General info


In Costa Rica there are over 850 species of birds more than in all of North America above Mexico. More than 630 are resident species, the remainder are occasionals who fly in for the winter. There are four zones of birds existence in Costa Rica: Noerthern Pacific lowlands, Southern Pacific lowlands, Caribbean lowlands and Interior Highlands.


red knot - [Calidris canutus]. It can reach 26 cm of length. It is short-legged and chunky. Upperparts dappled brown and grey, with some tawny markings, a white wing-bar, and blackish primaries; head reddish, with brownish mottling on forehead, crown, and nape; underparts reddish, except undertail coverts, which are white; tail with dark grey-brown terminal band; bill long, thick, straight, black; legs dull greenish. They scoop out the seats in the ground and males hatch 3-4 eggs.

little stint - [Calidris minuta]. A very small wader (the smallest from sandpipers). It`s 15 cm long, brown above and white on the belly. It has thin black bill (about the length of the head). The legs and feet are dull yellowish. They eat various insects they pick from the ground, or shallow water. It builds a grass nest on the ground where lays four eggs.


lovely cotinga - [Cotinga amabilis]. It is destinguished by velvet throat and the central part of belly. It is spot on the Caribbean side.

turquoise cotinga - [Cotinga ridgwayi]. It is turquise and have oval tips. It lives in canopy and borders of humid forests.

Bank swallow

[Riparia riparia]. Smallest of swallows family. Feeds primarily on flying insects (e.g., beetles, mosquitoes, winged ants, flies, moths). Breeds colonially in sandy river banks, cliffs and gravel pits. Brown above and with brown breast band across otherwise white underparts. Distinctive rippling, chattering calls. It is a superb flier, gracefully swooping and darting about. It feeds by flying around with their mouths open and scooping up insects. It scoopes out the hole in the river banks where eggs are nested. The female lays an egg each day, usually a total of 3 to 6 eggs. Both parents feed the nestlings.

Grey-necked wood-rail

[Aramides cajanea]. It`s 38 cm in length. It stands out with gray throat, head and chest, brown wings and back. Very shy. Inhabits in fresh water marshes and mangrove swamps.

Plain chachalaca

[Ortalis vetula]. It reaches the length of 55 cm. Large, small-headed, round-winged, long-tailed, ground-dwelling bird. Plain brown plumage, darker on upperparts. Long dark tail with white tip. Reddish throat not always visible. Its name comes from the sounds they make. They build the nest on the trees and hatch 2-4 eggs. Inhabitat Juan Castro Blanco National Park.


great blue heron - [Ardea herodias]. The largest heron in North America. Back and wings are blue-gray, underparts whitish. Head white with a black stripe ending in black plumes behind the eye. Bill thick, yellow, daggerlike. Legs black with yellow feet. Its wingspan is 2 meter. Its habitats include rivers, lake edges, marshes, saltwater shores, and swamps. It usually nests in trees near water. It spends 90% of its active day foraging for food. It uses its long legs to wade in shallow water and its sharp "spearlike" bill to catch its food. The great blue heron's diet consists of fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, shrimps, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and many aquatic insects.

bare-throated tiger heron - [Tigrisoma mexicanum]. It has bare yellow throat.

great white egret - [Egretta alba, Ardea alba]. It has impressive size and pure white plumage. Has long, often kinked, neck, all-yellow legs and feet and, in winter, a yellow, not black bill. Breeds in extensive areas of reeds, usually by large shallow lakes or fishponds. The Great Egret reproductive strategy for survival is brood reduction – they lay a large clutch and let sibling competition and food abundance play a large role in how many survive to fledge. Eggs are laid at two to three day intervals. They search for prey with their necks extended at an angle to the body, peering into the water or at the ground in front of them.

boat-billed heron - [Cochlearius cochlearius]. Upper parts gray with black crown and plumes on the head, underparts brownish, chest, neck and side of face cream, broad bill is gray on the upper, yellow on the lower mandible, gular pouch is bare, large eyes dark brown. The large eyes are an indication of the crepuscular nature of the bird. As a result they are generally difficult to see as, during the day, they roost hidden away up trees. They use their large bill to scoop up shrimps, insects, frogs and fish and tend to employ the "Standing Still" technique of feeding. It habitats in ponds and streams in humid forest, marshes, mangroves. Its diet consists of fish, amphibians, worms and crustaceans.

snowy egret - [Egretta thula]. Is a medium sized egret which grows to approximately 40 cms. It has black bill, black legs and yellow feet. They seldom initiate monospecific colonies, preferring to nest in mixed colonies. Eggs are incubated for 20 - 24 days prior to hatching. The first chick to hatch thus becomes the most experienced at food handling, and quickly becomes the most experienced aggressor toward its siblings. As a result, nestmates have varied growth rates, with the first chick growing the fastest.

