Complete Costa Rica - Birding in Paradise

Dates and Costs


28 March – 14 April 2024

Price: US$8,646  / £7,231 / €8,434 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$1,387  / £1,160 / €1,352


* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)

Tour Details

Duration: 18 days
Group Size: 6 – 9
Tour Start: San José, Costa Rica
Tour End: San José, Costa Rica

Price includes:

Guiding fees
Entrance fees
All transport while on tour


Price excludes:

Flights to/from San José International Airport
Meals and drinking water before/after tour as described above
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Soft/alcoholic drinks
Camera permits
Personal insurance
Gratuities (please seour tipping guidelines blog)

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Complete Costa Rica – Birding in Paradise
March 2024


As one of the most prosperous countries in Central America, Costa Rica, with its good infrastructure, stable democratic government, high literacy rate, and extensive network of parks and preserves, has long been an important ecotourism destination for travelers from all over the world. This verdant paradise has also long been a classic, premier destination for birdwatchers, and with good reason. The literal translation of Costa Rica means ‘rich coast’, and it is truly rich in birds, with over 900 species recorded in a country only the size of West Virginia. Ideally positioned at the meeting point where the avifauna of Central and South America intermingle, this small country hosts the highest avian diversity in an area of its size anywhere on Earth. However, Costa Rica hosts more than just an astonishingly rich diversity of birds. Along with neighboring Panama, this small country is one of the great centers of avian endemism in the world, with over 70 regional endemics that occur nowhere else!

Costa Rica specialties birding tourResplendent Quetzal, surely one of the world’s top birds (photo Kevin Easley)!


This carefully designed Costa Rica birding itinerary targets many regional endemics as well as numerous must-see, charismatic species, such as Resplendent Quetzal, Jabiru, Agami Heron, Sungrebe, King Vulture, Great Curassow, Scarlet and Great Green Macaws, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Zeledon’s, Bare-crowned, and Spotted Antbirds, Sharpbill, Lovely, Snowy, Turquoise, and Yellow-billed Cotingas, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Wrenthrush, Snowcap, Coppery-headed Emerald, Mangrove Hummingbird, and Black-cheeked Ant Tanager, among many more exciting antbirds, tanagers, woodpecker, trogons, and hummingbirds.


Itinerary (18 days/17 nights)


Day 1. Arrival in San José

You will arrive at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José and be transferred to your nearby hotel. Depending on your arrival time, we can explore the hotel grounds where we might find Ferruginous Pygmy OwlRed-billed Pigeon, Inca Dove, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Rufous-backed Wren, Clay-colored Thrush, Melodious Blackbird, Buff-throated Saltator, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and Spot-breasted Oriole. We will keep an eye out overhead for Finsch’s Parakeet, Laughing Falcon and Mottled Owl, which are often seen in the garden. We will come together at 7 p.m. to meet each other and have our first dinner together.

Overnight: Hotel Bougainvillea, San Jose

Costa Rica specialties birding tourThe attractive Laughing Falcon is often seen around San José.


Day 2. San José to Guacimo and Villa Lapas

We will leave San José after breakfast for the Pacific lowlands and spend several hours birding the dry deciduous forests of Guacimo. Here we will look for White-throated Magpie-Jay, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Banded Wren, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Long-tailed Manakin, Lesser Greenlet, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Great-crested, Streaked and Nutting’s Flycatchers, Greenish Elaenia, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-green Vireo, and Black-headed Trogon. With luck we could get our first encounters with Double-striped Thick-knee, and the secretive Lesser Ground Cuckoo. We may get views of raptors such as Broad-winged and Zone-tailed Hawks and even our first chances of seeing White-tailed Kite and King Vulture.

In the afternoon we will explore the area around Hotel Villa Lapas looking for Painted Bunting, Fiery-billed Aracari, Red-capped Manakin, Crested Guan, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Green Honeycreeper, Golden-hooded, Grey-headed and White-shouldered Tanagers, Northern Mealy Amazon and the splendid Scarlet Macaw.

Overnight: Hotel Villa Lapas, Tárcoles


Day 3. Full day at Carara National Park

We will have a full day birding Carara National Park, home to a wide assortment of special birds, such as Scarlet Macaw, Northern Royal Flycatcher, White-whiskered Puffbird, Streak-chested Antpitta, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Red-capped and Blue-crowned Manakin, Great Tinamou, Sunbittern, Masked Tityra as well as regional endemics like Orange-collared Manakin and Baird’s Trogon. There are plenty of great birds in and around the park, and we’re bound to have a large list of species by the end of the day.

Overnight: Hotel Villa Lapas, Tárcoles

Costa Rica specialties birding tourThe huge and brightly colored Scarlet Macaw.


Day 4. Tárcoles area, travel to Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

Today we will have a long but exciting day, starting with a boat trip along the Tárcoles River. The Rio Tárcoles area marks the transition point between the humid rainforests of southwestern Costa Rica and the seasonally dry forests of the northwest of the country. Consequently, the avifauna here is particularly diverse, as birds from the wetter south and drier north mingle in a relatively small area. After checking into our hotel and having lunch we will concentrate our efforts on the mangroves along the Rio Tárcoles from our boat, where we will seek out species such as Green, Belted, Ringed, and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Snowy and Great Egrets, Tricolored, Little Blue and Boat-billed Herons, Anhinga, American White Ibis, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Northern Jacana and the Costa Rica endemic, Mangrove Hummingbird. Other targets will include Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Common Black Hawk, Mangrove Warbler, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, and with luck, Double-striped Thick-knee. Here we will also have the chance to find American Crocodile and Common Basilisk.

After our boat trip we will continue our journey with a long drive to Esquinas Rainforest Lodge in the southwestern corner of Costa Rica. A few stops along the way are likely to provide several new bird species.

Overnight: Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, Golfito


Day 5. Full day at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

Nestled within the rainforest fringing the nearby Golfo Dulce, Esquinas Rainforest Lodge offers a variety of lowland regional endemics that Costa Rica shares only with westernmost Panama, known as Chiriqui endemics. By birding the grounds of the lodge in the early morning we should connect with many of these species including Riverside Wren, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Charming Hummingbird, Fiery-billed Aracari, Baird’s Trogon, Blue-black Grosbeak, Great Curassow, Spot-crowned Euphonia, Rufous Piha, Black-cheeked Ant Tanager (a Costa Rica endemic), and many more.

Costa Rica specialties birding tourCosta Rica is famous for its toucans and aracaris, this one being a Fiery-billed Aracari.


In the afternoon we visit sites away from the lodge for several more targets that follow this general theme, like Veraguan Mango, a bird with a tiny global distribution, and Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, which marginally crosses into southern Costa Rica from Panama.

Overnight: Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, Golfito


Day 6. Birding Rincón Bridge

An early morning vigil from the well-known Rincón Bridge for canopy species may yield two highly desirable regional endemics, the immaculate Yellow-billed Cotinga and the vibrant Turquoise Cotinga. We will also check some grassland areas nearby, where we search for Ocellated Crake, Striped Cuckoo, Red-crowned and Red-rumped Woodpeckers, Double-toothed Kite, Pale-breasted Spinetail, White-winged Becard, Tawny-crowned and Scrub Greenlet, Thick-billed Seed Finch, and Morelet’s, and Yellow-bellied Seedeaters. The lodge flower gardens attract Violet-headed Hummingbird and Stripe-throated Hermit while in the evening, with luck, we could find the impressive Striped Owl.

Overnight: Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, Golfito


Day 7. Transfer to Savegre Mountain Lodge

Today is mostly a travel day and after some final morning birding around the lodge, we will start the long drive north toward the Savegre Mountain Lodge in the Cerro de la Muerte, stopping at sites en route for any birding opportunities.

Overnight: Savegre Mountain Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota


Day 8. Full day in the Savegre Valley

Situated in misty, cool montane oak forest at about 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) in elevation, the Savegre Valley contains some of Costa Rica’s most sought-after birds, including many Chiriqui endemics. We’ll look for a long list of mouth-watering specials, which we hope to connect with during our time here. We will have a predawn start to spend the first hour of the morning looking for the most-wanted Resplendent Quetzal. After breakfast we will explore the forest above the lodge to look for regional endemics such as Flame-throated Warbler, Yellowthighed Brushfinch, Large-footed Finch, Black-faced Solitaire, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Ruddy Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Black-cheeked Warbler, Spotted Wood Quail, Ochraceous Wren, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Collared Whitestart, and with luck, the secretive Silvery-fronted Tapaculo.

After lunch we will leave the lodge and visit the feeders at Miriam’s restaurant to enjoy views of Acorn Woodpecker, Blue-throated Toucanet, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Large-footed Finch, and hummingbirds including Grey-tailed Mountaingem, and Volcano, Talamanca and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds. At dusk we will try for Dusky Nightjar and Bare-shanked Screech Owl.

Overnight: Savegre Mountain Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota

Paul NewmanThe immaculate Spotted Wood Quail (photo Paul Newman).


Day 9. The Savegre area, Paraiso Los Quetzales and transfer to Orocay

We will leave the lodge and look for some specials such as the monotypic Wrenthrush, and then drive up the mountains to the famous antennas birding spot to look for Timberline Wren, and Volcano Junco. The open high grounds are also good areas to spot Red-tailed Hawks. Then we will descend to Paraiso Los Quetzales Lodge where we will enjoy the feeders with species such as Volcano, Talamanca, and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds. Other targets include Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Spangled-cheeked Tanager, Black-capped Flycatcher, and the most-wanted Black-and-yellow Phainoptila and Golden-browed Chlorophonia. We will then drive towards Paraiso and check coffee plantations for Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow.

Overnight: Paraíso Orocay Lodge


Day 10. Rio Macho and transfer to Sarapiquí

Today we will explore the Rio Macho Forest Reserve which is a nice stop on our way to Sarapiquí. Here we will look for White-eared Ground Sparrow, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Specked Tanager, Brown Jay, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, White-winged Tanager, Spectacled Whitestart, Black-headed Saltator, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Slaty Antwren, Boat-billed, Grey-capped and Piratic Flycatchers, Masked Tityra, Tropical Parula, Brown-capped Vireo, Chestnut-headed Oropendola and with luck, the rare and seldom-seen Azure-hooded Jay. After our time birding here we’ll drop down into the Caribbean lowlands into the La Selva area.

Overnight: La Quinta Sarapiquí Lodge, La Virgen

Costa Rica specialties birding tourThe attractive Great Curassow can be seen at La Selva Biological Station.


