A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Holiday Costa Rica: Rancho Naturalista II 2021

December 28, 2021-January 5, 2022 with Megan Edwards Crewe & Vernon Campos guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Snowcap is at the top of many a wish list for this tour -- and it's easy to see why! Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

There's nothing like a trip to the tropics (particularly after several years of being cooped up with little or no roaming possible AT ALL) to make one appreciate the ability to change locations periodically. Our intrepid band braved travel in the time of pandemic -- and holiday travel at that -- to venture from the frozen north to a land of warmth and sunshine and lots and lots of birds. And wasn't a journey to Costa Rica a great way to welcome in a new year!

Our trip started with a bang the first morning, with our first Costa Rican endemic (the newly-split Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow) cavorting around us in a San Jose coffee grove before we'd even had breakfast. For good measure, we added a close encounter with a pair of Cabanis's Wrens and the tour's only Mourning Warbler as well. Then, after breakfast, we were off to Volcan Irazu for a visit to the highlands -- and what a gorgeous day we had for it! With nary a cloud in sight, we bowled up to a roadside avocado tree and were soon treated to the spectacle of a male Resplendent Quetzal flying in with his long tail streamers undulating out behind him. For the next hour, we enjoyed up to three of these beautiful birds, with Flame-throated Warblers, Talamanca Hummingbirds, Spot-crowned Woodcreepers, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Black-capped Flycatchers, and more entertaining us whenever the quetzals moved out of view. With our quest for the "big green ones" completed, we moved to the volcano's summit, where a host of high altitude species awaited. In the short, dense vegetation around the barren crater, we patiently tracked down a pair of furtive Timberline Wrens, while a Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush fluted from nearby branches. A Volcano Junco flaunted itself on a picnic table and a pair of Black-cheeked Warblers flicked through a bush behind it. An unexpected Peg-billed Finch masqueraded briefly as one of the ubiquitous Slaty Flowerpiercers, while a Short-tailed Hawk soared over sentinel Sooty Thrushes. And everywhere, there were hummingbirds: tiny Volcano Hummingbirds doing power-diving display flights, Lesser Violetears jousting over flowering shrubs and a Fiery-throated Hummingbird that FINALLY turned our way and flashed its fabulous gorget. A Barn Owl snoozing on church rafters (trying hard to ignore the incredibly loud band playing nearby) in a town we passed between the mountain and the lodge provided a nice finish to the day.

Our home for the week was the comfortable Rancho Naturalista, located in a remnant patch of forest in the Caribbean foothills. There, we spent hours on the balcony of the main building with coffee mugs in hand, watching the ever-changing cast of characters at the hummingbird and banana feeders and the omnipresent piles of rice. An army of Gray-headed Chachalacas and Montezuma Oropendolas swarmed over the bananas each morning, while six species of tanager -- including eye candy like Crimson-collared and Scarlet-rumped -- jostled together on feeder trays, and Orange-billed and Black-striped sparrows hopped around under the hedges. A plummeting Bicolored Hawk scattered pigeons in all directions during breakfast one morning, then pulled up to perch, fierce-eyed, in a nearby tree. A squabbling gang of Collared Aracaris visited on several occasions, while a daily Lesson's Motmot sat quietly alone, waiting for other birds to clear off. Mixed flocks of tanagers, warblers, euphonias and vireos pinwheeled through trees right off the porch and 7 species of hummingbird jousted and fed at feeders within arm's reach. Rambles along the reserve's trails, the entrance drive and into neighboring gardens brought us close looks at White-collared and White-ruffed manakins, a flashy Lineated Woodpecker, shortly followed by an even closer Golden-olive Woodpecker, a fruiting fig tree full of Keel-billed Toucans, a point-blank perched Crested Guan, a noisy group of Slaty Antwrens, and more mixed flocks to comb through. Buff-throated Foliage-gleaners, Red-throated Ant-Tanagers and a singing pair of Golden-crowned Warblers strutted their stuff around the moth sheet one morning, while a furtive pair of Chestnut-headed Brush-Finches were somewhat more circumspect. An after-dinner try for Mottled Owl one evening was rewarded by lovely views of a wide-eyed bird along the Rancho driveway. And who will soon forget our Snowcaps -- first a tiny female feeding right in front of us, then a male displaying to a female by darting rapidly at each her, then two fired-up males displaying ferociously to each other nearby -- WOW!

One afternoon, we climbed the steep steps down to the viewing platform overlooking the "hummingbird pools" -- a series of shallow pools in a little rivulet that tumbles through a gorge on the property. As dusk slowly descended, a cast of characters paraded through below us: Kentucky and Worm-eating warblers joined Sulphur-rumped, Ochre-bellied and Tawny-chested flycatchers, Carmiol's Tanagers, a male Snowcap and half a dozen or more Crowned Woodnymphs (surely the cleanest of all hummingbirds!) in taking vigorously splashing baths. A Scaly-breasted Wren whistling loudly while pirouetting on a nearby bamboo cane and a trio of White-crowned Manakins in a fruiting tree over our heads were unexpected bonuses snagged before we climbed back up the hill to prepare for our New Year's celebration. And what a celebration it was: a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, a bottomless bowl of sangria and a duo with whom we could sing along -- a few Christmas carols, a few local songs and plenty of the Beatles' greatest hits!

We also ventured further afield on many days. An afternoon visit to the grounds of Casa Turire, which is perched on the banks of the extensive Laguna Angostura reservoir gave us the chance to add some open-country birds to our list. A pair of Southern Lapwings rested quietly in a horse pasture, Red-breasted Meadowlarks provided brief splashes of color when they periodically popped up from their foraging for a look around, several Green Ibis probed for worms, Ruddy Ground-Doves snuggled on a branch, Yellow-bellied Elaenias wheezed from barbed wires fence strands and a pair of Giant Cowbirds flirted in a treetop. The reservoir provided a host of herons, egrets and ducks to comb through, with at least a dozen Limpkins, a gliding Snail Kite, flocks of Neotropical Cormorants and multiple pairs of dark Muscovy Ducks to enjoy. On another afternoon, a visit to the grounds of CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza or Tropical Agronomic Center for Research and Teaching) gave us plenty of new things to watch. Two Boat-billed Herons snoozed on a well-leafed branch beside the center's main pond, while adult and juvenile Northern Jacanas and Purple Gallinules tiptoed across lily pads on the water's surface. Plain-colored Tanagers gobbled berries in a fruiting tree while a pair of Black-headed Saltators sang loudly nearby. A gang of Band-backed Wrens swirled through open shrubs in a front garden. An unexpected Black-crowned Antshrike peered from a bush at the edge of a clearing, shortly before a Long-billed Gnatwren did the same -- from the same branches in the same bush. A White-winged Becard flicked through a treetop. Gray-capped and Social flycatchers sat side by side on telephone wires, allowing easy comparisons. A male Yellow-crowned Euphonia warbled from high above a mistletoe clump and a Cocoa Woodcreeper hitched its way up a big tree trunk. Trips to Tuis valley and the Silent Mountain road brought a tail-swinging Rufous Motmot, a colorful mixed flock of Emerald and Silver-throated tanagers, an intent Laughing Falcon, a very showy Dull-mantled Antbird, multiple Gartered Trogons, a swirling group of Tawny-crested Tanagers and several pairs of hunting Sunbitterns.

With the turn of the year, we descended to the lowlands for the day. Our primary destination was a private garden lovingly planted and maintained by artist Jose Cope, and his feeders provided a veritable cornucopia of special sightings. Top of the hit parade had to be our perched White-tipped Sicklebill -- a curvy-beaked hummingbird that is found on many a checklist but actually seen on very few tours. Long-tailed Hermits and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers jousted with more widespread species at a plethora of hummingbird feeders, Orange-chinned Parakeets, Red-legged Honeycreepers, Chestnut-headed Oropendolas and a host of tanagers swarmed over bunches of bananas, and even a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron stopped in for a bite. We ventured further afield to search for a handful of day-roosting nightbirds, and turned up trumps. A Great Potoo doing its best "I'm just a tree branch" imitation, a sleepy Spectacled Owl and a wide-eyed pair of Crested Owls were among our finds. And watching a Fasciated Tiger-Heron fish in a tumbling stream not far from a pair of Sunbitterns on our way back to the lodge was just icing on the cake.

