A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Holiday Costa Rica: Rancho Naturalista I 2022

December 22-30, 2022 with Jay VanderGaast & Vernon Campos guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our first-ever visit to Manu, in the Caribbean lowlands, was a big hit, giving us a great variety of lowland species, including the much-wanted Bare-necked Umbrellabird, a species I’ve rarely recorded on our tours. Even better, one of the two we saw was a male, captured in this image by tour participant Richard Kaskan.

I was in Costa Rica back in 2020, just as the pandemic was really starting to impact travel, forcing me to cut the tour short, and I hadn't been back until this tour. And I've got to say, it was great to be back! This country, and Rancho in particular, had become like a home to me, and I was definitely missing it, so getting this chance to spend some quality time back on my old stomping grounds was a real treat for me. And I'm pretty sure it was a treat for all of you as well.

Spending a full week at one location was a treat, too, and Rancho's combination of comfortable accommodations, fantastic food and service, and great access to a lot of awesome birds make it a perennial favorite as a home away from home over Christmas. In between some truly scrumptious meals, we tallied a nice variety of spectacular tropical birds at and around the lodge. Colorful birds like Keel-billed Toucan, Lesson's Motmot, White-necked Jacobin, and Scarlet-rumped Tanager became familiar sights as the week went by, as did so many other species, both colorful and more subtly plumaged. Brilliant Scarlet-thighed Dacnises, snappy White-collared Manakins and the zippy little male Snowcap were all Rancho sightings mentioned among the favorites of the trip.

Excursions away from the lodge also provided us with some memorable birds. From the ridiculously easy Sunbitterns (4 of them!) along the Silencio Road, to the amazing Bare-necked Umbrellabirds at Manu, to the stunning Resplendent Quetzal and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds on Irazu, each venue visited offered up some wonderful sightings. A smattering of daytime owls was a big hit, too-- Mottled right on the grounds of the Bougainvillea, Barn and Tropical Screech in the small park in Paraiso, and a wonderful pair of Crested along the trail at Manu, plus that fierce-looking Spectacled devouring what appeared to be a Green Ibis along the Rio Pejibaye! Not a bad showing considering we did no nocturnal owling on the trip!

There were plenty of other great sightings that could be mentioned here, but I'm short on time, and want to get this out to you all before I am off on another trip, so you'll just have to read further along to relive those other encounters. I just want to wrap things up by saying thank you so much for spending Christmas with us on this trip. Vernon and I had so much fun birding with you all, and hope this was one of your best Christmases ever! All the best to all of you in 2023!


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)

Some young birds, lacking the bright red bill coloring of the adults, sat perched on a concrete bench next to a small pond at Casa Turire, with a couple of adults sleeping nearby on the pond's edge.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The feeders at Cope’s place drew in dozens of brilliant Red-legged Honeycreepers, like the male in this photo by tour participant Kim Tavernia. Who wouldn’t want this as their common backyard feeder bird?

MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata)

They might have been on the other side of the Angostura Reservoir, but their bulky size made them pretty easy to pick out, especially through the scope. Though there were some domesticated ones at Casa Turire, the ones out on the reservoir had the appearance of true wild birds.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors) [b]

All the ducks on the reservoir were quite distant, but the blue wings showed well when they flew.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis) [b]

A fair number at the reservoir.

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

GRAY-HEADED CHACHALACA (Ortalis cinereiceps)

I was a bit surprised when only 5 of these showed up at Rancho's feeders our first morning there, but the numbers grew to 9 birds by the final day, still far short of what used to come to the feeders.

CRESTED GUAN (Penelope purpurascens)

Heard a bunch of times at Rancho, but our only sighting was of a lone bird above the feeding station at Centro Manu.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

A few in some of the towns we passed through.

PALE-VENTED PIGEON (Patagioenas cayennensis)

Only seen in the Caribbean lowlands, where a couple of birds at Cope's feeders gave us our best views.

RED-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas flavirostris)

Seen daily except on our Caribbean lowland day, with a good number showing up at Rancho's feeders each day.

SHORT-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas nigrirostris)

Heard almost daily, but just one sighting of a pair of birds along the Silencio Road, with one of the pair remaining perched at about eye level next to the bus when its partner flushed.

