A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Costa Rica: Birding the Edges Part II, the Far North 2023

January 29-February 7, 2023 with Tom Johnson & Vernon Campos guiding

This tour picked up where Part I (The Deep South) left off, and we continued on a diverse loop between the volcanic highlands, Caribbean lowlands, and middle elevation forest of northern Costa Rica.

Kicking things off, we departed Hotel Bougainvillea in the Central Valley and made our way to the Poás Volcano in pursuit of highland species. This and the mid-elevation La Paz Waterfall Gardens got our trip off to a strong start with species like Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Coppery-headed Emerald, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Flame-throated Warbler, Sooty Thrush, and Sooty-faced Finch. The remarkable feeders at Cinchona gave us some close views and photo ops at Crimson-collared Tanager, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, Northern Emerald-Toucanet, and more. In the afternoon, we continued around the volcano to our cloud forest home at Bosque de Paz.

The beautiful forests around Bosque de Paz treated us well, and we found Resplendent Quetzal here in addition to some amazing flocking species like Azure-hooded Jay, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Spotted Barbtail, Streak-breasted Treehunter, and Lineated Foliage-Gleaner. Black Guans and the unusual Paca visited the lodge's feeders, too.

A major highlight of this tour was the visit to Caño Negro for exciting boat trips on the Rio Frio and Medio Queso Marsh. For a taste of the birding here, check out the video above from our "OutBirding with Field Guides" online video series. Among a huge diversity of species, we noted Sungrebe, Yellow-breasted Crake, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Jabiru, Pinnated Bittern, Bare-crowned Antbird, and Yellow-tailed Oriole. Night adventures produced excellent sightings of Great Potoo, Striped Owl, and Pacific Screech-Owl.

Our final lodge stay was the very comfortable and scenic Arenal Observatory Lodge, adjacent to the Arenal Volcano. A very close, perched Ornate Hawk-Eagle welcomed us to the lodge's deck when we pulled in - wow! Well-planted gardens and forest trails around Arenal boosted tour diversity with such excellent birds as Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Keel-billed Motmot, Black-crested Coquette, Spotted Antbird, White-throated Spadebill, White-throated Shrike-Tanager, and Black-thighed Grosbeak. We bumped into a few pairs of Scarlet Macaws and Great Green Macaws that flew into roadside trees near La Fortuna and offered a crazy show. Night birding was fun here, too, with spectacular sightings of Black-and-white Owl, Spectacled Owl, and a roving Kinkajou.

From Arenal, we returned to the Hotel Bougainvillea to rest before our flights home. I'd like to thank driver Johnny Happer and local guide Vernon Campos for their companionship and leadership along the way, and to everyone in the group for making this such a fun spin around northern Costa Rica.

Good birding,


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata)

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

GRAY-HEADED CHACHALACA (Ortalis cinereiceps)

CRESTED GUAN (Penelope purpurascens)

BLACK GUAN (Chamaepetes unicolor)

These shy forest dwellers are actually bold and easy to observe at the corn feeders at Bosque de Paz.


Arenal is a super spot to see these massive birds walking the gardens and climbing all over the feeders.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

BLACK-BREASTED WOOD-QUAIL (Odontophorus leucolaemus)

We were very fortunate to hear a few loud choruses of these skulky quail from the forest at Bosque de Paz. Some folks were even lucky to see them dash across the trail ahead of us - wow!

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

PALE-VENTED PIGEON (Patagioenas cayennensis)

RED-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas flavirostris)

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

SHORT-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas nigrirostris)

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

BLUE GROUND DOVE (Claravis pretiosa)

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

GRAY-CHESTED DOVE (Leptotila cassinii)

Walking under the feeders at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

GRAY-HEADED DOVE (Leptotila plumbeiceps)

With some patience, we were able to separate these doves from White-tipped Dove along the Rio Frio at Caño Negro.

BUFF-FRONTED QUAIL-DOVE (Zentrygon costaricensis)

It's always exciting to see a quail-dove, especially a beautiful one like Buff-fronted. This chunky dove trundled around below our feet at the Cinchona feeders, seemingly oblivious to the crowd of admirers above.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

At least nine bounded overhead during the end of our evening boat trip at Caño Negro.

COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis)

Nyctibiidae (Potoos)

GREAT POTOO (Nyctibius grandis)

Daytime views of a nesting bird plus a few hunting at night, too!

