If you have never birded in the neotropical region and are coming to Costa Rica, get ready for a fantastic birdwatching treat! Beautiful tanagers like Green Honeycreeper, Silver-throated Tanager, and Bay-headed Tanager are fairly common as are toucans, various parrots, and literally hundreds of other exotic, tropical birds.
Nevertheless, compared to birding in Europe, Canada, or the USA, watching birds in Costa Rica is going to differ in a number of ways. To get ready for those differences and make it easier to see and identify more birds, try the following tips:
Study the birds of Costa Rica before your trip: Try and learn how to identify many of the birds in Costa Rica long before your trip. The more you study, the more prepared you will be to identify them. The Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app provides an easy means of studying images, sounds, and information for hundreds of bird species that occur in this beautiful country. In addition to learning how to identify birds by sight and sound, it’s also just as important to know about the habitats and regions where they normally occur in Costa Rica.
Read books such as Tropical Nature, Neotropical Birds, and books by Alexander Skutch: These and other books and blog posts that deal with birds and birding in Costa Rica and other tropical habitats are a huge help in attempting to understand the amazing complex tropical forests and ecology of Costa Rica.
See what other people have said: Check out Trip Advisor and Facebook pages of lodges and places you plan on visiting.
Expect easy garden birding but very challenging forest birding: Watching birds in edge habitats and gardens is much more easy and relaxing than searching for them in the forest. That said, more species actually occur in quality forest habitat and many won’t be seen outside of the forest. Look for birds inside rain forest but be very patient and realize that many birds are shy, prefer to stay hidden, or roam around in search of scarce food resources.
Don’t expect to see every bird species: Many tropical forest bird species are naturally rare and very shy. This means that you won’t see everything in the field guide during your first trip. But, you will still see a lot, including a few birds you didn’t expect to see, especially if you hire a guide.
Ziplock bags: These are for keeping your devices and stuff dry!
Get ready for mixed flocks: Groups of birds that troop through the forest are typical when birding in Costa Rica and other tropical countries. They usually come through an area fast and furious so be ready to take a quick look at a bird and then move on to the next. If the lighting is bad or you can’t see the birds well, move to another vantage point to get better looks and try to stay with the flock as long as possible.