Day 11. La Selva Biological Station and Sarapiquí outskirts

We will spend the morning birding the famous La Selva Biological Station, birding along the amazing trail network, which is home to literally hundreds of bird species, including key specials such as Snowy Cotinga, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Black-cowled Oriole, Black-faced Grosbeak, Fasciated Antshrike,  Cinnamon Becard, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Plain-colored Tanager, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Gartered Trogon, Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, Red-lored Amazon, Brown-hooded Woodpecker, Buff-rumped Warbler, Red-throated Ant Tanager, and the fantastic Chestnut-colored Woodpecker. Occasionally it is possible to see Crested Owl and Vermiculated Screech Owl at their daytime roosts and if we’re really lucky, we may catch a glimpse of Great and Slaty-breasted Tinamous as they cross the trails.

We will leave the biological station before noon to return to our lodge for lunch. During the afternoon we will explore the Sarapiquí surroundings in search of Great Green Macaw.

Overnight: La Quinta Sarapiquí Lodge, La Virgen


Day 12. Tapirus Lodge, Butterfly House and Cope

Today we will explore the forest around Tapirus Lodge in search of bird species such as Carmiol’s and Tawny-crested Tanagers, and with luck, Lattice-tailed Trogon. The area is great for raptors and, with a sunny day, it is possible to see species such as Black Hawk-Eagle and White Hawk which soar high overhead on rising thermals as the day heats up. The area is also a good place to find Bare-necked Umbrellabird which remain in the lowlands at this time of the year, before undertaking an altitudinal migration into the mountains. Other excellent species which have been seen on our tours here include Tiny Hawk while the area also holds Baird’s Tapir which is habituated to the lodge with wild individuals sometimes seen along forest trails.

Later we will check the famous butterfly house to look for hummingbirds including the spectacular and most-wanted Snowcap but also Violet-headed Hummingbird, Green Thorntail and, if we’re lucky, Black-crested Coquette.

Finally we are going to visit Cope, where we will enjoy bird feeders which attract many Red-legged Honeycreepers (at eye-level) as well as Green and Shining Honeycreepers in fewer numbers. Other species to be seen in the area include Collared Aracari, Montezuma Oropendola, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Crimson-collared Tanager, Pale-vented Pigeon, Rufous-naped Wood Rail, Red-winged Blackbird, and Giant Cowbird. Birding in the forest near Cope provides excellent chances for the spectacular Crested and Spectacled Owls while sometimes it is possible to find Great Potoo at its daytime roost.

Overnight: La Quinta Sarapiquí Lodge, La Virgen

Costa Rica Birding EscapeWe should find a number of owl species on this trip such as this young Spectacled Owl.


Day 13. La Virgen to Arenal, via Cinchona feeders and La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Today we will gradually make our way between the La Selva lowlands and the stunning Arenal volcano. As we leave the La Selva area we will drop into the deep, forested gorge known as Colonia Virgen Del Socorro. Here we hope to encounter American Dipper, Northern Tufted Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Golden-winged Warbler and Emerald Tanager.

Our next port of call will be the Cinchona feeders where we hope to find Prong-billed Barbet, Blue-throated Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, and Silver-throated Tanager at eye level. With luck, we could find Buff-fronted Quail-Dove and Black Guan.

Costa Rica specialties birding tourWe’ll look for Montezuma Oropendola at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.


Our lunch stop will be at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which hosts a series of busy hummingbird feeders, where we’ll look out for the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, the near-endemic Black-bellied Hummingbird as well as Purple-throated Mountaingem, Violet Sabrewing, and Purple-crowned Fairy all hovering in the flowers around the gardens. In addition, this area can be very productive for species such as Spotted Barbtail, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty-faced Finch, and Black-eared Warbler. Later, in the afternoon we will complete our journey to the comfortable Arenal Observatory Lodge.

Overnight: Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, La Fortuna


Day 14. Full day in the Arenal area

We will dedicate this morning to search for army ant swarms which sometimes attract the most-wanted Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo and Ocellated Antbird. Even though it is not guaranteed to find the ants, we should have some nice encounters with other attractive species such as Thicket Antpitta, Song Wren, Spotted Antbird, Stripe-breasted Wren, Golden-crowned Warbler and with luck, we may find the difficult Blue-and-gold Tanager.

The gardens are a good place to find Black-crested Coquette, Long-tailed Tyrant, Golden-olive Woodpecker and Great Curassow. The fruit feeders attract Emerald Tanager and Bay-headed, Silver-throated, Blue-grey, Palm, and Scarlet-rumped Tanagers. In the afternoon we will focus our efforts on finding Keel-billed Motmot and White-fronted Nunbird.

Overnight: Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, La Fortuna


Day 15. Arenal to Caño Negro via Medio Queso

Our last morning will take us to the Arenal Skyline where we will have a few hours to look for some specials such as Thicket Antpitta, Half-collared Gnatwren, Sharpbill, and if we are lucky, Yellow-eared Toucanet and Ornate Hawk-Eagle. Then we will start the long drive to Caño Negro, with a stop in Medio Queso wetlands where we will have our second boat trip of the tour. This time we will focus on specials such as Pinnated and Least Bitterns, Nicaragua Grackle, Nicaraguan Seed Finch, Yellow-breasted Crake, Sora, Slaty Spinetail and Canebrake Wren which we all have great chances of seeing. Later we will continue the drive to our lodge in Caño Negro where we will arrive at around dusk.

Overnight: Natural Lodge Caño Negro


Day 16. Caño Negro to La Ensenada

This morning our final boat ride of the trip will take us out to look for species such as Green Ibis, the most-wanted Sungrebe, Spot-breasted Wren, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Boat-billed Heron, Black-collared Hawk, and with luck Bare-crowned Antbird and the most-wanted Agami Heron.

Costa Rica birding specialsWe hope to see Sungrebe on one of our boat cruises in Costa Rica (Paul Newman).


In the afternoon we continue our journey toward La Ensenada along the shores of the Pacific Ocean surrounded by dry forests and wetlands of the Guanacaste region. The seasonal wetlands and mangroves in the area host some interesting species such as the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird as well as Mangrove Warbler, Mangrove Cuckoo, Black-necked Stilt, Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover, Southern Lapwing, Wood Stork, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-winged Teal, and Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Overnight: La Ensenada Lodge

Costa Rica birding specialsMangrove Cuckoo is one of a suite of mangrove specials that we’ll be looking for.


Day 17. La Ensenada Lodge to San José

The Central American avifauna of the seasonally dry forests of Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica share strong affinities to the bird assemblages found further north along the coast to southern Mexico. In the morning we will dedicate considerable effort to look for the secretive Lesser Ground Cuckoo. Other birds here include Pacific Screech Owl, Stripe-headed Sparrow, Banded Wren, Black-headed Trogon, Plain-capped Starthroat, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Common Ground and Inca Doves, Banded Wren, Rose-throated Becard, Panama Flycatcher, White-throated Magpie-Jay and many others that we may have seen in Guacimo on Day 2.

After lunch we will continue with the journey back to San José, where the tour concludes and we will enjoy our final evening meal and reflect on what is likely to have been an incredible Costa Rica birding tour.

Overnight: Hotel Robledal, San José


Day 18. Departure from San José

Departure from San José on your international flights home.



Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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Complete Costa Rica Birding Trip Report, April 2023

28 MARCH – 12 APRIL 2023

By Eduardo Ormaeche


Costa Rica birding tourSnowcap was one of the highlights of the trip (photo Vernon Campos).


Our Complete Costa Rica Tour 2023 was really memorable, a great success and a pleasure to guide, having all the ingredients for a great trip. The driver was remarkable and friendly, and we had a fantastic group of fun-filled and friendly participants who were good travelers, hyper-enthusiastic, patient, and great spotters. The weather was favorable, the ground logistics well-planned and executed, and everything seemed to come together perfectly. We fully enjoyed our Costa Rica experience, and saw some of its most remarkable avifauna, including country endemics, regional endemics and some iconic Neotropical birds.

This was a dream trip for those who were setting foot in Central America for the first time, with birds such as the most-wanted and representative Resplendent Quetzal, Snowcap, Sunbittern, Sungrebe, Roseate Spoonbill, Jabiru, Scarlet and Great-green Macaws, Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucan, Turquoise-browed, Lesson’s and Keel-billed Motmots, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Crested, Spectacled, Striped and Black-and-white Owls, American Dipper, Baird’s, Gartered, Black-headed and Black-throated Trogons, American Pygmy-Kingfisher, Yellow-breasted Crake, Pinnated and Least Bitterns, White Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle and Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

Additionally, we saw regional endemics and country targets such as Yellow-billed, Snowy and Turquoise Cotingas, Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, Flame-throated, Black-cheeked and Black-eared Warblers, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Ruddy Treerunner, Wrenthrush, Spangled-cheeked Tanager, Prong-billed Barbet, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Nicaraguan Grackle, Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, and many more. We also saw a fine selection of wildlife, from colorful frogs to mammals like the charismatic Brown-throated Sloth, Baird’s Tapir and Central America Spider Monkey.

Over the course of 17 days we explored from San Jose south to Golfito near the Peninsula de la Osa, through the Talamanca Mountains, to the Caribbean foothills and wetlands near the border with Nicaragua. We were serious about looking for birds, but this was well balanced with great relaxing times, enjoyable drinks and the euphoric feeling of being on tour. There was a good mixture of fun times, reflective thinking times, variety of habitats, breathtaking sunsets, starry nights, hot and cold weather, more drinks, Gallo Pinto again, and ending with the great satisfaction of having made new friends that one wants to tour with again in future.

Continue reading to get a glimpse of what our Costa Rica 2023 tour was like. Always “Pura Vida”!

Detailed Report

Day 1, 28th March 2023. Arrival in San Jose and transfer to the hotel Robledal

The group arrived in San Jose on different flights, with some of the participants deciding to arrive a day early to rest and avoid jet lag. We all met at Hotel Robledal in the afternoon, where we had the chance to do some preliminary birding around the gardens and get aquainted with each other. This was the first experience of Neotropical birding for some of the tour participants. Everyone was excited and happy. During our short birding session we saw Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Rufous-backed Wren (also treated as Rufous-naped Wren), Clay-colored Thrush (Costa Rica’s national bird), Great-tailed Grackle, Melodious Blackbird, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Blue-grey Tanager, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker (named after Karl Hoffmann, a 19th century physician, naturalist and collector who lived in Costa Rica; other species named after him include Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth), and White-winged Dove. A joke turned our attention to the lyrics of US singer Stevie Nicks’ well-known song Edge of Seventeen, where the White-winged Dove is mentioned several times in the main chorus. This chorus became our anthem for our trip:

“Just like the white-winged dove
Sings a song, sounds like she’s singing
Ooh, ooh, ooh”

It felt great having such happy and enthusiastic tour participants. This tour was characterized by great cameraderie looking for birds, exploring new hunting grounds, and having fun together.

Costa Rica was calling!

