Costa Rica Bird Photography Hot Spots

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Few places in the world offer the opportunity to photograph so many different species of birds, in a ten day period, as Costa Rica.  Our ten day bird photography package will take guests through 5 distinct habitats, giving chances to get the best shots of the most beautiful birds in the country.

From the elusive Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, to the brilliant Great Green Macaw, from the Toucans in Arenal to the Quetzal in Monteverde, both beginner and seasoned  photographers will revel in the diversity of species and setups this tour will provide. Join us for a chance to take your best pictures in natural forest settings, viewing platforms and feeders, and private gardens designed just for photographers. You’ll be lead by one of the top birding experts in the country, so have your cameras ready, you don’t want to miss a single shot!

Costa Rica Grand Birding Tours

Map of the Costa Rica Bird Photography Hot Spots

‘Costa Rica Bird Photography Hot Spots’  Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrive San Jose | Welcome to Costa Rica

Welcome to Costa Rica! Your guide will meet you at the San Jose International Airport and together you’ll transfer to your hotel for your first night in Costa Rica. The Hotel Bougainvillea is the perfect start to your journey as the lush 10-acre private gardens is a haven for birds and a wonderland for anyone who enjoys tropical plants. Your guide will stroll through the gardens with you helping you find the top bird species and talking about the spectacular flora. The group will meet in the evening for a Welcome Dinner.

Hotel: Bougainvillea

 

Bird Photography in San Jose area

Day 2: Caribbean Lowlands | La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Tirimbina Reserve

This morning, after an early breakfast, you’ll depart the Central Valley for the Caribbean Lowlands. En-route you’ll make a stop at the fantastic La Paz Waterfall Gardens. La Paz is a favored stop for photographers as it offers a chance to visit the Hummingbird gardens, with more than 25 species visiting the feeders and flowers and good trails in the forest to get great shots of a wide array of local species. 

At the hummingbird gardens, watch for the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald as well as the Black-bellied Hummingbird, White-bellied Mountain Gem, Purple-throated Mountain Gem, Violet Sabrewing, Green Thorntail, Lesser Violetear, Magenta-throated Woodstar, and more.

The trails are a great place to photograph Sooty-faced Finch, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Spotted Barbtail, Red-faced Spinetail, Costa Rican Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Black Guan, American Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet, Dark Pewee, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Collared Trogon, Orange-bellied Trogon, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Ochraceous Wren, Nightingale Wren, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, and the Prong-billed Barbet

 

Along with birds, the gardens are excellent for butterflies. You’ll enjoy lunch at the gardens and then continue on to Tirimbina for check in. This afternoon, you’ll explore the reserve at Tirimbina with your guide, trying for your first look at the Great Green Macaw. Dinner tonight is at the lodge. 

Hotel: Tirimbina Lodge

Bird Photography Hot Spots - Tirimbina Lodge

Day 3: Caribbean Lowlands | La Selva Biological Station and Cope’s Gardens

This morning, after an early breakfast, you’ll depart for La Selva Biological Station. La Selva’s influence on tropical ecology is immeasurable. It served as a key training and research site for numerous scientists in many fields of study. La Selva Research Station pioneered private forest conservation in Costa Rica, as it was the first of what is now a large network of private forest reserves in the country and provided a base for the study of all tropical flora and fauna. 

 The species richness of La Selva is outstanding, with more than 2,077 species of plants; 125 species of mammals (72 of them bats); 470 species of birds; 48 amphibian species; 87 species of reptiles; 45 species of freshwater fish; and tens of thousands of insects, arachnids and other arthropods.

Some of the top species on our target list include the Tiny Hawk, red-legged Honeycreeper, Ornate Hawk Eagle, Yellow-billed Cotinga, Pied-Puffbird. Snowy Cotinga, occasionally its relative the Three-wattled Bellbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Uniform Crake, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Green Ibis, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Great Green Macaw, Mealy Parrot, Olive-throated Parakeet, White-collared Manakin, Great Tinamou, Little Tinamou, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous Motmot, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, White-ringed Flycatcher, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Fasciated Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Great Curassow, Crested Guan, Pied Puffbird, White-necked Puffbird, White-fronted Nunbird, Black-throated Wren, Stripe-breasted Wren, Bay Wren, Canebrake Wren, Shining Honeycreeper, Crimson-collared Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Dusky-faced Tanager, Collared Forest-Falcon, King Vulture, Middle America Screech-Owl, Great Potoo, Spectacled Owl, Crested Owl, Black-and-white Owl and Short-tailed Nighthawk