We finished our tour with a visit to the wonderful Tapanti National Park on our drive back to San Jose. The protected rainforest here stretches for 18 square miles (and butts up against forest in other national parks), and the trees drip with a multitude of mosses, lichens, bromeliads and other epiphytes. Under cloudy but dry skies (never a sure thing in this often-wet corner of the country), we wandered along the park road, delighting in the various treasures it revealed. Black-bellied Hummingbirds and Purple-throated and White-bellied mountain-gems flitted among trailing tresses of pink flowers, flocks of Common Chlorospingus swarmed through roadside trees, tiny Ochraceous Wrens sang their hearts out from mossy perches, a male Golden-browed Chlorophonia dazzled, and a Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush bounced along the side of the road. Slate-throated Redstarts flashed white tail patches as they fan-danced along branches, while two Tufted Flycatchers returned again and again to the same open perches. A male Red-headed Barbet made a grand entrance among a mixed flock, drawing gasps of admiration from the gang as he appeared. A Northern Emerald-Toucanet sat, sphinx-like, on a branch just over our heads, unfazed by our presence. Golden-bellied and Olive-striped flycatchers checked fruits in a tree by our picnic table, and a pair of Prong-billed Barbets did the same at another tree further down the hill. A furtive Wrenthrush crept through tangled roadside vegetation, challenging our tracking skills as it belted out its song. Colorful Spangle-cheeked Tanagers, acrobatic Red-faced Spinetails, a trunk-crawling Spotted Barbtail and a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper mingled with other species in mixed flocks. All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day! We finished the tour with a quick stop in the city of Paraiso to pick up one last species -- a pair of Tropical Screech-Owls snuggling on a branch just over a busy park path.

Thanks so much to all of you for your fine companionship. you sure helped to make this trip a lot of fun to lead! Thanks too for coping with mask mandates, antigen tests and all the other "fun and games" that travel in the time of COVID has introduced. Let's hope that things will continue to get easier, and that we can share some adventures elsewhere in the world very soon!


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)

A group of six flew past us while we birded from the jetty at Casa Turire, and we later found three youngsters and two adults (perhaps the same birds, with one youngster out of view) standing on the edge of a concrete pond out in front of the hacienda.

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One of the nice things about this tour is that we see many species multiple times -- often up close and personal, like the Gray-headed Chachalacas eating bananas at Rancho's feeders each morning. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata)

Several distant pairs -- easily picked out by their dark plumage and large size -- among the ducks on Laguna Angostura, the reservoir near Casa Turire.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors) [b]

Reasonably common on Laguna Angostura, though vastly outnumbered by the next species. Some of the males had already molted into their breeding plumage.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis) [b]

Abundant on Laguna Angostura, with scores floating in a big raft well out into the reservoir.

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

GRAY-HEADED CHACHALACA (Ortalis cinereiceps)

Hordes swarmed over the bananas at the Rancho feeders each day, looking vaguely prehistoric. Their panicked retreats, complete with bugling calls, every time an aerial threat appeared eventually helped us locate the neighborhood Bicolored Hawk.

CRESTED GUAN (Penelope purpurascens)

Two charged around the yard at Kevin's like a pair of hyperactive turkeys, in what appeared to be a serious dispute -- or perhaps it was love? We later had fabulous views of one sitting quietly at eye-level right beside the driveway as we walked back to the lodge for breakfast, getting scope views of its streaky chest and the little flap of bare, red skin on its throat.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common around San Jose and Cartago, and a few of the larger towns we passed through.

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Red-billed Pigeons were another regular species at Rancho, and in Jose Cope's garden too. Close looks had us scratching our heads at that "red-billed" moniker though! Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

PALE-VENTED PIGEON (Patagioenas cayennensis)

Great studies of obliging birds nibbling corn from a log at Cope's feeders, with scope views of others perched in the trees over the pond there. The pale vent and undertail of this lowland bird help to separate it from the next species.

RED-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas flavirostris)

Common and widespread throughout, seen on almost every day of the trip -- and we probably just weren't concentrating hard enough that day! We had great looks at its yellow bill (with only the tiniest of red at the base) on several occasions; its scientific name (flavi = yellow, rostris = beak) is definitely a better descriptor.

SHORT-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas nigrirostris) [*]

We heard the distinctive four-note call of this species on several days at Rancho, but never close enough that we could actually see the singer.

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

Small numbers on scattered days, including a few in the horse pastures around Casa Turire and others along the Silent Mountain road.

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

Our best looks came at Rancho, where we had leisurely views of one fat bird waddling around under the feeders on several days; we saw another at Casa Turire which showed its white tail tips nicely as it flew off. This species is paler overall than the next, with blue (rather than red) bare skin around the eyes.

GRAY-CHESTED DOVE (Leptotila cassinii)

A couple under the feeders on several mornings at Rancho gave us great opportunity for study -- though they proved to be a bit on the jumpy side. Their overall darker color and the bare red skin around their eyes helped to distinguish them from the previous species.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Common and widespread in more open areas, with dozens sitting on wires along the roadways and groups of them flying over the neighborhood around the Hotel Bougainvillea our first morning. This bird has spread from the Pacific northwest of the country eastwards through the Central Valley, and is continuing to expand its range.

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Squirrel Cuckoo, on the other hand, is clearly a very appropriate name. Not only is the long tail squirrel-like, so is the bird's habit of bounding along branches. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

A couple on a wire fence uphill from the road up Volcan Irazu, seen by a few folks on the right side of the bus -- but they dropped down out of sight before everybody got on them. The slopes of Irazu are typically the only place we see this species on the tour.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

Common in open areas throughout, including a noisy group rummaging through the coffee grove where we found our Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow and others at Casa Turire, along several roadsides (including on route to the Crested Owl spot) and near the cemetery in Platanillo.

SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)

Superb views of one -- sometimes bounding up branches like the mammal for which it's named, sometimes sitting quietly in the open in the early morning sunshine -- near the parking shed at Rancho, with another pair interacting along the park road at Tapanti.

Nyctibiidae (Potoos)

GREAT POTOO (Nyctibius grandis)

One snoozing in a big tree near Rio Danta almost gave us the slip; we searched the area for a long time before Vernon spotted it. Though it looked pretty much like a bump on a log (until we got it in the scope, anyway), some head turning and yawning turned it into a bird -- and through the scope, we could even see the tiny notches in its eyelids which allow it to peep out without revealing its huge eyes.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN (Florisuga mellivora)

Very common around Rancho's and Cope's feeders, with other birds seen "in the wild" elsewhere on the Rancho property.

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A perched White-tipped Sicklebill was one of the highlights of our visit to the Caribbean lowlands -- and one of the more unexpected sightings of the trip. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.


Wow, wow, wow! This uncommon hummingbird (found in Costa Rica on the Caribbean foothills and the southern Pacific slope) is not one we regularly see on this tour, so it was a real treat to have one repeatedly perch on an open twig in a Heliconia stand at Cope's. Its strongly curved bill is perfectly adapted to feed on Heliconia flowers. This is the only streaky-bellied hummingbird in the country.

GREEN HERMIT (Phaethornis guy)

Quick views of one along the Rancho driveway for some on our first morning there, and of another along the ranch's Pepper trail, but our best views came at Tapanti, when a female foraged on flowers right over our heads. The glittering blue-green back and long, white central tail feathers distinguish this big hummer from the tour's other hermits.

LONG-BILLED HERMIT (Phaethornis longirostris)

Fine studies of one that made repeated visits to one of the feeders at Cope's -- often side by side with the following species. Its huge, long, curved bill certainly made it easy to identify. This lowland species is bronzier-backed than the Green Hermit, which is typically found at higher altitudes.

STRIPE-THROATED HERMIT (Phaethornis striigularis)

Some of the gang got a quick look or two at one or more of the males lekking low in the undergrowth at a curve of the Rancho entrance road, and others watched one forage at the little purple vervain flowers near where Guillermo parked the bus, while waiting for the group to assemble one morning. But our best views came at Cope's, where one little bird made repeated visits to one of the feeders.

GREEN-FRONTED LANCEBILL (Doryfera ludovicae)

Two made a few zooming passes along a tumbling little stream at Tapanti, at one point, zipped past much of the group at ankle height. We never did get one perched, so they were mostly seen as glittering green streaks!

LESSER VIOLETEAR (COSTA RICAN) (Colibri cyanotus cabanidis)

Lovely views of several feeding on the highest slopes of the Irazu volcano, where their purple "ears" glowed in the morning sunshine. This species was split from the former Green Violetear.

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This is a great trip for hummingbirds, with the diminutive Volcano Hummingbird among our many targets. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

GREEN-BREASTED MANGO (Anthracothorax prevostii)

Small numbers jousted with the White-necked Jacobins (and each other) around Rancho's feeders, flaring their maroon tails as they did so. Most were males, but we did see one or two females, which sport a diagnostic dark stripe down the center of their throat, chest, and belly.

GREEN THORNTAIL (Discosura conversii)

A male hovered like a glittering green insect among the vervain flowers near the dining room one day, seen by those who'd lingered after lunch. The white bar across its green backside -- and that long, ragged-tipped tail -- help to quickly identify it.


Mary Ann was the lucky one on the Rancho balcony when Harry (one of the lodge guides) spotted one during an afternoon break.

TALAMANCA HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes spectabilis)

Two tangled among the multitude of bromeliads festooning one of the big oaks across the road from Suenos del Irazu, seen while we searched for our first quetzal. This big mountain species has been split from the former Magnificent Hummingbird.