Day 2, 29th March 2023. Birding Guacimo and transfer to Villa Lapas

This was one of the most amazing birding days of the entire trip. We started at 5am, birding the hotel grounds for an hour before breakfast was served. We had the same species from yesterday, and additionally spectacular views of Spot-breasted Oriole, Cinnamon-bellied Saltator, White-fronted Parrot, Inca Dove, Red-billed Pigeon, Summer Tanager, Green-breasted Mango, Yellow Warbler, Boat-billed Flycatcher and, at the last minute, great views of Plain-capped Starthroat. We checked the sky, looking for raptors, but we only got Black Vultures and some nice flocks of Finsch’s Parakeet (also called Crimson-fronted Parakeet) flying low above the garden.

We ate breakfast and met Luis, our driver for the whole tour, and Vernon, a local guide who joined us for the first week of the trip. We loaded the truck and left the hotel towards the Pacific slope, with the intention of birding the dry habitats along the Guacimo road. The weather was pleasant and the birding outstanding. We started with species such as Cinnamon and Blue-vented Hummingbird, Streak-backed Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, the beautiful Turquoise-browed Motmot (Nicaragua’s national bird), Olive Sparrow, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Variable Seedeater, Buff-throated Saltator, Lesser Greenlet, Great Crested Flycatcher, Greenish Elaenia, Nutting’s Flycatcher (named after Charles Nutting, a 19th century US zoologist), Mistletoe Tyrannulet, Streaked Flycatcher, Yellow-throated and Yellow-green Vireos, and Brown-crested Flycatcher. We managed to detect the elusive Banded Wren but only a few of us got silhouettes of this scrub skulker. We went calmly from one bird to another until excitement suddenly spiked with a Pacific Screech-Owl found on a daytime roost. Other highlights included a nice flock of Broad-winged Hawks, our first encounter with Zone-tailed Hawk, Orange-fronted Parakeet, a King Vulture that flew by and gave decent views and, to crown the morning, spectacular views of the highly attractive Long-tailed Manakin (male). We also got good views of Southern Lapwing and Double-striped Thick-Knee while scanning the open fields.

After this great session we arrived at a hot Villa Lapas, where we got lunch, had a short break and then went to explore the road above the lodge. During this afternoon session we managed to get great views of Fiery-billed Aracari, splendid Scarlet Macaws, Black-headed Trogon, Yellow-throated Toucan, Bat Falcon, Barred Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Grey-headed Tanager, the first Green Honeycreeper, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Crested Guan, White-shouldered and Golden-hooded Tanagers, and Northern Mealy Amazon. It was one amazing bird after another, and then exhilaration exploded when everybody saw Painted Bunting very nicely at the side of the road. After a long but productive day, we retired to the lodge, enjoyed supper, completed checklists and got nice views of the Pacific race of the Red-eyed Tree Frog.

We saw Pacific Screech-Owl along Guacimo Road.

Day 3, 30th March 2023. Villa Lapas Lodge and Carara National Park

We started the first hours of the early morning birding around the lodge, before breakfast was served and the park opened. The lodge was strategically close to the park – only a few minutes’ drive. We got some nice species, including Black-faced Antthrush, Scaly-throated Leaftosser (watching leaves being tossed was a great experience for most), Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Lesson’s Motmot, Black-headed and Slaty-tailed Trogons, Buff-rumped Warbler, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager (which proved difficult for most of the participants and only a few got good views as the bird was skulking really hard), Orange-billed Sparrow, Grey-chested Dove, and Common Tody-Flycatcher building a nest next to the bridge over the river. On the river we saw our first Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, and Northern Waterthrush.

We went to the Carara National Park as soon as it opened to the public to explore the lek of the Orange-collared Manakin. We met another group at the lek itself, which is located at one side of the trail in a corner, so it was an interesting experience not being able to move much and letting the birds come to us. We all had great views and, especially when the other group left, we were able to get better positions and take photos of this beautiful looking bird.

The most wanted Orange-collared Manakin was a highlight for all participants.

Other birds here included Grey-chested Dove, Cocoa and Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Scarlet Macaw, Squirrel Cuckoo, Blue-throated Sapphire (also known as Blue-throated Goldentail), Lesson’s Motmot, Pale-billed and Lineated Woodpeckers, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Northern Royal Flycatcher, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius (also known as Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher), Eye-ringed Flatbill, the elusive Riverside Wren, and Chestnut-sided Warbler, which was seen throughout almost the entire trip. We tried hard for the Streak-chested Antpitta, but it remained calling distantly.

We returned to the lodge for lunch, some cold refreshments and some rest before returning to the park again. The afternoon was rather quiet, but we managed to get better views of the Chestnut-backed Antbird. We walked to the forest stream to wait for birds coming to bath. We managed to get nice views of the striking Red-capped Manakin (a couple of males and a female). They close the park at 5pm and we had to rush almost nonstop to be out of the park in time, but we were lucky to spot a couple of excellent birds on the way: the recently split Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner (split from Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner and named after a province of Panama), and a few of us managed to get Blue-crowned Manakin (male) right near the exit of the park.

We returned to the lodge and, after supper, tried for Parauque, which we saw nicely. A couple of us got silhouettes of Common Opossum high in the top of the trees.

Red-capped Manakin taking a bath in the Carara National Park (photo Paul Newman).

Day 4, 31st March 2023. Tarcoles River and transfer to Esquinas

Today we had a long day ahead, and we were full of excitement and anticipation. We had our first boat trip of the tour, exploring the Tarcoles River. We saw many aquatic species this morning, including Green, Belted, and Ringed Kingfishers, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Great and Snowy Egrets, and Striated, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons. We saw a few Caspian and Royal Terns and had our first encounter with American Crocodile.

We explored the mangrove habitat in search of other species, including Boat-billed Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Anhinga, American Pygmy-Kingfisher, Common Black Hawk, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird and Mangrove Warbler. We had great views of all these species. After a successful boat trip, we checked the mangrove habitat along the river shores to find American White Ibis, a second Turquoise-browed Motmot and the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird.

With this species in the pocket, we left Tarcoles to start the long drive to Esquinas Lodge in the south of the country, near the Golfito area. We arrived at our lodge in the afternoon, with enough time to check in to the rooms, become familiar with the surrounding area have supper, complete checklists and enjoy a few drinks. It was another great and hot day in Costa Rica.

The endangered Black-cheeked Ant Tanager is an endemic of Southern Costa Rica.

Day 5, 1st April 2023. Esquinas Lodge

We started the day exploring the lodge trails, looking for one of the most important targets for this area, the endemic Black-cheeked Ant Tanager. Fortunately, we managed to find a small flock foraging in the dark forest understory, getting good views of this species. Costa Rica offers the chance to see three of the world’s five species of ant tanager (Habia). The other two species are endemic to Colombia and are often seen on our tours there. In the lodge we enjoyed views of Golden-hooded, Palm, Scarlet-rumped and Blue-grey Tanagers, and the widespread but often heard-only Bright-rumped Attila gave us good views. A pair of Great Curassow were seen daily around the lodge area. We enjoyed excellent views of both sexes. In addition to these we got Spot-crowned Euphonia, Grey-chested Dove, Rufous Piha, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Yellow-throated Toucan, Fiery-billed Aracari, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Red-crowned Woodpecker, and Slaty-tailed Trogon.

Around the lodge clearing and the cabins we got hummingbirds such as Violet-headed Hummingbird, Stripe-throated Hermit, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. We relaxed during the afternoon and some participants stayed to enjoy the birds from their cabins whilst others went to the trails where they were rewarded with Baird’s Trogon and Blue-black Grosbeak.

After supper we went to bed early because we would be having a very early start tomorrow.

Day 6, 2nd April 2023. Puente Jimenez and Coto 45

We left the lodge around 4.30 am to be at Puente Jimenez by dawn. When we arrived, we got a quick box breakfast and stood at one side of the bridge waiting for our targets for the day, including the exquisite Yellow-billed Cotinga. We managed to see the usual aquatic species, such as Bare-throated Tiger Heron, American White Ibis, Spotted Sandpiper, and Green Heron. Other interesting species showed up nicely, such as Fiery-billed Aracari and Scarlet Macaw. We got a Mourning Warbler skulking in the vegetation below the bridge. Suddenly we were excited to see the cotingas flying by, and one perched but it was far from ideal against the light. While waiting we got the only Turquoise Cotinga of the trip, although distantly, we got great scope views of one male. Then the great moment came, and we got a male Yellow-billed Cotinga which came and perched in a tree which allowed us great views. This was most definitely most satisfying!

Yellow-billed Cotinga was a highlight of our trip.

In addition to these species we also got great views of Double-toothed Kite, Yellow-headed Caracara, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Red-lored Amazon, Black-crowned Tityra, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Southern Rough-winged Swallow and Grey-breasted Martin. Later, near La Gamba, we stopped in a small marshy area where we got Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Purple Gallinule. Then, looking for suitable habitat, we found Laughing Falcon, Striped Cuckoo, Pale-breasted Spinetail, White-winged Becard, Scrub and Tawny-crowned Greenlets, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Bronzed Cowbird, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Yellow-bellied and Morelet’s Seedeaters, (named after Pierre Marie Arthur Morelet, a 19th century French naturalist and collector).

In the afternoon we drove through a huge plantation of oil palms to reach one of the last-remaining secondary growth habitats, where we found one of our two afternoon targets, the Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, which we all saw very well. We also had good views of a second Laughing Falcon, Black-striped Sparrow, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Smooth-billed Ani and Tropical Mockingbird.

We returned to the lodge, ate supper, completed checklists and then went out owling. We were rewarded with great views of the impressive Striped Owl, perched on telephone wires. We added more Parauques and, heading back to the lodge, we saw a Northern Raccoon.

Day 7, 3rd April 2023. Transfer to Savegre Lodge

We had a late start, getting ready for another long drive. Some of us showed up early in the dining room, to check feeders and catch up on any birds seen whilst everyone was apart. We also looked for Tayra, large mustelids which came to the feeders to steal bananas, a few of us saw them but never all of us as a group. Great Curassow was seen in the lodge clearing vicinity. After breakfast, we set off towards Savegre Lodge.

The impressive Striped Owl we saw at Esquinas Lodge (photo Alan Van Norman).

At San Gerardo de Dota, in the mountains, we said goodbye to our friend Vernon, who had travelled with us for the previous six days. The cool weather in the mountains was a very welcome change after a hot and humid week.

We arrived at the lodge and, after check-in, started heading to the cabins, when someone near the parking lot shouted “Quetzal” – the main target of the whole trip and one that often requires work to find. It was seen by some of us, and we were told that it had been feeding near the entrance along the main road. It was amazing that we got it without having left early in the morning, and the fact that it was seemingly unperturbed by the crowd.