We’ll return to our hotel for lunch and a rest during the heat of the day. In the afternoon we’ll be off to visit a lovely private garden designed for photographers. Cope’s garden, owned by local birder and artist, Jose Albert Perez is an amazing retreat for birders and photographers. The finca has a small but very productive pond and feeder set up. Common visitors include various tanagers, toucans, Pale-vented Pigeon, Hermits, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and many other hummingbirds. 

Other visitors to Cope’s garden include the Pygmy Kingfisher and the Russet-naped Wood-Rail. Cope is often familiar with the roosting site of several owl species, including the Crested Owl. You’ll have time for photographing owls, if there are some in the area. Other species known to the gardens and surrounding areas: White-ringed Flycatcher, Purple-throated Fruit Crows, Semi Plumbeous Hawks, Brown-hooded Parrots, and Thicket Antpittas. Dinner tonight will be at the hotel. 

Hotel: Tirimbina Lodge

Birding Photography Hot Spots in Costa Rica

Day 4: Caribbean Foothills | Arenal Volcano

Today after your morning birding and breakfast you’ll travel with your guide to the Arenal Volcano region. You’ll drive about 2.5 hours east, through groves of bananas, fields of pineapples, and orchards of mangoes. Enjoy the scenery as you make your way through rolling green hills, small towns, and local farms.

It’s a great way to view the typical lifestyles of Ticos (Costa Ricans). When you see the majestic Arenal Volcano, with its perfect cone, rising in the distance, you’ll know you are about to arrive in the town of La Fortuna, also known as the Arenal region. Check in and have lunch, then meet your guide on the observation deck to check out the gardens and feeders at the lodge. Late afternoon is prime time to enjoy the birds looking for a snack of papaya or banana. You’ll be amazed at the variety of species that arrive. 

Keep your eyes peeled for:

Montezuma Oropendolas, Brown Jays, Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Blue-gray, Palm, Golden-hooded and Passerini’s Tanagers, Silver-throated Tanager, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers.

Even Keel-billed and Chestnut-mandibled Toucans are known to arrive.  Under the feeders other bird species can be seen attracted by the small pieces of bananas and papayas that have fallen to the ground from the feeder. Look for the White-tipped Dove and Grey-chested Dove, Black-striped Sparrow, Orange-billed Sparrow and even the spectacular Great Curassow.

Hotel:  Arenal Observatory Lodge

Arenal Observatory Lodge - Bird Photography Hot Spot

Day 5: Caribbean Foothills | Arenal Volcano

Today we’ll enjoy a chance to really explore the trails of the private reserve of the Observatory Lodge. Arenal Observatory Lodge is located in the unique Caribbean foothill belt, Costa Rica’s most diverse life zone in avifauna. More than 370 species have already been reported in the lodge and its surroundings. This makes Arenal Observatory Lodge an absolute top-location for birdwatchers.

We’ll first walk along the garden trails, looking for  fruiting fig trees and where we will be able to see many birds. Keep an eye out for White-throated Thrush and the colourful Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Bay-headed, Rufous-winged and Emerald Tanagers; even Orange-bellied and Violaceous Trogon might hang out here. Pay special attention for the Lovely Cotinga, one of the most precious and most sought after birds of Costa Rica. The Cotinga has been reported on several occasions around the garden area of Arenal Observatory Lodge.

Next we’ll journey into the forest trails.  With luck we’ll bump into a mixed species flock or a swarm of army ants.

 Some interesting species on our target list are: the Song Wren, White-breasted Wood-wren, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Golden-crowned Warbler, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Black-headed Nightingale-thrush, Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, Spotted and Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and Russet Antshrike. Also the Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots.

