Famous birds of Costa Rica

Famous birds of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for being rich in wildlife, including bird species. In such a small country, it is impressive to record approximately 909 species of birds, classified further into 82 families. Just like colourful Costa Rica, you can see vibrant birds anytime you visit the country. There are many varieties of bird species in Costa Rica, which results in a diverse population. The diverse population of these famous birds of Costa Rica showcases its colourful and lively character, making it a must-visit destination for bird enthusiasts.

The dynamic scarlet macaw of Costa Rica

The dynamic scarlet macaw of Costa Rica

One of the main reasons birds thrive in Costa Rica is due to the ideal climate offered by the country. As habitat plays an important role in a bird’s choice of home, Costa Rica provides the perfect seasonal or permanent place for them to reside. Thus, for many bird species, Costa Rica becomes a natural choice.

The country has been one of the top destinations for bird enthusiasts. The country’s exquisite avifauna is a testament to its rich natural heritage, making it a paradise for those seeking the company of feathered wonders. When it comes to the famous birds of Costa Rica, this gem truly doesn’t disappoint. One might be hard-pressed to find such a diverse array of bird species elsewhere, as Costa Rica boasts a spectacular showcase of avian beauty that captivates the hearts of birdwatchers from all corners of the globe.


Here are the 10 most famous bird species you can spot in Costa Rica all year round:


1. Resplendent quetzal 

One of the famous colorful and vibrant birds, the Resplendent Quetzal, proudly resides in Costa Rica. This bird is prominent for being the most beautiful bird in the country.

Out of the ten trogon species, the Resplendent Quetzal is one of them. The male quetzal has the privilege of being more radiant than their female counterparts. They appear to have an emerald back, a deep red front, and gorgeous feathers.

A male resplendent quetzal

A male resplendent quetzal

One of the main highlights of a Resplendent Quetzal is their small head but very long tails. They have four extended upper tails that measure up to 30 inches.

They are usually cloud forest dwellers, and thus your chances of finding them near the Central Highlands of Costa Rica are higher. Talamanca cloud forest is a typical habitat for these beauties.

Avocado is one of the favorite snacks of these birds.


2. Toucans 

Toucans are easily recognized by their tall beaks. There are six toucan species found in Costa Rica. Some of them include the keel-billed, black-mandibled, yellow-eared toucanet and the emerald toucanet.

Out of these, the keel-billed toucan is one of the most commonly spotted species in Costa Rica. They have long and colourful beaks with coloured patterns. Due to this, they are also referred to as rainbow-billed toucans.

A keel-billed toucan in Costa Rica's rainforest

A keel-billed toucan in Costa Rica’s rainforest

As beautiful as their beaks are, they are also very functional and help pick berries for them. Aside from eating fruits from flowering trees, they consume eggs from other insects, birds, and smaller reptiles.

You can spot flocks of keel-billed toucans at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Tortuguero National Park, and La Selva Protected Zone. Once you find yourself in a Toucan territory, you can hear these birds sing a Toucan song, which is a unique experience.


3. Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are the most common species seen in Costa Rica, and they can be spotted all over the country.

There are 52 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica, so there is a possibility you will come across various types, ranging in colour and size.

A Rufous hummingbird visits a flower

A Rufous hummingbird visits a flower

These birds are always the ones to catch the attention of birders and non-birders alike with their fluttering wings and iridescent shade. Some of the species to have on your list must include the black-crested coquette, fiery-throated hummingbird, coppery-headed emerald, and long-billed hermit.

A fun fact about hummingbirds is that their metabolism is very high, and hence they need to eat all day to survive. To feed themselves, they visit at least 2000 flowers every day. Aside from this, they also like to eat small insects such as beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, and wasps.

As hummingbirds are common in Costa Rica, there is a Hummingbird garden dedicated to them in Selvatura Park. In many destinations, you see these birds up close to their feeders, including La Paz Waterfall Gardens.


4. Kingfishers 

There are 90 species of kingfishers all around the world but only six of them can be in the USA. All six species of kingfisher can be seen in Costa Rica.

Three of them can be spotted near the Tortuguero River. These are the Amazon kingfisher, the Ringed kingfisher, and the green kingfisher which is known to be the smallest of all.  Tarcoles and Carara are the best places for these.

An Amazon kingfisher

An Amazon Kingfisher

A kingfisher has a rufous belly, a large head, sharp and pointed beaks, short legs, and stubby tails. Along with this, they have the most vivid feathers. Female kingfishers are more colourful than males and thus can be differentiated easily.

Kingfishers eat a wide range of fish, small insects, reptiles, and amphibians. They prefer to live in places that are cool and damp, especially lowland freshwater areas and river estuaries.