COMMON POTOO (Nyctibius griseus)

Seen in the spotlight during our night drive.

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris)

VAUX'S SWIFT (Chaetura vauxi)

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN (Florisuga mellivora)

GREEN HERMIT (Phaethornis guy)

STRIPE-THROATED HERMIT (Phaethornis striigularis)

The lek of displaying males along the trail at Arenal Sky Adventures made for an interesting experience.

LESSER VIOLETEAR (Colibri cyanotus)

PURPLE-CROWNED FAIRY (Heliothryx barroti)

GREEN-BREASTED MANGO (Anthracothorax prevostii)

Seen during one of the boat trips at Caño Negro.

GREEN THORNTAIL (Discosura conversii)

We enjoyed these small, coquette-like hummingbirds at La Paz Waterfall Gardens and at Arenal.

BLACK-CRESTED COQUETTE (Lophornis helenae)

These tiny, bee-like hummingbirds fed in the purple porterweed planted outside some of the rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge.


TALAMANCA HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes spectabilis)


WHITE-BELLIED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis hemileucus)

One came in to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens feeders a few times.



Super views of these exquisite hummers at the feeders at Freddo Fresas and Bosque de Paz.

VOLCANO HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus flammula)

CANIVET'S EMERALD (Cynanthus canivetii)

A surprise - this small emerald hummingbird was staking out a scrubby field edge near the Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning together.


VIOLET SABREWING (Campylopterus hemileucurus)

BRONZE-TAILED PLUMELETEER (Chalybura urochrysia)

This forest hummer showed off its odd red feet on a few occasions near the start of the trail at Arenal Sky Adventures.

CROWNED WOODNYMPH (Thalurania colombica)

COPPERY-HEADED EMERALD (Microchera cupreiceps) [E]

We saw several of this Costa Rican endemic hummingbird at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens feeders.

BLACK-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Eupherusa nigriventris)




We enjoyed close views of a bird singing its endless, squeaky song in the mid-story at Sendero Bogarín.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

UNIFORM CRAKE (Amaurolimnas concolor)

These phantoms were walking through the wet understory of the open forest at Sendero Bogarín. Though they gave us a few opportunities to see them, they were still very tough to spot!

RUSSET-NAPED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides albiventris)

Formerly called Gray-necked Wood-Rail.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

YELLOW-BREASTED CRAKE (Hapalocrex flaviventer)

Simply extraordinary. Our boatman Chambita really has this species dialed in at Caño Negro and Medio Queso, and we were able to see multiple individuals. This tiny rail is usually invisible to human eyes, so we were very excited to have such a great experience.

WHITE-THROATED CRAKE (Laterallus albigularis)

In the wet spot at Bogarín, we enjoyed great, open views of a member of the Caribbean slope "Gray-faced" subspecies group.

Heliornithidae (Finfoots)

SUNGREBE (Heliornis fulica)

After holding our collective breath, we finally found two of these odd waterbirds swimming along the bank of the Rio Frio during a boat trip.

Burhinidae (Thick-knees)

DOUBLE-STRIPED THICK-KNEE (Burhinus bistriatus)

A few of these tall, nocturnal shorebirds stood sentinel in agricultural fields between Los Chiles and Caño Negro.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis)

Jacanidae (Jacanas)

NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa)

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

Ciconiidae (Storks)

JABIRU (Jabiru mycteria)

Three of these massive storks soared overhead after we had disembarked the boat at Medio Queso Marsh.

WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

PINNATED BITTERN (Botaurus pinnatus)

During our boat trip at Medio Queso, we spotted four of these big, stripe-y herons hiding in the marsh grasses.

FASCIATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma fasciatum)

One fished in the rapids of a stream flowing along a busy road near La Fortuna.

BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma mexicanum)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

One was roosting in a small pond in La Fortuna.

BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius)

Roosting birds seemed quite common this year along the forested riverbanks at Caño Negro.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)

GREEN IBIS (Mesembrinibis cayennensis)

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

LESSER YELLOW-HEADED VULTURE (Cathartes burrovianus)

These low-flying vultures coursed over the marshes at Caño Negro and Medio Queso. We practiced separating them from Turkey Vulture by behavior, wing pattern, and head colors.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus)

ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE (Spizaetus ornatus)

Though we had some starter views in flight at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, nothing could prepare us for the subadult bird perched next to the feeders and the rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge when we checked in.

