There are a lot of birds in Costa Rica. In early 2018, the Costa Rica bird list stands at 920 plus species and we still expect a few more additions. Although no birder will check off 900 in Costa Rica during a trip or even over the course of several years, two or three weeks of birding can easily yield several hundred species, the likes of which can include such megas as Resplendent Quetzal, two species of macaws, toucans, Sunbittern, various tanagers, a few dozen hummingbirds, and many more.
Costa Rica is one of the easier places to see the incredible Resplendent Quetzal.
That said, not every trip is equal. Many birds are rare and difficult to see, not to mention just being tough to identify because visiting birders aren't familiar with them. With that in mind, the following are five of the best ways to see more birds when birding in Costa Rica:
1 Study before the trip- First and foremost, no matter how many guides accompany a birder, it truly pays off to study before the trip. This goes for anywhere but especially countries that harbor literally hundreds of avian possibilities. Get one or more field guides and apps and get in as much studying as you can. It even helps if you only have time to learn about the different bird families that occur in Costa Rica.
2 Bird in the right places- There are so many different species in Costa Rica because we have so many different types of habitats. To see more birds, not only do you have to make sure that you are spending enough time in those habitats, but also that you are visiting the sites with the highest quality forest, wetlands, and other places that simply host more birds.
Birding at Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, a good site for Sungrebe and many other localized species.
3 Bird with an experienced and tested local guide-Whether someone has been birding since the age of five or has been taking pictures of birds for less than a year, any birder will see more when birding with an experienced local guide. Invaluable experience is key because this translates to someone who recognizes every vocalization, identifies every bird quickly, and knows how to show them to both casual and serous birders.
4 Take a custom tour with that same guide-Working with an experienced guide to set up a tour to your liking makes it far more likely to connect with more of the birds that you want to see. During the tour, that same guide will know what you want to see and use his or her skills to make that happen.
5 Follow the guide's advice- This is something that is frequently overlooked yet vital for seeing more species. During the tour, it pays to remember that an experienced guide will have your interests in mind at all times. He or she will do their best to take you to the best places for more birds and then help you see them. That may require getting up earlier than expected, possibly heading out at night, or ignoring common birds when there is just one or two chances at seeing rare choice species like Bare-necked Umbrellabird or Ocellated Antbird.
To learn more about the best ways to see more birds in Costa Rica, send us an email. We want to help every birder in Costa Rica see more lifers!