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20 of the Most Photogenic Birds of Costa Rica

A lot of birds live in Costa Rica. That's probably an understatement. Just a bit less than the size of West Virginia, slightly larger than Denmark, Costa Rica harbors a variety of tropical habitats that provide living space for literally hundreds of bird species. Well over 600 are resident (!) and 300 plus more birds are migrants or accidental vagrants that push the bird list to around 930 species.

Yes, that many (!) and with a high number being beautiful tropical birds, as one might imagine, there is an abundance of fantastic photographic opportunities. Toucans, parrots, macaws, nearly 50 species of glittering, show-stopping hummingbirds, Costa Rica has a lot to focus on. With so many possibilities, it's a challenge to pick out a top 20 or even top 30 best birds to photograph. Even so, we figured we would try and make a list. With the caveat that beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, in no particular order, here's our take on 20 of the more photogenic birds in Costa Rica:

This reclusive species of lowland rainforest might be the most beautiful of all heron species.

King Vulture

Even vultures can be stunning!


An odd wading bird that has wings decorated with amazing eyespots.

Violet Sabrewing

When in the presence of a big purple hummingbird, the challenge is NOT taking hundreds of captures.


One of the most unique hummingbird species, the crown of the Snowcap seems to glow in the dark.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

One of the fanciest bird species of the Costa Rican highlands.

Resplendent Quetzal

Simply one of the most spectacular of all bird species. A true world mega and Costa Rica is one of the best places to capture it with the camera.

Fiery-billed Aracari (and other toucans)

Toucans are as animated as they are colorful. This species only occurs in Costa Rica and western Panama. The other 5 species of toucans that live in Costa Rica are just as stunning.

Turquoise-browed Motmot

All motmots are made for the camera but this species is a true stunner that is common and loves the lens.

Red-headed Barbet

A fantastic bird with exotic, beautiful plumage. A few sites in Costa Rica offer close looks at this beauty.

Scarlet Macaw

A seriously impressive bird, thanks to years of conservation efforts, Scarlet Macaws are now common in many parts of Costa Rica.

Ocellated Antbird

A stunning, skulking eye-catching species that follows army ants.

Long-tailed Manakin

Like a miniature, dancing bird of paradise.

Turquoise Cotinga

This shining turquoise and purple bird is a living jewel nearly restricted to the rainforests of southern Costa Rica.

Montezuma Oropendola

Common and exuberant, this over-sized oriole is naturally photogenic.

Bay-headed Tanager

Most of the tanagers sport beautiful colors, this species is simply stunning.

Golden-hooded Tanager

Can you believe that this bird species is one of the more common tanagers of humid lowland habitats?

Green Honeycreeper

Another common, stunning tanager from Costa Rica.

Red-legged Honeycreeper

A common, fantastic little photogenic bird.

Collared Redstart

This smart little highland warbler can approach and pose for captures.

Believe it or not, this is a small sampling of beautiful, photogenic birds that live in Costa Rica. Several are common, some more challenging, all are much easier to capture with the help of local, expert, well-practiced guides. Contact us to learn how to photograph these and many other species of birds in Costa Rica.

Most of these pictures were taken by Juan Diego Vargas, some by Patrick O'Donnell. The Turquoise Cotinga was taken by David Rodriguez.


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