BLACK-COLLARED HAWK (Busarellus nigricollis)

Two widely spaced individuals were along the Rio Frio during our boat trips. These big, stout hawks hunt fish and other aquatic creatures here.

SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis)

Just one at Medio Queso.

ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)

HARRIS'S HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus)

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

One soared over the road low at Muelle.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)

BARN OWL (Tyto alba)

We spotlighted one atop a dead palm snag during our night drive at Caño Negro.

Strigidae (Owls)

PACIFIC SCREECH-OWL (Megascops cooperi)

One showed very nicely during our night drive out of Caño Negro.

SPECTACLED OWL (Pulsatrix perspicillata)

We lined up on a calling bird in the canopy at Arenal during a night walk.

MOTTLED OWL (Strix virgata)

Seen on a day roost near our hotel at the beginning of the tour.

BLACK-AND-WHITE OWL (Strix nigrolineata)

We enjoyed the stakeout bird that hunted the lights at Arenal Observatory Lodge each night.

STRIPED OWL (Asio clamator)

The undisputed highlight of our night drive out of Caño Negro. One bird sat on a fencepost along the road and didn't budge when we got out to ogle it. A beautiful, calm presence.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

RESPLENDENT QUETZAL (Pharomachrus mocinno)

A pair fed high in the canopy of a fruiting tree at Bosque de Paz.

SLATY-TAILED TROGON (Trogon massena)

BLACK-HEADED TROGON (Trogon melanocephalus)

GARTERED TROGON (Trogon caligatus)


COLLARED TROGON (Trogon collaris)

We saw mostly red-bellied birds, but did spot one orange-bellied individual on the waterfall trail at Arenal. This used to be split as a separate species but is now lumped in with Collared Trogon; orange-bellied birds are frequent in some middle elevation areas in Costa Rica and Panama.

Momotidae (Motmots)

LESSON'S MOTMOT (Momotus lessonii lessonii)

Seen at Hotel Bougainvillea by some at the end of the tour.

RUFOUS MOTMOT (Baryphthengus martii)

One popped up in a forest gap at Arenal Sky Adventures.

KEEL-BILLED MOTMOT (Electron carinatum)

This compact motmot was at an ant swarm with two Broad-billed Motmots. These two species often occur side-by-side around this part of Costa Rica.

BROAD-BILLED MOTMOT (Electron platyrhynchum)

Much more common than Keel-billed at Arenal. They were quite fond of sitting on the utility wires along the driveway to the lodge.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)

AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona)

Very common on the boat trips at Caño Negro.


These tiny kingfishers were at Caño Negro and Medio Queso Marsh.

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)


The rarest of the American kingfishers here; we were fortunate to squeak out a couple of nice views of this secretive bird during our Caño Negro boat trips.

Bucconidae (Puffbirds)

WHITE-NECKED PUFFBIRD (Notharchus hyperrhynchus)

PIED PUFFBIRD (Notharchus tectus)

Galbulidae (Jacamars)

RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR (Galbula ruficauda)

Capitonidae (New World Barbets)

RED-HEADED BARBET (Eubucco bourcierii)

A male was by himself along the trail at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Semnornithidae (Toucan-Barbets)

PRONG-BILLED BARBET (Semnornis frantzii)

These bizarre, chunky birds were seen best at the feeders at Cinchona. We were close enough to readily appreciate the prongs on their bills!

Ramphastidae (Toucans)

NORTHERN EMERALD-TOUCANET (BLUE-THROATED) (Aulacorhynchus prasinus caeruleogularis)

One made repeat visits to the feeders at Cinchona.

COLLARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus torquatus)

These were the small, handsome toucans that we saw at Caño Negro and then repeatedly at the feeders at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

YELLOW-EARED TOUCANET (Selenidera spectabilis)

This scarce and inconspicuous toucan showed in the canopy of the forest at Arenal Sky Adventures. A great spot by Vernon!

YELLOW-THROATED TOUCAN (CHESTNUT-MANDIBLED) (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii)

KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pucherani)

HOFFMANN'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes hoffmannii)

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

SMOKY-BROWN WOODPECKER (Dryobates fumigatus)

PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER (Campephilus guatemalensis)

LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus)

CINNAMON WOODPECKER (Celeus loricatus)

This handsome woodpecker was near the river during our rainy outing at Caño Negro.


We found a responsive bird not too far from the Cinnamon Woodpecker at Caño Negro. Amazing to see two Celeus woodpeckers so close together here.