Day 8, 4th April 2023. Savegre Lodge

The next morning, before breakfast, we went near the entrance and it didn’t take long before we got the most-wanted Resplendent Quetzal (male and female). This was our moment of glory, with the photographers trying for their best photos. Another great find near here was the Black-faced Solitaire, seen well by all of us. Very happy, we returned to the lodge for breakfast.

We enjoyed the bird feeders around the lodge clearing and parking area, with birds such as Slaty Flowerpiercer, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, and Rufous-collared Sparrow, and hummingbirds such as the common Grey-tailed Mountain-gem Lampornis cinereicauda (IOC considers this a country endemic different from White-throated Mountain-gem Lampornis castaneoventris, the species accepted by Cornel/Clements). We also got great views of Talamanca Hummingbird and Fiery-throated Hummingbird.

Seeing Resplendent Quetzal was a dream come true (photo Paul Newman).

After breakfast, we drove the 4×4 vehicle in the forest above the lodge, looking for specials. It was quiet when we arrived, but after a while we started getting birds such as Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Black-cheeked Warbler, Large-footed Finch, Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, Ruddy Pigeon, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Ochraceous Wren, Ruddy Treerunner, Mountain Elaenia, Yellowish Flycatcher, Yellow-winged Vireo, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager (also known as Sooty-capped Chlorospingus) which we saw repeatedly during the trip, the beautiful Collared Redstart, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler. The excitement continued with a mixed feeding flock, with Flame-throated Warbler, Spangled-cheeked Tanager (well spotted by Jeanne) and a Buffy Tuftedcheek, which we followed along the forest trails to get good views of this bromeliad special. We had our first glimpse of Blue-throated Toucanet, and a glimpse of a flock of Barred Parakeet which crossed in the typical Barred Parakeet flock formation, very fast, showing only silhouettes, and making their flying call and behavior. We saw Red-tailed Hawk and flocks of White-collared Swifts. We tried for Costa Rica Pygmy Owl and Silvery-fronted Tapaculo but, sadly, without success. It was lovely weather and we decided to hike back down to the lodge.

In the afternoon we visited the feeders at Miriam restaurant, where we had a great time enjoying species such as Acorn Woodpecker, Mountain Thrush, Mountain Elaenia, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Large-footed Finch, Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, Baltimore Oriole, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Flame-colored Tanager and Blue-throated Toucanet. We got excellent views of Hairy Woodpecker, here in the extimus race found only in western Panama and Costa Rica. We enjoyed hummingbirds as well, including Talamanca, Volcano and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, and Grey-throated Mountain-gem.

We left the restaurant and drove up the mountains, where we waited until sunset to try for the most-wanted Unspotted Saw-whet Owl. Amazingly, it responded and came towards us, but approaching bad weather and a fence separating us robbed us of the opportunity to feast our eyes on this amazing species. We also tried for Dusky Nightjar, which responded to the tape, but it remained distant and we only saw a couple of silhouettes flying, without being able to see the bird properly. We returned to the lodge after another great day.

Day 9, 5th April 2023. Birding in the Antennas and transfer to El Paraiso

We birded around the lodge before leaving to drive to Orocay. We were lucky to get excellent views of Spotted Wood Quail, and other birds along the river, such as Black Phoebe and Torrent Tyrannulet. We were hoping for American Dipper but didn’t see any near the lodge entrance and we didn’t have time to walk towards the waterfall, because our plan was to drive up to the antennas on top of the mountains. We looked for the secretive Wrenthrush on the way up. The Wrenthrush (Zeledoniidae) is a secretive monotypic found only in Costa Rica and Panama and even though the name suggests two different families (wren and thrush) it is neither. For some years it was believed to be a relative of Old World flycatchers (Muscicapidae) and today its closest relatives are considered the Spindalis (Spindalidae) and Cuban warblers (Terestridae). This skulker is always a challenge, but we gave it a try and ended up with the bird right near our feet and we were ecstatic!

Wrenthrush was a superb encounter on the trip (photo Paul Newman).

We continued and reached the treeline at the famous antennas, where we looked for two main targets, Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren. It took time to find the junco because it was not near the base of the towers where it’s usually found, we only found it much later when it was almost time to leave, fortunately we had great views. Even though the wren was responding, it was behaving very secretively and not showing well, so we left the antennas and headed down to look in another place we knew. This time Timberline Wren came fully into view.

We headed to Paraiso Los Quetzales Lodge, where we planned to spend some time at the feeders and have lunch. The weather was great considering the time of day, it was not too sunny, and there was activity near the feeders. We found two new birds on the parking lot, Sooty Thrush, and Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush. At the feeders we got some new species and upgraded views of old friends, including eye-level and close views of Flame-throated Warbler and Spangled-cheeked Tanager, as well as Black-thighed Grosbeak, Black-capped Flycatcher, and Black-and-yellow Phainoptila (also known as Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher). The hummingbird feeders were a blast, even though we had already seen all the species on previous days at different locations. The number of hummingbirds and how close the Fiery-throated Hummingbirds were approaching us was amazing. A couple of young Volcano Hummingbird males were noticed amongst all the hummers buzzing around.

After a tasty lunch, we started the long drive to El Paraiso. On the way, we took a detour to some coffee plantations, where we had splendid views of the endemic Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow. It was previously considered part of Prevost Ground Sparrow (from northern Central America and Mexico) but was split not long ago. It’s named after Jean Louis Cabanis, a 19th century German ornithologist. We also managed to see Yellow-faced Grassquit, Buff-throated Saltator and Swallow-tailed Kite. We went to El Paraiso’s main town square, looking for Barn Owl roosting on palm trees, but sadly it wasn’t there. The town was preparing for an upcoming religious celebration and there was quite a crowd, nevertheless, we managed views of Finsch’s Parakeet and White-winged Dove (whoo-whoo-whoo). We retreated to our hotel to rest and prepare for another day full of adventure.

Day 10, 6th April 2023. Rio Macho and transfer to La Quinta Lodge

It didn’t take long before we scored our first target, White-eared Ground Sparrow, on the coffee plantations on the way up to Rio Macho Reserve. The weather was good and we saw birds previously seen, like Squirrel Cuckoo, Brown Jay, and Mountain Elaenia. We also got some new birds, including the spectacular White-winged Tanager, a glimpse of Speckled Tanager, and Golden-browed Chlorophonia, a real treat for the whole group! Other birds included Black-headed Saltator, Social, Piratic and Boat-billed Flycatchers, Tropical Parula, Red-faced Spinetail, Rufous-browed Peppershrike was heard constantly but never came into full view, Slate-throated Whitestart, Brown-capped Vireo, Masked Tityra, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, and Blackburnian, Tennessee and Wilson’s Warblers.

We started the drive towards the Caribbean foothills and had spectacular views of White-tailed Kite hovering for extended times, while we enjoyed a delicious lunch somewhere along the road. We arrived at our lodge in Sarapiquí in the afternoon.

Day 11, 7th April 2023. La Selva Biological Station and Sarapiquí

Today was a busy day. We left the lodge just before dawn in order to arrive at the entrance to the famous La Selva Biological Station at the right time. We spent a great couple of hours before the reserve opened, finding Rufous Motmot, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Fasciated Antshrike (female), Grey-capped Flycatcher, Cinnamon Becard, Buff-throated Saltator, Golden-hooded, Blue-grey, Palm and Scarlet-rumped Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Collared Aracari, Yellow-throated Toucan, Gartered Trogon, and Red-lored Amazon flying-by. Around the parking lot we got two great species, the handsome Keel-billed Toucan, and Snowy Cotinga (male) giving great scope views.

We walked the forest trails with a resident guide who helped us find birds and wildlife. During three hours enjoyed on different trails, we found Crested Guan, Broad-billed Motmot, Hook-billed Kite, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Buff-rumped Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-faced Grosbeak and Rufous-winged Woodpecker. We had good views of Hoffmann’s two-toed Sloth, Panamanian White-faced Capuchin, Collared Peccary, Strawberry Poison Dart Frog and Green and Black Poison Dart Frog.

We returned to the hotel around 11.30am, and enjoyed a very welcome lunch. After the meal, some folks had a siesta, while others spent time at the lodge feeders and got the usual suspects, and also a new bird for the trip, Red-throated Ant-Tanager.

In the afternoon we explored the Sarapiquí surroundings, where we looked for Great Green Macaw coming to roost, and we had great scope views of at least two couples flying and roosting nearby. I was unhappy to see that the whole area near the roosting tree is being transformed into a few plots, likely for building houses.

Tiny Hawk was a welcome surprise at Tapirus Lodge (photo Paul Newman).

Day 12, 8th April 2023. Tapirus Lodge and Cope feeders

Today we went to explore the Tapirus Lodge zipline and cable car complex. This seems to be a good area for the Bare-necked Umbrellabird and Baird’s Tapir, which are commonly seen in the area. Hummingbird activity was really poor, and the sunny weather did not provide much mixed feeding flock activity. We explored some of the trails, when suddenly we spotted a small raptor on a tree and were very happy to find it was the secretive Tiny Hawk, a seldom-seen Neotropical Accipiter. We had excellent views, little knowing that this was going to turn out to be a fine raptor morning.

We returned to near the lodge, where we saw a Baird’s Tapir and a Brown-throated Sloth. We walked along the steep, paved main road up to the entrance, where we found a flock with Carmiol’s Tanager (named after Julian and Francisco Carmiol, 19th century French ornithologists and collectors), together with Tawny-crested Tanager, which was unfortunately only seen by a few people, including Tim, because they kept far away inside the bushes. We arrived at the view point, where we got good views of White Hawk, which was new for the trip and, unexpectedly, Black Hawk-Eagle, which, after some persistence on our part, came down and perched for us. It was a really cool moment.

Black Hawk-Eagle gave us a great show at Tapirus Lodge (photo Paul Newman).

Black Hawk-Eagle at Tapirus Lodge (photo Paul Newman).

Good news was that the well-known Butterfly House (El Tapir garden) was open again for visitors and we arrived at the best time of the year for breathtaking views of the splendid Snowcap. Our short visit was rewarded with views of two males and one female. Barbara was happy with the Snowcap. Other (common) hummingbirds were Violet-headed and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, and Green Thorntail, which was new for the trip.

We went for lunch and then explored the classic “Donde Cope”, where we looked for birds outside the property first, before going to the feeders. We drove to the forest and started the short but slow walk along the muddy trail where, with luck, we would find the usual targets. The effort paid off well, as we got great views of both Crested and Spectacled Owls. The group was happy and we enjoyed also finding Honduran Ghost Bat. We left the forest thinking about the Credence Clearwater Revival song “Run through the Jungle”. We went to the open fields to look in a place where the rare Central American Pygmy-Owl was seen last year, but sadly there was nothing.

