Are There Best Times for Birding in Costa Rica?
Birding in Costa Rica is possible at any time year but we could say the same about January in Iceland. Not that January in Iceland is a bad time for birding. It probably has a few key species but why watch very little during the literal dark of freezing winter when you can see breeding phalaropes and more during the summer months?
Anyone who birds in places graced with seasons quickly learns that some months are better for seeing gulls, that early May is the best time for songbirds in breeding plumage, and that the winter months are when we might spy a Rough-legged Hawk hovering over a weedy field.
No Rough-leggeds in Costa Rica but we do have Black Hawk-Eagles...
The expected change in numbers and types of birds is also why many a birder wonders when they should visit Costa Rica for birding. Surely, there must be a best month, a best time of the year to see more species. Since so many tours to Costa Rica visit during February and March, it would seem that this must be prime time to see more birds in Costa Rica but is that really the case?
Well, yes and no because (1) it depends on what you would rather see and (2) how you would like to do your birding.
We like to do our birding by showing birding clubs species like the Green Thorntail.
The reason why so many tours visit during the winter months isn't necessarily because the birding is better. It's more because this is when it rains less in some parts of the country and it's not freezing cold (who wouldn't rather visit a tropical country during the winter months?).
As for the birds (and this might sound crazy but it's true), there are actually more resident breeding species in Costa Rica from May to August than January to March. What? Yes! A handful more but definitely more (take it from us, we have been watching birds in Costa Rica for a long time). This means that if you just wanted to focus on resident birds, you could have a fantastic trip at almost any time of the year.
Ok, that might be true but in terms of overall species, there are certainly more during the heavily visited winter months. But that's because most of those extra birds are species that breed in North America, species like Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. So, once again, when you visit Costa Rica for birding, the best time for you depends on what you would rather see and how you want to watch birds.
But what about the rains? Yes, it might rain more between May and November but the payoff is cloudy weather that results in higher levels of bird activity.
Birds in breeding plumage? For most species in Costa Rica, that's actually not much of an issue.