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Post Info TOPIC: Costa Rica

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Posts: 1164
RE: Costa Rica

Recently back from a two week family, non birding (really?) holiday in Costa Rica wef 21 Jan. Out of sheer coincidence, we had booked the Riu Guanacaste as well and it wasn't until later that I saw this thread. Whilst staying at the Riu Guanacaste, which comes highly recommended, we also had a four night stay at the Arenal Observatory and Spa, just beyond the western end of Lake Arenal, facing the famous volcano. This is one of the best birding spots in Costa Rica with over 500 species and this hotel is outstanding.

The Riu Guanacaste is in the Pacific north west of Costa Rica, half an hour south west of Liberia and its airport. The habitat in this region is predominantly dry forest. The hotel grounds are relatively small with manicured gardens, lawns and hedges/shrubs etc. There is an area of dry forest immediately to the side of the hotel and the hotel itself also fronts the beach. Here you can walk in a westerly direction to the end of the bay, roughly one mile away. There is woodland adjacent to the beach, a small pool part way along and a larger pool at the end of the bay.

Arenal Lake is approx 2000 ft above sea level set amidst rolling countryside. At its western end is the volcano and a cloud forest area rising perhaps another 1000 ft or so. The Arenal Observatory is situated high up amongst this cloud forest and has several kilometres of trails in what is secondary forest, together with a couple of rivers and areas of farmland with open ground. All this and the rising volcano facing you at all times. I also birded another area close by called El Silencio, an area of primary cloud forest at a lower elevation.

In addition to these three areas, I also arranged a day's birding to Palo Verde National Park which is probably only 40km or so south east of the Riu Guanacaste but because of the lie of the land you have to circumnavigate and travel in from the north along a 20km dirt track. This itself offers great birding in open, partly wooded countryside before you reach an area of rice fields, a wetland and then the Tempisque River. This river has the highest density of crocodiles in Costa Rica with one every 100mtrs.

Regarding bird guides, Arenal Observatory use a couple of freelance guides. Mine was called Nestor Villalobos Rojas, he is exceptional and one to be used if at all possible. On one day we birded the trails and garden areas at the Observatory and the next day we did a half day at El Silencio. I got loads of birds that I would have undoubtedly missed had it not been for him. His email address is nestorvil13@gmail.com and his mobile (506) 88997083. Those are his personal details if you are in the general area and he can also be contacted via the Observatory. Whilst at the Riu Guanacaste, I arranged the Palo Verde day via Erick on the Beach as mentioned by Lawrence in the original post. Eric is usually present on the beach by the hotel each day and organises touristy trips, including birding. Another nice guy who you can trust. His number is (506) 50134166.

The weather at the coast was very hot and sunny throughout, around 32 degrees. Up at Arenal it rained a few times on the first day, otherwise fine and sunnyish and was six or seven degrees cooler.

Trip List as follows with abbreviations RG (Riu Guanacaste), AO (Arenal Observatory), ES (El Silencio), PV (Palo Verde) :-

