Costa Rica Birds & National Parks

Rufous-tailed humming bird, Costa Rica Birds

Costa Rica Birds: the favourite avian, a Rufous-tail humming bird.

Seeing Costa Rica birds

Toucan, Costa Rica Birds

A Chestnut-mandibled Toucan. Photo by Marinezilla

This tiny peaceful tropical country has dedicated about 15% of its land to national parks containing a vast variety of wildlife – especially birds (850 species)- and over 12, 000 species of flowering plants.

However, the rarer species will not be seen without powerful binoculars and a good guide spotting for you. As any true twitcher knows you’ll need a vast lens (400mm+ with image stabiliser) to catch any decent pictures of our nervous feathered friends, though the country plays host to hundreds of unusual birds.

Grey-necked Wood Rail, Costa Rica Birds

A Grey-Necked Wood Rail. Photo by Hans Hillewaert

Costa Rica Birds in National Parks

There are around 70 nature parks, here are a few of the more interesting ones, north to south:

• Santa Rosa NP, an old, well developed, dry tropical forest on the NW Pacific coast not far from the Inter-American Highway, contains the largest protected tropical dry forest in the Americas, home to jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, turtles, monkeys, bats, iguanas and more, as well as 260 species of bird. It’s a bit of a hike from San José.

• Rincon de la Vieja NP, NW, is reasonably easy to access from Liberia and loaded with wildlife, especially monkeys, snakes and coatis.

• Palo Verde NP, NW, mostly for 280 species of water birds (best September-March).

• Tortuguero National Park on the north Caribbean coast is the spot for visiting/watching green sea turtles, as well as other wildlife.

• Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve (quite near to San José), perhaps the most commercial and well developed park, this new scientific upstart is home to 100 species of mammal, 400 species of birds (including the quetzal and the emerald toucanet) and 420 species of orchids. Not only is it a lot nearer to San José (3hrs) than most others, but it also contains the biggest canopy walk – Skytrek (3hrs, 2km/1. 25m) including one 400m slide and 80m suspension bridges. It has 24 kms of trails, and 3 huts en route. But it’s not called a Cloud Forest for nothing! Blue sky may be in short supply but water won’t be. . .

• Cahuita and Manuel Antonio NPs (MA is nearish to San José), on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts respectively, have good beaches, snorkelling with innumerable species of fish and forests of monkeys, iguana, coatis, birds etc.

• Braulio Carrillo NP (quite near to San José), on the Northern Plains and loaded with wildlife and colourful plants but oddly difficult to get to and around, though definitely worth the effort.

• La Selva Biological Station, also on the Northern Plains and offering plenty of nature in tooth and claw is easy going.

• Corcovado NP may be Costa Rica’s most diverse park, 200 sq. miles with a large range of habitats from heavy rain forest to seashore jungle, hosting 140 species of mammal from jaguars to tapir, 116 species of reptiles and 285 species of bird, from scarlet macaws thru hummingbirds to fishing bulldog bats! But Corcovado is in the distant SW and difficult to get to (fly to Palmar, then boat on the River Sierpe to Drake village? ), very humid and tough hiking, but a superb wildlife experience.

White-throated Magpie, Costa Rica Birds

White throated Magpie-Jay. Photo by Stev Jurvetson

Some of the best parks for bird watching

Scarlet Macaw, Costa Rica Birds

A Scarlet Macaw. Photo by chuck624

La Selva Biological Station on the Northern Plains (excellent for amateurs)

The ever-popular Monteverde Cloud Forest on the Northern Plains (400 species including quetzals, emerald toucanets, blue-crowned motmots)

Palo Verde, NW Costa Rica mostly for 279 species of water birds (best Sept-March)

Carara in the Central Pacific zone (scarlet macaws, boat-billed herons, trogons)

Cerro de la Muerte in the South Pacific zone (especially good for quetzal sightings) and of course the distant but still untamed Corcovado, also South Pacific, with its large population of scarlet macaws.

The Aztecs favourite bird, the Quetzal, Costa Rica

The Aztecs favourite bird, the Quetzal. Photo by Jimfbleak