little blue heron - [Egretta caerulea, blue heron]. It`s medium-sized long-legged long-necked wader. Usually holds neck in an "S" curve at rest and in flight. It has blue-gray black-tipped bill, blue-gray belly, back and wings and chestnut head and neck.

cattle egret - [Bubulcus ibis]. It is the most terrestrial heron, being well-adapted to many diverse terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The total length of the bird ranges from 46-56 cm, and its wingspan averages 88-96 cm. The basic plumage of the adult of both sexes is pure white, with a dull orange or yellow bill, and dull orange legs. It is a medium sized bird, with a 'hunched' posture, even when it is standing erect. The cattle egret is very gregarious and can be easily identified by its tendency to associate closely with grazing animals. They appeared in America from Europe in 1940`s. It`s placed among others in the outlet of Rio Estrella and in Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.

Chimango caracara

[Milvago chimango]. It is a generalist predator and feeds on a variety of foods including carrion, human refuse, and a number of animals such as invertebrates, nestling birds, and small mammals. It reaches 60 cm in length. It has light striped underparts and white rump.

Great curassow

[Crax rubra]. They have a peak of forward-curling feathers on their heads, and long tails. The bases of their bills are yellow, decorated with a yellow, round bulge. The coloring of the females varies; they can be black or chestnut-colored with black or white bars; their heads and crest may be barred with black and white. The males are a lustrous blue or black color, and have white bellies. Although they have low rates of reproduction, they are long-lived birds. They build their nests of leaves and twigs in forks and depressions in trees. The male Curassow leads his family and whistles when there are signs of danger. Females lay two eggs at a time. Curassows are monogamous and travel in pairs or in small groups. The group can communicate by grunting. Like chickens, they tend to run rather than fly. They find their food by foraging on fallen fruits, berries and seeds. They are spot in Juan Castro Blanco National Park.

Wood stork

[Mycteria americana]. A large, tall bird with long, broad wings; black flight feathers and tail contrast with white body; adult has bare, dark-gray head (feathered and grayish brown in immature); bill is long, thick, and downcurved; averages 102 cm long, 155 cm wingspan. Nesting is tied to receding water levels and concentration of food sources, regardless of date.

Barn swallow

[Hirundo rustica]. are very adaptable birds and can nest anywhere a sheltered ledge is available. They seek out agricultural areas and are most commonly found in barns or other outbuildings. Barn swallows range in size from 14.6 to 19.9 cm long, with a wingspan of 31.8 to 34.3 cm. Males are blue/black dorsally, and light ventrally, with a reddish-brown forehead and breast. Females are typically less vibrantly colored. Barn swallows are the only swallow species with white-spotted forked tails. Their diet consists of Insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies, beetles, and moths.

Three-wattled Bellbird

[Procnias tricarunculata]. It is named for the strange pendulous wattles that dangle from its bill. It is a Central American endemic that is in danger of disappearing from the world. It breeds in the highlands and wanders widely throughout the lowlands after the breeding season. It`s red-brown with snowy-white head and neck. It stands out with sonorous singing. It feeds on fruits. It inhabits in cloud forests. It is widely spot in Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

Magnificent frigatebird

[Fregata magnificens]. They have scimilar wings and forked tails hang like kite in the wind. They can reach 1 meter in length and have the wingspan of 2 meters. The male is all black with a lustrous faint purplish-green sheen on its back. The female is destinguished by white feathers that extend up her abdomen and the breast and the ring of blue around her eyes. Females select of males and then lay one single egg. Each parent takes turns during the 8 week incubation. They have a bad thievery habit. They harry other birds untill they release their catch. In Costa Rica their nesting sites are spot in Bolanos island and Ostional and Cabo Blanco Wildlife Refuges.