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck PV
Muscovy Duck PV
Crested Guan AO
Great Curassow AO
Rock Pigeon RG
Pale-vented Pigeon AO
Red-billed Pigeon AO
Band-tailed Pigeon AO
Inca Dove RG PV
Common Ground-Dove RG PV
Plain-breasted Ground-Dove PV
Ruddy Ground-Dove PV
White-tipped Dove AO
Gray-chested Dove AO
White-winged Dove RG AO PV
Squirrel Cuckoo ES
Common Pauraque AO ES
White-collared Swift AO
White-necked Jacobin ES
Green Hermit AO
Stripe-throated Hermit ES
Purple-crowned Fairy AO
Black-crested Coquette AO
Ruby-throated Hummingbird AO
Violet-headed Hummingbird AO
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird AO
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer AO
Crowned Woodnymph AO
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird AO
Cinnamon Hummingbird RG
Purple Gallinule PV
Limpkin PV
Double-striped Thick-knee PV
Black-necked Stilt PV
American Oystercatcher RG
Southern Lapwing PV
Northern Jacana PV
Least Sandpiper RG
Spotted Sandpiper RG
Laughing Gull RG
Caspian Tern RG
Royal Tern RG
Wood Stork PV AO
Magnificent Frigatebird RG
Brown Booby RG
Anhinga PV
Neotropic Cormorant RG
Brown Pelican RG
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron RG PV
Great Blue Heron PV
Great Egret RG PV
Little Blue Heron PV
Cattle Egret RG PV ES
Green Heron RG
White Ibis PV
Glossy Ibis PV
Roseate Spoonbill PV
Black Vulture RG PV AO ES
Turkey Vulture RG PV AO ES
Osprey RG
White-tailed Kite AO
Black Hawk-Eagle AO
Common Black Hawk RG PV
Great Black Hawk RG
Gray Hawk ES
Broad-winged Hawk AO ES
Short-tailed Hawk PV
Pacific Screech-Owl RG
Black-headed Trogon RG
Gartered Trogon AO ES
Orange-bellied Trogon AO
Broad-billed Motmot ES
Turquoise-browed Motmot PV RG
Ringed Kingfisher RG
Green Kingfisher PV
Rufous-tailed Jacamar AO ES
Collared Aracari RG AO
Yellow-throated Toucan AO ES
Keel-billed Toucan AO ES
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker AO
Black-cheeked Woodpecker AO
Hoffmann's Woodpecker RG PV
Pale-billed Woodpecker RG
Golden-olive Woodpecker AO
Crested Caracara RG PV
American Kestrel PV
Orange-chinned Parakeet RG
White-crowned Parrot AO ES
Red-lored Parrot AO
Yellow-naped Parrot PV
White-fronted Parrot RG AO PV
Orange-fronted Parakeet RG PV
Crimson-fronted Parakeet ES
Russet Antshrike AO
Dusky Antbird AO
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper AO
Spotted Woodcreeper AO
Streak-headed Woodcreeper AO
Plain Xenops AO
Yellow-bellied Elaenia AO
Olive-striped Flycatcher AO
Slaty-capped Flycatcher AO
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant AO
Common Today-Flycatcher AO
Tropical Pewee AO
Long-tailed Tyrant AO
Rufous Mourner AO
Dusky-capped Flycatcher AO
Great Kiskadee RG PV
Boat-billed Flycatcher RG
Social Flycatcher RG
Gray-capped Flycatcher AO
Tropical Kingbird RG
Western Kingbird RG
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher RG
White-ruffed Manakin AO
White-collared Manakin AO
Lesser Greenlet AO
Yellow-throated Vireo RG ES
Philadelphia Vireo AO
White-throated Magpie-Jay RG
Brown Jay AO
Blue-and-white-Swallow AO
Northern Rough-winged Swallow RG AO
Southern Rough-winged Swallow RG AO ES PV
Gray-breasted Martin RG
Mangrove Swallow RG
Barn Swallow RG PV
House Wren AO
Band-backed Wren AO
Rufous-naped Wren PV
White-breasted Wood-Wren AO
Song Wren ES
White-lored Gnatcatcher RG
Clay-colored Thrush AO
Tropical Mockingbird RG
Yellow-throated Euphonia AO
Tawny-capped Euphonia AO
Stripe-headed Sparrow PV
Black-striped Sparrow AO ES
Orange-billed Sparrow AO
Montezuma Oropendola AO
Black-cowled Oriole AO
Streak-backed Oriole RG PV
Bullock's Oriole RG
Baltimore Oriole AO PV
Red-winged Blackbird PV
Bronzed Cowbird AO
Melodious Blackbird RG AO
Great-tailed Grackle RG PV
Northern Waterthrush AO
Black-and-white Warbler AO
Prothonotary Warbler RG
Tennessee Warbler AO
Kentucky Warbler AO
Northern Parula AO
Tropical Parula AO
Yellow Warbler RG
Chestnut-sided Warbler AO
Golden-crowned Warbler AO
Buff-rumped Warbler AO
Summer Tanager AO
Carmiol's Tanager AO
Gary-Headed Tanager AO
Crimson-collared Tanager AO
Scarlet-rumped Tanager AO
Blue-Gray Tanager AO
Palm Tanager AO
Golden-hooded Tanager AO
Bay-headed Tanager AO
Emerald Tanager AO
Silver-throated Tanager AO
Red-legged Honeycreeper AO
Green Honeycreeper AO
Blue-black Grassquit AO
Thick-billed Seed-Finch AO
Variable Seedeater AO
Bananaquit AO
Yellow-faced Grassquit AO
Buff-throated Saltator AO

Total Species - 180

A few photos attached of Crested Caracara, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Gray Hawk, Black Vulture and Red-legged Honeycreeper.


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Posts: 161

I spent 2 weeks in Costa Rica on a holiday with my wife from 06.12.17 - 2120.12.17. While it wasn't a bird watching holiday I took the opportunity to get out each morning for around three hours and went on a number of tours to the cloud forest, Nicaragua and the Pallo Verde national park. I took the Helm guide to Costa Rica with me which was invaluable and very accurate. I did see a few birds out of the areas in the books distribution maps, but generally the maps were a great help to narrow down the birds as I have no previous experience in central American bird watching. We stayed in the Riu Guanacaste hotel in the Guanacaste province, about 40 miles from the province capital Liberia. I saw a total of 146 species with 84 of these being around or near the hotel. I will include a location above or next to birds. A number of the birds seen near the hotel were seen elsewhere but it may be helpful for anyone wanting to visit to know what can be seen near the hotel alone as it was a superb site all by itself. Winter was an excellent time around the hotel especially as the bird numbers were swelled by the winter visitors. Roosting Tanagers, orioles, Grosbeaks, Hirundines, parakeets, Kingbirds and Flycatchers all used the trees in the hotel gardens each evening in huge numbers. So the hour before dark was spent watching a veritable buffet of exotic birds and all seated and drinking gin and tonic. One suggestion is too much gin in the tonic reduces the effectiveness of the binoculars as they suddenly double the number of birds and reduce the focusing ability.