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

Small numbers at some of the open country sites we birded.

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

A couple of these were daily visitors in the back yard at Rancho, regularly feeding on rice and corn meal on the ground below the feeding stations.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Widespread in the country now, though not so long ago, these were restricted to the northwest. We saw them most days.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Irazu Volcano is one of the best places to see this familiar dove in the country, and we saw a handful perched on roadside wires as we drove up and down from the national park.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

This open-country cuckoo was seen in scrubby pastures at a few sites, with some especially nice looks at a trio of birds attending an army ant swarm at CATIE.

SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)

Heard almost daily, and seen by some on the Hotel Bougainvillea as well as at Rancho, but it wasn't until our final day that we caught everyone up on this large cuckoo at the Rio Macho reserve.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis) [*]

Heard a couple of mornings at Rancho, as well as on our final evening at the Hotel Bougainvillea, but surprisingly we never saw this species along the Rancho entry road during the drives in the dark.

Nyctibiidae (Potoos)

GREAT POTOO (Nyctibius grandis)

Centro Manu's local guide Kenneth started our visit off on the right foot by showing us one of these cool birds on a day roost almost as soon as we got off the bus!

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris)

Swifts were in short supply this tour, but we did have a couple of flocks of these large ones near Hacienda Oriente and at Rio Macho.

VAUX'S SWIFT (Chaetura vauxi)

A number of these small swifts were wheeling about overhead fairly high on the slopes of Irazu Volcano, where they are generally the only Chaetura to occur.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN (Florisuga mellivora)

The dominant hummingbird at Rancho's feeders, so close encounters were the norm.

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Usually our Crested Owl sightings come from birds on staked out day roosts, so I was pleased to spot these ones at Manu on my own for a change! Tour participant Richard Kaskan snapped this photo of the pair; that brown blob to the left of the obvious owl is its mate.

GREEN HERMIT (Phaethornis guy)

Our first was one of the first birds to show up at the Hummingbird Pools, but better views were had at the feeders, where they put in occasional appearances on an unpredictable schedule.

LONG-BILLED HERMIT (Phaethornis longirostris)

Excellent looks at Cope's feeders, where we also enjoyed seeing this one alongside its mini-me version, Stripe-throated Hermit.

STRIPE-THROATED HERMIT (Phaethornis striigularis)

After this bird was a no-show during our hummingbird watch at Rancho Bajo, we returned to the lodge for lunch only to have one turn up as we ate, with everyone able to get good views without leaving the table! Also seen well at Cope's feeders.

LESSER VIOLETEAR (COSTA RICAN) (Colibri cyanotus cabanidis)

Singing incessantly on the upper slopes of Irazu, where we also managed to spot and scope a couple on their song perches. Formerly called Green Violetear.

PURPLE-CROWNED FAIRY (Heliothryx barroti)

Just two sightings, both of females, and both on the same day. Our first showed reasonably well as it fed over our heads as we birded along the Silencio Road. Then at the Hummingbird Pools that afternoon, we were treated to the spectacle of another dipping repeatedly into the pools, showing her colors beautifully despite the fading light.

GREEN-BREASTED MANGO (Anthracothorax prevostii)

After the Jacobin, this is the next most common feeder visitor at Rancho, though our first was a distinctive stripe-breasted female, seen before we left the Bougainvillea the first day.

GREEN THORNTAIL (Discosura conversii)

A total of 6 birds scattered over 4 different days. We initially saw a female feeding at the vervain hedge at Rancho, then later saw more females at Centro Manu and in the Rio Tuis valley (and at Rancho again). In between we saw a couple of wispy-tailed males, both on the same day, one at Rancho Bajo, the other just outside the lodge at a flowering tree.

BLACK-CRESTED COQUETTE (Lophornis helenae)

We watched the verbena at Rancho Bajo for a long time, hoping for one of these tiny hummers to put in an appearance, only to leave empty-handed. The following day at Centro Manu's hummingbird garden, guide Kenneth spotted a showy male on a perch in the subcanopy, and we were delighted to get wonderful scope views of him as he returned to the same perch time and again after brief forays to the vervain flowers.