It took some patience (and a couple of different sightings) but I think we all eventually got a flash of that brilliantly colorful throat! The bird feeding along the track at the Irazu crater gave us our best opportunity for study -- when it appeared from its hidden perch somewhere in the scrubby trees, that is!

WHITE-BELLIED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis hemileucus)

Nice views of a male foraging in one of the hanging clusters of flowers over the road at Tapanti. The white belly of this species quickly separates it from the next. This Chiriqui endemic is found only in Costa Rica and western Panama.


Several rusty-bellied females and a flashy male seen along the road in Tapanti. This species is endemic to Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

VOLCANO HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus flammula)

Plenty of these zippy little hummers on the highest stretches of Volcan Irazu, with repeated good views -- including scope views of several perched birds -- along the trail at the crater. This too is found only in Costa Rica and western Panama.

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Crowned Woodnymphs were eye-catching regular visitors to Rancho's hummingbird feeders. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

VIOLET SABREWING (Campylopterus hemileucurus)

Great views of several at Rancho's feeders, including two males having a rather impressive squabble at one end of the balcony one day. Their large size, color and bold white tail tips make them easy to identify.

BRONZE-TAILED PLUMELETEER (Chalybura urochrysia)

After missing them in the forests around Rancho, we were pleased to get repeated views of one (or more) around Cope's feeders. This is the only Costa Rican hummingbird with red feet.

CROWNED WOODNYMPH (Thalurania colombica)

Regular around Rancho, including a half dozen or more dunking themselves repeatedly in the hummingbird pools. Surely, these are the property's cleanest hummingbirds! We had others at Cope's feeders.

SNOWCAP (Microchera albocoronata)

Certainly one of the stars of the show! Our first was a little female feeding at the near end of the vervain hedge at Rancho Bajo. We were then dazzled by the dynamic aerial display of a male repeatedly flying at a female, who hovered facing him -- and later by two males doing the same to each other. Wow!

BLACK-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Eupherusa nigriventris)

A couple of males circled around flower banks in the tree branches overhanging the Tapanti park road, occasionally perching briefly for a bit of a rest. Their dark bellies, and little rusty wing patches -- along with those flashy white tail patches -- help to quickly identify them.


Very common and widespread, seen every day, often in significant numbers -- like the 8-9 perched in one vervain hedge at Rancho Bajo! These feisty hummers regularly chased everything else (including bees and larger birds) away from "their" flowers.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

A few distant birds teetered across the Water Hyacinth at Laguna Angostura, but our best views came along the edge of the pond at CATIE, where several birds preened and foraged.

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The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer is the only red-legged (and red-footed) hummingbird in Costa Rica. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

WHITE-THROATED CRAKE (Laterallus albigularis)

A skulking pair of these tiny rails crept into view for a few folks along the road through the sugar cane fields in Platanillo. Unfortunately, folks standing inches from them on either side saw nothing other than wiggling vegetation! We certainly all heard their distinctive calls though -- over and over and over.

Aramidae (Limpkin)

LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)

A dozen or more in flight or perched on various snags and branches around Laguna Angostura. This is a relatively recent addition to our tour route, arriving only after the construction of the reservoir a decade or so ago.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis)

A couple of these big, handsome plovers rested in one of the horse pastures near Casa Turire. This is another recent arrival to the country, first recorded in 1997. It has spread into the lowlands along both coasts as forests are cleared for pastures and farming.

Jacanidae (Jacanas)

NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa)

Our best views came at CATIE, where adults and stripey-faced youngsters tiptoed across the lily pads only yards away. We had a handful of others on the vegetated surface of Laguna Angostura.

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When it comes to flashy, few things beat a Sunbittern in flight. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) [b]

One bobbed along the edge of a trashy little stream in the middle of the bustling town of La Suisa, and another did the same along the banks of Rio San Jose on a busy Sunday afternoon. This is a nonbreeding visitor to the country, absent only for a few months in the summer.

Eurypygidae (Sunbittern)

SUNBITTERN (Eurypyga helias)

Splendid views of these handsome birds on multiple occasions, including a few flashing their spectacular wings as they flew past us down the river. It was fun to watch them hunting among the rocks and ripples.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

A handful rested -- spread-winged -- on the banks of the pond at CATIE, while another hunted its way across the water with only its thin neck and pointed beak occasionally appearing. The latter made it easy to see how they got their folk name, "Snake Bird"!

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

A few dozen hunted in Laguna Angostura, disappearing repeatedly under the water's surface as they chased their fish prey. Later, we saw many small groups flying past to roost in some tall trees along the banks of the reservoir, in the company of dozens of Black Vultures.

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Bare-throated Tiger-Heron is certainly not something I would have predicted we'd see in a suburban backyard! Photo by participant Donna Schulman.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

FASCIATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma fasciatum)

One hunted from a rock in Rio Tuis, seen thanks to some great spotting by Vernon -- from a moving bus at twilight! It stood stock-still for long minutes, waiting for something tasty to pass by, then slowly made its to the next rock to freeze again.

BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma mexicanum)

One in a tree over the pond at Cope's feeders appeared to be having some serious difficulty swallowing something. We sure got great views of its bare, bright yellow throat skin and tiger-striped neck before it flew off over the trees.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) [b]

One stalked along the edge of the pond at CATIE. This is primarily a winter visitor, though a few non-breeders hang around all year.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

A sprinkling on Laguna Angostura, with another in the horse pasture at Platanillo. Resident birds in Costa Rica are supplemented by birds from further north during the winter months.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

Good numbers on Laguna Angostura, including small groups in flight, where we could see their yellow feet. This is another species whose resident numbers are bolstered by winter visitors.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea) [b]

A couple of adults hunted the shallow stream in the middle of La Suisa, and we saw adults and youngsters flying past from the jetty at Casa Turire. There were a few others at CATIE. Most were probably North American migrants.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

Daily, often hovering around the feet of livestock. We also had distant bunched flocks winging across the valley below Rancho most mornings, looking scenic against the backdrop of farms, towns and volcanos.

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Good weather, great birds, fabulous food, fine traveling companions... What more could a birder ask for? Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

One on the bridge in La Suisa was amazingly tame, allowing us to approach almost to touching range before dropping down into the stream. We saw others perched on lily pads at CATIE, peering intently into the pond.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

Some distant birds hunting on the muddy islets in Laguna Angostura, with much better views of a handful snoozing in the trees around CATIE's pond. Local residents are supplemented by visitors from further north during the winter.

BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius)

Two of these nocturnal herons snuggled on a day roost in a tree near the edge of CATIE's pond. This is another nocturnal heron, as evidenced by its huge eye.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

GREEN IBIS (Mesembrinibis cayennensis)

Our first was perched in a leafless tree in the middle of the busy town of Tuis, but heavy traffic meant we couldn't stop long enough for everyone to get a good look. Fortunately, we had five or six others around Casa Turire, both in the horse pastures and along the banks of Laguna Angostura. One foraging in the pasture across from the Platanillo cemetery also allowed some great views.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Daily, often in big numbers, with swirling kettles developing anywhere there were thermals. This species finds its food by sight rather than smell, often following the larger Turkey Vultures to their discoveries.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Also daily and also plentiful, though less so than the previous species. Local residents have a pale blue nape (which typically looks white at any distance), which migrants from further north lack.

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Roadside Hawks were seen -- and often heard -- on most days. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

Some of the group spotted one hovering over a roadside field as we started our way up the flanks of Volcan Irazu, and Janice, Brett and I found a perched bird peering intently into a scruffy overgrown field on our departure morning, while trying to catch them up on the Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow.

SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis)

A bird perched on one of the larger islands in Laguna Angostura later flapped across the water towards the hotel and disappeared into the trees. This is another species that expanded its range into the Tuis valley once the reservoir was completed. Previously, it was only found in the extreme northern and western corners of the country.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus) [b]

One flap-flap-glided its way across the sky at Rancho Bajo and dropped into one of the bigger trees, raising immediate protest from a very unhappy group of Brown Jays. This winter visitor is relatively uncommon, sticking mostly to the country's middle elevations.

BICOLORED HAWK (Accipiter bicolor)

Wow! One dropped like a bomb into a mob of Red-billed Pigeons feeding on the lawn at Rancho during breakfast one morning, scattering them in all directions. Having missed its target, it swooped up onto a nearby branch for a good scan around, giving us all the chance to leap up and get a look.

ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)

Singletons, appropriately sprinkled on roadside wires through much of the tour. With scopes, we could see the pale yellow eye that separates it from the Gray and Broad-winged Hawks -- and we had views of the distinctive rufous patches in their wings several times when we saw them in flight.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

Two adults (identified as such by the wide black and white bands on their tails) circled above the trees along a back road near Rio Danta, seen as we worked our way to the potoo spot. The lack of rufous patches in the wing separate these from Roadside Hawks, while the lack of a dark outline to the underwing separates them from Broad-wings.

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Finding not one, but TWO Crested Owls on a day roost was certainly a treat. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus) [b]

This winter visitor was seen nearly every day, typically in flight. We did spot one on several different perches along the Tuis valley, where its brown face, dark eye and rusty chest barring was nicely visible.

SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)

Our best views came at the summit of Volcan Irazu, when one sailed over our heads, bright against the clear blue sky. We saw another on our way up the volcano, and some of the group spotted one on our drive to Tapanti on the last full day.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

We spied a couple soaring over fields on the flanks of Volcan Irazu, but always in spots where we couldn't stop. One soaring high above the start of the road at Tapanti was against harsh light and didn't show much better!

Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)

BARN OWL (Tyto alba)

One sat hunched on the rafters of the Catholic church in Paraiso, trying its best to ignore the incredibly loud marching band playing Christmas music in the park across the street.

Strigidae (Owls)

TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL (Megascops choliba)

That marching band probably cost us these owls on our first visit, but we finally caught up with them on our last afternoon. They were snuggled up together beside a bromeliad on a branch only feet above our heads -- pretty cute!

CRESTED OWL (Lophostrix cristata)

Yahoo! A visit to the farm of Jose Cope's brother, and a walk along a winding track through the woods brought us to a roosting pair of these widespread but uncommon owls. Both were awake, watching us steadily as we snuck in for a look and some pictures.

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We found the Crested Owls right after getting a look at a day-roosting Spectacled Owl. What a morning! Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

SPECTACLED OWL (Pulsatrix perspicillata)

One resting in a tree along a back road near La Union was a nice surprise. Interestingly, it showed dark barring on a buffy belly -- according to Garrigues & Dean's "Birds of Costa Rica", that's a feature of birds from the country's northwestern Pacific coast.

MOTTLED OWL (Ciccaba virgata)

Heard hooting from the forest around the Rancho cabins on many nights, with some great views of one wide-eyed bird along the driveway one evening. Many saw another (or two) in the bamboo thicket at Hotel Bougainvillea while wandering the grounds after (or instead of!) having a pre-flight COVID test.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

RESPLENDENT QUETZAL (Pharomachrus mocinno)

Yip, yip, yip! Shortly after we arrived at our traditional search spot (a fruiting avocado tree on the flanks of Volcan Irazu), a glorious male flew in over our heads, streaming his long tail behind him like an undulating ribbon. It took us a few minutes to track him down (fortunately, he was calling regularly), but for the next half hour we had multiple splendid views of him, as well as second male and a female. What a treat!

GARTERED TROGON (Trogon caligatus)

A female in the Tuis valley was a bonus at our stop for Rufous Motmot, and we had another female just outside Rancho's main building after breakfast one morning. We found a male along the edge of Rancho's pasture towards the end of our ramble on our last full day there.

Momotidae (Motmots)

LESSON'S MOTMOT (Momotus lessonii lessonii)

A single bird checked out the fruit at Rancho's feeders in the half-light each morning, with another (or the same one) scooping up moths from the vegetation under the all-night light near where Guillermo parked the bus. Occasionally it even made a visit or two later in the morning, when the lovely colors of its plumage were clearly visible.

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Resplendent Quetzal is one of the most sought-after of Costa Rica's birds -- and we saw three of them! Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

RUFOUS MOTMOT (Baryphthengus martii)

One sat low in some dense vegetation along the Tuis valley track, swinging its tail like a metronome. This is the largest of Costa Rica's motmots.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)

One flew circles over the neighborhood we walked at CATIE, shouting challenges to any other kingfisher within earshot. This is largest kingfisher in the Americas.

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) [b]

One flew across the water, calling as it went, while we birded from the jetty near Casa Turire. This is a winter visitor to Costa Rica.

AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona)

Only a few folks happened to be looking in the right direction when one of these tropical kingfishers zipped past while we checked out the stream near the sugar factory in Platanillo. Unfortunately, it quickly disappeared around a bend in the river, never to be seen again.

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

One perched on the protruding roots of a palm tree beside the little stream in La Suisa was gratifyingly unfazed by our bus pulling up right beside it, allowing us all (eventually!) to get good looks at it as it peered down into the water.

Capitonidae (New World Barbets)

RED-HEADED BARBET (Eubucco bourcierii)

A stunning male brought a gasp of admiration from the gang when it hopped into view in an open Cecropia tree along the Tapanti park road. This species is now put into a different family from that of the Prong-billed Barbet -- the Capitonidae.

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Lesson's Motmot was another regular visitor to Rancho's feeders -- though it took some of us a while to see it. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.
Semnornithidae (Toucan-Barbets)

PRONG-BILLED BARBET (Semnornis frantzii)

A calling pair along the Tapanti park road jumped through a few trees before finally settling into a fruiting tree where we could get them in the scopes. This barbet -- along with the Toucan Barbet of South America -- now makes up the tiny family Semnornithidae.

Ramphastidae (Toucans)

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

We walked right past our first, which was sitting quietly only 10 feet or so above the Tapanti park road. Fortunately, Holger's sharp eyes spotted it -- thanks, Holger! It sat nicely in place while we ogled it through the scopes and snapped lots of pictures. We found another, flightier bird a bit further up the hill. This was split from the former Emerald Toucanet complex.

COLLARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus torquatus)

Common around the Rancho property, where they regularly swarmed over the banana feeders and squabbled in the surrounding trees. Their squeaky, hiccuping calls were a regular part of the soundtrack there.

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

Fabulous views of one at Cope's banana feeders, with others in flight along the Rio San Jose. This, the largest toucan in Costa Rica, was recently lumped with the Black-mandibled Toucan.

KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

Best seen on our first morning's walk at Rancho, when we found nearly a dozen gobbling figs from a fruiting tree in Kevin's front garden. Their strikingly-colored (primarily neon green) beaks make them easy to identify.

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A male Red-headed Barbet brought a pop of bright color to a mixed flock at Tapanti. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

A little group of these social woodpeckers worked one of the huge trees near the Suenos del Irazu restaurant.

BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pucherani)

Fine studies of several on the banana feeders at Rancho, with others at Cope's feeders. They held their own with some of those aggressive tanagers!

HOFFMANN'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes hoffmannii)

We heard some calling on our pre-breakfast walk down to the coffee plantation near the Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning but didn't actually catch sight of one until our afternoon at CATIE. We had others at Cope's feeders. This species has spread from the country's Pacific slope through the Central Valley.

SMOKY-BROWN WOODPECKER (Dryobates fumigatus)

One of these very plain little woodpeckers bounded in to land in a tree along the Silent Mountain road. Other than a very slightly paler face, there wasn't much to note about her plumage!

LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus)

One of these big woodpeckers showed very nicely in trees near the house at Rancho Bajo. We heard another calling from the forest downhill from the Rancho balcony before breakfast one morning.

GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus)

Another woodpecker seen very well at Rancho Bajo, when it flew in to a tree right next to the house and crawled around on several open branches. We heard the distinctive shriek of this species on several occasions in various parts of the Rancho Naturalista property.

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We almost managed to walk right past our first Northern Emerald-Toucanet without even seeing it! Photo by participant Donna Schulman.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

One flapped down the road ahead of our bus as we drove through La Suisa one afternoon; eventually, it veered off to the left and swooped up to land out of sight in a big tree. This species, which feeds primarily on carrion, regularly patrols roads in search of roadkill.

YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA (Milvago chimachima)

A couple flapped over the neighboring houses as we returned to our hotel from our first morning's walk in San Jose, and we saw others over the pastures at Casa Turire and at CATIE. This open-country species was first recorded in Costa Rica in 1973, and has spread widely since then.

LAUGHING FALCON (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

Stellar views of one sitting at the very top of a dead snag along the Silent Mountain road, peering intently at something interesting below it. This species is primarily a snake eater.

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius) [b]

A couple of birds hovered over fields on the flanks of Volcan Irazu. These winter visitors are widespread but uncommon in Costa Rica.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEET (Brotogeris jugularis)

Fabulous studies of a loudly gabbling flock that descended on the banana feeders at Cope's. It's not often that we can get such a close look at the tiny orange chin spot that gives the species its name!

BROWN-HOODED PARROT (Pyrilia haematotis)

Two calling birds circled briefly overhead (against the sun, of course, in the time-honored tradition of rather too many birds) and dropped into the top of a tree right beside us -- never to be seen or heard again. And how such noisy, colorful birds manage to do that remains a mystery!

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We had wonderful views of Collared Aracaris at Rancho's feeders. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.


Easily the most common parrot of the trip, seen on most days. Perched birds at Casa Turire, CATIE and Rancho Bajo gave us some nice opportunities to study them in the scopes. And even in flight, their big white foreheads were easily visible.


Very common around San Jose, where we had some great views of a noisy flock clambering through the trees right outside the hotel. We saw other screeching flocks at Casa Turire and CATIE.

Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)

BLACK-CROWNED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus atrinucha)

One in a narrow strip of trees behind one of the buildings at CATIE was a surprise -- and a first for me at that site. It proved remarkably obliging, sitting on several open branches for minutes at a time. This species was formerly known as the Western Slaty-Antshrike.