Brown booby

[Sula bassana]. They are considered to usually obtain prey by rapid, vertical shallow plunge-dives. Its wingspan avarages 175 cm. It feeds on fishes. They nest in colonies consisted of thousand of pairs. Their nests are built of sea grass and seaweeds. Females lay only one egg which is hatched by both parents. Nestlings stay in nests for 60 days. The biggest brown boobies colony in Costa Rica is placed in Cabo Blanco Wildlife Refuge. Besides they are spot in Manuel Antonio National Park and Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.


rock dove - [Columba livia]. It has a dark bluish-gray head, neck, and chest with glossy yellowish, greenish, and reddish-purple iridesence along its neck and wing feathers. Females tend to show less iridesence than the males. The bill is dark grayish-pink. Two dark bands across the wings are seen in most pigeons, and one bluish-gray band across the tail. They nest in crevices along rocky seaside cliffs, close to agriculture or open shrub vegetation. They walk or run while bobbing their heads forward and backward. They fly with a steady and direct path.

scaled pigeon - [Columba speciosa]. Ma na szyi łuskowate, czarno-obrzeżone, a na piersi i brzuchu biało-czerwone piórka, ciemno obrzeżone. Głowa, gardło, grzbiet i skrzydła są rude.

short-billed pigeon - [Columba nigrirostris]. Most common and widespread pigeon in Costa Rica. It lives on trees in humid terrains up to 1.100 m.a.s.l. It has dark plumage and black short bill. It hatches one white egg. The reproductive period lasts from March to August.

Harpy eagle

[Harpia harpyja]. Black-white bird of prey from Central and South America. It stands out with a crested head. One-meter long bird, longest of all eagles. It is renowned for twisting and diving through the treetop in pursuit of unsuspecting sloths and monkeys. On the ground it feeds on reptiles and small rodents. They have been lately reintroduced in Osa peninsula and Cordillera Talamanca.


Costa Rica is inhabited by three species of ibises.

white ibis - [Eudocimus albus]. It`s a medium-sized wading bird. Its feathers are entirely white, except for its dark wing tips. The face of the ibis is bare and pink, blending into its long, curved bill, which is brown at the tip. It has long pink legs, which end with webbed toes. The adults eyes are light blue. it walks slowly while foraging, occasionally leaping over others in their flock as it moves across its feeding grounds. White Ibises are highly sociable, nesting, feeding, roosting, and flying in flocks. Barriers, marshes, spoil islands on the coast, and islands in inland lakes are the preferred nesting sites for them. They are spot on Nocoya peninsula, Guanacaste province and Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.

glossy ibis - [Plegadis falcinellus]. Glossy Ibis are the size of small herons but are easily identified by their all-dark plumage, long, down-curved, curlew-like bills and a neck which is held outstretched in flight and is so slender it looks distinctly fragile. They are sociable birds, often feeding in small parties or flying over in a trailing line or in 'V' formation. Breeds and winters in shallow freshwater lakes and marshes. They are spot in Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.

Swallow-tailed kite

[Elanoides forficatus]. The knife-blade wings carry it swiftly and buoyantly, with the deeply forked tail opening, closing and warping as it adjusts to the air flow. It feeds entirely in the air, either on flying insects or prey snatched from the ground, or from water or foliage. Insects are plucked out of the air with one foot and transferred to the bill. Lizards, snakes, pieces of wasp nest, and eggs or fledgling birds are taken from trees or grass. The bird never lands to consume its prey, and has been seen to seize a whole nest in passing, and to eat the contained fledglings one by one in flight.

Montezuma oropendola

[Gymnostinops montezuma]. They are known for their strange calls and shrieks, which at some times are not very pleasant. They have a wide range of sounds from whining to clucking. Males and females are mostly deep chestnut in color, except for shades of yellow on their outer tail feathers and a black head complete with a pale, blue patch of skin and pink wattle. Their sharp bills are black and orange, and in males, the orange extends over their forehead. Males also have extra skin on either side of their chin and are considereably larger than females, which accounts for the wide ranges of mass. An adult male can grow to 51 cm in length, while females are 38cm in length on average. They live in the rainforest regions near water and clearings, but not too deep in the forest. These birds can be found close to banana plantations and bamboo thickets. are primarily fruit eaters. They have also been known to eat flowers from the surface of open grasslands, larger insects, and grass clumps of organic material. They are spot in Rincon de la Vieja National Park and are visible in Guayabo National Monument.


blue-winged teal - [Anas discors]. Small dabbling duck. It has medium-sized bill without spatulate tip, pale blue upper secondary coverts, green speculum with white leading edge. It is distinguished by blue-gray head with darker cap and white crescent on face in front of eye, white band at rear portion of flanks. It inhabits marshes, lakes, shallow ponds. It is spot in Palo Verde National Park.

black bellied whistling-duck - [Dendrocygna autumnalis]. It is easily identified with its red bill and legs, grey head, brown neck and back and black belly. In flight it is described as having a "droopy" look but the most obvious features are the white wing stripe and the red bill and legs. It prefers ponds and lakes close to trees and often near agricultural land. It is essentially a vegetarian feeding on grass, seeds and grain found by grazing on the ground or dabbling in the water. It is often seen perched on trees where it also nests in tree holes. It is spot in Palo Verde National Park and Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.

muscovy duck - [Cairina moschata]. Relatively large black ducks with white coverts forming conspicuous white wing patches. There is often a purplish or greenish reflection to the black color of the body. They have unusually large talons for a duck, as well as a relatively long tail. Males are more brightly colored, and have red fleshy carnicules on their faces, over their eyes and at the base of their bills. Males may grow to 84 cm and females grow to 66 cm. They typically lay between 10 and 15 eggs per clutch. They feed mostly on underwater vegetation, seeds and acorns.