Just a single sighting of a female that made a few visits to the balcony feeders on our first day at Rancho.

TALAMANCA HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes spectabilis)

We also just had one of these, but the looks were fantastic, as a male of this huge hummer made repeated visits to the flowers of a giant thistle plant as we started our walk towards the crater at Irazu volcano.


When we came across these hummingbirds high on the slopes of Irazu, the weather and the lighting were pretty poor, but with hummingbirds, it's the angle of the lighting that counts, not the intensity. This was well-illustrated as one of the birds perched above us turned its head at just the right angle to really show off that glowing, fiery throat! It was this view that prompted Flo to elect this species as her favorite of the entire trip.


Though there wasn't an abundance of suitable flowers at the Rio Macho reserve, there were enough to support a handful of these beauties, and we got good looks at both purple-throated males and the very different-looking, rusty-bellied females.

VOLCANO HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus flammula)

The tiny hummers were appropriately the most numerous hummingbird on Irazu, with plenty of them whizzing about, especially after the sun finally managed to burn off the fog.

GARDEN EMERALD (Chlorostilbon assimilis)

A male put in a brief appearance at the back yard vervain hedge one day after lunch, though only a handful of folks were still around to see it. Luckily, another male (very likely the same one, actually), showed up at the flowers at Rancho Bajo, and we all got good views then, despite the aggressive Rufous-tailed Hummingbird's attempts to drive it away.


A lone bird turned up for a short feeding session in the hummingbird garden at Centro Manu.

VIOLET SABREWING (Campylopterus hemileucurus)

This monster-sized hummingbird is not always present at Rancho, but fortunately there were at least a couple of males and a female around this time, and we all got great looks at this large, purple beauty!

BRONZE-TAILED PLUMELETEER (Chalybura urochrysia)

I still prefer the old name, Red-footed Plumeleteer, but whatever you call this bird, we had some good looks on our day in the Caribbean lowlands, with a couple of birds at a flowering tree at Manu, then even better views of one at Cope's feeders.

CROWNED WOODNYMPH (Thalurania colombica)

Fairly common at Rancho, with a few visiting the porch feeders, and several showing nicely at the Hummingbird Pools.

SNOWCAP (Microchera albocoronata)

A female taking a bath at the Hummingbird Pools was our first, but we really wanted a male, so we trekked down to Rancho Bajo and staked out the flowering hedges there. It wasn't long before a gorgeous male showed up and showed off, charming its way into the top 3 birds of the trip in third spot.

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Primarily a bird of the northwest Pacific lowlands, in recent years a few pairs of Rufous-naped Wrens have moved into the area around the Hotel Bougainvillea, where participant Kim Tavernia took this photo on the hotel grounds.

BLUE-VENTED HUMMINGBIRD (Saucerottia hoffmanni)

Our final new bird of the trip, spotted feeding on some small red flowers on a scrubby hillside at Rio Perlas just before we headed back to San Jose. It was hard to pick up as it flew around, but lucky for us, it perched up on a dead branch where we were able to scope it for great views. Until recently, this species was known as Steely-vented Hummingbird, but is now treated as a full species restricted to Costa Rica and Nicaragua.


Seen every day but our last, when we inexplicably failed to record any. This was probably the first hummingbird species in the country for everyone.


Part of the group at least had good views of a male that made a short visit to the hummingbird garden at Manu.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

RUSSET-NAPED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides albiventris)

The Caribbean slope version of the former Gray-necked Wood-Rail, we saw these a couple of times, beginning with a showy pair with the whistling-ducks at Casa Turire, followed by one seen from the bus as we drove into Manu, and finally, pretty much point-blank views of one at Cope's pond.

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

A single bird showed well near the viewing dock at the Angostura Reservoir, and there were quite a few on the pond at CATIE.

WHITE-THROATED CRAKE (Laterallus albigularis) [*]

Heard only at both the Angostura Reservoir and CATIE.

Aramidae (Limpkin)

LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)

Seen on both visits to the Angostura Reservoir, but none of them lingered in the open for long.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis)

A pair of birds were in a pasture in front of the Casa Turire, and we found three more at the Hacienda Oriente. First recorded in the country in 1997, but now it's hard to imagine doing a tour here without seeing them somewhere.