RUSSET ANTSHRIKE (Thamnistes anabatinus)

After hearing one calling (and calling and calling) from some hidden branch far across the valley on the Silent Mountain road, we finally caught up with a few in a mixed flock along the Tapanti park road.

SLATY ANTWREN (Myrmotherula schisticolor)

Our first, along Kevin's driveway, moved off down the gully almost as soon as we found it. Fortunately, we found a more cooperative group along Rancho's Pepper trail. It foraged its way steadily down the hill towards us, with one male finally approaching to within 10 yards or so of us.

DULL-MANTLED ANTBIRD (Sipia laemosticta)

One along the Tuis valley road proved amazingly complacent, sitting for long minutes on open twigs while belting out its song. It was so close we could clearly see its red eyes and the white speckles on its wings.

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A Yellow-throated Toucan at Jose Cope's feeders was used to seeing humans, which meant we got better-than-normal looks at this big lowland species. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.
Rhinocryptidae (Tapaculos)

SILVERY-FRONTED TAPACULO (Scytalopus argentifrons) [*]

We heard several calling from the thick vegetation both uphill and down from the Tapanti park road.

Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

PLAIN-BROWN WOODCREEPER (Dendrocincla fuliginosa)

A couple of these well-named woodcreepers crawled up trunks along Rancho's Pepper trail, distracting us repeatedly as we worked to identify the accompanying mixed flock's members. These are indeed plain and brown!

WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Glyphorynchus spirurus)

One crept along several of the thicker branches on a tree along the Tapanti park road, part of a big mixed flock -- and conveniently close to a nearby Spotted Barbtail for comparison. The small bill of this small woodcreeper helps to identify it.

COCOA WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus susurrans)

One in a small palm tree beside a house at CATIE showed well, as did another along Rancho's Pepper trail.

SPOTTED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus erythropygius) [*]

Some of the group was on the Rancho balcony when one called several times.

STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii)

One along the road near Rio Dante briefly entertained us while we searched for the Great Potoo. This is the lower-elevation replacement for the next species; its all-pale bill helps to distinguish it from the slightly-larger Cocoa Woodcreeper.

SPOT-CROWNED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes affinis)

Two flicked through the big, epiphyte-covered trees near Suenos del Irazu, distracting us briefly while we searched for quetzals. This is a high elevation species.

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We also got some fine looks at Orange-chinned Parakeets at Cope's -- close enough we could even see their orange chins! Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

PLAIN XENOPS (Xenops minutus)

One with a mixed flock in the gully along the driveway to Kevin's, clinging chickadee-like to vegetation as it foraged.


Our best looks came at the Rancho moth sheet, where two rummaged through the low vegetation around the shelter, searching for hidden morsels. We heard them regularly from the Rancho balcony in the early mornings.

SPOTTED BARBTAIL (Premnoplex brunnescens)

One of these dark little climbers crawled up the trunk and branches of a big tree along the Tapanti park road, part of a little mixed flock.

RED-FACED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca erythrops)

A couple foraged in the canopy of some trees up the hill from the Tapanti park road, part of a mixed flock.

SLATY SPINETAIL (Synallaxis brachyura)

It took some patience -- and a bit of maneuvering among the big Mexican sunflower bushes -- but I think everybody finally got a look or two at these handsome skulkers across the road from the Platanillo cemetery. They never got very far off the ground, and spent a fair bit of time peeping from the very densest bits of vegetation!

Pipridae (Manakins)

WHITE-RUFFED MANAKIN (Corapipo altera)

Regular in small numbers on the Rancho property, including a male gobbling berries from a fruiting tree over Kevin's driveway, a few with along the Pepper trail and one taking a bath at the hummingbird pools.


Great views of these snazzy little birds on multiple occasions, including one in the fruiting tree along Kevin's driveway (a manakin two-fer one morning!), another sitting quietly along the road in the Tuis valley and still another low along the Rio San Jose. Believe it or not, it's sometimes a challenge to get a good look at this one!

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Dull-mantled Antbird is normally a skulker, so getting a look like the one we did was a real treat. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

WHITE-CROWNED MANAKIN (Pseudopipra pipra)

A trio -- a male and two females -- sat partway up one of the big trees just downhill from the viewing platform at the hummingbird pools; great spotting, Mary Ann! Typically, we have to climb the hill trails at Rancho (up to where the species leks) to get a look at this one.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA (Tityra inquisitor)

A pair showed well in the crown of a tree along the Rio San Jose on a busy Sunday afternoon. This is the less common of the tour's tityras.

MASKED TITYRA (Tityra semifasciata)

We spotted a male high in one of the trees along the road we walked near the Hotel Bougainvillea, his red facial skin gleaming in the early morning light. We had others along the Rancho entrance drive, and Sharon and Doug saw one while we searched for the Great Potoo near Rio Danta.

CINNAMON BECARD (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus)

We found a couple of these rusty little birds along the Silent Mountain road; one was beating a very large caterpillar to death on a branch not far over our heads. Their piping, high-pitched whistles are distinctive.

WHITE-WINGED BECARD (Pachyramphus polychopterus)

A male in a small tree near one of the houses in the neighborhood at CATIE was a nice find. He flicked through the branches, occasionally interacting with some nearby Social Flycatchers.

Oxyruncidae (Sharpbill, Royal Flycatcher, and Allies)

SULPHUR-RUMPED FLYCATCHER (Myiobius sulphureipygius aureatus)

One splashed enthusiastically in one of the little puddles edging the stream through the hummingbird pools, its pale rump flashing repeatedly in the gloom of late afternoon shadow.

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A Black-crowned Antshrike at CATIE was a surprise write-in. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

WHITE-THROATED SPADEBILL (Platyrinchus mystaceus)

Arg! This little flycatcher certainly wasn't the most cooperative of birds; some saw it well, while others got only fleeting glimpses of a short-tailed blob flicking through trees along the Tapanti park road.

OLIVE-STRIPED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes olivaceus)

Two rummaged among the fruits in a tree near our Tapanti picnic spot, giving us the chance to study them (briefly, since they never stopped moving) in the scopes. It was a bit of a "Where's Waldo" puzzle, given all the Common Chlorospinguses also in the tree.

OCHRE-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes oleagineus)

One took a vigorous bath in one of the hummingbird pools at Rancho.

SLATY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Leptopogon superciliaris)

Especially nice views of one, showing well its distinctive "ear muffs", along the road through the Tuis valley -- a bonus bird when we stopped for the Rufous Motmot. We found another near the moth sheet one morning, and a final one with a mixed flock in the pasture at Rancho.

SCALE-CRESTED PYGMY-TYRANT (Lophotriccus pileatus)

As usual, we heard far more of these than we saw, particularly along the Tapanti park road. We had very satisfying views of one little bird right beside the Pepper trail at Rancho though; it tried out a number of tiny twig perches, giving us all the chance to see its distinctive black-spotted orange crown.

COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum)

One crept through the bottom vervain hedge at Rancho Bajo on each of our visits, repeatedly popping out into view, and we saw another at the Rufous Motmot spot in the Tuis valley.

BLACK-HEADED TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum nigriceps)

One of these tiny flycatchers showed very nicely by the Rancho parking area on the morning of our last full day, singing his heart out from a number of perches, always high in the trees.

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Wedge-billed Woodcreeper was the smallest woodcreeper we saw. Photo by participant Holger Teichman.

YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) [*]

We heard the buzzy call of this common species on most days at Rancho, but never found the singers.

YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)

A pair in the short trees along the pasture track we walked at Casa Turire showed nicely -- particularly when one moved out to the wire fence. We had others near the cemetery in Platanillo.


Regular in the trees around Rancho, with several seen well -- particularly the one checking out the fruiting tree over Kevin's driveway. The bright yellow edging to all of its wing feathers is distinctive.

TAWNY-CHESTED FLYCATCHER (Aphanotriccus capitalis)

One in the gully along Kevin's driveway proved far from cooperative, generally singing from hidden perches well away from the road. Occasionally, though, it picked a more visible song post, and some eventually got a look. Fortunately, one splashing in one of the hummingbird pools late one afternoon was somewhat more obliging.

TUFTED FLYCATCHER (Mitrephanes phaeocercus)

A pair of these handsome little highland flycatchers flaunted their colors along the Tapanti park road, sallying repeatedly out from perches in an open-branched tree up the hill.

OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus cooperi) [b]

One hunted from dead snags on the ridgeline along the Silent Mountain road, flinging itself repeatedly skywards after passing insects. This is a common passage migrant through Costa Rica, but a rare winter visitor.

YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris) [b]

Some nice views of this winter visitor on the grounds of Rancho -- especially the one preening along the entrance drive our first morning. The dull yellow throat of this species makes it relatively easy (for an Empidonax) to identify.

BLACK-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax atriceps)

One hunting from the flowering hedge beside the garbage pails at Suenos del Irazu allowed some great scope views.

