Bird-watching in Costa Rica’s Northern Plains

Scarlet Macaw in Costa RicaIf you think bird-watching is, well, “for the birds”, then you haven’t traveled to Costa Rica. The first time you see a brilliant flash of scarlet, yellow and blue fly past – a Scarlet Macaw, or the bright yellow and black with the multicolored beak of a toucan, or the iridescent flitting jewel of a hummingbird, you’ll be hooked.

Soon, you’ll be asking, “Hey, what kind of bird is that?” You’ll remember names and start noticing movement in trees and bushes. You’ll find yourself taking photos of vividly colored birds throughout your trip. And when you recount the wildlife you’ve seen in Costa Rica, birds will be in the list.

Costa Rica has long been a famous destination for serious bird watchers. With approximately 870 species of birds registered in Costa Rica – more than the total in all of North America, packed into an area about the size of West Virginia or Switzerland – it’s easy to get enthused about the eye-catching feathered creatures you see while on a Costa Rica vacation.

Sunbittern at Maquenque LodgeCosta Rica enjoys extraordinary bird life due to its geographic position as a land bridge between North and South America, and the country’s many habitats: rainforests, cloud forest, mangrove swamps, beaches, rivers, lakes, wetlands, etc.

The lowland tropical rainforest and wetlands of the Northern Plains of Costa Rica are one of the more prolific sites for bird-watching in the country. Last year’s annual Christmas Bird Count in Costa Rica finished in the region at Maquenque Eco-lodge.

Jabiru at Maquenque LodgeMaquenque is one of the top bird-watching hotels in Costa Rica. The Costa Rica eco-lodge is located in Boca Tapada on the San Carlos River by the Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge. Lodge information cites more than 410 identified species of birds in the area, including endangered Great Green Macaws (Ara ambiguus) and Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao). Other species that can be found in the rainforest and wetlands by Maquenque are: toucans, Oropendolas, Honeycreepers, Tanagers, Chestnut-bellied Herons, Muscovy Ducks, Great Curassows, Jabirus, Roseate Spoonbills, Green Ibis, and Sunbitterns.

Birders from North America who visit Costa Rica during the northern winter months usually recognize familiar faces in the forest, since many species migrate to Costa Rica every winter.

Maquenque Eco-Lodge Costa RicaMaquenque Eco-Lodge offers fun and informative guided bird-watching tours with their naturalist guide. Accommodations at the eco-lodge are simple and comfortable in 14 bungalows, each having private bathrooms with hot water, and balconies overlooking a beautiful lagoon. Eight kilometers of trails wind through the Costa Rica rainforest lodge’s 68-acre property.

Travel Tip: Download the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide on iTunes.

Article by Shannon Farley

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