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Birding in Costa Rica or Birding in Panama. What's the Difference?

Costa Rica and Panama. Two neighboring countries, each with fantastic birding, it's no surprise that many birders wonder how the birding compares between each nation. Having guided and birded in each country, this is our take on some of the most frequently asked questions posed by our clients regarding birding in southern Central America:

Will I see the same species in each country?

Yes and no. Although Costa Rica and Panama are right next to each other, they still have their differences. While many birds are shared between each country, some are more common in Costa Rica, others more common in Panama and then there are various species that aren't found in Panama and vice versa. For example, several beautiful dry forest species like Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yellow-naped Parrot, and Long-tailed Manakin reach the southern limit of their range in Costa Rica whereas species like the Crimson-backed Tanager and Lesser Kiskadee don't normally occur north of Panama.

The exquisite Long-tailed Manakin is fairly common in Costa Rica.

Which place is better for birding?

This all depends on what you want to see but in general, in terms of numbers of species and access in seeing them, both countries are pretty similar in terms of overall birding. If a birder wanted to see more tanagers and hummingbirds in cloud forest, Costa Rica has more easily accessible sites. If a birder wanted an adventurous tour to look for Harpy Eagle and other species of the wild Darien, then Panama is the place to go.

Why visit both Panama and Costa Rica?

Once again, this depends on the birds one would like to see because a fair number won't be found in Panama and several others don't occur in Costa Rica. Want to experience fantastic lowland birding on the Pipeline Road? We sure love that! Take a birding trip to Panama. Want to take pictures of Snowcap and Black-crested Coquette? Costa Rica offers very good chances to live that dream!

Which is better for bird photography?

Yet again another tough question when talking about two countries with excellent birding and photo opportunities. We don't feel that one is better than the other because both countries have access to good habitat and feeder set ups with hundreds of beautiful birds.

If we had to make one generality, it might be that Costa Rica is better for highland birding and Panama better for lowland rainforest but honestly, even that is up for debate. What we can say though, is that since each country offers up its own distinct brand of excellent birding, separate trips to each nation are in order. In fact, a high percentage of world birders have visited Panama on one trip and Costa Rica on another. It's also telling that local birders in Costa Rica eventually pay a visit to Panama and vice versa. To learn more about customized, high quality birding trips to Costa Rica, Panama, and elsewhere, contact us today. We look forward to hearing about the birds you want to see and photograph!

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