the Atlantic and Pacific regions and partly because it is between 300 and 2000 meters. We will stay at around 600/800 meters. Volcan Tenorio and Celeste Mountain was just recently discovered by birding companies, most of them still do not visit this excellent area despite the fact that more than half of the bird species of Costa Rica can be found here. What is more, not just the variety amazing, but the quality of species as well. Imagine if we could concentrate just on owls, theoretically we would have a chance for 10 species! Can’t recall any other area either in CR or outside with that potential. Add to this such sought after species like Tody Motmot, Keel-billed Motmot, Bare-necked Umbrella Bird, Brown-hooded Parrot, Coppery-headed Emerald, White-collared and Whiteruffed Manakin, Green Shrike Vireo, Rufous-winged Tanager, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Three-wattled Bellbird, Dull-mantled Ant-bird, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Violaceous and Purplish-backed Quail-Dove or even Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo – well, any of these would be highlights of the tour.

We will surely bird around the road going from Bijagua up towards the National Park. There are always some mix species flocks and sometimes you can find further excellent species such as Lovely Cotinga, White-fronted Nunbird, Lattice-tailed Toucan or Northern Schiffornis. we should always keep an eye on the sky as well and we might be rewarded by an Ornate Hawk-Eagle, White Hawk or Black Hawk-Eagle. Apart from the common Hummingbird species we have a chance for such specialities as Snowcap and Black-crested Coquette, especially if lot of shrubs in flower. The area of the accommodation offers very good birding as well with a long list of species, so we mention just a few such as Barred Ant-shrike, Bay Wren, several Tanagers like Passerini’s, Silver-throated, Blue-Grey and Hepatic Tanager, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Baltimore Oriole and Black-cheeked Woodpecker. If we can find a good ant-swarm then loads of otherwise hard to see birds can be seen relatively easy as well, including a long list of Antbirds, such as Dull-mantled, Ocellated, Spotted, Bicolored and Zeledon’s Antbird. Also in this way it would be easier to see Streak-crowned Antvireo, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Spotted Woodcreeper, Spotted Barbtail, Golden-crowned Warbler, Rufous-winged Tanager, Song Wren, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Nightingale Wren or White-throated Spadebill. Motmot here would be represented by Keel-billed, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmot. If we will have time, we might visit the trails of Heliconias as well where Long-billed Starthroat is the most commonly seen hummingbird species around the lodge. This would give a second chance for Great Curassow, Crested Guan, Tody Motmot, Blackcrested Coquette, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Spotted Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Sharpbill, Song Wren, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo. Sometimes Black-and-White Owl hunts at the lights near the lodge entrance, Mottled and Crested Owls are also possible. Pacific Screech Owl can be at the more open fields below the lodge, while further down Tropical Screech Owl replaces it in the town. Barn and Striped Owls are also quite common at deforested areas. If you like Moths you will feel in paradise, there are hundreds of species around every night from tiny one to huge ones, even without a proper moth trap the variety is amazing.

Days 4-5 From the Northern corner of the country we travel South towards the Central Pacific region close to Carara National Park.

During the way we pass Palo Verde, a huge wetland system and depending on the season we might make a detour there. We also can stop on the way to discover dry habitats and look for species there such as Double-striped Thick-Knee, Banded Wren, Scrub Euphonia, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Stripeheaded Sparrow or Spot-breasted Oriole. With some luck we can even encounter Spot-bellied Bobwhite or Lesser GroundCuckoo or Yellow-naped Parrot.

Next day most of the time will be spent at Carara National Park which boasts of pristine lowland tropical forests and some secondary forest, scrub, wetlands, mudflats and mangrove thickets, each of which has its own range of species including Great Curassow, Laughing Falcon, Yellow-headed Caracara, Collared Forest-falcon, Grey and Roadside Hawks, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and Streak-backed Oriole. Our optional boat Safari on the Tarcoles river visits the estuary which is one of the best locations to see endangered birds such as the Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Vireo and Panama Flycatcher, and more common ones such as Pelicans, Boat-billed Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Barethroated Tiger-heron, American Purple Gallinule, Black Skimmer, Magnificent Frigatebird, Mangrove Warbler, Mangrove Black-hawk and American Pygmy Kingfisher. At and around our accommodation we will find Grey-headed Dove, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Scarlet Macaw, Whitecollared Swift, Long-billed Hermit, Scalybreasted Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Blue-crowned/Diademed Motmot, White-wiskered Puffbird, Hoffman’s Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Bright-rumped Attila, Northern Royal Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Cinnamon & Rosethroated Becard, Blue-crowned Manakin, Yellow-green Vireo, Rufous-naped Wren, Buff-rumped Warbler, Grey-headed Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper.