On our way back to the house, we got our first Crimson-collared Tanager, and when we arrived, we had brilliant views of Shining, Green and lots of Red-legged Honeycreepers, all at eye-level. We enjoyed Collared Aracari, Montezuma and Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, Orange-chinned Parakeets, Red-winged Blackbird, Pale-vented Pigeons, Rufous-naped Wood Rail and Giant Cowbird.

The hummingbird feeders provided White-necked Jacobins, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and Stripe-throated Hermit, which had been missed by some at Esquinas Lodge. We also had views of the Smooth Helmeted Iguana, which is a classic find at Cope’s property. After a long but rewarding day we returned to our lodge.

Day 13, 9th April 2023. La Virgen, Cinchona feeders, La Paz Waterfalls and transfer to Arenal

Today we left Sarapiqui and headed to La Virgen del Socorro area to look for our first target, with nine pair of eyes scanning the river, and we scored good views of American Dipper. We also got Torrent Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe and Northern Tufted Flycatcher, which was unfortunately only seen by a few.

Birding the forest near the river provided good new species, including our first Emerald Tanager, followed by Bay-headed, Silver-throated, Summer and Golden-hooded Tanagers, Black-throated Green and Golden-winged Warblers, Common Bush-Tanager (also called Common Chlorospingus, here in the race regionalis), Russet Antshrike, and great views of our first Scarlet-thighed Dacnis. We got more Blue Dacnis, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Bananaquit, Black-faced Grosbeak, and Black-headed Saltator. We got great views of the diminutive Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant and Blue-throated Toucanet.

We left the forest and headed to the Cinchona feeders, where we spent some exciting time enjoying birds such as Prong-billed Barbet, Crimson-collared Tanager, Blue-throated Toucanet, and other usual suspects, such as Tennessee and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Baltimore Oriole, Squirrel Cuckoo and Cinnamon-bellied Saltator. We also saw more of the birds we’d seen earlier in the morning at Virgen del Socorro, including several tanagers and saltators. Sadly, there was no sign of Red-headed Barbet, Black Guan or Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, but we consoled ourselves with great views of Brown-billed Scythebill, which was new for Eduardo’s Costa Rica list.

We moved to La Paz Waterfalls restaurant and tourist complex, where we spent some time birding around the area and enjoying the hummingbird feeders. Feeders have been returned to the complex (after being retired in 2021/2022) and we enjoyed views of Violet Sabrewing, Black-bellied Hummingbird, the endemic Coppery-headed Hummingbird, Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-throated Mountain-gem and Green Thorntail. Most of the other birds were the usual suspects, including good views of Red-tailed Hawk. We added Sooty-faced Finch, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, and Black-eared Warbler (also known as Costa Rican Warbler), which is a split from Three-striped Warbler Basileuterus tristriatus and is only found in Costa Rica and western Panama.

After a tasty lunch we headed towards La Fortuna and immediately went to Sendero Bogarin, where we tried for White-throated Crake. Sadly, the place was full of noisy visitors and staff and we didn’t see the bird, just like on our previous trips. Nevertheless, we were compensated by the sight of a pair of Black-and-white Owls roosting at daytime. We knew the owls were in a tree and Christiane was first to spot them! Everyone was happy. We even tried for the elusive Uniform Crake, which did respond, but only Mary got a glimpse of it. Other birds seen here included Smoky-brown Woodpecker and Streak-headed Woodcreeper. We finished the day and went to the comfortable Arenal Observatory Lodge for two overnights.

Spotted Antbird was seen at El Arenal Lodge.

Day 14, 10th April 2023. Full day at Arenal Observatory Lodge

We spent the day birding around the lodge. We looked for army-ant swarms along the waterfall trail but despite all our efforts, the ants were not to be found. Nevertheless, Spotted Antbird was very active at the beginning of the trail and we had excellent views. During the walk we also found Golden-crowned Warblers, the elusive Stripe-breasted Wren, White-flanked Antwren, Russet Antshrike, and got great views of Song Wren.

When we returned to the lodge, we checked the feeders out. We managed birds such as Grey-headed Chachalaca, Great Curassows, Emerald Tanager (the best view of the trip), Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and the usuals: Bay-headed, Palm, Blue-grey, Scarlet, Scarlet-rumped and Golden-hooded Tanagers, as well as Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers. In the late morning we spent some time looking for Black-crested Coquette in the lodge gardens, and we got a couple of females but struggled to find the male. A nice Golden-olive Woodpecker showed up in the area.

In the afternoon we left the lodge and explored a busy road where we managed to find another of our targets, Keel-billed Motmot, which showed nicely for everyone. We saw lots of birds at El Arenal and also had our first encounter with Central American Spider Monkeys. We needed to get ready for a long day next day, so we did the checklist before supper, and went to bed after supper.

Day 15, 11th April 2023. Arenal Skyline and transfer to Medio Queso and Caño Negro

Today was to be a very busy day. We started our morning birding the lodge grounds, looking for the male Black-crested Coquette. We found good birds near the old house, including Long-tailed Tyrant, Black-crowned Tityra, Dusky Antbird, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Montezuma Oropendola and at almost the last moment we found a male Black-crested Coquette to make everyone happy.

We returned to the lodge for breakfast and then left for the Arenal Skyline. This complex is in good forest and offers excellent birding opportunities but sadly only opens after 8am. The best plan was to spend the morning birding the trails and crossing the suspended bridges, where in the past I have had great success.

On this occasion, though, I had the added pressure of trying to repeat my 2020 achievement of finding the majestic Ornate Hawk-Eagle, even though this time we didn’t have a full morning, we only had two hours to get there, try, and get out. Generally, one leaves birds like this to chance, or if you know they have been seen recently, or if there is an active nest. This trip was going so well, with such excellent people providing so many good vibes, and the birds were showing so well that I thought “If you want to see this one – which I can’t guarantee but I promise I will do my best – we have a chance in the place where I saw it in front of me at eye-level about 3 years ago.” Due to time constraints we would need to sacrifice other birds, including trying for Thicket Antpitta, which was heard in the area, and other specials like Half-collared Gnatwren. We went directly to the viewpoint I knew, taking about 20 minutes to get there. Once there, I checked and scanned the whole area, and we didn’t see any large bird roosting, but we managed to see White Hawk and Great Black Hawk flying high above the forest. I tried for Sharpbill and Yellow-eared Toucanet and then played for the Ornate Hawk Eagle, but none of them responded. A real moment of frustration came when a crowd arrived and took over the viewpoint, so we had to leave and wait for them to get their selfies and go again. In the meantime, we were trying for birds outside the viewpoint and some of us got Carmiol’s Tanager, Gartered Trogon and Ochre-bellied Flycatcher. Once the place was ours again, we continued trying until we got an answer that made our hearts beat faster and our hopes soar. We kept trying – in reality it could not have been longer than an hour and a half – but it felt like we’d been there for centuries, especially when the whole group (including myself) were watching in one direction and, from behind, the bird flew in front of us, towards the forest, and disappeared among the trees. It was no more than a glimpse of a brown raptor.

Seeing Ornate Hawk-Eagle was perhaps the most memorable moment of the tour (photo Christiane Maluche).

It was well-adapted to fly in the forest. How had it approached us so silently? Was that glimpse going to be all? No more chances? It seemed so, because it didn’t respond again for some time. We didn’t give up, we moved out from the viewpoint and started to call it from the forest. We checked other trees, and several minutes later, just before we would have to leave, I saw Paul motionless, almost in shock when he pointed out the bird he really wanted to see more than anything else on the trip. It was one of the highlights for several participants, there it was! The majestic Ornate Hawk Eagle was sitting neither close nor far, we had to huddle together to see it between the trees, but we ended with the sweet taste of victory!

We left the place and had a tasty lunch on the way to Medio Queso wetlands, near the Nicaraguan border, where our boat man was waiting for us. This boat trip was another highlight of the trip, the birding was dynamite, with target after target and bird after bird. We started with all the expected aquatic species, which we had seen before at Tarcoles, including Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Common and Purple Gallinules, Black-necked Stilt, Northern Jacana, Jabiru, Woodstork, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Green Ibis, Boat-billed Heron, Tricolored Heron, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, Black-collared Hawk, as well as abundant numbers of Great Blue Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets, and Little-blue Heron. The targets didn’t hesitate in showing up, and we started with great views of Pinnated Bittern showing well for all of us. Then we continued with views of Least Bittern and Olive-throated Parakeet, followed by “out of this world” views of Yellow-breasted Crake. We continued the boat ride to the opposite side of the wetland, where we found the near endemic Nicaraguan Grackle, we worked hard for the skulker Slaty Spinetail, we had great views of Canebreak Wren (the last from the three splits of the former Plain Wren), Grey-crowned Yellowthroat provided wonderful views, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater and, just before sunset, we crowned the day with a super adult male Nicaraguan Seed-Finch and superb views of Sora walking among the water lilies.

We returned to the dock, where we said goodbye to the boat driver, and met Luis for the long drive to our final destination, Refugio Caño Negro Lodge. We arrived at dusk and went immediately to supper and then to bed.

Day 16, 12th April 2023. Boat trip to Caño Negro and transfer to La Ensenada Lodge

Today our last boat trip was planned, to explore the famous Caño Negro River. We didn’t have much time but we did have the advantage that we had already visited Tarcoles and Medio Queso. This meant we could focus our efforts on only finding the specials, and this morning we were after Sungrebe, which, together with African Finfoot Podica senegalensis and Masked Finfoot Heliopais personatus, constitute the only three members in the whole world of the family Heliornithidae. Sungrebe would be a lifer for all participants.

Sungrebe was another highlight of the trip (photo Paul Newman).

We had views of classic aquatic species and the usual suspects, including some new species like Muscovy Duck, the monotypic Limpkin, Green Ibis, American Pygmy-Kingfisher, and also Olive-throated Parakeet, Slaty-tailed and Black-headed Trogons, Cinnamon Becard, Spot-breasted Wren, and further views of Roseate Spoonbill flying by. We tried for the most-wanted Bare-crowned Antbird from the boat, but sadly it stayed away from the shore and there was nowhere for us to get out of the boat at the spot where it was calling. Nevertheless, we were compensated with first class views of Sungrebe, which quickly rose high on the list of trip highlights. Regarding wildlife, we found an adult Green Basilisk and we saw Jaguar tracks on the shore.

We returned to the lodge to fetch our luggage and started the drive towards La Ensenada Lodge, located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Albeit tricky to get to the lodge, its location was ideal, between the ocean and xerophytic and dry habitats. Before we arrived at the lodge we got a few Stripe-headed Sparrows along the road, one of the few birds we had missed on the first day at Guacimo. We arrived at the lodge and the first thing waiting for us was a Pacific Screech Owl roosting at day time!

We had a magical encounter with Lesser Ground Cuckoo (photo Paul Newman). 