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Getting Ann her 4000th life bird was kind of a big deal! The fact that it was a gorgeous Emerald Tanager made it even sweeter. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

A scattering along the Silent Mountain road, with others near the big bridge we crossed on the way to Tapanti. This species is almost always found near water.

BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA (Attila spadiceus)

We heard the maniacal laughing song of this big flycatcher on several days around Rancho, but only ever managed poor views of it -- typically in flight over our heads as it moved from one out-of-view treetop perch to another.

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

Our best looks came in Kevin's garden, where we found a noisy pair in the top of the fruiting fig tree. They repeatedly posed nicely for us, eventually showing us all sides. The subspecies found on the Caribbean slopes of Costa Rica -- nigricapillus -- is quite rufous on the wings and tail. We saw others in Rancho's pasture and heard them elsewhere on the property.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

Abundant in more open areas throughout, where their loud "kis-ka-DEE" calls were a regular part of the tour soundtrack.

BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua)

Scattered pairs on the Rancho property and at CATIE. Its big bill (with its strongly curved upper mandible) and the lack of rufous in its plumage help to distinguish this big flycatcher from the previous species.

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis)

Abundant throughout, typically in small, noisy groups (appropriately). Those along the Rancho driveway our first morning gave us a good chance to compare them to nearby Great Kiskadees. Their smaller size and (relatively) tiny bills were immediately apparent!

GRAY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes granadensis)

Small numbers on about half the days of the tour, with especially nice views of one sitting right beside a Social Flycatcher at CATIE, for great comparisons.

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The gardens of the Hotel Bougainvillea are a great place to come to grips with some of Costa Rica's common foothill species. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

GOLDEN-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes hemichrysus)

One in a fruiting tree near our Tapanti picnic spot gave us a great chance for scope views. Though it looks a lot like a kiskadee with an extra facial stripe, this one sounds like a squeak toy.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Ubiquitous, seen in good numbers every day -- often on telephone wires beside various roadways.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

One in the same tree as our first Ruddy Ground-Doves near the pastures at Casa Turire, with another at CATIE and still more on the grounds at Rancho. The bright yellow spectacles and throat were particularly visible at Casa Turire, where the bird was only a few feet over our heads.

YELLOW-WINGED VIREO (Vireo carmioli)

A few with a mixed flock along the Tapanti park road showed nicely the distinctive yellowish wing bars that give them their name. This is a Chiriqui endemic, found only in Costa Rica and western Panama.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio)

Daily, typically in big, boisterous groups -- though the group hunting quietly along the edges of the Rancho pasture were decidedly against type.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca)

Easily the most common of the tours swallows, seen nearly every day. Their small size and snowy-white underparts quickly separate them from most of Costa Rica's other swallows.

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The former Tropical Gnatcatchers of Costa Rica have now been lumped with the White-browed Gnatcatchers. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

A mixed group of this and the next species hunted low over an open pasture along the Silent Mountain road, allowing some great comparisons. This is a resident species in the northern half of the country, with numbers supplemented by winter visitors from further north.

SOUTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis)

Some nice views of several perched on wires beside the Silent Mountain road, showing the buffy faces and chests that help to distinguish them from the previous species. As we saw, their pale rump patch is distinctive -- and easily visible -- in flight.

GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea)

Quite common in the lowlands, with some good views of those swirling over our heads at our restroom stop on route to Cope's.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

LONG-BILLED GNATWREN (Ramphocaenus melanurus)

One along the edge of a strip of woods behind a building at CATIE was wonderfully cooperative, trilling from open branches at eye level. This little cutie looks like it's carrying a toothpick.

WHITE-BROWED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila bilineata)

A pair in a roadside tree in the Tuis valley -- another bonus at the Rufous Motmot spot -- with further pairs at CATIE and in Rancho's pasture. The birds formerly considered to be Tropical Gnatcatchers in Costa Rica are now included in this species: a move which expands the bird's range from the country's extreme northwest across much of Costa Rica's lowlands and middle elevations.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

SCALY-BREASTED WREN (WHISTLING) (Microcerculus marginatus luscinia)

One pirouetted on a bamboo cane right near the viewing platform at the hummingbird pools -- a real surprise for a normally skulking species! It later returned for a more surreptitious (and typical) stroll across the forest floor. We certainly all heard its clear, descending whistles, which seemed to emanate from the forest itself.

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A little gang of Band-backed Wrens showed nicely at CATIE -- one of the few wrens species that played nicely for this tour. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

Heard regularly in many of the places we birded, with good views of one mooching under and across the feeders at Rancho. If split, the subspecies in Costa Rica would become part of the Southern House Wren.

OCHRACEOUS WREN (Troglodytes ochraceus)

We heard the bubbling, high-pitched song of this rusty little wren along the Tapanti park road, and watched several of them belting their songs out from epiphyte-covered branches. This Chiriqui endemic is found only in the middle and upper elevations of Costa Rica and western Panama.

TIMBERLINE WREN (Thryorchilus browni)

Wow! This highland wren is often a real bear to get a good look at, and it certainly took a bit of searching at the summit of Irazu to locate one. But one along the edge of the roadway near the parking lot showed really nicely as it rummaged through the lower branches of some dense bushes. This is another Chiriqui endemic, found only at the highest elevations.

BAND-BACKED WREN (Campylorhynchus zonatus)

Super views of a busy little gang swirling through the bushes around the foundations of a house in CATIE on their way to bed.

STRIPE-BREASTED WREN (Cantorchilus thoracicus) [*]

We heard the loud songs of this handsome species on several occasions, but never laid eyes on the singers. As with many tropical wrens, pairs sing duets -- though so closely linked that it sounds like only one singer.

CABANIS'S WREN (Cantorchilus modestus)

A skulky pair near the coffee grove where we found our Cabanis's Ground-Sparrow were stubbornly reclusive for many minutes before finally working their way high enough in a nearby bush that we could see them. This was previously considered to be a subspecies of the former Plain Wren.

BAY WREN (Cantorchilus nigricapillus)

Our first pair, near the base of the jetty at Casa Turire, were seen only as rusty shapes hurtling across the gap from one bank of vegetation to another. Fortunately, another pair along the Tuis valley proved more cooperative as they foraged through a short bank of weeds below the road, calling to each other and occasionally popping out into the open.

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A Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush serenaded us at the summit of Volcan Irazu. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

WHITE-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucosticta)

We heard some singing from the woods around CATIE (while watching the Black-crowned Antshrike and Long-billed Gnatwren) and a few of the group spotted one creeping around a cut stump near the old hummingbird feeding station in Rancho's forest. This one hardly has any tail to speak of!

GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucophrys)

One bouncing in the grass along the side of the Tapanti park road was seen by a few as we descended from the picnic grove. Unfortunately, by the time we finally got Guillermo to stop, the bird was long gone!

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)


At least one seen on a roadside wire as we headed out of San Jose our first morning.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)


One on an open branch low in a bush near the summit parking lot at Volcan Irazu gave us some superb views as it sang. This is another Chiriqui endemic.


One rooted along the edge of the Tapanti park road for many minutes, completely unconcerned with our nearby presence.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus) [b]

One perched atop a post along Kevin's driveway on our first morning at Rancho, proving far easier to see than the Tawny-chested Flycatcher we were chasing at the time. This northern breeder is more common as a passage migrant than winter visitor.


Common and widespread through -- though inexplicably missed on our last day. This is Costa Rica's national bird.

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A Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush bounced along the side of the road at Tapanti, completely unconcerned by our presence. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

SOOTY THRUSH (Turdus nigrescens)

Some great views of this big, high-altitude Chiriqui endemic on Volcan Irazu, including a few near the summit parking lot and others in the flowering bushes around Suenos del Irazu.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

BLACK-AND-YELLOW SILKY-FLYCATCHER (Phainoptila melanoxantha)

Our first was gobbling berries in a fruiting tree, seen while we searched for our first quetzal -- great spotting, Sharon! We found a couple of others doing the same along the Tapanti park road. This too is a Chiriqui endemic.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

We had one noisy little gang in La Suisa, seen and heard as we climbed off the bus to check out the midtown stream, with others around the gas station where we pit-stopped on our way to Cope's feeders.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

GOLDEN-BROWED CHLOROPHONIA (Chlorophonia callophrys)

A female in trees over the Rancho parking area one morning, and a stunning male along the Tapanti park road. Still another Chiriqui endemic.

YELLOW-CROWNED EUPHONIA (Euphonia luteicapilla)

A pair near a mistletoe clump towards the end of our walk at CATIE (the male, with his dark throat and big yellow crown patch, was sitting right at the top of the tree), with others at the spot where we searched for the Great Potoo.

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Is Volcano Junco the original angry bird? This one was certainly bold! Photo by participant Donna Schulman.


A pair showed their distinctively white bellies and vents nicely in the scopes as they worked through a mistletoe clump near Rancho's main building our first morning. We had briefer views of another in the pasture on our last full day at Rancho. This species is found only in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia hirundinacea)

Nice studies of a pair along the Rancho entrance road on our first day's ramble, with others at Rancho Bajo on our second visit there. The all-yellow chin and throat of the male quickly distinguishes it from the other euphonia species possible on this tour.


