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Friday, April 12, 2024

Birding in Costa Rica’s Central Valley: 21 species to look for

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Is there good bird watching in urban San José? We’re here to tell you: there’s plenty to see.

Bird lovers know that the first requirement for bird watching is open spaces. Birds need freedom to fly not just a few but, in the case of migratory birds do, hundreds and thousands of kilometers. Birds can be found even amidst the concrete—and the more green patches a city has, the more chances we have of finding species that will leave us speechless.

San José and the urban centers of the Greater Metropolitan Area are no exception. Over time, some of the diverse bird species that seemed to have been lost to the city have been seen repopulating our cities’ many green corners. Thanks to efforts to not only increase green spaces but also diversity of flora, more and more birds are returning to the cities.

If you are a bird lover, with or without experience in bird watching, we invite you to go to the park, wooded route, Interurban Biological Corridor, or any small forest near your home or accommodations to look for the most common species in the cities of the Central Valley of Costa Rica. And if you find something special, be sure to tell us!

What species of birds can we find in the Central Valley of Costa Rica?

According to a talk by the Ornithological Association of Costa Rica, as of March 2021, the following is part of the base list of bird species that can be found in the Central Valley and that you should look for:

El Yigüirro (Turdus grayiI) Clay-colored Thrush

The national bird of Costa Rica. Its song announces the arrival of the rainy season.

El Yigüirro (Turdus grayiI) Clay-colored Thrush. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Perico Frentirrojo (Psittacara finschi) Crimson-fronted Parakeet

Endemic to Central America. They’re loud in groups.

Perico Frentirrojo (Psittacara finschi) Crimson-fronted Parakeet. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Zanate Grande (Quiscalus mexicanus) Great-tailed Grackle

City dweller that has learned to take advantage of urban spaces.

Quiscalus mexicanu 1 CR
Fuente/Source: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Colibrí de cola rufa (Amazilia tzacatl) Rufous-tailed hummingbird.

This small, cheerful bird is commonly found visiting shrubs and flowers in the Central Valley.

Colibír de cola rufa (Amazilia tzacatl) Rufous-tailed hummingbird. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Paloma Aliblanca (Zenaida asiática) White-winged Dove

Originally found more often in dry forest, it has adapted to cities.

White-winged Dove (6901508258)
Fuente/Source: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Comemaíz (Zonotrichia capensis) Rufous-collared Sparrow

Very common throughout the country, its song varies depending on where it is.

Comemaíz (Zonotrichia capensis) Rufous-collared Sparrow. Courtesy Oscar de la Cruz / El Colectivo 506

Carpintero de Hoffmann (Melanerpes hoffmannii) Hoffmann’s Woodpecker

Of the most common woodpeckers in the Valley. The male has a red patch on his forehead, and the female does not.

Costa Rica DSCN0648-new (31129877555)
Fuente/Source: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Tangara Azuleja o Viudita (Thraupis episcopus) Blue-gray Tanager

Very common to find it in pairs or groups, well known throughout the country.

Tangara Azuleja o Viudita (Thraupis episcopus) Blue-gray Tanager. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Paloma Piquirroja (Patagioenas Flavirostris) Red-billed Pigeon

This large pigeon is also known as a purple pigeon.

Paloma Piquirroja (Patagioenas Flavirostris) Red-billed Pigeon. Courtesy Oscar de la Cruz / El Colectivo 506

Momoto Coroniazul o Pájaro Bobo (Momotus lessonii) Lesson’s Motmot

With its beautiful plumage and relaxed air, it’s a Valley favorite.

Momoto Coroniazul o Pájaro Bobo (Momotus lessonii) Lesson’s Motmot. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Bienteveo Grande o Pecho Amarillo (Pitagus sulphuratus) Great Kiskadee

The most common of the three yellow-breasted species.

Bienteveo Grande o Pecho Amarillo (Pitagus sulphuratus) Great Kiskadee. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Tirano Tropical (Tyrannus melancholicus) Tropical Kingbird

A great insect hunter, always alert.

Tirano Tropical (Tyrannus melancholicus) Tropical Kingbird. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Rascón Cuellligrís o Pomponé (Aramides cajaneus) Gray-cowled Wood-Rail

Commonly heard along the Torres River.

Rascón Cuellligrís o Pomponé (Aramides cajaneus) Gray-cowled Wood-Rail. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Cuco Ardilla (Piaya cayana) Squirrel Cuckoo

A larger bird with a tail resembling a squirrel’s.

Squirrel Cuckoo (38838898721)
Fuente/Source: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Pinzón Orejiblanco (Melozone leucotis) White-eared Ground-Sparrow

Its white and yellow markings make it easy to recognize.

Pinzón Orejiblanco (Melozone leucotis) White-eared Ground-Sparrow. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Zopilote Negro (Coragyps atratus) Black Vulture y Zopilote Cabeciroja (Cathartes aura) Turkey Vulture

These raptor species are well known, but still important for your Costa Rica birding checklist.

Zopilote Cabeciroja (Cathartes aura) Turkey Vulture. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506
Zopilote Negro (Coragyps atratus) Black Vulture. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Caracara Cabecigualdo (Milvago chimachima) Yellow-headed Caracara

In the hawk family, increasingly common in the Central Valley.

Caracara Cabecigualdo (Milvago chimachima) Yellow-headed Caracara. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Lechucita Neotropical (Megascops choliba) Tropical Screech-Owl

One of the three species of barn owls in the Valley that help control rodents and other species.

Lechucita Neotropical (Megascops choliba) Tropical Screech-Owl. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506

Reinita Amarilla (Setophaga petechia) Yellow Warbler

One of the first migratory species to visit Costa Rica from the north during the winter.

Male Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)
Fuente/Source: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Tangara Veranera (Piranga rubra) Summer Tanager

Because of its color, similar to the achiote spice, it is also called Achiote Bread. This migratory bird fills the landscapes of Costa Rica with color during the winter.

Tangara Veranera (Piranga rubra) Summer Tanager. Mónica Quesada Cordero / El Colectivo 506
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Mónica Quesada Cordero
Mónica Quesada Corderohttp://www.mqcphoto.com
Mónica (Co-Fundadora, Editora Gráfica) es una galardonada fotoperiodista con 15 años de experiencia en el desarrollo de proyectos fotográficos en el área editorial, retrato, vida silvestre, comida y arquitectura. Además, cuenta con experiencia en escritura y redacción y una maestría en Producción Audiovisual y Multimedia. Mónica (Co-Founder, Graphic Editor) is an award-winning photojournalist with 15 years of experience developing photographic projects in the editorial, portrait, wildlife, food and architecture areas. In addition, she has experience in writing and a master's degree in Audiovisual and Multimedia Production.

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