Jacanidae (Jacanas)

NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa)

Small numbers on the Angostura Reservoir, and numerous at CATIE.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) [b]

One bird along the Rio Pejibaye.

Eurypygidae (Sunbittern)

SUNBITTERN (Eurypyga helias)

I needn't have been concerned about having a backup day for this species, as we found our first quite easily on the river at Platanillo, where it posed for everyone to watch to their satisfaction. That same morning, we went on to see 3 more, with two birds walking on the road ahead of us! As if that wasn't sufficient, Brian spotted yet another one along the Rio Pejibaye! Believe it or not, this was once a difficult species to find here!

Ciconiidae (Storks)

WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

A distant but unmistakeable one at the Angostura Reservoir.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

One distant bird at the reservoir, then a couple much closer ones (one of each sex) at CATIE.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

Small numbers at the reservoir, mostly quite distant.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

FASCIATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma fasciatum)

Vernon spotted one along the Rio Tuis as we headed back to the lodge for our final night, and we enjoyed great scope views as it stalked along the river's edge. The next day, we found another at Rio Perlas, and that one gave an even better show!

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) [b]

Singles at the Angostura Reservoir and CATIE.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

Small numbers scattered around wherever suitable habitat was found.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

Ones and twos in the expected places, with a single bird roosting at an unexpected spot-- Cope's tiny backyard pond!

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

A few birds at the Angostura Reservoir, then at least 9 coming in to roost for the night at CATIE.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

In pretty good numbers daily.

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Poor weather on Irazu was keeping most birds under cover, but once the sun finally emerged, so did the birds, including this somewhat bedraggled Volcano Junco drying itself out in the sun after the wet start to the morning. Photo by tour participant Richard Kaskan.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

A couple at the reservoir, then good numbers of pretty bold ones at the pond at CATIE.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

A few at the same sites as the other herons we saw.

BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius)

It seems that the last time these herons were seen on the bamboo island at CATIE was when I did the tour last in 2017! As it was we had to search a bit harder for them, but Vernon eventually spotted one hunkered down in the dense papyrus on the far shore of the pond. It wasn't quite the view we'd hoped for, but we could make out that massive boat bill through the scope.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

GREEN IBIS (Mesembrinibis cayennensis)

Once a tough bird to see in CR, now pretty easy, especially at CATIE where they were seen feeding in the grassy lawns of some of the residences! The most memorable one though, might have been the one in the talons of a Spectacled Owl!

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)


TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Also daily.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) [b]

A single bird (probably the same individual) on each of our visits to the Angostura Reservoir.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

Three birds were seen the first day on the slopes of Irazu, three more at Hacienda Oriente, and a single near Orosi. Bruce was especially enchanted by this species' effortless flights and graceful hovering, behavior which have given it the local name bailarin (dancer), and chose this as his favorite bird of the trip.

SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis)

A couple of distant ones perched on the far side of the Angostura Reservoir, with one bird doing a somewhat closer flyby on our second visit. This species and the Limpkin were pretty much unknown from this area until this reservoir was formed by the damming of the Rio Reventazon in 1999!

ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)

Almost daily, though not always along the roadside.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

Our lone one was seen flying low across a field at Hacienda Oriente, then perching briefly in a distant tree (where the back half was visible in the scope), before taking off out of view.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus) [b]

A common wintering species, though we saw relatively few this trip, with just 6 birds scattered across 4 days.

SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)

Some folks saw a light morph bird fly over Cope's house, then we all caught up with nice looks at one or more light morph birds and a lone dark-morph one in the Rio Tuis valley.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

A single seen by some as we ascended Irazu, another single along the Silencio Road, and a pair at Rio Macho. Both migrants and residents occur here, with at least the Rio Macho birds looking like they belonged to the resident form costaricensis which is restricted to the highlands of CR and western Panama.

Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)

BARN OWL (Tyto alba)

Vernon knew just where to find this one, roosting near the park in Paraiso, in an open enough situation for some fine scope views.

