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Costa Rica is renowned for its amazing biodiversity, beautiful landscapes, and of course birds.

One of the most popular species for birders and photographers to endeavor to see is the Toucan. With their colorful plumage, tell-tale beaks, and social behavior, toucans are sure to be found on all visitor’s target lists.

In this article, we’ll look into the world of toucans found in Costa Rica and explore their behavior, and the best places to see them in their natural habitat.

Introducing the Toucans of Costa Rica

Toucans belong to the family Ramphastidae. All species share the characteristic large, colorful bills, and colorful markings. In most species the large bill makes up ⅓ of their total body weight.

Toucan in Costa Rica Toucan flying in Costa Rica

The bills are hollow, lightweight, which allows these magnificent birds to fly and glide through the sky, and hop through the treetops. Toucans use their bills for a variety of purposes, including feeding their young, regulating their body temperature, and, of course, attracting mates. The bill of Toucans has evolved over centuries to elongate and allow the Toucans to reach fruit and other food sources.

Toucans are only found in the New World, there are 42 species in total. Costa Rica has 6 different species of Toucans. They are Keel-Billed Toucan, Yellow Throated Toucan, Yellow-eared Toucanete, Fiery-billed Aracari, Collared Aracari, and the Emerald Toucanet.

Whether your trip takes you to the lowlands, mid-elevation, or highlands, there is at least one species of Toucan available to be seen or photographed.

Toucan in Costa Rica's nature.

The diversity of Costa Rica’s jungles and forests provides the ideal habitat for Toucans. Toucans are arboreal, which means they live their lives in the trees. The trees provide the perfect place for Toucans to satisfy their well rounded diet. They will forage for nuts, insects and even small vertebrates. What they enjoy the most, though, are fruits. This is a very important part of forest regeneration. As Toucans eat fruit, they expel and disperse the seeds throughout the different areas they inhabit. Toucans are a vital part of keeping forests healthy and vital. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the bird, the food source, and the forest.

Where to find each Toucan species in Costa Rica:

Keel-billed Toucan:

The Keel-billed Toucan has one of the largest distributions of all Toucans. They can be found from Mexico to South America. This species is often referred to as “The Rainbow Billed Toucan”. Its colors are dazzling. In Costa Rica it can be seen from the Caribbean Lowlands to the Cloud Forest.

Some of the top locations for spotting this species are: Arenal, Monteverde, La Selva Biological Station and Tortuguero.

Keel-Billed Toucans are even known to visit fruit feeders so the chance for close sightings and great pictures are excellent.

Yellow Throated Toucan:

The Yellow Throated Toucan (formerly the Black-Mandibled Toucan) is the largest Toucan in Central America. It’s easiest to see in the lowlands of both the Caribbean and the Pacific sides of the country.

Some of the top locations to see this bird include: Carara National Park, Corcovado National Park, La Selva, and Cano Negro.

Birding Toucans in Costa Rica

Fiery-Billed Aracari:

The Fiery-Billed Aracari is endemic to Costa Rica and Western Panama. This Toucan can be spotted in the South-west of Costa Rica. Recently this species has been expanding its territory and there are now sightings outside San Jose. Like all Toucans, they are cavity nesters. Birders and photographers can enjoy watching the antics of the Fiery-Billed Aracari darting in and out of their nests.

Collared Aracari:

The Collared Aracari is widespread from Guanacaste throughout the Caribbean. They are very common and most visitors will enjoy seeing this species in the forest and in fruit feeders. They are very social and usually travel in parent or family groups.

Blue Throated Toucanet (formerly known as Emerald Toucanet):

The Blue Throated Toucanet is a Mountain Toucan. It’s only found in the cloud forest. It is the smallest of all the species of toucans in Costa Rica. The vibrant emerald green color makes this species a favorite for photographers and bird watchers.

The best places to see this bird are: Cinchona Feeders, Monteverde, San Gerardo de Dota.

Yellow-Eared Toucanet:

This is the most difficult Toucan to see in Costa Rica. Its distribution is limited to a very narrow altitudinal belt on the Caribbean side of the mountains. It’s a secretive bird that sticks to the primary forest. Visitors will need to venture into the forest to get a look at this species. Unlike the other species of Toucans, who are quite vocal, the Yellow Eared is very quiet as it makes its way through the forest.

Best locations are: Braulio Carillo National Park, Arenal, and Rincon de La Vieja.

Toucan eating fruit in Costa Rica

Planning an itinerary to find all six species of Toucans in Costa Rica:

If seeing the six species of Toucans in Costa Rica is on your target list we can help you put together a trip plan that will help you fulfill that goal.

We would suggest a trip of between 12-14 days. You can journey from San Jose to the Central Pacific, looking for the Collared Aracari, Fiery Billed Aracari and perhaps the Yellow Throated Toucan.

From there you’ll continue to the Talamanca Highlands and San Gerardo de Dota where you’ll be on the lookout for the Blue Throated Toucanet.

From San Gerardo de Dota you’ll head to the Caribbean Lowlands and look for the Keel Billed Toucan and the Collared Aracari.

From there you’ll make a stop at a very reliable spot for the Emerald Toucanet.

Next it’s on to Arenal and Monteverde, both great locations for Toucans (and other birds) and finally you can end your journey with a few nights in the Pacific North, to look for the elusive Yellow-Eared Toucanet.

Top Birding Lodges for Spotting the Toucans in Costa Rica

San Jose:

Hotel Bougainvillea

– Comfortable hotel, beautiful 10 acre gardens on site.

Villas San Ignacio

– Moderate hotel with wooded trails and a nice pool.

Central Pacific:

Tarcoles Birding Hotel

– Moderate birding lodge with an exceptional location.

Nativa Reserve

– Deluxe condos with gorgeous views and fantastic birding on site.

Southern Pacific:

Corcovado Wilderness Lodge

– The premier birding and wildlife lodge in Corcovado.

Drake Bay Wilderness Lodge

– Moderate lodge with good facilities and good birding.

Aguila de Osa Lodge

– Great location, easy access to the National Park.

San Gerardo de Dota:

Savegre Lodge

– Excellent birding lodge with private reserve on site.

Quetzal Paradise Lodge

– Superb location for the Quetzal, and other species.

Toucanet Lodge

– Simple lodge with excellent birding.

Sarapiqui – Caribbean Lowlands:

Tirimbina Lodge

– Moderate but comfortable birding lodge with its on reserve.

Selva Verde Lodge

– Nice lodge with good trails on site.

La Quinta Lodge

– Nice lodge with trails and frog ponds on site.

Arenal:

Arenal Observatory Lodge

– The premier birding lodge in Costa Rica. A must stay in the area.

Toucan eating in Costa Rica's Forest

Monteverde:

Senda Monteverde

– Deluxe offering in the cloud forest. Reserve on site, great birding.

Heliconia Inn

– Moderate hotel with a good location, easy access to the reserves.

Guanacaste:

Borinquen Lodge

– excellent location for birding, wonderful facilities on site.

Hacienda Guachipelin

– Moderate lodge, but exceptional location and top birding on site.

If you are thinking about a birding trip to Costa Rica and would like to have a chance to see six incredible Toucan species click here to contact us. We will help you create an amazing trip plan focused on bird watching, photography, or both. We are looking forward to hearing from you, let’s get started, contact us here.

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Costa Rica Focus is a birding tour company that offers customized Costa Rica birdwatching tours for individuals or groups of people and guided by a knowledgeable birding expert who will help you spot and learn about the beauty of the birds of Costa Rica. Let’s talk about your Costa Rica birding vacation!

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