The group decided to relax in the afternoon. Nancy and Jack called me to join a party, and the celebratory atmosphere soon spread. We could indeed celebrate an amazing trip, but we were also well aware that we still had one more target to get.

Day 17, 13th April 2023. La Ensenada Lodge and transfer to San Jose

Today we checked the mudflats near the lodge, normally host to many birds including waders, but at this time of the year many had already left. We managed to encounter Stilt Sandpipers, which are always interesting to see, and were new for some participants. Additionally, we saw Semipalmated Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Jacanas, Southern Lapwings, Zone-tailed Hawk, and Woodstork.

After checking the mudflats we started looking for the secretive and most wanted Lesser Ground Cuckoo, a really hard bird to find. We looked for suitable habitat and tried and tried until we got a response. Adrenaline spiked, but the bird call sounded like it was far away, calling from a bush and not moving. Suddenly, a participant saw motion, adrenaline spiked again, and we managed to see a distant silhouette, which disappeared quickly. It seemed like the show was over but we wanted the tour to end on a high note, so we kept trying and changed position. Suddenly – we didn’t even see it coming – the bird was sitting in front of us! That was surreal and we were ecstatic!

We returned to the lodge for breakfast, then started the drive back to San Jose and our hotel near the airport. We made a few stops along the way to try for Mangrove Cuckoo and Mangrove Rail, but it was too hot and too late. We arrived at a nice restaurant for lunch, and some participants did some shopping. Back at our hotel we said goodbye to our driver, who had done such a remarkable job for the last sixteen days.

We celebrated our last supper together as a group, enjoyed a few drinks, and reviewed our checklist, also slightly sad that our trip was finally over. It was the first time birding in Latin America for several participants, and we discussed potential future tours, perhaps to Ecuador or Brazil. It would indeed be a pleasure to travel with this group of people again, one of my best tours ever! Costa Rica Pura Vida!

Day 18, 14th April 2023. Transfer to the airport and international flights

This morning participants were taken to the airport at different times to catch their flights back home.

Bird ListFollowing IOC (12.2)

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: VU = Vulnerable.