Heard at Caño Negro.

GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus)

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

LAUGHING FALCON (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

BARRED FOREST-FALCON (Micrastur ruficollis)

Heard calling at Bosque de Paz.

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA (Daptrius chimachima)

BAT FALCON (Falco rufigularis)

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEET (Brotogeris jugularis)


RED-LORED PARROT (Amazona autumnalis)

WHITE-FRONTED PARROT (Amazona albifrons)

It was interesting to see these small Amazons at Arenal on at least two occasions.


In Costa Rica, this parakeet is restricted to the lowlands in the far north; we found them repeatedly around Caño Negro.

GREAT GREEN MACAW (Ara ambiguus)

Incredible! As we were driving near La Fortuna, a pair of Great Green and a pair of Scarlet macaws flew across the road in front of us and landed in a beach almond tree. We got out and spent a while marveling at these massive, beautiful parrots as they snacked on beach almonds. Not an expected sighting here!


Feeding with the aforementioned Great Greens. Unforgettable!


Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)

FASCIATED ANTSHRIKE (Cymbilaimus lineatus)

Two of these big antshrikes climbed into view at Sendero Bogarín.

GREAT ANTSHRIKE (Taraba major)

BARRED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus doliatus)

BLACK-CROWNED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus atrinucha)

Heard singing along the Rio Frio during one of our Caño Negro boat trips.

RUSSET ANTSHRIKE (Thamnistes anabatinus)

A few were inspecting dead leaves and moving with mixed species flocks at Arenal.

DUSKY ANTBIRD (Cercomacroides tyrannina)


BARE-CROWNED ANTBIRD (Gymnocichla nudiceps)

We managed to squeak out some views of this handsome black, white, and blue antbird along the riverbank at Caño Negro, though it took some patience!



DULL-MANTLED ANTBIRD (Sipia laemosticta)

Two showed nicely at the Rio Cataratas.

ZELEDON'S ANTBIRD (Hafferia zeledoni)

One was moving around in a very dark area of the forest at Bosque de Paz.

BICOLORED ANTBIRD (Gymnopithys bicolor bicolor)

These were in a noisy mob along the driveway at Arenal.

SPOTTED ANTBIRD (Hylophylax naevioides)

After just hearing them for a while, we finally got some nice looks at this small antbird at Arenal.

OCELLATED ANTBIRD (Phaenostictus mcleannani)

Heard at Arenal.

Grallariidae (Antpittas)

THICKET ANTPITTA (Myrmothera dives)

Heard on multiple occasions at Arenal; though it was fairly close, we just couldn't see it through the thick vegetation.

Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Glyphorynchus spirurus)

BLACK-BANDED WOODCREEPER (Dendrocolaptes picumnus)

This rarity showed up above an army ant swarm at Bosque de Paz and stuck around for great scope views. Though it has a large range that extends through a large chunk of South America, the species occurs at very low density in Central America.

COCOA WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus susurrans)

SPOTTED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus erythropygius)

One at the Rio Cataratas.

STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii)

SPOT-CROWNED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes affinis)

PLAIN XENOPS (Xenops minutus)


LINEATED FOLIAGE-GLEANER (Syndactyla subalaris)

This Furnariid was creeping around bromeliads and the trunks of small trees with a mixed flock above Bosque de Paz.

STREAK-BREASTED TREEHUNTER (Thripadectes rufobrunneus)

One vocalized and then appeared at the periphery of a mixed species ant-following flock at Bosque de Paz.

BUFF-THROATED FOLIAGE-GLEANER (HYPOPHAEUS) (Automolus ochrolaemus hypophaeus)

SPOTTED BARBTAIL (Premnoplex brunnescens)

Two of these beautiful little ovenbirds were hunting around the army ant swarm at Bosque de Paz.

RED-FACED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca erythrops)

Pipridae (Manakins)


RED-CAPPED MANAKIN (Ceratopipra mentalis)

Near the White-collared Manakins along the Rio Frio at Caño Negro.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA (Tityra inquisitor)

We saw these high-contrast tityras from the afternoon boat trip at Caño Negro.

MASKED TITYRA (Tityra semifasciata)

A pair put on quite a performance over the road at our impromptu Bat Falcon stop on the way from Los Chiles to Caño Negro.

CINNAMON BECARD (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus)

Most memorable were the birds hanging out above the army ants at the Keel-billed Motmot spot.