Particularly nice views of one on the banana feeders one morning, with others seen elsewhere on the Rancho property.


Great views of a pair from the Rancho balcony our first morning, with others in the Tuis valley and at Tapanti. The male's rufous cap is diagnostic; females differ from females of the previous species (which also have a rufous forehead) in having a pale chest and belly.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

A little group foraged and called in a tall pine near the coffee grove we visited on our first morning, distracting us briefly from our search for Cabanis's Wren.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

SOOTY-CAPPED CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus pileatus)

A busy group swirled through trees and bushes around Suenos del Irazu seen while the quetzals were temporarily out of view. This highland species is another Chiriqui endemic.

COMMON CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus flavopectus)

Very common at Tapanti, where they made up the bulk of the mixed flocks we encountered.

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Cabinis's Ground-Sparrow is one of Costa Rica's newest endemics, recently split from Prevost's Ground-Sparrow. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

BLACK-STRIPED SPARROW (Arremonops conirostris)

Two seen on many days under Rancho's feeders, bouncing out of the hedges to grab quick mouthfuls of corn.

ORANGE-BILLED SPARROW (Arremon aurantiirostris)

Another bird seen regularly under the hedges by Rancho's feeders, often in company with the previous species in the early morning half-light. We had fine views of another under the benches near the moth sheet.


Two at the moth sheet proved somewhat surreptitious, sneaking around in the thicker bits of low vegetation as they searched for tasty morsels.

VOLCANO JUNCO (Junco vulcani)

Talk about "in your face"! One bold individual danced across a picnic table at the summit of Irazu, and then investigated some nearby garbage bins. No skulking here!

RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis)

Regular at high and middle elevations, including a few singing sweetly around the Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning and others complicating our search for Olive-crowned Yellowthroat and Slaty Spinetail in Platanillo.

LARGE-FOOTED FINCH (Pezopetes capitalis)

Unfortunately, we only had brief views of two in flight across the Irazu hillside near the summit parking lot while we worked to get a look at the Timberline Wrens.

CABANIS'S GROUND-SPARROW (Melozone cabanisi) [E]

Lovely studies of one in the coffee grove down the road from Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning. This Costa Rican endemic was split from the former Prevost's Ground-Sparrow.

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Birding in the time of COVID means wearing a mask in busy city parks while looking for owls! Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Zeledoniidae (Wrenthrush)

WRENTHRUSH (Zeledonia coronata)

Wow! A calling bird crept through the dense brush along the edge of the Tapanti park road, occasionally flicking into the open for a few brief moments. Some folks managed to spot it sitting on one or more of its hidden perches, while others only heard its disembodied voice. This Chiriqui endemic was formerly thought to be an aberrant warbler, but is now put in its own monotypic family.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

One strode around in a pasture at Casa Turire, providing a nice contrast to the nearby Red-breasted Meadowlarks.


A few played hard-to-get in the pastures at Casa Turire, occasionally flying up to perch on a grass stem or tree branch, but more often foraging on the ground in tall grass -- and thus out of view!


Seen on half the days of the tour, but by far the less common of the tour's two oropendolas. Those raiding the bananas at Rancho's and Cope's feeders gave us our best views, but we saw others nicely in flight in the Tuis valley and along the Silent Mountain road.

MONTEZUMA OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius montezuma)

Abundant throughout, with good numbers swarming over Rancho's feeders each morning. The male performing his somersaulting, wing-flapping, tail-pointing courtship display in a tree near the end of the Silent Mountain road was especially entertaining.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

A bright male seen at Rancho's feeders on a couple of mornings, with others at CATIE. This is another winter visitor.

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Nothing like a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, plenty of sangria and a sing-along band to get you in the holiday spirit! Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

A few males came in to Cope's garden, to chow down on the corn sprinkled on logs along the pond edge. We noticed that they typically kept their red epaulets well-covered, signifying that they weren't feeling particularly territorial there.

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

A big flock flew over while we birded the neighborhood at CATIE, fairly late in the day.

GIANT COWBIRD (Molothrus oryzivorus)

Good studies of several -- both big males and smaller females -- in the horse pastures around Casa Turire, with others along the Silent Mountain road. This species is a brood parasite of oropendolas.


Scattered pairs, including some around the Hotel Bougainvillea, a few at CATIE and others along the roadsides on our drive to the Caribbean lowlands. This open-country species was first recorded in Costa Rica in 1987, and has now spread widely through much of the country.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Abundant throughout, though missing from the densest patches of forest.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum) [b]

One of these uncommon winter visitors took a bath at Rancho's hummingbird pools late one afternoon.

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla) [b]

One seen briefly by some along a fast-flowing little rivulet at Tapanti showed the flaring white eyebrow and buffy flanks that help to distinguish this species from the next. Like most of the warblers we saw, this is another winter visitor.

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A gorgeous Flame-throated Warbler entertained us while the quetzals were out of view. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) [b*]

We heard one calling from the edge of Laguna Angostura while birding from the jetty there, but we couldn't get the right angle to actually see it.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera) [b]

Fine views of several -- both males and females -- on three different days, including one in the trees just off Rancho's balcony our first morning, several with mixed flocks along the entrance drive, and one taking a bath at the hummingbird pools. We had another at the Great Potoo spot.

BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia) [b]

Small numbers creeping along trunks and branches on several days, including one with a mixed flock of "locals" at Tapanti.

FLAME-THROATED WARBLER (Oreothlypis gutturalis)

Super views of this highland species on the flanks of Volcan Irazu, when we found one foraging at eye-level near where we found our quetzals. This is another Chiriqui endemic.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina) [b]

Now we know where all of North America's Tennessee Warblers spend their winter! This was certainly one of the most common warblers of the trip.

MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia) [b]

One scuffled through the rank grasses in a pullout near the coffee grove that we visited before breakfast on our first morning.

KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa) [b]

One took a long and vigorous bath at the hummingbird pools.


One at Laguna Angostura proved uncharacteristically shy; most saw only wiggling vegetation as it crept closer. Fortunately, a singing male in a pasture near the Platanillo cemetery was more obliging. This species is typically found in open areas, particularly in low, wet vegetation.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) [b]

A female made several visits to one of the hummingbird pools.

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Red-throated Ant-Tanagers were quite confiding around Rancho's feeders -- and the moth sheet. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

TROPICAL PARULA (Setophaga pitiayumi)

One seen foraging in the treetops in front of the Rancho balcony on several mornings, with another at Rancho Bajo. We heard the buzzy, rising song of this species on several days.


Gratifyingly regular, with great views of several along Rancho's entrance road and others in the Tuis valley and at Tapanti. Some of the adult males were still pretty bright on the throat.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) [b]

Singles on a few days: a male foraging in the little trees (and the baby coffee bushes) in the San Jose coffee grove, another at Rancho Bajo on our first visit and a very plain female at CATIE. Costa Rica's resident Yellow Warblers belong to the "Mangrove Yellow Warbler" clade, and are restricted to the coasts.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica) [b]

Easily the most common warbler of the tour -- by a long, long way! Given our regular encounters, we had plenty of chances to get well-acquainted with the various plumage differences between males, females, adults and youngsters.

RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER (Basileuterus rufifrons)

A bold pair along a hedgerow surrounding the coffee grove in San Jose were a highlight of our first morning's pre-breakfast visit there.

BLACK-CHEEKED WARBLER (Basileuterus melanogenys)

A pair in a scrubby bush just behind one of the picnic tables at Volcan Irazu's summit were a nice bonus while we enjoyed our Volcano Junco. This highland species is another Chiriqui endemic.

GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER (Basileuterus culicivorus)

Two foraging around the Rancho moth sheet spent long minutes in the open, giving us some great views. This widespread species, which extends from Mexico right down to Argentina -- with a massive gap separating northern subspecies from southern subspecies in South America -- may actually be several species.

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Blue-gray Tanager was the first tanager species we found on the tour -- right across the street from our hotel in San Jose. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

BUFF-RUMPED WARBLER (Myiothlypis fulvicauda)

Some of the group spotted our first along the river in the Tuis valley, while others caught up with one that showed briefly along a tumbling stream that crossed the Silent Mountain road. But the one in the Platanillo sugar cane field was the most obliging. The pale rump of this species -- and its habit of swinging its tail from side to side -- makes it eye-catching as it patrols the edges of waterways.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) [b]

A handful danced along epiphyte-laden branches on Irazu's wooded hillsides.

SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus)

Nice views of this flashy species at Tapanti, where several pairs flicked through trees along the park road, fanning their white-edged tails as they curtsied on the branches and leaping out after prey in short aerial sallies.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

Regular in small numbers throughout, including a male that made daily visits to the Rancho feeders and other along the Silent Mountain road.


