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Birds in Costa Rica and Panama- New Lumps and Splits in 2022

The Costa Rica bird list has recently topped 930 species! That's a sizeable increase from the oft-quoted and antiquated total of 860. That number dates back to the 80s when the first field guide for Costa Rica became available. Since then, several species of non-forest habitats have spread to Costa Rica from the south as well as from the north, and more birders in the field has resulted in the discovery of more country firsts. A similar situation has happened in Panama. The Panama bird list now has more than 1,000 species (!).


The elusive Snowcap is one of the fancier species found on bird lists for both countries.

With so many species in mind, it can be a challenge to keep track of the additions and changes made to the bird lists for Costa Rica and Panama. Luckily, from time to time, updates are made to the eBird taxonomic database to reflect such changes. This is why some birds on our eBird lists may seem to disappear while other "new" species become present. A lot of this is related to name changes, and, if we are lucky, splits! A split in birding terms is when ornithologists have realized that a bird species is better off being recognized as two or three or even more species, each new species usually occurring in distinct geographical regions.


In North America, this is what happened to birds like the former Plain Titmouse, and the Northern Oriole. In Costa Rica and Panama, we have also seen our fair share of splits. To know which birds to target when birding in Costa Rica or taking a birding tour to Panama, here's a summary of the most recent eBird taxonomic changes made in 2022:


Buffy Tuftedcheek (Pseudocolaptes lawrencii)

This big, bromeliad foraging Furnarid has been officially split from the Pacific Tuftedcheek of western Colombia and Ecuador. Some lists had already recognized this split, now, eBird does as well. This means that if you saw tuftedcheeks in Costa Rica and while birding in western Ecuador, you have added one more bird to your life list!


Choco Manakin (Cryptopipo litae)

Formerly known as the Green Manakin, the populations occurring west of the Andes (from eastern Panama to western Ecuador) were recognized as a distinct species from the Green Manakins east of the Andes.


Velvety Manakin (Lepidothrix velutina)

This enticing name is for a bird that was split from the Blue-crowned Manakin of Amazonia. All of the "Blue-crowned Manakins" from Costa Rica south to western Ecuador are now the Velvety Manakin.

Olive-streaked Flycatcher (Mionectes olivaceus)

Formerly known as Olive-striped Flycatcher and split from that species, the very similar sounding Olive-streaked adds one more endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama!

Any "Olive-striped Flycatchers" seen in Costa Rica or western Panama are now known as Olive-streaked Flycatcher.

The "Olive-striped Flycatcher" replaces it in eastern Panama and South America.


Yellow-winged Flycatcher (Tolmomyias flavotectus)

Formerly known as Yellow-margined Flycatcher, now, true Yellow-margineds only occur east of the Andes.

Any birds seen in Costa Rica south to western Ecuador are Yellow-winged Flycatcher.


Ochre-lored Flycatcher (Tolmomyias flaviventris)

One of two splits from Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, the birds in eastern Panama and much of northern and eastern South America are now called "Ochre-lored Flycatcher" whereas birds in much of western Amazonia are "Ochre-faced Flycatcher". Studies could eventually reveal further splits within this taxon.


Northern Mouse-colored Tyrannulet (Nesotriccus incomta)

One of a four-way split for the former Mouse-colored Tyrannulet. All birds in Panama and Costa Rica and much of northern South America are now known as "Northern Mouse-colored Tyrannulet".

Cocos Tyrannulet (Nesotriccus ridgwayi)

Upon realizing that this Costa Rican endemic was related to the Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, the name was changed to reflect this relationship.


Choco Elaenia (Myiopagis parambae)

Formerly included in the Gray Elaenia, the birds from eastern Panama to northwestern Ecuador are now called, "Choco Elaenia".


White-fronted Tyrannulet (Phyllomyias zeledoni)

Split from the Rough-legged Tyrannulet of Bolivia and eastern South America, the White-fronted occurs in the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama, and at scattered sites in the Andes.


Northern Tropical Pewee (Contopus bogotensis)

Split from Tropical Pewee, the birds in Mexico, Central America, and much of northern South America are now known as Northern Tropical Pewee.


Golden-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes hemichrysus)

This species is no longer endemic to Costa Rica and Panama!

But how? The subspecies of Golden-crowned Flycatchers in eastern Panama, northern Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador were lumped with it.

That's not to say that the endemism of the southern Central American highlands are diminished (the Golden-bellieds there still represent a unique subspecies), it's just that if you saw Golden-crowned Flycatcher in Panama or northern South America, that tick got lumped with Golden-bellied.


These and hundreds of other birds are waiting to be seen and photographed in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and elsewhere. Want to see them? We will connect you with the best local birding guides.Send us a message and tell us about your target birds.