Some Tips on Bird Identification in Costa Rica

By patrick on

There are hundreds of bird species that live in Costa Rica. That’s one of the reasons why so many birders visit the country, and why we made an app to help identify them. If you thought that bird identification was a challenge up north, just wait until you run into a mixed flock with woodcreepers, foliage-gleaners, tanagers, and flycatchers that rush through the canopy as fast as they can.

Once you get somewhat used to some of the birds in one area, you then run into a whole different set of species at higher elevations and different types of forest. It’s exciting, it’s a challenge, and a guide is a great help but we hope that these tips will also help in identifying the birds you come across in Costa Rica:

  • Focus on the head and bill: For many species, if you can get a good look at the head and bill (beak) of the bird, you can identify it. This especially holds true for some of the tougher groups like tyrant-flycatchers, foliage-gleaners, and woodcreepers.

    It can also help to identify birds like this Mangrove Vireo.

  • Bring a notebook: Jot down field notes right after seeing birds that throw you for a loop. This is quicker than browsing through a field guide and can help you recall obscure field marks.
  • Wait to use a field guide: Instead of checking out a field guide as soon as you see a bird, wait until bird activity has slowed enough to look at it. Otherwise, you could miss your only chance at several bird species (most birds in tropical forest have naturally small populations).
  • Learn the birds by family or group before going birding: It’s easier to identify birds when you already know what to look for. Use a field guide to become familiar with trogons, tinamous, antbirds, and other tropical bird families.

    The Gartered Trogon is one of several beautiful trogon species that live in Costa Rica.

  • Try and learn some of the sounds:┬áLearning bird vocalizations isn’t easy but will help even if you just learn a few.

Follow these tips and you should be able to identify a lot more of the birds seen on a trip to Costa Rica. The Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app can help you learn how to identify birds, help you study before the trip, learn them by family or group, take notes, learn vocalizations, and more. See how easy it is to use this app with the free lite version.

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