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Caribbean Foothill Rainforest: Essential Habitat for Costa Rica Birding Tours

All Costa Rica birding tours face a similar quandary. From the initial planning stages even up to and during the tour, the tour planners and guides have to decide where to go and how many places to visit. With Costa Rica being such a small nation, one might expect this to be an easy task, that even short tours could visit most hotspots. However, the very reasons why Costa Rica has a 930 plus list of birds (!) are also why it's impossible to adequately bird every corner of the country in less than two weeks.

Costa Rica might be small but it takes time to wind your way up and over the mountainous spine of the nation, mountains that harbor different species at different elevations. It could take several days to explore the fantastic birding around the ecotone of Carara National Park., and some dry forest species require trips closer to the northern border. The same could also be said about wetland species and seeing other specialties such as Jabiru, Sungrebe, and Nicaraguan Grackle.

In essence, even though birding sites might be separated by as little as 30 kilometers, each can host a different suite of species (!). For birders, such mega bird diversity is kind of like being a kid with a sweet tooth in a candy store of incredible proportions. However, that same candy store is too big and complex to explore in just one day; some types of colorful candy are hard to find and it might take a while to explore various corners and levels of the store. With that in mind, and when you know about a multitude of hotspots, it can be a challenge to decide which places to visit for birding in Costa Rica as well as time to dedicate to each spot.

Even so, there's one habitat that's pretty important to include on a birding tour to Costa Rica. This special habitat is known as foothill rainforest, a transitional habitat that links lowland rainforest to middle elevation cloud forest. It only occurs in a narrow elevational range of around 500 meters to 1,200 meters or less, is mostly found on the Caribbean slope, and is characterized by beautiful rainforests draped in epiphytes, dripping moss, and towering trees. These beautiful forests also harbor a wealth of birds, several of which only occur in that same narrow elevational range.

Such foothill rainforest stars include a wealth of stunning tanagers, species like the Emerald Tanager,

Bay-headed Tanager,