WHITE-WINGED BECARD (Pachyramphus polychopterus)

Heard at Caño Negro.

Oxyruncidae (Sharpbill, Royal Flycatcher, and Allies)

ROYAL FLYCATCHER (Onychorhynchus coronatus)

Heard along the river at Caño Negro.

SULPHUR-RUMPED FLYCATCHER (Myiobius sulphureipygius aureatus)

One made a few brief appearances along the trail at Arenal Sky Adventures.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

WHITE-THROATED SPADEBILL (Platyrinchus mystaceus)

This tiny flycatcher was along the waterfall trail at Arenal.


The best views were at San Luis Canopy, but we also saw this small flycatcher at La Paz Waterfall Gardens along the river.

SLATY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Leptopogon superciliaris)

Close views of two birds wearing their "gray helmets" while we were searching for the Ocellated Antbird.

SCALE-CRESTED PYGMY-TYRANT (Lophotriccus pileatus)

NORTHERN BENTBILL (Oncostoma cinereigulare)

Heard at Caño Negro.

COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum)


YELLOW TYRANNULET (Capsiempis flaveola)

GREENISH ELAENIA (Myiopagis viridicata)

One showed up during our stop at the big ceiba that held the empty Jabiru nest.

YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)

MOUNTAIN ELAENIA (Elaenia frantzii)

Numerous brief sightings in the canopy around the Poás Volcano, including at Bosque de Paz.

TORRENT TYRANNULET (Serpophaga cinerea)

A pair was in the Rio Cataratas as we viewed from the busy bridge.

TUFTED FLYCATCHER (Mitrephanes phaeocercus)

DARK PEWEE (Contopus lugubris)

One posed for us near the entrance gate at Bosque de Paz.

NORTHERN TROPICAL PEWEE (Contopus bogotensis)

YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris)

YELLOWISH FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flavescens)

BLACK-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax atriceps)

The tiny, well-dressed Empid along the road at Poás Volcano.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA (Attila spadiceus)

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua)

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis)

GRAY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes granadensis)

GOLDEN-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes hemichrysus)

Superb views of a pair hunting the forest at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)


One was hawking insects in a large field between Los Chiles and Caño Negro (same fenceline as the Yellow-rumped Warblers).

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

LESSER GREENLET (Pachysylvia decurtata)

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

One was at Bosque de Paz with the Blue-headed Vireo.

YELLOW-WINGED VIREO (Vireo carmioli)

These highland vireos were on the Poás Volcano and at Bosque de Paz.

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

This species is rare as far south as Costa Rica, and we were pleased to find it with a mixed flock along the river at Bosque de Paz.

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)

Two at Caño Negro.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

AZURE-HOODED JAY (Cyanolyca cucullata)

This secretive jay was dialed in on the army ant swarm along the road above Bosque de Paz. It was difficult to locate but we eventually found a good window to look in and see the jay staring down at the forest floor—presumably looking for the raiding ants to flush its next meal.


Though it was raining pretty hard, it was neat to find these big, long-tailed jays in that savanna habitat near the Arenal Volcano.

BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio)

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Outnumbered by Southerns, but we did see these brown-rumped birds a few times near Arenal.

SOUTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis)

GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea)

MANGROVE SWALLOW (Tachycineta albilinea)

Common at Caño Negro.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

TAWNY-FACED GNATWREN (Microbates cinereiventris)

Our only sighting was at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

LONG-BILLED GNATWREN (Ramphocaenus melanurus)

WHITE-BROWED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila bilineata)

Formerly called "Tropical Gnatcatcher."

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

NIGHTINGALE WREN (Microcerculus philomela)

Heard at Arenal.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

OCHRACEOUS WREN (Troglodytes ochraceus)

A few good sightings of this little butterscotch wren climbing around the vines and trunks of Bosque de Paz.

RUFOUS-NAPED WREN (Campylorhynchus rufinucha)

Two were at Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning out.

SPOT-BREASTED WREN (Pheugopedius maculipectus)

The top sighting was in an overgrown orchard along the banks of the Rio Frio at Caño Negro, though we heard them regularly along the river, too.

BLACK-THROATED WREN (Pheugopedius atrogularis)

Two sang and even showed themselves along the Rio Frio during our afternoon boat trip.

STRIPE-BREASTED WREN (Cantorchilus thoracicus)

Common skulkers in the forest at Arenal.