Fruiting trees and especially fruiting fig trees in the forest are a magnet for Bay-headed tanager and other frugivores with possibilities also for the Yellow-eared Toucanet. If we find an army-ant swarm expect a birdfest with possible Bicolored and Spotted Antbirds, Immaculate Antbirds and even Ocellated Antbirds. Another “wanted” bird in the area is the Thicket Antpitta.This is a very shy ground-bird however it is quite possible in the area.

We’ll be on the lookout for some of the raptors too. The Black Hawk-eagle, White Hawk and Barred Hawk  and many other species can be seen. At night Black-and-white Owl sometimes hangs out around the big lights along the access road hunting for big moths. We’ll  visit the lights in the evening to see which species might arrive. Along with birds, we’ll keep an eye out for the many mammals of the area. Mantled Howler Monkeys, White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys  and Central American Spider Monkeys are quite common around the lodge as are the White-nosed Coatis. Also watch for Tamanduas, Agoutis, armadillos, various bat species, and Opossum species. All of our meals today will be at the lodge. 

Hotel: Arenal Observatory Lodge

Tracling the Trogons: Arenal Observatiory Lodge

 

Day 6:  Highlands | Monteverde Cloud Forest

Today, after breakfast at the Observatory Lodge,  you’ll depart Arenal and travel around the beautiful Lake Arenal to the misty cloud forests of Monteverde. Plan for stops, as you bird along the way and enjoy a typical lunch enroute to the cloud forest. You’ll arrive in Monteverde late afternoon. Check in, and then join your guide on the terrace to enjoy the beautiful views and the excellent array of birds.  We’ll start looking for the Three-Wattled Bell Bird immediately, as this is a great location to see them, it’s not prime season, but there is still a chance we’ll hear the unique call and track one down. We’ll enjoy the hummingbirds, warblers, and other species in the gardens and prepare for a full day tomorrow in the reserve.  Dinner tonight will be at the hotel.

Hotel:  Hotel Montana Monteverde

Monteverde - one of Costa Rica Bird Photography Hot Spots

Day 7:  Highlands | Monteverde Cloud Forest

Founded in 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is among the most famous reserves in the world. It’s well known  for its biodiversity, conservation, contributions, and scientific research programs. This 7,400 acre parcel of land holds 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity, and it is one of the most important private reserves in Costa Rica. The Monteverde Cloud Forest is set at an elevation of 4724 ft (1440 m) above sea level, this habitat attracts a wide range of tropical avian species.

The preserve is famous for being a nesting site for the Resplendent Quetzals and the Three-wattled Bellbirds. Other species include the Orange-bellied Trogon, Prong-billed Barbet, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Tawny-throated and Gray-throated Leaf tossers, Azure-hooded Jay, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Costa Rican Warbler, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, and Chestnut-capped Brush finch. If we’re lucky we may encounter one of the area’s difficult-to-see specialties, such as Black-breasted Wood-Quail or Buff-fronted Quail-Dove.

We’ll also visit the Hummingbird Gallery at the entrance to the cloud forest reserve, where we’re likely to see up to eight species of Hummingbirds including the Violet Sabrewing and Coppery-headed Emeralds. We’ll also be on the lookout for the Chiriqui Quail-Dove and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush.Long-tailed Manakin, Golden-crowned Warbler,  and the White-eared Ground-Sparrow. 

 Your guide will take you to the best trails and spend time at the hummingbird feeders, too. Lunch and dinner today will be at a typical restaurant in Monteverde. 

Hotel:  Hotel Montana Monteverde

Bird Photography Hot Spots: Hotel Montana Monteverde

Day 8:   Central Pacific | Macaws Country

Today after breakfast, it’s time to leave the cool mountains behind and head to the warm, sunny Pacific coast.  As you descend from the mountains, you’ll bird along the way, looking for mid-elevation species and then once you hit the coast, keep your eyes peeled for other interesting birds.

You’ll pass a couple marshy areas where you’ll stop to look for shorebirds, herons, and egrets.  You’ll arrive at your hotel in time for check in and lunch, have some time to relax then meet your guide in the afternoon to explore the gardens and trails of the lodge. This area is the best place to see the Scarlet Macaw. Their call is unmistakable, and always an announcement of their arrival.  Dinner tonight will be at the hotel. 

