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Tanagers: Some of the Most Beautiful Birds in Costa Rica and Panama

Hundreds of bird species live in the tropical forests of Costa Rica and Panama and more than a few are downright exotic. Toucans call from and move through the canopy of rainforest. Glittering hummingbirds test our camera skills. Parrots, parakeets, and even macaws are seen on a regular basis. However, as amazing as those birds are, another avian family is tough to beat when it comes to looks. The tanagers are a strong contender for being the most beautiful birds in either country, here are a few reasons why:

  • Glowing plumage: Ok, they don’t glow in the dark but when the sun hits some species, it sure looks like they could.
    There are glowing red and black species like this Crimson-collared Tanager,
    and the oft-seen Passerinis Tanager,

    and the beautiful Bay-headed Tanager (image taken by Linda Scott at her home in Panama).
  • Uncommonly pretty, common birds: The local name for the Golden-hooded Tanageris “Siete Colores” or “Seven Colors”. This and other tanagers are common feeder bird in many parts of Costa Rica and Panama!
    Golden-hooded Tanager.
    The gorgeous Green Honeycreeper is also a common feeder bird.

    Same for the Red-legged Honeycreeper!
  • Plenty to look at: Between both countries, more than 30 species can be seen. Although the manakins and cotingas are up there when it comes to appearance, there are more tanagers and they are a lot easier to see.
    Look for Black and Yellow Tanagers in foothill rainforest.
    The Blue Dacnis is fairly common. This is a female.
    The Dusky-faced Tanager isn’t as pretty as other members of its esteemed family but it still looks cool.
    Emerald Tanager.

    A vivid, male Scarlet-thighed Dacnis. This image was also taken by Linda Scott at her bird-friendly yard in Panama.

Whether you go on birding trips to Costa Rica and Panama or just look at the birds in your own backyard, tanagers show why it’s worth it to bring binoculars to these exciting countries.

You will probably see Silver-throated Tanagers.
You might also see Speckled Tanagers.

Want to identify the tanagers seen in the hotel garden and on hikes through the rainforest? Get the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app for your phone or tablet. Try out the lite version for free!

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