CABANIS'S WREN (Cantorchilus modestus)

We heard two pairs singing at Hotel Bougainvillea.

CANEBRAKE WREN (Cantorchilus zeledoni)

Good views in the same spot as the Black-throated Wren at Caño Negro.

BAY WREN (Cantorchilus nigricapillus)

Common, especially by voice, at Caño Negro.

WHITE-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucosticta)

The common wood-wren around Arenal.

GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucophrys)

This was the wood-wren we heard and saw along the trails at Bosque de Paz.

SONG WREN (Cyphorhinus phaeocephalus)

Heard at Arenal.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)


One brief flyby near San Ramon.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

BLACK-FACED SOLITAIRE (Myadestes melanops)


Good looks near the river crossing at Bosque de Paz.


One played cat-and-mouse with us along the trails at Arenal Sky Adventures.

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)

MOUNTAIN THRUSH (Turdus plebejus)

WHITE-THROATED THRUSH (Turdus assimilis)


SOOTY THRUSH (Turdus nigrescens)

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)


Fairly common around Bosque de Paz, but never taken for granted.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

GOLDEN-BROWED CHLOROPHONIA (Chlorophonia callophrys)

Heard at Bosque de Paz.

YELLOW-CROWNED EUPHONIA (Euphonia luteicapilla)

YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia hirundinacea)



These handsome euphonias were seen a couple times in fruiting trees at Arenal.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

One on our final day on the return to the Central Valley.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

SOOTY-CAPPED CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus pileatus)

COMMON CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus flavopectus)

BLACK-STRIPED SPARROW (Arremonops conirostris)

ORANGE-BILLED SPARROW (Arremon aurantiirostris)


SOOTY-FACED FINCH (Arremon crassirostris)

This montane, chunky songbird sat still for us to enjoy along the trails at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis)

CABANIS'S GROUND-SPARROW (Melozone cabanisi)

A pair showed briefly in the coffee plantations at Hotel Bougainvillea.


Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)


YELLOW-BILLED CACIQUE (Amblycercus holosericeus)

This shy cacique made two appearances for us—at the feeders at Cinchona and Bogarín. We usually don't catch up to this species on this route, so it was a nice surprise.


On our final morning at Arenal Observatory Lodge, this small oropendola joined the hulking Montezumas near the feeder station.

MONTEZUMA OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius montezuma)

As always, a real spectacle at the Arenal Observatory Lodge feeder station.

BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE (Icterus prosthemelas)

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

YELLOW-TAILED ORIOLE (Icterus mesomelas)

This one was a rarity that we spotted perched up high over the river at Caño Negro. It stayed put for a few minutes but never really offered us a great look.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

Two on our afternoon boat trip at Caño Negro.


An increasingly common sound across Costa Rica; also seen nicely at Arenal.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

NICARAGUAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus nicaraguensis)

We had two good experiences with these slim, rare grackles. First, a group perched up on the riverbank in the late afternoon at Caño Negro; later, we saw over a dozen feeding with cattle in the marshes of Medio Queso.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

These tail-bobbers frequented the fast-moving streams at Bosque de Paz and Arenal. Our best sighting came at the entrance driveway bridge at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)

Singles seen in mixed flocks on three occasions, most memorably from the boat at Caño Negro.


PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

Quite common in dense vegetation along the Rio Frio during our boat trips.

FLAME-THROATED WARBLER (Oreothlypis gutturalis)

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

GRAY-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis poliocephala)

Two of these stout-billed yellowthroats perched up and gave their wheezing calls along the canal at Medio Queso.


AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

TROPICAL PARULA (Setophaga pitiayumi)


Two of these montane-wintering warblers were in mixed flocks along the trails at Bosque de Paz.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)

It was a bit odd to find these familiar wood-warblers flycatching from a pasture fence near Caño Negro. When we do encounter this species on the tour, it's typically in the far north.


BLACK-CHEEKED WARBLER (Basileuterus melanogenys)

Two stayed down low at Bosque de Paz.

GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER (Basileuterus culicivorus)

COSTA RICAN WARBLER (Basileuterus melanotis)

It took some concentration but we managed to track down these "three-striped" warblers on the trails at Bosque de Paz.

BUFF-RUMPED WARBLER (Myiothlypis fulvicauda)

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus)

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

FLAME-COLORED TANAGER (Piranga bidentata)

A handsome pair routinely visited the feeders at Bosque de Paz.


