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Photogenic Waterbirds from Costa Rica

Birds live everywhere! It's one of the many things about birds that makes them fun to watch and photograph. For most places on Earth, all you have to do is go outside, look up or around and sooner or later, you see some birds. Some places (like Costa Rica) have more, others less but there are always birds to look at.

One of the reasons why there are so many types of beautiful birds in so many places is because they have become adapted to using so many different habitats. In Costa Rica, when we bring clients to rainforest, we might see puffbirds, trogons and toucans along with dozens of other species. Look for birds in open habitats and others take center stage. However, no matter what type of trip we are doing, we like to fit in sites for aquatic species. Waterbirds can be big or small, many are easy to see, and several are exquisite. Those attributes also make many of them ideal for fantastic, photogenic portraits. In addition to the Russet-naped Wood-Rail pictured above, these are five of our favorites:

Green Ibis

Unlike some other ibis species, this dark jade bird with beryl highlights prefers shaded spots near forested wetlands.

We often see them during boat tours on the tropical waterways of Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge where this bird with the decidedly prehistoric look can perch in riverside trees or probe muddy spots with its long beak.


One of the fancier birds in a nation with hundreds of beautiful bird species, the unique Sunbittern is a main target and big hit on many of our tours. In Costa Rica, it lives in many parts of the country on shaded rocky rivers and streams. Although its a shy bird, if you look in the right places at the right time of day, you can see them at a number of sites. Despite their fancy look, the mottled pattern of this bird's plumage helps it blend in with its shaded surroundings.


Grebe? Odd duck? What is this bird?! The Sungrebe is the sole New World representative of the Finfoots; a family of three aquatic bird species that need require moving waterways with overhanging vegetation. In, Costa Rica, we look for this special bird at Cano Negro, Tortuguero, and other places with lagoons and slow moving rivers through rainforest.


Three species of these hefty herons live in Costa Rica. The Rufescent is rare and more readily seen on our tours in Panama and in South America, the Fasciated stalks rocky rivers and streams in foothill and middle elevation sites, and the Bare-throated is commonly seen in a variety of wetland habitats. The plumage pattern of the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron coupled with its propensity to pose for the camera make it a favorite on many of our tours. Always a pleasure to watch, young birds have striking, black-barred orange coloration.


Standing nearly as tall as a grown person, this largest of Costa Rican birds makes an equally big impression! In Costa Rica, the Jabiru mostly occurs in two large wetland areas. Although less than 100 live in Costa Rica, fortunately, we know the best spots to see them. Despite their huge size, they do indeed fly and can soar for long periods of time.


Also known as the "Snake Bird", "Darter", and even "Water Turkey", the Anhinga's odd appearance is entertainment for the eye. They are often seen perched next to wetland habitats with wings stretched out to dry, seen swimming with just their head and neck sticking out of the water, or in soaring flight high overhead.

Other great looking waterbirds also occur in Costa Rica but the ones mentioned above are some of our favorites. Interested in learning how you and your birding club can see and photograph these and hundreds of other beautiful birds in Costa Rica? We love talking about birds, send us a message!


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