Crested Caracara

[Polyborus plancus]. They look a bit like a large chicken from a distance as it struts along the ground and frequently feeds there. It has long yellow legs and a bushy black crest. It also has a red cere which apparently turns yellow, when the bird is excited. In flight from below it shows conspicuous white patches on its outer primaries. It feeds mainly on carrion and on live prey such as baby caiman.


The tiniest birds in the world. They make hum by the beat of the wings. At up to 100 beats per second. Their wings motions are out of visibility for naked eye. They hover at flowers from which they extract nectar. In Costa Rica are listed 51 hummingbird species.

Green-crowned Brilliant - [Heliodoxa jacula]. It`s spot in humid forests, on the elevations between 600 to 1600 m.a.s.l. On the contrary to others, they don`t soar over the flowers, but land on their margins. In America they are spot from Costa Rica to Ecuador.


neotropic cormorant - [Phalacrocorax olivaceus]. Their feathers become completely soaked during a dive which is why they are often found perched with their wings spread out to dry. They feed mainly on fish which they sometimes catch cooperatively swimming side by side in large groups. They are spot in Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.


[Numenius phaeopus]. A large wader at 37-45 cm length. It is mainly greyish brown, with a white back, and a long curved bill with a kink rather than a smooth curve. It is generally wary. The familiar call is a rippling whistle. Breeds on damp moorland and lakesides. It is fairly gregarious outside the breeding season. This species feeds by probing soft mud for small invertebrates and by picking small crabs and similar prey off the surface. Prior to migration, berries become an important part of their diet. The nest is a bare scrape on tundra or arctic moorland. 3-5 eggs are laid. Adults are very defensive of nesting area and will even attack humans who come too close.

Common moorhen

[Gallinula chloropus]. Upperparts dark brownish-olive; head and neck black; underparts slate grey, with white streaks on flanks; outer undertail coverts white, innner ones black; bill red, with red forehead shield and yellow tip; legs yellow, often with orange proximally. They are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders taking a very wide variety of food (seeds, plant matter, insects, molluscs, carrion, rotting vegetation, fish and duck food etc). They feed both in the water and on land, making the most of anything that's available.

Resplendent quetzal

[Pharomachrus mocinno]. Its size is 35cm from bill to base of tail. Males' magnificent tail can be up to as much as 90cm long. The most extravagant feature of the male quetzal is its iridescent tail plumes. The head, neck, chest, back and wings of the males are a metallic green, while the breast and belly are bright crimson. The male has a distinct tuft of bristly upstanding golden green feathers on top of his head, forming a crestlike structure. The female quetzal is very similar in color, yet far less conspicuous than males. The breeding season of the quetzal is from March to June. Both male and female quetzals assist in the nest building. The call of the quetzal is very loud and distinct enough to tell it apart from other members of the Trogon family. The call is described as soft, deep, full and very powerful, with closely slurred notes. Females have weaker and more subdued tones. Quetzals are most vocal during calm cloudy dawns, and misty afternoons.

The Quetzal is a relatively inactive bird who lives among lush vegetation, in very moist rainforest zones. They often choose high mountain ranges that are cool. They live in the trees that form the canopy of the rainforest. It prefers to inhabit decaying trees, stumps, and sometimes old woodpecker hollows. In Costa Rica they are spot in Cordilleras Talamanca, Corcovado National Park, Cordillera Central (Poas Volcano and Braulio Carillo National Parks), the upper elevations of Rincon de la Vieja National Park and in the "Valley of Quetzals" in province San Jose.

Some people call it "the most beautifull bird in the world". This bird is also closely associated with Quetzalcoatl (Mexican wind god and culture hero). The name was derived from Nahuatlquetzali, meaning tail feather and cohuatl meaning snake. The bird was always thought to be unable to survive in captivity, so it came to represent liberty and freedom to the Indians of Mexico and Central America. The quetzal was also thought as a sign of liberty and freedom during the colonial period. Popular folklore relates how the quetzal got its dazzling blood-red breast: in 1524, when the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado defeated the Mayan chieftan Tecun Uman, a gilt-and-green quetzal alighted on the Indian's chest at the moment he fell mortally wounded; when the bird took off again, his breast was stained with the brilliant crimson blood of the Mayan. The national symbol of Guatemala.