It was most unusual to see a female hopping around on the ground in the open at the side of the road near Arenal. Of course, she was attracted to the swarm of army ants that stirred up insects for her to snack on!

CARMIOL'S TANAGER (Chlorothraupis carmioli)

These "Olive Tanagers" were fairly easy to see in small, noisy flocks in the forest at Arenal.

BLACK-FACED GROSBEAK (Caryothraustes poliogaster)

During a land-based outing around Caño Negro, these well-appointed songbirds were chowing down in a fruiting tree.

BLACK-THIGHED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus tibialis)

One perched up high one morning at the casonas at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

BLUE-BLACK GROSBEAK (Cyanoloxia cyanoides)

The one that accompanied a mixed flock of Carmiol's Tanagers and other songbirds at Arenal did us a favor by perching out in the open (usually against the rules for this retiring species).

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

GRAY-HEADED TANAGER (Eucometis penicillata)

One was heard at Caño Negro during a boat trip.


This striking "flock leader" gave us several looks with the roving mixed flock in the forest along the waterfall trail at Arenal.

CRIMSON-COLLARED TANAGER (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus)

Fabulous - one of the stars of the show at the Cinchona feeder station.

SCARLET-RUMPED TANAGER (PASSERINI'S) (Ramphocelus passerinii passerinii)

BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus)

PALM TANAGER (Thraupis palmarum)

SPECKLED TANAGER (Ixothraupis guttata)

GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER (Stilpnia larvata)


On our first morning, we tracked down this amazing tanager near the feeders at Freddo Fresas (on the Poás Volcano).

BAY-HEADED TANAGER (Tangara gyrola)

One of the most common frugivores in the fruiting trees around the gardens at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

EMERALD TANAGER (Tangara florida)

Regular sightings of these exquisite tanagers at Arenal, but the feeder sightings at San Luis Canopy were impossible to beat.

SILVER-THROATED TANAGER (Tangara icterocephala)


GREEN HONEYCREEPER (Chlorophanes spiza)

SLATY FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa plumbea)

BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT (Volatinia jacarina)


Seen by some with the big flock of Morelet's Seedeaters at Medio Queso.

THICK-BILLED SEED-FINCH (Sporophila funerea)

NICARAGUAN SEED-FINCH (Sporophila nuttingi)

These massive-billed finches were concentrating on clusters of that tall grass with the spikey seeds along the road between Los Chiles and Caño Negro. Quite an impressive songbird to see up close.

VARIABLE SEEDEATER (Sporophila corvina)

MORELET'S SEEDEATER (Sporophila morelleti)

An impressive flock of about 25 birds were along the entrance road at Medio Queso Marsh.

BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola)


BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR (Saltator atriceps)

These big, sometimes-shy saltators were in a small flock along the edge of Lake Arenal.



MANTLED HOWLER MONKEY (Alouatta palliata)

Seen and heard regularly around Caño Negro.


A few watched us nervously along the river edges at Caño Negro.


Some were mixed in with howlers above the Rio Frio.

HOFFMANN'S TWO-TOED SLOTH (Choloepus hoffmanni)

One of these shaggy beasts was staked out in the canopy near La Fortuna.


The most memorable sighting was the one hanging out above our rooms at the Caño Negro Natural Lodge.

NINE-BANDED ARMADILLO (Dasypus novemcinctus)

One was digging feverishly along the trails at Bogarín, totally oblivious to us.

VARIEGATED SQUIRREL (Sciurus variegatoides)

The large squirrel here.

RED-TAILED SQUIRREL (Sciurus granatensis)

These smaller squirrels were common feeder visitors at Bosque de Paz.

SUMICHRAST'S VESPER RAT (Nyctomys sumichrasti)

These golden-backed, arboreal rats were quite active at night at Bosque de Paz and Arenal. The thermal scope helped us get some nice looks.

CENTRAL AMERICAN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta punctata)

At the Bosque de Paz feeders.

PACA (Cuniculus paca)

These large, stout, well-spotted rodents came in each night around dinnertime at Bosque de Paz.

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

Spotlighted during our night drive at Caño Negro.

WHITE-NOSED COATI (Nasua narica)

Common around the feeders at Bosque de Paz and Arenal.

KINKAJOU (Potos flavus)

A rustling noise from the canopy at Arenal Observatory Lodge revealed itself to be from a Kinkajou feeding in a cecropia tree.

Totals for the tour: 349 bird taxa and 14 mammal taxa