Common name Scientific name
Tinamous (Tinamidae)
Great Tinamou (H) Tinamus major
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
Black-bellied Whistling Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis
Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata
Blue-winged Teal Spatula discors
Chachalacas, Curassows, Guans (Cracidae)
Grey-headed Chachalaca Ortalis cinereiceps
Crested Guan Penelope purpurascens
Great Curassow – VU Crax rubra
New World Quail (Odontophoridae)
Spotted Wood Quail Odontophorus guttatus
Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)
Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis
Dusky Nightjar Antrostomus saturatus
Potoos (Nyctibiidae)
Common Potoo Nyctibius griseus
Swifts (Apodidae)
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris
Grey-rumped Swift Chaetura cinereiventris
Costa Rican Swift Chaetura fumosa
Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)
White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora
Bronzy Hermit Glaucis aeneus
Stripe-throated Hermit Phaethornis striigularis
Green Hermit Phaethornis guy
Long-billed Hermit Phaethornis longirostris
Brown Violetear Colibri delphinae
Lesser Violetear Colibri cyanotus
Purple-crowned Fairy Heliothryx barroti
Green-breasted Mango Anthracothorax prevostii
Green Thorntail Discosura conversii
Black-crested Coquette Lophornis helenae
Talamanca Hummingbird Eugenes spectabilis
Fiery-throated Hummingbird Panterpe insignis
Plain-capped Starthroat Heliomaster constantii
Purple-throated Mountaingem Lampornis calolaemus
Grey-tailed Mountaingem (Endemic) Lampornis cinereicauda
Volcano Hummingbird Selasphorus flammula
Violet-headed Hummingbird Klais guimeti
Violet Sabrewing Campylopterus hemileucurus
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer Chalybura urochrysia
Crowned Woodnymph Thalurania colombica
Snowcap Microchera albocoronata
Coppery-headed Emerald (Endemic) Microchera cupreiceps
White-tailed Emerald Microchera chionura
Stripe-tailed Hummingbird Eupherusa eximia
Black-bellied Hummingbird Eupherusa nigriventris
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird Phaeochroa cuvierii
Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Amazilia tzacatl
Mangrove Hummingbird (Endemic) – EN Amazilia boucardi
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird Chrysuronia coeruleogularis
Charming Hummingbird Polyerata decora
Blue-throated Sapphire Chlorestes eliciae
Cuckoos (Cuculidae)
Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostris
Striped Cuckoo Tapera naevia
Lesser Ground Cuckoo Morococcyx erythropygus
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Dove (Introduced) Columba livia
Pale-vented Pigeon Patagioenas cayennensis
Red-billed Pigeon Patagioenas flavirostris
Ruddy Pigeon – VU Patagioenas subvinacea
Short-billed Pigeon Patagioenas nigrirostris
Inca Dove Columbina inca
Common Ground Dove Columbina passerina
Ruddy Ground Dove Columbina talpacoti
Blue Ground Dove Claravis pretiosa
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi
Grey-chested Dove Leptotila cassinii
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiática
Finfoots (Heliornithidae)
Sungrebe Heliornis fulica
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
Uniform Crake Amaurolimnas concolor
Russet-naped Wood Rail Aramides albiventris
Grey-cowled Wood Rail Aramides cajaneus
Sora Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica
Yellow-breasted Crake Laterallus flaviventer
White-throated Crake (H) Laterallus albigularis
Limpkin (Aramidae)
Limpkin Aramus guarauna
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)
Double-striped Thick-knee Burhinus bistriatus
Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Jacanas (Jacanidae)
Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa
Sunbittern (Eurypygidae)
Sunbittern Eurypyga helias
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus
Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus
Storks (Ciconiidae)
Jabiru Jabiru mycteria
Frigatebirds (Fregatidae)
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Neotropic Cormorant Nannopterum brasilianum
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
Green Ibis Mesembrinibis cayennensis
American White Ibis Eudocimus albus
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
Rufescent Tiger Heron Tigrisoma lineatum
Fasciated Tiger Heron Tigrisoma fasciatum
Bare-throated Tiger Heron Tigrisoma mexicanum
Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius
Pinnated Bittern Botaurus pinnatus
Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Yellow-crowned Night Heron Nyctanassa violácea
Green Heron Butorides virescens
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Great Egret Ardea alba
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Pelicans (Pelecanidae)
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
New World Vultures (Cathartidae)
King Vulture Sarcoramphus papa
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Cathartes burrovianus
Ospreys (Pandionidae)
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus
Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus
Black Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus tyrannus
Ornate Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus ornatus
Double-toothed Kite Harpagus bidentatus
Tiny Hawk Accipiter superciliosus
Plumbeous Kite Ictinia plúmbea
Black-collared Hawk Busarellus nigricollis
Snail Kite Rostrhamus sociabilis
Common Black Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus
Savanna Hawk Buteogallus meridionalis
Great Black Hawk Buteogallus urubitinga
Roadside Hawk Rupornis magnirostris
White Hawk Pseudastur albicollis
Grey Hawk Buteo plagiatus
Grey-lined Hawk Buteo nitidus
Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus
Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Owls (Strigidae)
Unspotted Saw-whet Owl (H) Aegolius ridgwayi
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl Glaucidium brasilianum
Striped Owl Asio clamator
Pacific Screech Owl Megascops cooperi
Spectacled Owl Pulsatrix perspicillata
Crested Owl Lophostrix cristata
Black-and-white Owl Strix nigrolineata
Trogons (Trogonidae)
Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno
Slaty-tailed Trogon Trogon massena
Black-headed Trogon Trogon melanocephalus
Baird’s Trogon Trogon bairdii
Gartered Trogon Trogon caligatus
Black-throated Trogon Trogon Rufus
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Amazon Kingfisher Chloroceryle amazona
American Pygmy Kingfisher Chloroceryle aenea
Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
Motmots (Momotidae)
Lesson’s Motmot Momotus lessonii
Rufous Motmot Baryphthengus martii
Keel-billed Motmot – VU Electron carinatum
Broad-billed Motmot Electron platyrhynchum
Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa
Jacamars (Galbulidae)
Rufous-tailed Jacamar Galbula ruficauda
Puffbirds (Bucconidae)
White-whiskered Puffbird Malacoptila panamensis
Toucan Barbets (Semnornithidae)
Prong-billed Barbet Semnornis frantzii
Toucans (Ramphastidae)
Blue-throated Toucanet Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis
Collared Aracari Pteroglossus torquatus
Fiery-billed Aracari Pteroglossus frantzii
Keel-billed Toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus
Yellow-throated Toucan Ramphastos ambiguus
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Olivaceous Piculet Picumnus olivaceus
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
Golden-naped Woodpecker Melanerpes chrysauchen
Black-cheeked Woodpecker Melanerpes pucherani
Red-crowned Woodpecker Melanerpes rubricapillus
Hoffmann’s Woodpecker Melanerpes hoffmannii
Smoky-brown Woodpecker Leuconotopicus fumigatus
Hairy Woodpecker Leuconotopicus villosus
Rufous-winged Woodpecker Piculus simplex
Golden-olive Woodpecker Colaptes rubiginosus
Chestnut-colored Woodpecker Celeus castaneus
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus
Pale-billed Woodpecker Campephilus guatemalensis
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Crested Caracara Caracara plancus
Yellow-headed Caracara Milvago chimachima
Laughing Falcon Herpetotheres cachinnans
Collared Forest Falcon (H) Micrastur semitorquatus
Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis
African & New World Parrots (Psittacidae)
Barred Parakeet Bolborhynchus lineola
Orange-chinned Parakeet Brotogeris jugularis
Blue-headed Parrot Pionus menstruus
White-crowned Parrot Pionus senilis
White-fronted Amazon Amazona albifrons
Red-lored Amazon Amazona autumnalis
Northern Mealy Amazon Amazona guatemalae
Olive-throated Parakeet Eupsittula nana
Orange-fronted Parakeet – VU Eupsittula canicularis
Brown-throated Parakeet Eupsittula pertinax
Great Green Macaw – CR Ara ambiguus
Scarlet Macaw Ara macao
Finsch’s Parakeet Psittacara finschi
Ovenbirds (Furnariidae)
Scaly-throated Leaftosser Sclerurus guatemalensis
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper Dendrocincla anabatina
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper Glyphorynchus spirurus
Northern Barred Woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae
Black-banded Woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes picumnus
Cocoa Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus susurrans
Black-striped Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus lachrymosus
Brown-billed Scythebill Campylorhamphus pusillus
Streak-headed Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes souleyetii
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes affinis
Plain Xenops Xenops minutus
Buffy Tuftedcheek Pseudocolaptes lawrencii
Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner Automolus exsertus
Ruddy Treerunner Margarornis rubiginosus
Red-faced Spinetail Cranioleuca erythrops
Slaty Spinetail Synallaxis brachyura
Pale-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis albescens
Antbirds (Thamnophilidae)
Russet Antshrike Thamnistes anabatinus
Dot-winged Antwren Microrhopias quixensis
Slaty Antwren Myrmotherula schisticolor
Barred Antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus
Black-hooded Antshrike Thamnophilus bridgesi
Black-crowned Antshrike Thamnophilus atrinucha
Fasciated Antshrike Cymbilaimus lineatus
Great Antshrike (H) Taraba major
Dusky Antbird Cercomacroides tyrannina
Spotted Antbird Hylophylax naevioides
Chestnut-backed Antbird Poliocrania exsul
Bare-crowned Antbird (H) Gymnocichla nudiceps
Antthrushes (Formicariidae)
Black-faced Antthrush Formicarius analis
Antpittas (Grallariidae)
Streak-chested Antpitta (H) Hylopezus perspicillatus
Thicket Antpitta (H) Hylopezus dives
Tyrant Flycatchers, Calyptura (Tyrannidae)
Greenish Elaenia Myiopagis viridicata
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Elaenia flavogaster
Mountain Elaenia Elaenia frantzii
Southern Beardless Tyrannulet Camptostoma obsoletum
Torrent Tyrannulet Serpophaga cinérea
Yellow Tyrannulet Capsiempis flaveola
Mistletoe Tyrannulet Zimmerius parvus
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher Mionectes oleagineus
Northern Bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare
Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant Lophotriccus pileatus
Common Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum
Eye-ringed Flatbill Rhynchocyclus brevirostris
Yellow-margined Flatbill Tolmomyias flavotectus
Golden-crowned Spadebill Platyrinchus coronatus
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
Northern Tufted Flycatcher Mitrephanes phaeocercus
Dark Pewee Contopus lugubris
Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris
Yellowish Flycatcher Empidonax flavescens
Black-capped Flycatcher Empidonax atriceps
Long-tailed Tyrant Colonia colonus
Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius
Rusty-margined Flycatcher Myiozetetes cayanensis
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis
Grey-capped Flycatcher Myiozetetes granadensis
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus
Streaked Flycatcher Myiodynastes maculatus
Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus
Fork-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus savana
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
Panamanian Flycatcher Myiarchus panamensis
Nutting’s Flycatcher Myiarchus nuttingi
Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus
Bright-rumped Attila Attila spadiceus
Cotingas (Cotingidae)
Purple-throated Fruitcrow Querula purpurata
Rufous Piha Lipaugus unirufus
Turquoise Cotinga – VU Cotinga ridgwayi
Yellow-billed Cotinga – EN Carpodectes antoniae
Snowy Cotinga Carpodectes nitidus
Manakins (Pipridae)
Long-tailed Manakin Chiroxiphia linearis
Blue-crowned Manakin Lepidothrix coronata
White-collared Manakin Manacus candei
Orange-collared Manakin Manacus aurantiacus
Red-capped Manakin Ceratopipra mentalis
Tityras, Becards, Sharpbill (Tityridae)
Northern Royal Flycatcher Onychorhynchus mexicanus
Sulphur-rumped Myiobius Myiobius sulphureipygius
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher Terenotriccus erythrurus
Black-crowned Tityra Tityra inquisitor
Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata
Cinnamon Becard Pachyramphus cinnamomeus
White-winged Becard Pachyramphus polychopterus
Black-and-white Becard Pachyramphus albogriseus
Rose-throated Becard Pachyramphus aglaiae
Vireos, Greenlets, Shrike-babblers (Vireonidae)
Rufous-browed Peppershrike (H) Cyclarhis gujanensis
Scrub Greenlet Hylophilus flavipes
Tawny-crowned Greenlet Tunchiornis ochraceiceps
Lesser Greenlet Pachysylvia decurtata
Yellow-green Vireo Vireo flavoviridis
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus
Brown-capped Vireo Vireo leucophrys
Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons
Yellow-winged Vireo Vireo carmioli
Mangrove Vireo Vireo pallens
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
Brown Jay Psilorhinus morio
White-throated Magpie-Jay Calocitta Formosa
Silky-flycatchers (Ptiliogonatidae)
Black-and-yellow Phainoptila Phainoptila melanoxantha
Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Ptiliogonys caudatus
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
Mangrove Swallow Tachycineta albilinea
Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx ruficollis
Brown-chested Martin Progne tapera
Grey-breasted Martin Progne chalybea
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Wrens (Troglodytidae)
Rufous-backed Wren Campylorhynchus capistratus
Spot-breasted Wren Pheugopedius maculipectus
Banded Wren Thryophilus pleurostictus
Cabanis’s Wren Cantorchilus modestus
Canebrake Wren Cantorchilus zeledoni
Isthmian Wren Cantorchilus elutus
Riverside Wren Cantorchilus semibadius
Stripe-breasted Wren Cantorchilus thoracicus
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Ochraceous Wren Troglodytes ochraceus
Timberline Wren Thryorchilus browni
Grey-breasted Wood Wren Henicorhina leucophrys
Song Wren Cyphorhinus phaeocephalus
Gnatcatchers (Polioptilidae)
Trilling Gnatwren Ramphocaenus melanurus
White-browed Gnatcatcher Polioptila bilineata
White-lored Gnatcatcher Polioptila albiloris
Mockingbirds, Thrashers (Mimidae)
Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Black-faced Solitaire Myadestes melanops
Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush Catharus fuscater
Swainson’s Thrush Catharus ustulatus
Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush Catharus gracilirostris
Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush Catharus frantzii
Sooty Thrush Turdus nigrescens
Mountain Thrush Turdus plebejus
Clay-colored Thrush Turdus grayi
Dippers (Cinclidae)
American Dipper Cinclus mexicanus
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
House Sparrow (Introduced) Passer domesticus
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
Yellow-bellied Siskin Spinus xanthogastrus
Golden-browed Chlorophonia Chlorophonia callophrys
Yellow-crowned Euphonia Euphonia luteicapilla
Yellow-throated Euphonia Euphonia hirundinacea
Thick-billed Euphonia Euphonia laniirostris
Spot-crowned Euphonia Euphonia imitans
Olive-backed Euphonia Euphonia gouldi
New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)
Sooty-capped Bush Tanager Chlorospingus pileatus
Common Bush Tanager Chlorospingus flavopectus
Stripe-headed Sparrow Peucaea ruficauda
Black-striped Sparrow Arremonops conirostris
Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus
Orange-billed Sparrow Arremon aurantiirostris
Sooty-faced Finch Arremon crassirostris
Volcano Junco Junco vulcani
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis
Large-footed Finch Pezopetes capitales
White-eared Ground Sparrow Melozone leucotis
Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow (Endemic) Melozone cabanisi
Yellow-thighed Brushfinch Atlapetes tibialis
Wrenthrush (Zeledoniidae)
Wrenthrush Zeledonia coronata
Oropendolas, Orioles, Blackbirds (Icteridae)
Chestnut-headed Oropendola Psarocolius wagleri
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
Montezuma Oropendola Psarocolius Montezuma
Scarlet-rumped Cacique Cacicus microrhynchus
Streak-backed Oriole Icterus pustulatus
Baltimore Oriole Icterus gálbula
Spot-breasted Oriole Icterus pectoralis
Black-cowled Oriole Icterus prosthemelas
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Giant Cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus
Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus
Melodious Blackbird Dives dives
Nicaraguan Grackle Quiscalus nicaraguensis
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
New World Warblers (Parulidae)
Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis
Golden-winged Warbler Vermivora chrysoptera
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
Flame-throated Warbler Oreothlypis gutturalis
Tennessee Warbler Leiothlypis peregrina
Grey-crowned Yellowthroat Geothlypis poliocephala
Mourning Warbler Geothlypis philadelphia
Kentucky Warbler Geothlypis Formosa
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Tropical Parula Setophaga pitiayumi
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca
American Yellow Warbler Setophaga aestiva
Mangrove Warbler Setophaga petechia
Chestnut-sided Warbler Setophaga pensylvanica
Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens
Buff-rumped Warbler Myiothlypis fulvicauda
Chestnut-capped Warbler Basileuterus delattrii
Black-cheeked Warbler Basileuterus melanogenys
Golden-crowned Warbler Basileuterus culicivorus
Black-eared Warbler Basileuterus melanotis
Canada Warbler Cardellina canadensis
Wilson’s Warbler Cardellina pusilla
Slate-throated Whitestart Myioborus miniatus
Collared Whitestart Myioborus torquatus
Cardinals & Allies (Cardinalidae)
Flame-colored Tanager Piranga bidentata
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivácea
Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
White-winged Tanager Piranga leucoptera
Red-crowned Ant Tanager Habia rubica
Red-throated Ant Tanager Habia fuscicauda
Black-cheeked Ant Tanager (Endemic) – EN Habia atrimaxillaris
Carmiol’s Tanager Chlorothraupis carmioli
Black-thighed Grosbeak Pheucticus tibialis
Black-faced Grosbeak Caryothraustes poliogaster
Blue-black Grosbeak Cyanoloxia cyanoides
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris
Tanagers & Allies (Thraupidae)
Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza
Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus
Shining Honeycreeper Cyanerpes lucidus
Scarlet-thighed Dacnis Dacnis venusta
Blue Dacnis Dacnis cayana
Cinnamon-bellied Saltator Saltator grandis
Streaked Saltator Saltator striatipectus
Buff-throated Saltator Saltator maximus
Black-headed Saltator Saltator atriceps
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola
Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivaceus
Blue-black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina
Grey-headed Tanager Eucometis penicillata
White-shouldered Tanager Loriotus luctuosus
Tawny-crested Tanager Tachyphonus delatrii
Crimson-collared Tanager Ramphocelus sanguinolentus
Scarlet-rumped Tanager Ramphocelus passerinii
Morelet’s Seedeater Sporophila morelleti
Variable Seedeater Sporophila corvina
Yellow-bellied Seedeater Sporophila nigricollis
Thick-billed Seed Finch Sporophila funérea
Nicaraguan Seed Finch Sporophila nuttingi
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater Sporophila minuta
Slaty Flowerpiercer Diglossa plúmbea
Speckled Tanager Ixothraupis guttata
Blue-grey Tanager Thraupis episcopus
Palm Tanager Thraupis palmarum
Golden-hooded Tanager Stilpnia larvata
Spangle-cheeked Tanager Tangara dowii
Bay-headed Tanager Tangara gyrola
Emerald Tanager Tangara florida
Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala


Total seen 432
Total heard only 9
Total recorded 441


Mammal List

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: EN = Endangered.