Blue-crowned motmot

[Momotus momota]. It is about 40.64 centimeters in length, while the females are slightly smaller. In plumage the sexes are indistinguishable. In both, the crown is black, bordered all around by a wide band of blue, which covers most of the forehead. The back and upper tail feathers vary in shade from olive-green to parrot-green. The wings are brighter green with bluish green primaries. Racket-shaped feathers are one of the characteristics that give tropical birds so exotic an aura. The two central feathers of the long tail, which are greenish near the end and bluer near the tip, extend far beyond the lateral rectrices, and near the end each has a short length of shaft from which the vanes have fallen, transforming it into a slender stalk that supports an isolated, blue, black-tipped, spatulate expanse of feather. The black bill is broad and heavy, with coarse serrations along the edge of the upper mandible in its middle half. The large eyes are dull red, and the short legs and feet are grey. These motmots never flock, but live in pairs throughout the year. During the day the members of a pair often forage separately and it is not always obvious that they are mated. They are largely insectivorous, but they vary their diet and will consume fruits. Beetles appear to be their principal food source, and among other kinds they capture many dung-beetles. It can exist in the Pacific lowlands, with long and severe dry seasons, in deforested highland areas inhabiting coffee plantations, with low shade trees, patches of light secondary woods, thickets, hedgerows, shady gardens, and wooded ravines.

Spectacled owl

[Pulsatrix perspicillata], (murukutu). It`s brown back bird with yellowish underbelly. It is destinguished by white emblem resembling glasses on black head. It feeds on invertebrates and crabs. Sometimes it destroy quetzal`s nests to eat their nestlings.

Common buzzard

[Buteo buteo]. are sizeable and chunky birds with large, broad, blunt-ended wings, fairly short, broad tails and short, rounded heads. They can show a variety of plumages but they are generally dull brown with darker areas at the wrists and paler panels in the primaries. Buzzards are great gliders. On warm summer days they circle for hours, riding the thermals above forest or moorland. They eat rodents and other small birds, large insects and reptiles, and are often mobbed by crows and other birds of prey defending the young in their nests against these predators. Buzzards are also great scavengers.Breeds in moorland valleys, woods, farmland and cliffs.

Red-tailed hawk

[Buteo jamaicensis]. It builds its nest at the edge of a forest, in wooded fence rows, or in large trees surrounded by open areas. Their main territory consists of large woodlots surrounded by open fields and pastures for foraging. They are very territorial. averages 19 to 24 inches in length. There is sexual dimorphism in size: females are 25% larger than the males. Plumage ranges from light auburn to deep brown. The underbelly is distinctly lighter than the rest of the body, with a dark belly band across it. The cere, the soft skin at the base of the beak, the legs, and the feet are all yellow. The eye color of the hawk changes from yellowish gray when immature to dark brown in adults.

Common potoo

[Nyctibius griseus]. A camouflaged bird. It has yellow-and-black eyes and resembles an owl. Siada pionowo na połamanym krzewie lub gałęzi i pozostaje nieruchomy niczym jej przedłużenie. Zamieszkuje obrzeża lasów oraz leśne polanki.


[Haematopus ostralegus]. Chiefly a shorebird, but locally breeds inland by rivers, lochs and gravel pits. In winter, more strictly coastal. is easily recognised by virtue of its large size and combination of black and white plumage, long, bright orange-red bill and pink legs. In flight there is a prominent white wing-bar, and during winter a white 'chin-strap' develops. The sexes are similar in appearance, although males often have relatively shorter, thicker bills. It's piping calls draw attention, and the black and white plumage and long red bill make it easy to identifyl. The only place in Costa Rica, where they hatches is island Bolanos.


scarlet macaw - [Ara Macao]. It spreads from Mexico to Panama and In Trinidad. In Costa Rica they live only in three areas : Carara Biological Reserve (2000 birds), Corcovado National Park (150 birds) and Palo Verde National Park (7 birds). (There is also a plan to reintroduce them to Piedras Blancas National Park). It has large size (85 cms long), bright red body, blue and yellow wings. long tail and white face. It eats pulp of fruits, seeds, some leaves and flowers. It has four taloned feet and hooked beak. It consume riverbank clay, which may serve to counter the effects of poisonous seeds high in alkaloids and tannins. They generally mate in December and lay two eggs. The incubation lasts a month. They can livefor as long as 45 years.

