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Manakins- Costa Rica Bird Photography at Its Best

In Costa Rica, we are fortunate to have a fantastic variety of avian subjects begging to be captured by the camera. Colorful and comical toucans, majestic macaws, dozens of glittering times, it can hard to know which birds to focus on first! However, of the many types of birds in Costa Rica that are especially suited for the camera, one family of birds is in a class of its own. This special group of little birds are called, "manakins"; a family of small, feather decorated frugivores that literally dance for attention.

Eight species of these cool characters occur in Costa Rica and most are fairly common. Even so, since most also prefer forested areas, and can quickly move between perches, they can be a challenge to photograph. As with so many bird species, on our Costa Rica bird photography tours, we get the shot by (1) knowing where to find them, (2) having a good understanding of their behavior, and (3) having the patience to wait and get the best shots possible. These are the eight species of manakins waiting for you and your camera in Costa Rica:

Red-capped Manakin (Ceratopipra mentalis)

This beautiful little bird is a common resident of lowland rainforest in many parts of Costa Rica. Even so, despite the bright red cap, it can hide surprisingly well in the dim recesses of the forest understory. Luckily, we know of several sites where males lek and do their amazing "moonwalk" dance to attract females.

Velvety Manakin (Lepidothrix velutina)

This image of a Velvety Manakin was taken at Casa Botania, San Vito, by David Rodriguez.

Formerly known as the "Blue-crowned Manakin", the birds that live in Costa Rica were recently split from the Blue-crowned Manakins of the Amazon. This jet black bird with a sapphire cap is fairly common in rainforests on the South Pacific slope. We often find it fruiting bushes and trees and at bathing pools in the forest.

White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei)

This smart looking bird is one of the most common manakin species in Costa Rica. They live in lowlands and foothills of the Caribbean slope and in some areas, dozens can call from the second growth habitats they prefer. Getting a good picture can be a challenge but patience and shooting from a hide can work wonders for stellar images of this beautiful little bird. To impress females, the males make a snapping sound with their wings as they hop back and forth between low stems.

Orange-collared Manakin (Manacus aurantiacus)

On the other side of the mountains, we have this pretty bird. Like the closely related White-collared, this beauty also lives in second growth and does similar hopping and wing-snapping displays.

White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipo altera)

Although not as brightly plumaged as other manakin species, the males still impress by way of a snow white throat on glossy blue-black plumage. Even better, this bird is common in foothill and middle elevation habitats.

Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis)

Like a lost bird of paradise, this fantastic bird entertains and awes with its long tail and beautiful highlights. Thankfully, it is also one of the more common manakin species in Costa Rica and is consistently heard and seen in dry forest habitats, even parts of the urbanized Central Valley. We listen for its funny sounding calls and watch for it at fruiting trees. We also enjoy views of the amazing dance given by males where they leapfrog over each over on a low branch!

White-crowned Manakin (Pseudopipra pipra)

Not as colorful but still smartly plumaged, this species is one of the more difficult manakins to see. Locally distributed in mature middle elevation and foothill rainforests, to see this shy species, you have to know just where to go. (we know several spots).

Lance-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata)

Saving the least common manakin in Costa Rica for last, to be honest, this species is much more easily seen in Panama and northern South America. In Costa Rica, it barely reaches our country at sites near San Vito.

There are literally hundreds of birds to photograph in Costa Rica. Bird photography tours in Costa Rica can connect with these beautiful manakins, equally colorful tanagers, and hundreds of other species. Contact us to Learn more about the birds you can see and photograph in Costa Rica.


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