You can see kingfishers throughout the national parks of Costa Rica.


5. King Vulture 

There are four species of New World vultures found in Costa Rica, one of which is the king vulture. The king vulture is one of the largest Costa Rican vultures.

Although it is not as appealing as other bird species to look at, king vultures do flaunt their bright hues to serve as a signal among mates.

The unique king vulture

The unique king vulture

An adult king vulture has while plumate with a subtle rose-tinted tinge to it. Younger ones are a slate grey. They have broad wings and a short squaretail. The most fascinating feature of a king vulture is its head which has orange, blue, white, and yellow colors.

The head and neck of a king vulture are featherless as an adaption of hygiene. While eating carrion, the lack of feathers prevents the bacteria from spreading.

These vultures are essential to the ecosystem as they eat carcasses and prevent the spread of disease. The king vulture is a solitary bird and can be found in tropical lowland forests.


6. Tanagers 

Tanagers are yet one of the most common species of birds found in Costa Rica. These colorful birds have 51 species residing in the country.

Due to their beautiful colors, Tanagers are one of the most photographed birds. The most common species of these vibrant birds include glowing plumage, passerine tanager, Cherrie’s Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, and many more. Tanagers usually eat fruits and wild berries.

Blue-gray tanager birds quenching their thirst

Blue-gray tanager birds quenching their thirst

One of the most adaptable species is the blue-gray tanager found In the lowlands and middle elevations.

If you want to spot tanagers, you don’t even have to visit a natural reserve. They can be seen flying around urban areas like parks and gardens across the country.


7. Honeycreepers 

There are mainly three species of honeycreepers you can spot in Costa Rica. The three species of these birds include the green honeycreeper, red-legged honeycreeper, and the shining honeycreeper.

All three appear to be very different from each other, varying in color and gender.

Honeycreeper birds appear small in size and may have a downward bill. They like to flaunt their beautiful colors, especially the male honeycreepers who are more vibrant than females.

A small green honeycreeper perched upon a branch

A small green honeycreeper perched upon a branch

These species can be seen in rainforests as well as near the fruiting trees, lowlands, and foothills. Honeycreepers usually eat nectar, fruits, seeds, insects, bugs, spiders, and even carrion.  Sarapiqui is one of the best places to see them.


8. Owls 

There are 16 owl species found in Costa Rica, all of which are brown in shade. The most common types include the crested owl, spectacled owl, striped owl, black and white owl, mottled owl as well as the Costa Rican pygmy owl.

A pygmy owl sitting atop a tree

A pygmy owl sitting atop a tree

Some of the species can be found exclusively on highlands over 2000 meters. Owls are nocturnal animals, regarded as being the best night hunters.

They eat small rodents like mammals such as mice and voles. They also like to feed on frogs, lizard mice, and other birds.


9. Aracari

Aracari is any of the medium-sized toucans and makes up the genus Pteroglossus. They have a bright plumage and big, contrastingly patterned bills.

The fiery-billed Aracari and collared Aracari are usually found in Costa Rica. They are the most richly colored birds of the Toucan family.

Witness the vibrant Collared Aracari, a jewel among the famous birds of Costa Rica, showcasing its stunning plumage and beak

The vibrant Collared Aracari

Both species share similar features such as a large bill, slender and medium-sized body, long tail, and short, roundish wings.

One way to distinguish between both is to look for a broad band across the middle. The collared aracari is mostly black while the fiery red has an obvious red band.

The collared aracari can be found in Caribbean lowland and premontane forests. The firey bill lives in forests similar to the collared but can also be found at elevations up to 1,500 meters.


10. Motmots

You can find six species of motmots residing in Costa Rica. These include the blue-crowned motmot, broad-billed motmot, rugous motmot, keel-billed motmot, turquoise-bowned motmot, and the tody motmot.

Motmots have bright feathers and the signature racquet-tipped tails, except for the tody motmot. The most common species seen are the blue-crowned motmot.

A captivating snapshot of the famous Blue-crowned Motmot, one of Costa Rica's renowned birds

The alluring blue-crowned motmot

Motmots are tiny birds but stand out from the rest due to their colorful head and body accompanied by long tails.

The blue-crowned motmot can be seen in the Santa Rosa National Park and Carara National Park. Other motmot species inhabit the interiors and edge of the forests.  They like to eat fruits and smaller insects like crickets, waxworms, and earthworms.


These are just some of the famous birds found in Costa Rica. Many species are just as colorful and beautiful as the ones mentioned. As the country is a haven for birders, don’t miss out on these birds that can be found easily and prove to be photogenic too.   


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