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The Owls of Costa Rica and How We See Them

The birds of Costa Rica include more than four dozen glittering and common hummingbird species, a host of beautiful tanagers, several parrots, two larger than life macaws, and much more. A wonderful assortment of birds have been found within the borders of this small country, more than 930 species packed into a place the size of West Virginia.

As with every top birding destination, some birds are easier to see than others, there are species lurk in dense, dark forests, and others that blatantly sing from roadside cables. The best thing about birding in Costa Rica is that no matter where you look, you will see birds. However, you might not see owls. Well, yes, you can see them, we have several owls, most are more common than people realize but if you don't know where see owls, you probably won't find them. These are the many owls of Costa Rica and how we routinely see them:

The Big Ones

A large owl or two or more live in most places on the planet. In Costa Rica, we have several medium to large, resident owl species. Thankfully, all are common.

Spectacled Owl

Locally known as the "Oropopo", this species haunts forest and riparian zones with big trees from sea level to 2,000 meters or more. They prey on small mammals and other animals, and we often find them in woodlands at eco-lodges. To show people this beautiful bird, we bring them to roosting sites we know of, or look for them at dawn and dusk in places we know.

Black-and-White Owl

As with many owl species, before its call was known, this stunner was believed to be rare. Nowadays, we know that this species is common and expected in many lowland areas and can sometimes be seen hunting for bats and insects near streetlamps! We look for them in various places and show people birds at various known sites.

Mottled Owl

One of the most versatile owls in Costa Rica, its gruff call can be heard in forest and small patches of woodland from the lowlands to cloud forest. A lot of birders visiting Costa Rica have seen this species roosting in the gardens of the Hotel Bougainvillea. We see them there, at other sites, and at dusk and dawn in many parts of the country.

Striped Owl

The exciting Striped Owl is a bird of open, grassy habitats, marshes, and even urban zones. We sometimes know of a roost but also see this bird in several other places, usually perched on power lines at night.