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Costa Rica, the top birding location in Central America, and easily one of the top three in all of the Americas, has an incredibly diverse ecosystem.

Although a very small country, Costa Rica is rich with over 900 species of birds and almost 6% of those species are Tanagers.

Tanagers have the #3 spot for the most different species in the world. The #1 spot is held by Flycatchers, and the #2 spot is Hummingbirds.

Tanagers stand out due to their wild variety of colors and patterns. With close to 50 species of tanagers inhabiting the many life zones (rainforests, cloud forests, and its favorite Mid-Elevations), Costa Rica provides an amazing opportunity for birdwatchers and photographers to enjoy these beautiful birds.

Costa Rica has one truly endemic species of Tanager and three species endemic to only Costa Rica and Panama. The true endemic is the Black-Cheeked Ant Tanager and the three shared with Panama are the Spangle Cheeked Tanager, the Blue and Gold Tanager and the Sulphur Rumped Tanager.

In this article, we’ll examine some of the best places in Costa Rica to see and photograph Tanagers and mention some of the top species to target in each area.

Birding Tanagers in Costa RicaPhoto by: Andrew Watson

1. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Located high in the Tilarán Mountains, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve draws both bird watchers and photographers hoping for a look at one of the many gorgeous cloud forest species. This misty forest provides a vibrant canopy and lush vegetation, ideal habitat for highland species.

Monteverde has several excellent reserves to visit including the Bosque Nuboso Biological Reserve, Cloud Forest Reserve, Curi Cancha, and The Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Guests should start out in the early morning hours catching the Tanagers as they wake for the day. Some of the top species include: Silver Throated Tanager, Spangle Cheeked Tanager, Tooth-Billed Tanager, Red Crowned Ant Tanager, Summer Tanager, Blue Grey Tanager, and Palm Tanager.

Spotting Tanagers in Costa RicaPhoto by: Gareth Bowes

2. La Selva Biological Station

No birding trip to Costa Rica is complete without a visit to the Caribbean Lowlands and the La Selva Biological Station. It is a true hotspot for birdwatching enthusiasts. This location provides several habitats including open fields, secondary forest, marshlands and primary rainforest. Around the reception and lodge guests can also enjoy flowering gardens and fruit trees that attract a variety of Tanagers.

La Selva has trails that are groomed or paved, and are easy to navigate for guests of all activity levels. Some of the top species to look for are the Green Honeycreeper, the Red-Legged Honeycreeper, Scarlet Rumped Tanager, White Lined Tanager, Blue Grey Tanager, Golden Hooded Tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, and the Bay Headed Tanager.

Tanager Eating Fruit in Costa RicaPhoto by: Geoff Middleton

3. Arenal

The Arenal Volcano area is very popular for birders and photographers looking for Mid-Elevation species.

The Arenal Observatory Lodge, with its private reserve, is an exceptional location to hunt for the area’s tanager population.

The reserve at Arenal has well maintained forest trails, there is a productive lookout tower, and the lodge keeps its fruit feeders full, attracting Tanagers and many other birds to the observation deck.

Guests should be on the lookout for Bay Headed Tanager, Crimson Collared Tanager, Camiol’s Tanager, Golden Hooded Tanager, Blue and Gold Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Plain-colored Tanager, Rufous Winged Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Black and Yellow Tanager and the Silver Throated Tanager.

Photographing a Tanager in Costa RicaPhoto by: Geoff Middleton

4. Carara National Park

Carara National Park is located near the coast in Costa Rica’s central Pacific region. This National Park is a wonderful transition zone between the dry tropical forests of the northwest and the tropical rainforest of the southwest.

Carara is an important wildlife corridor for many species of birds and animals migrating between the two different life zones.

Carara is most famous for its immense trees and old growth forest but it actually boasts a wide array of habitats making it a fantastic spot to look for Tanagers.

The trails in the park are well maintained and mostly flat, making the park accessible to most visitors.

The close proximity to the Tarcoles River Estuary, another excellent birding spot, is another plus for visiting Carara National Park.

When visiting Carara and the surrounding area, be on the watch for the Palm Tanager, Scarlet Rumped Tanager, Blue and Grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, White Shouldered Tanager, Bay Headed Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Red-Legged Honeycreeper, Western Tanager, and the Golden Hooded Tanager.

5. San Gerardo de Dota

The Talamanca Mountains are the highest peaks in Costa Rica. The beautiful town of San Gerardo de Dota sits in a quiet valley drawing birders and photographers to its lush cloud forests.

Although this area is most renowned as “Quetzal Country” visitors are in for a treat with the wide variety of hummingbirds, woodpeckers, warblers, and of course tanagers.

The cool temperatures of San Gerardo provide habitat for such species as the much wanted Flame-colored Tanager, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, White Winged Tanager, Silver Throated Tanager, and Blue and Grey Tanagers.

Tanager Eating Papaya in Costa RicaPhoto by: Geoff Middleton

6. Turrialba

This mid-elevation valley on the eastern slope of the Talamanca Mountains is the perfect habitat for tanagers.

With two volcanoes on either side of the valley (Turrialba and Irazu) visitors can move between mid-elevation and highlands. The valley is known for its gorgeous green rolling hills, and exceptional bird watching.

The top birding lodge in the area, Rancho Naturalista, has active fruit feeders that attract many different species of birds and a wide array of Tanagers. Some of the top species are the White Lined Tanager, Bay Headed Tanager, Silver Throated Tanager, Shiny Honeycreeper, Scarlet Thighed Dacnis, Emerald Tanager, Crimson Collared Tanager, Plain colored Tanager, Speckled Tanager, White Shouldered Tanager, Carmiol’s Tanager, and the Scarlet Rumped Tanager.

Birdwatching Tanagers in Costa RicaPhoto by: Nina Irvin

Tanagers can be seen all throughout Costa Rica . Whether hiking in the rainforest or watching a fruit feeder, guests can be sure that these lovely birds will be seen. Tanagers are known as “the butterflies of the bird world” because of the wide variety of plumage they display. From the dazzling velvet black and brilliant red of the Scarlet Rumped Tanager to the rainbow of colors on the Bay-Headed Tanager visitors to Costa Rica will be amazed at the variety and beauty of these birds.

If you would like the opportunity to visit Costa Rica and add some Tanagers to your life list, or maybe get some stunning photographs, click here to contact us at Costa Rica Focus. We’ll help you plan an incredible journey to Costa Rica. We look forward to seeing you soon.

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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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