15 Costa Rica Birds to Spot on Your Trip

This past December I took my first trip to Costa Rica. This beautiful country in Central America is one of the best places to see new species of birds for us aspiring birders!

I was in awe of all the amazing birds of Costa Rica I saw that were so different from the ones we have here in the United States.

Costa Rica birds

I love learning about different birds whenever I travel, and Costa Rica is a great place to bird! We spent the early morning birding from the patio of our airBnb overlooking Arenal Volcano National Park (I recommend this airBnb for the amazing birding from their garden gazebo).

Bird watching in Costa Rica

There is a good chance you will spot these 15 popular birds of Costa Rica in their natural habitat on your trip. Most of the birds listed have a wide range throughout the country – from the Pacific Coast to the cloud forests, volcanos, and national parks

15 Beautiful Birds of Costa Rica

I’ve listed the common names in English for the Costa Rican birds. They have different names in Spanish! Some of these different species have ranges that extend through Central and South America.

These photos are all sourced from Canva.com, as I’m not near as good as bird photographer as I am a bird watcher. 😉

1. Keel-Billed Toucan

There is nothing like spotting a Toucan in a tree for the first time. These colorful birds with rainbow bills are some of the avian species most associated with Costa Rica (or Fruit Loops cereal!).

You may hear the Toucan before you see it thanks to its loud call. Look carefully and you may spot more than one in the tree, as they tend to travel in groups!

Largest toucans in Costa Rica - Killed Bill Toucan

2. Black-Mandibled Toucan

The Black-Mandibled Toucan is another species of Toucan you are likely to see in Costa Rica. It has slightly less vibrant colors with a mostly brown bill. It also has a different call from the Keel-Billed Toucan. I spotted both of these types of Toucans around the Arenal Volcano during our trip.

Costa Rica toucan

3. Red-Lored Parrot

These parrots may just wake you up on your trip! They are the loud talkers of the tropical forest with their distinctive call. They will often travel in pairs or large flocks. I often saw two parrots together having a loud conversation in a tree, and I once spotted over 30 of them flying together!

Common parrots in Costa Rica

4. Montezuma Oropendola

This unusual bird is easiest to spot in flight. Look for the flash of yellow in its tail feathers. The Oropendola is a large bird, averaging around 20 inches long. The species pictured below is the Montezuma Oropendola. You can also find the Chestnut-Headed Oropendola in Costa Rica. Look for a white bill.

Montezuma Oropendola

5. White-Throated Magpie Jay

These are some of my favorite birds I spotted on our trip. They reminded me of the Blue Jays that visit my yard, but with more flair thanks to its crest feathers! Spot these along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. They often travel in a small group. I saw some feasting on a papaya tree!

White-Throated Magpie Jay

6. Clay-Colored Thrush

While not as striking as some of the rainbow-colored birds, the Clay-Colored Thrush is an important one to know, as it is the national bird of Costa Rica! This medium-sized bird can be found throughout the country and is known for its pretty songs.

Clay Colored Thrush

7. Gartered Trogon

The Trogon is a bird I had never heard of, let alone seen, before our trip! There are several species of Trogons native to Costa Rica. I spotted the Gartered Trogon (not to be confused with another species, the Collared Trogon) near La Fortuna. It has one of the broadest ranges of all the Trogon species. These popular birds are totally worth seeking out on your trip!

Gartered Trogon

8-10. Great Kiskadee / Boat-Billed Flycatcher / Social Flycatcher

These flycatchers may be some of the most common birds you spot on your trip to Costa Rica. Look for them on utility wires where they like to perch and look for insects!

Hone your birding abilities by distinguishing the different species pictured left to right: Great Kiskadee, Boat-Billed Flycatcher (look for the large bill), and Social Flycatcher (smaller than the other two speices).

Costa Rica flycatchers

11. Red-Legged Honeycreeper

One of the most beautiful birds I saw on our trip. The male Honeycreepers have bright red legs and vibrant blue feathers. These small birds are hard to miss!

Red-Legged Honeycreeper

12. Broad-Billed Motmot

Like the Trogons, the Motmots are another favorite of bird lovers, and a “new to me” bird species. I got a close-up look at a Broad-Billed Motmot while on a guided walk through a forested area. It was perched on a low brand right above us!

Motmots are known for their unique and long tail, called “racquet-tipped”! Other Motmots you may spot in Costa Rica include the Blue-Crowned Motmot, Rufous Motmot, and Turquoise-Browed Motmot.

Broad-Billed Motmot

13. Passerine Tanager

Also known as the Scarlet-Rumped Tanager, this is one of several species of Tanagers you are likely to spot in Costa Rica. The male is dark black with a bright red rump, while the female is mostly yellow and brown. You will often see them flying around together.

Passerine Tanager

14. Blue-Gray Tanager

One of the most common birds of Costa Rica, the Blue-Gray Tanager can be found throughout the country. It has a light blue body and turquoise blue wings.

Blue-Gray Tanager

15. Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird

If you see something zoom by you on the way to the nearest flower, it is likely a Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird! Look for the orangish brown tail and bright green body. At least 12 other hummingbird species can be found in Costa Rica, but this is the most common.

I most often saw this hummingbird visiting Purple Porterweed. This Costa Rica native plant appears to be one of its favorite nectar sources!

Rufuos Tailed Hummingbird

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Must-Have Costa Rica Bird Watching Gear

Here are my three must-have items for birding in Costa Rica:

  • Vortex Diamondback binoculars (8×42 HD) – I highly recommend this pair. The quality is amazing for the price. I got tired of sharing mine with my husband during the trip, so I ended up buying him his own pair for Christmas!
  • Photo Guide to Birds of Costa Rica – I purchased this pocket guide by Richard Garrigues at a souvenir shop while in Costa Rica. But you can save quite a bit of money by purchasing it in advance of your trip! It provides a comprehensive list of the birds of Costa Rica with beautiful photos, descriptions, and range maps.
  • Merlin bird app – this free app developed by Cornell Lab is the coolest. Just press “Sound ID” while you’re out birding and it will start listening for bird calls. It uses AI to identify the birds around you based on their calls. It helped me identify a number of birds in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica Birding Essentials

If you have a Costa Rica trip planned, you are in for a treat! It is a bird watchers paradise to be able to see so many unique birds in their natural environment. The quiet early mornings spent birding in my pjs were the highlight of my trip.

Save This Costa Rica Bird List to Pinterest!

Costa Rica bird guide

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