great green macaw - [Ara ambigua], (mllitary parrot, Buffon`s macaw). It`s 85 cms long. It has olive-green plumage (red forehead, naked face striped with small feathes, blue flight feathes). It eats seeds, nut and fruits. It usually occur in small family up to 5 or 6 birds). It spreads from NE Nicaragua to Colombia. In Costa Rica it`s often spot in the Caribbean coast.


brown pelican - [Pelicanus occidentalis], (dark-red pelican, common pelican). The smallest member of the pelican family. The pouch suspended from the lower half of the pelican's long, straight bill really can hold up to three times more than the stomach. In addition to being used as a dipnet, the pouch holds the pelican's catch of fish until the accompanying water (as much as 3 gallons) is squeezed out. It`s 42 to 54 inches long, weighing 8 to 10 pounds. They have chestnut-and-white necks; white heads with pale yellow crowns; brown-streaked back, rump, and tail; blackish-brown belly; grayish bill and pouch; and black legs and feet. They dive steeply into the water, and can submerge completely for fishes. They nest on rocky islands or in the shores of lakes. In the Nicoya Bay on Guayabo island there is the biggest their mating site in the country. They are spot on both country coasts, but they mate only on Pacific ones. (Islas Guayabo, Negritos and Pajaros Resrve, Cabo Blanco, Ballena). They are shown in the statuettes for the Best Costa Rican Movie in Festival of Movie in San Jose.


[Calidris alba]. Their diet consists of small crustaceans (especially, sand crabs), small mollusks, marine worms and dropped fruits. On breeding grounds, insects and their larvae. They have straight, black bill and gray legs. They build their nests on the ground.

Turquoise-browed motmot

[Eumomota superciliosa]. It is green above and on breast, throat black, cinnamon-rufous sides and belly. It`s 35 cm in length. They inhabit dry, thick forests. They are often spot on telegraph poles along the highways. They nest in deep (1,5 meter in depth) burrows on the river banks. They lay 3 to 4 eggs.

Scarlet tanager

[Piranga olivacea]. They are 6.5-7.5 inches long with a wingspread of 11-12 inches. Mature males are a bright red color with black wings and tails. Females, immature birds, and males in winter are a dull, olive green above and straw-yellow below with dark wings and tail. Females are attracted to the singing males, who court potential mates by hopping about on low perches in woods near the ground, spreading their wings and displaying their scarlet backs. The males often feed their partners as the nesting season approaches. They prefer tall deciduous woods mixed with hemlock and pines, but they occasionally inhabit wooded parks and large shade trees in residential areas.

American kestrel

[Falco sparverius]. It is 19 - 21 cm in length with an average wingspan of 50 - 60 cm. It nests in tree cavities, woodpecker holes, crevices of buildings, holes in banks, nest boxes or, rarely, old nests of other birds. It is highly adaptable behaviorly and lives just about everywhere, as long as there is some open ground for hunting and conspicuous places on which to perch. For the most part, it is not a social bird. During the mating season, males and females pair up and have joint territories. Presumably, the pair or the male defends the territory. It hunts in the early morning and evening, eating large insects (mainly grasshoppers).

Squirrel cuckoo

[Piaya cayana]. Its plumage is ginger on above and blacking in below. It is destinguished by very long tail. It make a sound "piaya" and thus was given a scientific name.

Sandwich tern

[Sterna sandvicensis]. They are strictly coastal and feed almost entirely off fish which they catch by plunge-diving from up to 10 metres above the surface of the sea. It has short forked tail, long, black bill and distinctive crest. In the middle of XIX century their eggs were consumed by humans. They nest only on the caribbean side of Costa Rica. If any stranger approach to their colony, all the birds start attacking and defending their territory. Nestlings stay in nests for 2 days after hatching, then walk around in birds "kindergardens". Parents recognize them by sounds and brings them fishes.


[Pandion haliaetus], (fishing eagle). The plumage is distinctive - almost completely white below and brown above, with a white head striped black through the eyes. It is noted for the skill to scooping fishes rivers or seas while on the wing. It has evolved long talons, barbed between the toes for snatching slippery fish. It is spot nation wide. They build their nests on telegraph poles, canopies, bridges and even car wreckages. Usually lay 3 white eggs with reddish spots.

Red-legged honeycreeper

[Cyanerpes cyaneus]. They have downcurved bill perfect for cutting and pierceing flowers calyxes as well as sucking the nectar. It feeds on fruits and insects. Its head is turquise color. The rest of body is purple-blue. The wings, back and tail are black. Inhabits the insides of the forests. Build its nests on the treetops.


