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How Virtual Adventures in Costa Rica Help Baltimore Orioles and Other Birds

A sizeable flash of orange and black. A whistled song from the foliage of the maples. Birders from eastern North America know that there can be only be one thing, one bird species that plays a flute and has such bold, eye-catching Halloween plumage. Wow factor to the point of having their own baseball team, Baltimore Orioles are absolutely regal and much to our collective fortune, common in many a garden. Cherished during the summer, missed during the winter, the birding guides at Lifer Tours can tell you where many of those Baltimore Orioles spend the cold months.

In Costa Rica, this is one of “our” common species, one of the birds we look forward to during our “summer” months. Just like up north, we can’t help but smile when we see that striking black and orange plumage. However, in our gardens, we watch them in the company of toucans, parrots, and other photogenic tropical birds.

Birds like the Silver-throated Tanager.

We know that it doesn't tend to find itself on target lists for Costa Rica but we are happy to see Baltimore Orioles just the same. When we do virtual tours, we are especially pleased to see these garden beauties because every tour helps orioles and hundreds of other bird species. Here's why:

Local People Get Paid

Whether we like it or not, the health and future of ecosystems and the birds found therein are tied to local economies. At least that's how it is in the Neotropics, Costa Rica included. In many cases and many places, people living in rural zones make at least part of their living directly from the land. Whether they love birds or not, if they want or need to make money to give their children a better life, or even just to survive, they are going to clear habitat to use that land for cattle or farming. And they can't be blamed. Although Costa Rica does have regulations meant to promote sustainable use of the land, whether by loophole or other reason, a lot of second growth (which is basically forest growing back) gets converted into crops or pasture. Make no doubt about it, this is second growth used by Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, even Golden-winged Warblers.

Thankfully, we do have some sizable protected areas but simply put, the more habitat for these birds the better and if people living in rural zones can receive money from tourists to watch the birds on their land, they are more likely to keep that habitat standing and with luck, might even allow more land to grow back.

Appreciation for Birds and their Habitats

We all benefit from birds but when someone directly receives money from people watching birds, the connection between birds and well-being can't be ignored. We know that the more people have positive interactions with birds, and the more they can benefit from this with direct funding, the more likely they will appreciate birds, their habitats, and nature in general.

These reasons are partly why we donate portions of bookings for our virtual birding tours directly to the people who own the sites and land used to watch everything from beautiful garden birds, cloud forest hummingbirds, and quetzals. The other main reason why we direct a percentage of the bookings to these people is because we see them as valuable partners in birding and conservation, they are hurting from the near cessation of economic activities caused by the pandemic, and simply because they are our friends.

If you miss seeing a Baltimore Oriole or two, would love to get a primer for an upcoming birding trip to Costa Rica, get insider tips from local birding experts, promote bird appreciation, or just help preserve habitat for some of the birds you know and love, set aside some time for live virtual birding from Costa Rica. Better yet, watch it together with your local birding club and see why we call the experience a virtual birding and nature adventure. We hope to see you online soon!


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