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Costa Rica Bird Photography- A Great Place to Photograph Fancy Tropical "Turkeys"

Every part of the world has its large turkey-like birds. Pheasants and peafowl live in Asia, francolins and guinea fowl are in Africa, and Europe has the Capercaillie. In Central and South America, turkey-like birds mostly take the form of curassows, guans, and chachalacas. However, sadly, in many areas, several species are endangered or too shy to approach. In all too many rural places, these turkey-like birds are targeted by hunters and because they have low reproductive rates, once hunting starts, they tend to be quickly eliminated from a site.


The birds that do survive both move to inaccessible areas and become extremely wary. This is precisely why it can be hard to find Great Curassow and Crested Guan in many parts of their range and why they are considered endangered in some places. One of the few exceptions to this rule is Costa Rica.


Great Curassow!

Thanks to a combination of protected areas and much less hunting pressure than other places, large fancy birds that used to be rare and tough to glimpse have become common and easy to see at a number of sites. This situation has made Costa Rica the ideal place to test the camera on these magnificent birds. Some information about the three main large Cracid species that occur in Costa Rica:


Great Curassow (Crax rubra)


Around the same size as a turkey, this large bird stalks the ground of rainforest and tropical dry forest in many parts of Costa Rica. It feeds on fruit and small creatures and sometimes perches in fruiting trees. At some sites, it even visits feeders and has become tame and easy to photograph at more than one lodge. Occasionally, groups of 5 and even 7 currasows are seen on Costa Rica bird photography tours.



Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens)


Another fair-sized bird, the Crested Guan is much more arboreal than the curassow. It also occurs in rainforest and tropical dry forest, often frequents fruiting trees, can be found in groups f two to five birds, and makes loud sounds somewhere between a bark and a honk! Although not as likely to visit a fruit feeder as the curassow, they can pose for the camera when feeding in low, fruiting bushes.

Black Guan (Chamaepetes unicolor)


Like the Crested Guan, this special bird is also arboreal and tends to replace it in cloud forest and high elevation rainforest. It is one of several species that only occur in the mountains of Costa Rica and Panama, usually frequents fruiting trees and can be seen on its own or in small groups. As a bonus, it sometimes feeds in the same trees and at the same time as the Resplendent Quetzal!


The other two members of this family in Costa Rica are the Gray-headed and Plain Chachalacas. The Gray-headed is the more common of the two and although it might not be as fancy as the guans and curassow, it visits feeders and still makes for a fun bird to photograph. Want to photograph these and hundreds of other beautiful tropical birds in Costa Rica? We do it all the time and know all the best sites. Contact us to learn more about trip options today!