The numbers of species seen on the tours were a little down as they were limited in the time that could be spent bird watching as the itinerary was for general sightseeing. I would recommend spending a few days staying in the cloud forest in the lodges if you can afford it, which we could unfortunately not. Also to note that the tours are expensive so it may make sense to splash out and spend more on stays away from the hotel. We went with Tui who charge too much for tours, so we found a company called 'Alex on the Beach' who have reps on the beach who can tailor your tour needs. they were reliable and friendly and had a good trip advisor rating. It is also possible to use other reps on the beach who are lone traders and some are very good but its best to be a little cautious. One I can highly recommend was a guy called Erick who arranged a guided walking tour of the Pallo Verde National Park with an expert local bird guide. You will find him also on the beach and he knows his birds also and speaks good English. One tip is to try to get as many birders as you can for these sort of tours as it reduces the price hugely.

What a great place and all in all a spectacular birding experience.

Riu Guanacaste

Great Tailed Grackle
White Winged Dove
Great Kiscadee
Tropical Kingbird
Brown pelican
Spotted Sandpiper
Inca Dove
Royal Tern
Hoffman's Woodpecker
Red Lored Parrot
White Fronted Parrot
White Throated Magpie Jay
Magnificent Frigatebird
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Social Flycatcher
Streak Backed oriole
Blue Grey Tanager
Baltimore Oriole
Palm Tanager
American yellow Warbler
Tennessee warbler
Melodious Black bird
Rufous backed (Naped) Wren
King Vulture
Wood Stork
Feral pigeon
Cattle Egret
Northern Rough Winged Swallow
Common Paraque
Orange Chinned Parakeet
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Stripe Headed Sparrow
Scrub Euphonia
Laughing Gull
Orchard oriole
Neotropic Cormorant
Orange fronted Parakeet
Roadside hawk
Red Crowned Woodpecker
Groove billed Ani
black Headed Trogon
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Pacific Screech owl
Yellow Olive Flycatcher
Brown Booby
Yellow headed Caracara
western Kingbird
Rose throated Becard
Squirrel Cuckoo
Rose breasted Grosbeak
Great egret
Barn Swallow
Southern Rough winged Swallow
Crested Caracara
Clay Coloured Thrush
Scissor Tailed flycatcher
White Lored Gnatcatcher
Dusky Capped Flycatcher
Yellow Throated Verio
Mangrove Hummingbird
Common Ground Dove
Grey breasted Martin
House Sparrow
Prothontary Warbler
Steely Vented Hummingbird
Boat Billed Flycatcher
Brown Crested Flycatcher
Banded Wren
Western Tanager
Nutting's Flycatcher
Wandering Tattler
Common Black Hawk
Summer Tanager
Yellow Bellied Flycatcher
Double Striped Thick knee
Pale Billed Woodpecker
Yellow Throated Euphonia
Hook Billed Kite
Mourning Warbler
Elegant Trogon
Turquoise Billed Motmot

Bronzed cowbird (Canas)


Keel Billed Toucan
Grey headed Chachalaca
Paltry Tyrranulet
Tawny Capped Euphonia
Spectacled Owl
Hepatic Tanager
Purple Throated Mountain Gem
Coppery headed Emerald
Green Crowned Brilliant
Magenta Throated Woodstar

Tenorio River

Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Bare Throated Tiger Heron
Boat Billed Heron
Black Crowned Night heron
Mangrove Swallow
Grey Hawk


Black Mandibled Toucan
Strog Billed woodcreeper
Tufted Flycatcher
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Bay Wren
Passerini's Tanager
Red Legged Honeycreeper

Lake Nicaragua

Montezuma's orpendola
Northern Jacana
Nicaraguan Grackle

Great Cowbird (Tillaran)


Streak headed woodcreeper
Rufous Tailed Hummingbird
Blue Seedeater
Broad billed Motmot
Black Hooded Antshrike
Wood Thrush
Black Phoebe
Greyish Saltador
Black and Yellow Silky Flycatcher

Pallo Verde national park

Great blue heron
Great Curassow
Black Bellied whistling duck
Blue winged teal
Caspian tern
Green Heron
Tricoloured Heron
Roseate Spoonbill
Southern Lapwing
Black Necked Stilt
Common Gallinule
Purple Gallinule
Northern Harrier
Swainson's Hawk
Green Breasted Mango
Red Billed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Mangrove Cuckoo
Streaked Flycatcher
Northern waterthrush
White Collared seedeater

L Hindley
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This forum is dedicated to the memory of Eva Janice McKerchar.