Common name Scientific name
Common Opossum Didelphis marsupialis
Red-tailed Squirrel Sciurus granatensis
Variegated Squirrel Sciurus variegatoides
Central American Agouti Dasyprocta punctate
 Northern Ghost Bat  Diclidurus albus
Greater sac-winged Bat Saccopteryx bilineata
Honduran White Bat Ectophylla alba
Common Tent-making Bat Uroderma bilobatum
Hoffmann’s two-toed Sloth Choloepus hoffmanni
Brown-throated Sloth Bradypus variegatus
Panamanian white-faced capuchin Cebus imitator
Mantled Howler Alouatta palliata
Geoffroy’s spider monkey Ateles geoffroyi
Northern Raccoon Cerdocyon lotor
White-nosed Coati Nasua narica
Tayra Eira barbara
Neotropical Otter Lontra longicaudis
White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus
Baird’s Tapir – EN Tapirus bairdii
Collared Peccary Dicotyles tajacu


Total seen 20


Reptile List

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: VU = Vulnerable.

Common name Scientific name
Crocodylidae (Crocodiles)
American Crocodile – VU Crocodylus intermedius
Alligatoridae (Caimans and Alligators)
Common [Spectacled] Caiman Caiman crocodilus
Colubridae (Typical Snakes)
Green Parrot Snake Leptophis ahaetulla
Viperidae (Vipers)
Eyelash Viper Bothriechis schlegelii
Iguanidae (Iguanas)
Green Iguana Iguana iguana
Spiny-tailed Iguana Ctenosaura similis
Corytophanidae (Helmeted Lizards, Basilisks)
Smooth helmeted Iguana Corytophanes cristatus
Green Basilisk Basiliscus plumifrons
Common Basilisk Basiliscus basiliscus
Whiptails and Tegus (Teiidae)
Central American Whiptail Holcosus festivus
Podocnemididae (South American River Turtle)
Black Wood Turtle Rhinoclemmys funereal
Emydidae (Marsh Turtles)  
Nicaraguan Slider Trachemys emolli
Gekkonidae (Geckos)  
Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia


Total seen 13


Amphibian List

Common name Scientific name
Dendrobatidae (Dart Frogs)
Strawberry poison-dart frog Oophaga pumilio
Green-and-black poison-dart frog Dendrobates auratus
Hylidae (Tree Frogs)  
Red-eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas
Leptodactylidae (Bull Frogs)  
Smoky jungle frog Leptodactylus pentadactylus
Cane toad Rhinella marina


Total seen 5



This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.





This 18-day Costa Rica birding tour is designed to provide you with the best birding in the country. We will begin the tour by birding the Pacific slope in and around Carara National Park, looking for Streak-chested Antpitta, Orange-collared Manakin, Scarlet Macaw and Fiery-billed Aracari. A boat trip along the Tarcoles River is another tour highlight where we are likely to find many waterbird species, the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird, and even American Crocodile. Further south, near Golfo Dulce, we will search for the most-wanted duo of Yellow-billed and Turquoise Cotinga, as well as the endemic Black-cheeked Ant Tanager and White-crested Coquette. We will then continue the tour by taking you to the lush Savegre Lodge where we will target the fantastic Resplendent Quetzal, Spotted Wood Quail and Spangle-cheeked Tanager. Here we will have the chance to visit several bird feeders where we can find outstanding hummingbirds such as Fiery-throated Hummingbird and Talamanca Hummingbird.

Exploring northern Costa Rica will take us to visit the famous La Selva biological station where we should be rewarded with sightings of Snowy Cotinga and Cinnamon Woodpecker. The trails here provide further exciting, yet secretive species such as Great Curassow and Great Tinamou. We will explore Caño Negro River and Medio Queso wetlands in search of the localized Nicaraguan Seed Finch and Nicaraguan Grackle as well as the secretive Pinnated Bittern and Yellow-breasted Crake. A visit to the Arenal region provides further splendid birding and if you are lucky, you could score with uncommon birds such as Yellow-eared Toucanet, Thicket Antpitta, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Russet Antshrike, Keel-billed Motmot and Bare-crowned Antbird. Of course, the bird feeders at Cinchona are a mandatory stop for stunning views of Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet, Black Guan, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, and several colorful tanagers. American Dipper, Yellow-throated Toucan, Snowcap, Keel-billed Toucan and other dream species are frequently seen on this fantastic tour.



Please e-mail us ([email protected], or contact us here) before booking any of your flights, as the information shown here is just an initial guide. Our tour will start in San José, the capital city of Costa Rica. You can reach San José’s Juan Santa Maria International Airport (SJO) by direct flights from the USA, Europe and Panama City (Panama). You might wish to consult your travel agent to book your most convenient flight (and please contact us if you want any guidance). Your tour leader will be waiting for you at San José Airport displaying the Birding Ecotours logo and we will then transfer you to your hotel. Please be aware that most international flights arrive in San José around noon, so we don’t have any birding activities planned for the first afternoon. If you do arrive on an earlier flight, you will be transferred to the hotel but may have to wait until check-in is available (normally in the early afternoon, although you can easily pass the time in the hotel’s garden). For an early check-in you might be charged extra by the hotel; this cost is not included in the Birding Ecotours tour price.

Please remember to keep your luggage tags, as they are required to exit the terminal building at the San José Airport.

When filling out your customs declaration form, please use the below address for the hotel:

Hotel Robledal: Oeste de la Iglesia Católica de El Roble 124, El Roble, Provincia de Alajuela, Alajuela, 20104, Costa Rica



Our tour will end in San José after a wonderful 18 days/17 nights in Costa Rica. After the last morning’s birding, our representatives in Costa Rica or the hotel shuttle will transfer you to San José’s Juan Santa Maria International Airport (SJO), from where you can take connections out home.



There are not domestic flights needed for this itinerary.



We grade this trip as moderate to easy. Most of the birding consists of walking along roads, with some walks involving steady ascents and descents. We will explore forest trails which may be uneven and can get muddy after rain, and will also cross suspension bridges on some of the trails. Participants should be able to walk at least three miles (five kilometers) per day. We will spend lots of relaxing and highly rewarding time sitting and watching hummingbird feeders and looking for birds in the surrounding lodge grounds.

Costa Rica tour informationSuspension bridge at La Selva Biological Station.


Keep in mind that (as is usual on birding trips) we need to be awake very early in the mornings, and pre-dawn starts are in order each day. We normally spend the whole morning birding in the field, before returning to the lodge for lunch, followed by an early afternoon rest, before continuing birding later in the afternoon. Your guide will sometimes invite you to look for owls at night, but this is an optional activity that you can skip if you are feeling tired. Some people prefer to rest, skipping birding in the afternoon; this can be done at those lodges when we are staying two or more nights. When we make birding stops while traveling between locations, people who feel tired do not have to follow the group and can remain in the vehicle.

We will spend two or three nights at a few lodges/hotels during this tour, which allows you to enjoy the grounds more and relieves you of the stress of packing and re-packing every day. Furthermore, our leaders and tour staff will do their utmost to ensure you feel as comfortable as possible while on tour.

We think this trip might be difficult for people with back, walking, and balance problems or for those who are not used to a birding trip with regular early morning starts.



ATM machines are available at San José’s airport and at La Fortuna. Please be sure to draw cash or exchange money at San José Airport, as we will have very few opportunities or time to visit ATMs while on tour. Most of the hotels and shops accept credit cards.



We will reach high elevations at Los Quetzales National Park which is the highest point of the tour at 10,465 feet (3,190 meters) above sea level. We will only likely spend a couple of hours birding at altitude here, as we do not have many specific target species.



We ask you to be ready for all kinds of weather during this trip.

The southern Pacific slope region, including Villa Lapas, Carara National Park, Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, and the northern Caribbean foothills (Sarapiquí, La Selva Biological Station and Caño Negro) is hot and humid, with temperatures reaching 30–37°C (86–98°F). We suggest packing appropriate clothing for these temperatures and using sunscreen and a light-colored hat or cap.

The cloudforest of Irazú Volcano and Savegre Lodge can be sunny in the morning, with temperatures often dropping to 16°C (60°F) in the early morning and as low as 9°C (48°F) at night. We can also expect some rain in this part of the country.

Please check our list of what we recommend to bring, here.



Laundry services are available at most of the hotels we stay at in Costa Rica, with the exception of the Tapenti Hotel and Hacienda San Joaquin. Laundry fees are not included in the tour price.



The accommodation is generally of a high standard on the trip, featuring some particularly good hotels such as Hotel Savegre Natural Reserve Spa, Arenal Observatory, Villa Lapas and La Quinta de Sarapiquí. Others are of a slightly lower standard but still have perfectly adequate service, in some cases they are run as family businesses, and are always located strategically close to the main birding sites such as at Caño Negro Natural Lodge, Tres Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, Hotel Tapantí, Hotel Robledal and Hacienda San Joaquín.



We will have a private van for the whole tour with plenty of room for everybody. We will also take an enjoyable boat ride along the Rio Tarcoles. Please be sure to check the information regarding our vehicle seat rotation policy in our Costa Rica general information document, here. At Savegere Lodge, we will be transferred to the start of the creek trail in the back of an open-top 4×4 jeep however this is only a 10-minute ride. Participants need to be fit enough to get in and out of the vehicle.

Costa Rica tour informationAn example of the van we will use while on our Costa Rica Premium Tour.

Costa Rica tour informationA 10-minute ride in 4×4 vehicles might be required to reach certain spots along the tour.

Costa Rica tour informationAn example of the boat we use along the Tarcoles River.

Birding Ecotours

Costa Rica General Information

Download Costa Rica Premium Tour Information

‘I loved all properties on the Costa Rica Escape tour in January 2019 – small family run establishments in lovely grounds. Accommodation at Savegre was very good and the best in the area. We had a 12-seater van for one couple along with our guide Eduardo and driver Ricardo, who drove excellently and we felt safe. Our guide Eduardo, is funny and friendly, and has an amazing knowledge of all wildlife. He is great company! Highlights of the tour included Resplendent Quetzal, Snowcap and the structure of the tour.’

‘Highlights included: Great Green Macaws coming in to roost at the end of the day, watching the interaction between the Crested Oropendolas and the Giant Cowbird attempting to lay an egg in their nest, and Resplendent Quetzal being more accessible than before and we got multiple views as it was feeding close to the lodge at Savegre. We never expected to get Sunbittern, Jabiru, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Wrenthrush and Long-tailed Manakin and we got them all. We also had a great Encounter with the Ornate Hawk-Eagle.’

Jean and Tim

‘Just back from a three-week tour to Costa Rica with Birding Ecotours. The tour and those leading it was brilliant. The guides, Eduardo and Vernon (Vernon joined us for the first week of the trip), were simply outstanding. Luis, our bus driver, was not only an outstanding driver but was also a great birder too and joined us for some walks, helping to spot birds and wildlife. My advice to anyone reading this is to do yourself a favor and book a tour with Birding Ecotours… you will not be disappointed.’


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