Costa Rica has four species of vultures.

black vulture - [Coragyps atratus], A medium-large bird with blackish plumage, a small grayish unfeathered head, hooked bill, weak talons, short tail, and relatively short, broad wings; in flight, wings show a large white patch at the base of the primaries; average length 64 cm, wingspan 145 cm. It uses its eyes to spot carrion and often drop in to chase off smaller vultures from carcasses they have claimed.

Blue-winged teal

[Anas discors]. It weigth 350-400g. Sexually dimorphic in colour; males slightly heavier than females, but not noticeable in the field. Males have head dark grey, with white crescent in front of eye; body speckled brown; green speculum, bordered with black; blue on wing; bill black. Females` body mottled brown; head and neck paler; green speculum, bordered with black; blue on wing; bill greyish-black. Zamieszkuje Rezerwat Narodowy Cano Negro.


[Eurypyga helias]. Stout-bodied, bitternlike bird. It is named for its wing markings, an orange-chestnut shield set in an orange-buff circle, which looks like a setting sun. The rest of its plumage is intricately barred, striped, and mottled in black, white, brown, gray, and olive. Measuring from 46 to 53 cm in length. Sunbitterns rarely fly, but, rather, walk slowly upon long, bright orange legs, holding their snakelike necks parallel to the ground. An impressive sight is when the Sunbittern is alarmed and tries to ward off the threat by displaying the enormous eye patterns on its wings. It inhabits tropical forest close to water.

Peregrine falcon

[Falco peregrinus]. The speedest bird of prey. When attacking they can fly with 200 km/h in speed. They generally look dark above and pale below, and fly with quick shallow wing-beats. Peregrine falcons prey almost exclusively on birds although they will also eat small "reptiles" (such as lizards) and mammals. The female is a lot bigger than the male. They don`t build their own nests but using the old ones made by other birds. It is spot in Guayabo, Negritos and Pajaros Biological Reserve.

Night herons

black-crowned night heron - [Nycticorax nycticorax]. It has a stocky body, with a comparatively short neck and legs. The length averages 58-72 cm, with the females averaging slightly smaller than the males. The adult has distinctive coloring, with black cap, upper back and scapulars; gray wings, rump and tail; and white to pale gray underparts. The bill is stout and black, and the eyes are red. For most of the year, the legs of the adult are yellow-green, but by the height of the breeding season, they have turned pink. They are associated with large wetlands. They inhabit a variety of wetland habitats such as swamps, streams, rivers, marshes, mud flats. They nest colonially, and often there can be more than a dozen nests in one tree. The nest is usually a platform lined with roots and grass. Their largest colony is in Palo Verde National Park.

yellow-crowned night heron - [Nycticorax violaceus]. They have a white crown and back with the remainder of the body greyish, red eyes and short yellow legs. They have a white stripe below the eye. These birds stalk their prey or stand still at the water's edge and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night. They mainly eat crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, aquatic insects and small fish. They often nest in colonies, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs.


blue-grey tanager - [Thraupis episcopus]. Its head and body are a pale blue gray becoming brighter blue on the wings and tail. It prefers open humid areas and is seen up to 2.3000 m. Measures 18 cm in length. It eats mainly soft fruit, like ripe mango or papaya. But they eat insects too.


(flying bananas, pepper-eaters). There are six toucan species in Costa Rica. Due to the toucan-shaped watermark, the 5.000 colones Costa Rican bill is called "the Toucan".

keel-billed toucan - [Ramphastos sulfuratus]. It is a large (about 52 cm long) colorful bird, and has a bill that can grow to be up to one third the size of its body. The large banana-shaped bill is the most distinguishing feature. The light weight of the keratin-composed bill is due to its hollow, bone-reinforced construction . The bill is edged with tooth-like ridges. Housed within the bill is a long, narrow, feather-like tongue. The body is black, and it has a bright yellow bib and cheeks. Its rump is white, and the undertail coverts are a brilliant red. The area directly around the eyes is bare, showing the pale blue skin underneath. Its bill, which takes up the entire front of its head, is green, with a bright orange blaze on the side, red on the tip of the upper mandible, and blue on the tip of the lower mandible. Males and females share the same coloration and large bill, the only difference being that the male is slightly larger than the female. It nests in natural or wood-pecker made tree cavities and lays clutches of 2 to 4 white glossy eggs. They can have up to 2 or 3 broods in a year. Both parents share the responsibility of incubating the eggs In Costa Rica they abound especially on the montane forests on the caribbean slopes.

fiery-billed aracari - [Pteroglossus frantzii]. It measures 43 cm in length. Resident of south pacific slopes as well as hills above Atenas. It boasts olive-black body, face and chest with a dark band across their rust-yellow underbellies. It has yellow-and-black beak. They live in forest and plantations up to 1.300 m.a.s.l.