Hotel:  Cerro Lodge

Costa Rica Bird Photography Highlights: Carara National Park

Day 9:   Central Pacific | Carara National Park & Tarcoles River

Carara National Park has the distinction of being the largest transitional forest in Costa Rica and one of the most important wildlife corridors in all of Central and South America. This forest joins the dry tropical forest of the Northern Zone with the lush tropical rainforest of the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. The result is an amazing variety of birds, reptiles, mammals, insects, trees, and plants. Carara is the home of the most successful Scarlet Macaw rehabilitation program in Costa Rica.

Visitors can expect to see the colorful pairs of macaws in the trees and flying above the forest. Taking the trails will yield the opportunity to see antbirds, raptors, trogons, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, wood creepers, and so much more. Keep your eyes open for cats too, as Carara is home to margays and ocelots as well as the very elusive jaguar.

 You’ll arrive early with your private guide and enjoy a full morning of birding at one of the most prolific parks in the country.  You’ll return to the lodge for lunch, and a break during the heat of the day, then your adventure continues as you head to the Tarcoles river for the afternoon. The unique location of the Tarcoles River and its easy and productive birding makes it one of the top birdwatching sites in all of Central America.  

Costa Rica Bird PhotographyHighlights: Carara National Park

Over 300 species of birds have been observed on the river, including native, migratory and coastal birds. Some of the favorite birds to spot are the American Pygmy-Kingfisher, Double-striped Thick-knee, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Common Black Hawk, and endemic Mangrove Hummingbird. The intricate Guacalillo mangrove estuary system positioned where the river empties into the Pacific Ocean also contributes to exclusive mangrove species of birds spotted, such as the Panama Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cotinga, Mangrove Vireo and Yellow Warbler among others.

This mangrove is also the nesting site of the brilliant Scarlet Macaw which can often be seen (and heard) flying overhead. In addition to birds, the Tarcoles River is an important habitat to one of the world’s largest populations of American Crocodiles, as well as habitat to Basilisk lizards, iguanas, monkeys, anteaters, and much more. You’ll travel with your guide and your boat captain through the gorgeous mangrove, moving slowly and quietly looking for the most wanted species of the area.  Dinner this evening is at the lodge. 

Top species at Carara:

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Ruddy Quail-dove, Rufous-and-white Wren, Northern Bentbill, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Brown-hooded Parrot, Scarlet Macaw, Plain Xenops, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Masked Tityra, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Dot-winged Antwren, Orange-collared Manakin, Baird’s Trogon, Common and Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher, Purple-crowned Fairy, Long-tailed and Little or Stripe-throated(same species)Hermit, Turkey, Black and King Vulture, Streaked Flycatcher, Cocoa or Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Rufous-breasted Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Black-throated Trogon, Violaceous Trogon, Black-headed Trogon, Lineated Woodpecker, Riverside Wren, Cherrie’s Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Golden-hooded, Summer and Gray-headed Tanager, White-collared Swift, Boat-billed Flycatcher. For those of you who are especially looking for the Orange-collared Manakin, Blue-black Grosbeak, Variable Seedeater, Barred Antshrike and Rose-throated Becard, Great Tinamou, White-winged Becard, Golden-crowned Euphonia, Black-faced Antthrush, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Plain-capped Starthroat, Ochraceous Flycatcher, Fiery-billed Aracari, Laughing Falcon and finally Chestnut-mandibled Toucan,Ruddy Quail-dove, White-winged Becard, Plain-capped Starthroat and Brown-hooded Parrot, Crested Guan, Bright-rumped Attila, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Chestnut-collared Swift, Buff-throated Saltator, Orange-billed Sparrow, Blue-crowned Manakin, Amazon Kingfisher, Gray-necked Wood-rail, Olive Sparrow, Worm-eating Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Ovenbird, Blue-throated Goldentail, White-shouldered Tanager, Rufous Piha, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Painted Bunting, Long-billed Gnatwren, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Muscovy Duck, Buff-rumped Warbler, Gray Hawk, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Bay-headed Tanager.

 

 Hotel:  Cerro Lodge

Day 10: San Jose International Airport | Time to return home.

Your Costa Rica birding adventure has come to an end. Enjoy breakfast at your hotel and then prepare to depart for San Jose. Your guide will take you back to the San Jose International Airport for your International flight. 

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