Days 6-8 3 nights at Toucan EcoLodge at Southern Central Pacific

Before breakfast we have a last walk when we may add some new species to our already long list. After breakfast we have to say goodbye to this lovely place and all the birds. We pack again and continue our journey. From here we travel further South partly nearby the coast, sometimes with excellent views of the Pacific Ocean and finally a bit up on the slopes of the Baru Volcano to our next accommodation at Toucan EcoLodge and Wildlife Reserve. We might break the journey with a stop at a suitable places for some birding. Possible species include Fiery-billed Araçari, Blue-throated Goldentail, Blue-black Grosbeak and many more. From here we continue towards the slopes of the Baru Hill to our Toucan EcoLodge which is surrounded by 23 hectares of primary and secondary tropical rainforests and a bit of garden with fruits and flowers. This is home for abundant wildlife from tiny insects through colourful poison-arrow frogs, some mammals, but the most active and numerous vertebrates are the birds. We have about 5 kilometres or 3 miles excellent trails through the garden and mainly in the forest where it is possible to observe more than 200 species of birds throughout the year. Yellow-throated Toucan, Riverside Wren and Crested Guan usually greeting you first in the garden. Various other species can be around such as Crimson-fronted Parakeet, White-crowned Parrot, Gray-cowled Wood-rail and sometimes even Great Currassow. There are always many flowers and a few feeders as well for Hummingbirds, including Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Long-tailed and Stripe-throated Hermits, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Purple-crowned Fairy. Other new species can be here Golden-naped Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Wedge-billed, Black-striped, Cocoa and Northern Barred Woodcreeper. We have 3 Manakin species around, the most common one here is the Blue-crowned, then the Red-capped but seasonally we have White-ruffed as well. Blackhooded-Antshrike and Chestnut-backed Antbird should be common as well. Much harder to find Rufous Mourner, Great Tinamu or one of the several Trogon species which possible alongside the trails. In the meantime we can here Mantled Howler Monkeys or spot a 3- toed Sloth or an Orange-billed Sparrow. From here we can venture out to lower elevations where alongside a river bank we can look for Tricolored Heron and American White Ibis, Willet, Greater Yellowleg and Spotted Sandpiper. Royal Tern, Common Black Hawk, Inca Dove and even Scarlet Macaw all possible here. Garthered Trogon, Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Blueand-White Swallow and Mangrove Swallow can colour the day further here! On another day we also can go a bit higher to middle elevations or foothills where with some luck we can bump into a mixed flock of White-lined, Speckled and Silvery-throated Tanagers, Bufffronted Foliage-gleaner, Plain Antvireo and many more. Collared Trogon can be a highlight here and there is a long list of further species possible at this elevation. Surely it is a place where we can practice to find and ID forest flycatcher species as well such as the Slaty-capped Flycatcher or the tiny but sometimes really loud Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant. During the evenings you can find Common Pauraque on our entrance road and quite regularly we can hear Mottled Owl as well.

Crested Guans are regularly around while Great Curassow sometimes checking out our compost pile. A nice surprise can be a Zone-tailed Hawk which many times overlooked or mistaken as a Turkey Vulture. Generally never easy to see well but for us it is a regular resident both Collared Forest-Falcon and Gray-headed Kite. Parakeets and parrots can be represented by Orangechinned and Crimson-collared Parakeet, a locally common White-crowned Parrot and a bit rarer Red-lored and Mealy Amazon. Further species include Slaty-tailed Trogon, Palebilled & Golden-naped Woodpeckers, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Golden-winged Warbler, Blue Dacnis, Scarlet-rumped Cacique and Montezuma Oropendula, without mentioning of course all the possibilities.

Days 9-10 Today we have to say goodbye to our amazing base and drive down from the hills further South and gradually approach the Eastern edge of the country, close to the Panamanian border. On the way we will pass Park Nacional Marino Ballena, also will stop from time to time for some birding to find Baird's Trogon for example before we arrive to San Vito area. Here we stay at the famous Wilson Botanical Garden which has great trails in primary and secondary forests, beside the amazing variety of trees and wildflowers in the garden itself. It is a perfect place to look for a wide variety of Tanagers, Flycatchers, Tinamus, Parrots, Parakeets, Woodpeckers and Woodcreepers, plus several Hummingbird species and some endemics as well. The fruit feeder and the surrounding flowering and fruiting trees are always busy with several species. We can observe raptors such as Bicolored Hawk, Barred Hawk, White Hawk & more, plus find some birds in the surrounding canopy of the forest from a lookout tower. On one of the days we might make an excursion to the Golfito area to look for Brown-chested Martin, Baird’s Trogon, Blue-crowned Manakin, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Scrub Greenlet and Thick-billed Euphonia. Forktailed Flycatcher should be easy if it is around. We will have a chance for Red-breasted Blackbird and with some luck even the endemic Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager.

Days 11-12 After our last morning at Southern corner of Costa Rica we travel North at the beginning on smaller roads than later on the Panamerican Road. Later on we start to climb on the curvy but good quality road up the Cordillera de Talamanca & Cerro de la Muerte to the Savegre Area crossing farmlands, tropical forests, cloud forests and paramo with species endemic to Costa Rican and Panamian hills: Coppery-headed Emerald, Volcano Hummingbird, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher and Peg-billed Finch. As we descend into the valley we will brake the journey to find Large-footed & Yellow-tighted Finch, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, White-throated & Greytailed Mountain Gem, Silvery-throated Jay, Black-billed Nightingale Thrush, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Flamecoloured Tanager, Slaty Flowerpiercer and some more. Next day we will concentrate on different trogon species, Resplendent Quetzal & Blue-throated Toucanet. There is a good chance that we find Black Guan, Spotted Wood Quail, Sulphur-winged Parakeet & Barred Parakeet as well. A wide variety of hummingbirds will be around our accommodation & restaurant such as Magnificent Hummingbird, Green Violetear, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Volcano & Scintillant Hummingbird. On our last tour beside all the previous ones we added some other local specialities as well, such as Ruddy Treerunner, Spotted Barbtail, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Torrent Tyrannulet, Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrush, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Whitestart, Black-cheeked Warbler & Spangle-cheeked Tanager, not to mention the common species.

Day 13 Half of the day we still can spend at this beautiful area and we will concentrate on finding species whatever we happened to miss before. During the afternoon we travel back to San Jose where our comfortable hotel has also attractive garden with birds around. Day 14 After a morning birding in the hotel garden finally we return to San Jose airport for our flight back home.

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