Daily at Rancho, with especially nice studies of the pair gleaning insects around the moth sheet one morning.

CARMIOL'S TANAGER (Chlorothraupis carmioli)

Several seen bathing at Rancho's hummingbird pools with even better views -- in much better light -- along the Pepper trail. Of course, better light didn't do much to "brighten up" the view -- these are pretty drab birds! This species was called "Olive Tanager" in older field guides.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus) [b]

A female at the top of a small tree across the road from the Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning, with others along the Silent Mountain road. This is a fairly common winter visitor to Costa Rica.

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When it comes to the "wow" factor, few things beat a Red-legged Honeycreeper. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)


A handful with a mixed flock in Rancho's pasture made us work for a look, but I think we all got there in the end.

TAWNY-CRESTED TANAGER (Tachyphonus delatrii)

This is often a tough species to get a good look at, so finding a group busily feeding in some fruiting trees in an open orchard along the Silent Mountain road was a real treat. They even sat still long enough to get them in the scopes!

WHITE-LINED TANAGER (Tachyphonus rufus)

Both black males and russet-brown females seen nicely at Rancho's feeders on several mornings. The white line on the wing of the male is often obscured while he is perched, but his white underwings are pretty striking when he raises his wings -- which he often does while threatening other nearby birds away from "his" feeder.

CRIMSON-COLLARED TANAGER (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus)

This one definitely qualifies as "eye candy"! We had some great looks at these handsome tanagers on Rancho's feeders.

SCARLET-RUMPED TANAGER (Ramphocelus passerinii)

Common throughout, including the regulars at Rancho's feeders each morning. The former Passerini's and Cherrie's tanagers were lumped to make this species.

BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus)

Common and widespread, typically seen in pairs. The orange-flowering African tulip tree shading the San Jose coffee grove made a particularly fetching background against which to view them!

PALM TANAGER (Thraupis palmarum)

Small numbers on many days, including a few in the yard at Rancho Bajo and others in the Tuis valley, at CATIE, and Cope's feeders. Compared to many of the other tanagers we saw, this one is pretty drab.

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Palm Tanagers, on the other hand, are exceedingly drab. But they're also typically easily viewable. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER (Stilpnia larvata)

Plenty of great looks at these gorgeous little birds around the Rancho property, in the Tuis Valley and along the Silent Mountain road. They definitely live up to their Spanish name of "Siete Colores", which means Seven Colors.


A handful of these handsome highland tanagers seen in a couple of mixed flocks along the Tapanti park road.

PLAIN-COLORED TANAGER (Tangara inornata)

Three or four of these small, aptly-named tanagers seen in a busy fruiting tree in a garden at CATIE. These resemble the larger Palm Tanager, but are darker-winged and shorter-tailed.

BAY-HEADED TANAGER (Tangara gyrola)

Small numbers with mixed flocks on Rancho's property (including some seen nicely right from the balcony) with others along the Silent Mountain road. The subspecies found in Costa Rica -- bangsi -- has dark turquoise-blue underparts.

EMERALD TANAGER (Tangara florida)

We had fleeting glimpses of one with a mixed flock in the Tuis valley, but it took until our walk down the Silent Mountain road before we really got a satisfying view. We saw others on Rancho's Pepper trail. This was Ann's 4000th world bird!

SILVER-THROATED TANAGER (Tangara icterocephala)

Another one seen well on multiple days, again including some viewed from Rancho's balcony. We saw others with mixed flocks in the Tuis valley, along the Silent Mountain road, and in Rancho's pasture.


Best seen along the Silent Mountain road and in Rancho's pasture, where some even got a glimpse of a red thigh or two. We saw others from the Rancho balcony. The adult males are certainly eye-catchers!


Numbers swarmed over the banana feeders at Cope's, allowing superb views -- and photographs!

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Finding a Peg-billed Finch at the summit of Volcan Irazu was an unexpected treat. Photo by participant Donna Schulman.

GREEN HONEYCREEPER (Chlorophanes spiza)

Regular in mixed flocks throughout, with particularly nice looks at those eating the bananas at Cope's.

SLATY FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa plumbea)

Common in the highlands of Volcan Irazu, where we even got to see a few robbing nectar from tubular flowers by poking holes near the bases of the tubes. A female with a mixed flock at Tapanti was a bit of a surprise; although they occur as low as 3900 ft, they're not particularly common there.

PEG-BILLED FINCH (Acanthidops bairdi)

A male near the summit trail atop Volcan Irazu was a nice surprise; he looked a bit like a male Slaty Flowerpiercer, but with a very different bill.

VARIABLE SEEDEATER (Sporophila corvina)

Regular throughout, typically in pastures or along weedy roadsides. Those on Costa Rica's Caribbean slope belong to the subspecies "corvina"; males are primarily black, with a small white wing patch.

BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola)

Best seen at Rancho Bajo, where they crawled through the flowering verbena hedges, sipping from every flower they came across. We saw others from Rancho's balcony and along the Silent Mountain road.


A male sang (sounding vaguely insect-like) from low branches of a tree along the Silent Mountain road, and we spotted others along the weedy edges of the road in to Tapanti.


Particularly nice views of a pair at Rancho's feeders on several mornings, with others at Cope's feeders and along the Silent Mountain road.

BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR (Saltator atriceps)

Our best views came at CATIE, where a singing pair swayed in a windy treetop behind one of the houses in the neighborhood we walked through. We saw others at Casa Turire and from Rancho's balcony one morning. This is easily the largest of the tour's saltators.

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A Tayra made several brief visits to Rancho's feeders. Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.


Two in a little roadside tree just across the street from the Hotel Bougainvillea gave us some very satisfying views, and we found others at the start of our walk through the Platanillo sugar cane field. This species was split from the former Grayish Saltator.


GREATER WHITE-LINED BAT (Saccopteryx bilineata)

One fluttered around Doug and Sharon's room early on our last morning at Rancho; fortunately, opening windows and doors and turning off lights encouraged it back out!

MANTLED HOWLER MONKEY (Alouatta palliata) [*]

We heard the distant, distinctive calls of these leaf-eating monkeys while we enjoyed our Spectacled Owl.


One curled up in a treetop was seen by some on the right side of the bus as we drove towards Rancho our first afternoon. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to pull off for a better look!

VARIEGATED SQUIRREL (Sciurus variegatoides)

This was the larger squirrel we saw most mornings at Rancho (plus near the coffee grove in San Jose, and at Cope's feeders). It's named for its very variable pelage colors across its subspecies and Middle American range. There are seven subspecies in Costa Rica; most of those we saw were of the subspecies "thomasi", with "rigidus" also possible around San Jose.

RED-TAILED SQUIRREL (Sciurus granatensis)

These were the smaller squirrels we saw daily at Rancho's feeders, with others at Cope's. They're certainly very determined banana thieves!

MONTANE SQUIRREL (Syntheosciurus brochus)

This was the large squirrel we saw in the avocado tree with the quetzals on Volcan Irazu. This poorly-known highland species is found only in Costa Rica and Panama.

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This Green Iguana was definitely enjoying a bask in the sunshine -- as were we! Photo by participant Holger Teichmann.

ALFARO'S PYGMY SQUIRREL (Microsciurus alfari)

One of these tiny squirrels charmed us as it nuzzled its way along some overhead branches at Tapanti.

DUSKY RICE RAT (Melanomys caliginosus)

One made repeated darting visits to the piles of corn under the hedges at Rancho one morning.

CENTRAL AMERICAN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta punctata)

Regular under Rancho's feeders, with up to three at once on some mornings.

WHITE-NOSED COATI (Nasua narica)

A male visited Rancho's feeders on a couple of mornings, keeping a watchful eye on us as we ate our breakfast nearby. We had another injured male (with one front leg held carefully off the ground) come to our picnic tables at Tapanti, clearly anticipating a handout or two.

TAYRA (Eira barbara)

One of these sleek, dark weasel relatives swarmed up the Rancho banana feeders on a couple of mornings.


GREEN IGUANA (Iguana iguana)

Several around the pond at CATIE, including an adult male with an orange-striped tail.

GREEN BASILISK (Basiliscus plumifrons)

Especially nice looks at a youngster hunting on mid-stream rocks below the bridge at the sugar processing plant. We even got to see it sprint across the water's surface to the far shore -- an ability that gives it the common name "Jesus Christ lizard".

COMMON HOUSE GECKO (Hemidactylus frenatus)

See by a few folks in and around their rooms at Rancho. This species has been widely introduced around the world (both intentionally and accidentally) from its native range in southeast Asia.

FER-DE-LANCE (Bothrops asper)

Rachel almost literally stumbled over a huge 5-foot-long specimen while walking Rancho's trails on her own one afternoon.


We saw the head of something apparently trying to chomp on lily pads during our afternoon visit to CATIE, but couldn't quite work out what it was. Fortunately, Doug got a picture of it, and was able to work out that it was a snapping turtle when we got back to the lodge.

Totals for the tour: 254 bird taxa and 11 mammal taxa