FAQs About Birding in Costa Rica

Gartered TrogonHow similar is birding in Costa Rica to bird watching in the USA, Canada, and Europe?

Red-legged HoneycreeperWatching birds in Costa Rica isn’t going to be anything like watching the birds that visit backyards and nature preserves in Canada, the USA, and Europe. Not only will most of the birds be unfamiliar, exotic species, but many will also belong to avian families that only occur in the neotropical region. This includes bird families such as motmots, puffbirds, tinamous, antbirds, and others. Many tropical bird species are naturally rare, move around in search of fruiting trees, forage in large mixed flocks, and can be tough to see in the tall canopy of the rainforest and dense undergrowth. Although the birding dynamics differ in various ways, anyone paying attention to birds in quality habitat will still see and hear a lot!

What sort of birds in Costa Rica will I see?

In Costa Rica, you are going to see birds just about everywhere you look and go. The types and numbers of species encountered will depend upon the habitats visited, time spent in those habitats, and whether or not you hire a guide. However, a very small sampling of some of the most commonly encountered species include:

All of these species and more are found on our Costa Rica birding app

Should I hire a guide?

The answer to this depends on how much you would like to see and whether you prefer to bird on your own or have someone show and identify the birds you see. You will certainly see much more with a knowledgeable guide who is experienced with finding and identifying birds in Costa Rica.

Where do I look for birds in Costa Rica?

Birds are found just about everywhere you look but the places with the most species are national parks and other protected areas. It can be challenging to watch birds in primary rainforest but this is the habitat with the highest number of bird species. A good place to start is right in the garden of your hotel. Quite a few species occur in such habitats and they can be much easier to watch than forest birds. For more information about finding birds in Costa rica, we recommend, "How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica"

What do I need to watch birds in Costa Rica?

The most important piece of equipment is a good binocular. The small travel binos that are 10 x 20 aren’t very suitable for birdwatching because they don’t let in enough light to see the birds very well. Binos that are 8 x 35 or 8 x 42 are ideal and even better if they are waterproof and have coated lenses. In North America, Eagle Optics is a good place to find good prices on quality optics and offer excellent customer service. If you are just getting started with birding, mid-priced binos such as Nikon Monarchs and Vortex are very good for birding in Costa Rica. A scope can be very handy in looking for seabirds and checking out distant species perched in the rainforest canopy but isn’t as necessary as binoculars.

What field guide should I bring?

There are two main birding books for Costa Rica. These are the “Birds of Costa Rica” by Stiles and Skutch and “The Birds of Costa Rica, A Field Guide” by Garrigues and Dean. The size and information in Stiles and Skutch make it more suitable as a reference book compared to Garrigues and Dean, an excellent field guide. However, if you would rather have the wealth of information in an easy to use, lightweight digital field guide of Costa Rica birds, buy our Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app