collared aracari - [Pteroglossus torquatus]. They weigh approximately 175 grams and are twelve inches in length. It has dark-olive back, wings and tail, black head and chest and a bright yellow belly with a red-and-black band. It is pale yellowish above and black below.

chestnut-mandibled toucan - [Ramphastos swainsonii]. - It is distrubuted among humid and wet forest and forest boundaries. It tends to occupy the canopies of the tropical forests and is also known to fly among the clearings or semi-open areas among the trees. The male grows to be as large as 55-60 cm and the female reaches 50-53 cm. The beak alone can reach up to 15-20 cm depending on sex and age. Like many toucans this bird is brightly colored. The main color is black with patches of different hues on the body. The hindneck and upper back are a shade of maroon. It has a yellow "bib" on the throat and chest area which is bordered on the bottom by a narrow white line, followed by a red band. The rump of the bird is white with a red crissum--the feathers or area surrounding a bird's cloacal opening. The area around the eye is a yellowish-green and the iris is olive. The bill is also colorful. The base of the bill is dark red becoming blackish toward the tip on the lower mandible, on the maxilla, it is sulfur-yellow. The legs are bright blue. It is spot in Cahuita National Park.


turkey vulture - [Cathartes aura]. The head is perhaps the most unique characteristic, being very small in size when compared to the large body. The head and neck are red in color and lack feathers, with the exception of a thin layer of down. At an adult size, the wings cover a distance (when extended) of around 1,8 meter and form a shallow "V" shape when in flight. The feathers are nearly black, but the lower half of the wings on their ventral surface is silvery white. The feet are rather weak, they are used for walking rather than grasping prey. The beak is small and light in color. They are scavengers, eating exclusively carrion. Most of their time is spent soaring gracefully over the land in search of the animal carcasses on which it feeds. Their keen senses of both smell (unusual among birds) and sight aid in the location of rotting meat. They mainly inhabit areas of deciduous forest and adjacent farmland or other open areas. They are rarely found in humid tropical areas.

king vulture - [Sarcoramphus papa]. It is essentially a white bird with black flight feathers. It has a grey collar and a red, orange and purple head. It measures 32 inches with a wingspan of 2 meter. While the King Vulture has very keen eye-sight it has a poor sense of smell. The King vulture spends hours in flight, soaring without flapping it wings for long periods of times. It searches for carcasses while riding thermals. They nest on the ground, in treestumps, in hollow logs or other natural cavities. Their nest consists of very little material; usually it is just scratched out of the existing substrate. Males and females appear identical in coloration and size. It usually lays a solitary egg and both parents share the responsibilities of incubation.

Roseate spoonbill

[Ajaja ajaja]. A wading bird. It is 80cm tall, with a 120cm wingspan. It is long-legged, long-necked and has a long spatulate bill. Adults have a bare greenish head, white neck, breast and back, and are otherwise a deep pink. The bill is grey. It nests in mangrove trees, laying 2-5 eggs. feeds in shallow fresh or coastal waters on fish, frogs and other water creatures, swinging its bill from side to side as it steadily walks through the water, often in groups. They are spot in flock on Playa Flamingo and on the northern side of Puntarenas town.


[Anhinga anhinga]. It prefers freshwater and coastal aquatic habitats that include shrub or tree-covered islands or shores. has an average body length of 85 cm, weight of 1350 g, wingspan of 117 cm, and bill length of 81 mm. The head is small and appears to be merely an extension of its long snake-like neck. In this neck, the 8th and 9th cervical vertebrae create a hinge-like apparatus that allows the quick catching of prey. The long, sharp, serrated bill also aids it in hunting. The wings are broad, allowing it to soar, and the feet are webbed to facilitate swimming. They are spot in Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.


[Turdus grayi], (Clay-colored robin). The national bird of Costa Rica. It`s brown-and-buff bird with red eyes. During the breeding season they stand out with beautifull singing. According to locals, this way birds are calling for the rain. Both parents hatch out the eggs and both take care for nestlings. They are spot in Poas Volcano National Park.

Jabiru stork

[Jabiru mycteria]. This is a very large stork with a large, black and slightly upturned bill. The largest (it can grow to one meter tall) bird on the western hemisphere. It wears snow-white plumage with a charcoal head and a red scarf around its neck. It inhabits freshwater marshes and open country where there are ponds and lakes. It feeds off fish, frogs, snakes, young caiman, etc., and can be quite energetic in pursuit of its prey jumping up and down in the water.

© 2004; SLUPSK; Rafal Cezary Piechocinski