Strigidae (Owls)

TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL (Megascops choliba)

These were also in the Paraiso park, though Vernon didn't know exactly where they were, as they weren't in their favored spot. But eventually he managed to find them roosting beneath a bromeliad in another tree, and we all had nice scope views of the pair.

CRESTED OWL (Lophostrix cristata)

"Does anyone want to see a Crested Owl?" I've always wanted to utter this line in a casual manner, and got my chance when I spotted one on a day roost at Manu. I thought Kenneth was going to tell me they always roosted there, but apparently it was the first time he'd seen them in that spot.

SPECTACLED OWL (Pulsatrix perspicillata)

We were a bit short on time at Cope's so he took us first to his "easy" pair, which were indeed easy, as they could be seen right from the road, which saved us a rather long walk to his other pair. The very next day I spotted another one along the Rio Pejibaye, perched on a thick branch with some prey item clenched in its talons. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that what it had was a Green Ibis, which it likely plucked off its night roost.

MOTTLED OWL (Ciccaba virgata)

These birds have apparently been roosting in the bamboo clump at the Bougainvillea for at least a year, though it was the first time I saw them at the hotel. Officially this wasn't a tour bird but everyone did see at least one of them in the hours leading up to our first dinner. We also heard these at Rancho, but didn't want to bother them since we'd all had great looks.

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Tour participant Kim Tavernia captured this lovely portrait of a preening Sunbittern, the first of 5 of these spectacular birds we were to see on the tour!
Trogonidae (Trogons)

RESPLENDENT QUETZAL (Pharomachrus mocinno)

By a fairly slim margin, this handsome bird was voted the top bird of the tour, thanks to first place votes from Terry, Dick, and Carol E. Vernon first found a female as we were getting ready to have lunch high up on Irazu, and when we all rushed out of the restaurant, we also were treated to the stunning sight of a long-tailed male flying across the road overhead! That would probably have been enough to get it top bird honors, but after lunch, Vernon once again showed off his spotting skills by picking out the male perched in a tall roadside oak, where we all got great looks, including some fantastic scope studies. What a way to start the tour!

SLATY-TAILED TROGON (Trogon massena)

While we were angling for a good look at the male umbrellabird at Manu, a male of this trogon flew in and landed nearby, giving us good scope views before we turned our attention back to the rarer umbrellabird.

GARTERED TROGON (Trogon caligatus)

A female along the drive on our walk down to Rancho Bajo, then a pair in the same area on a pre-breakfast jaunt to try to track down jacamars.


A lovely female posed in front of us at Manu, kicking off a nice string of good birds after a relatively quiet start to our walk on the trails.

COLLARED TROGON (Trogon collaris)

Vernon spotted a female perched quietly near the road at Rio Macho, giving us a sweep of the expected trogons on this tour.

Momotidae (Motmots)

LESSON'S MOTMOT (Momotus lessonii lessonii)

Richard spotted our first, perched on the back of a plastic lawn chair during our initial morning outing near the Bougainvillea. We also enjoyed many more good views of a gorgeous pair that made regular visits to Rancho's banana feeders. One of 6 current species that used to make up Blue-crowned Motmot before it was split.

RUFOUS MOTMOT (Baryphthengus martii) [*]

Heard only from the balcony at Rancho.

BROAD-BILLED MOTMOT (Electron platyrhynchum)

The two Carol's both spotted this bird from the bus as we pulled up to Cope's Spectacled Owl roost, though they were unsure at first whether it was this species or the larger Rufous. Our subsequent scope views clearly showed the green chin, less extensive rufous on the underside, and the smaller and more compact body that identified it as this species.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)

One perched on dead branches at Angostura eventually transformed into a Green Kingfisher before transforming back into a Ringed after a few minutes. Okay, not really, the 2 birds just changed places a couple of times.

AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona)

Carol B. really has a thing for kingfishers, and this was one of her most-wanted species, so she was especially pleased when we spotted one at eye level on a power line as we drove across a one-lane bridge near the Hacienda Oriente. Too bad that car had to come along behind us and cut our viewing short, but the look was still good enough for her to choose it as her trip favorite.

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

The aforementioned one that replaced the Ringed on its perch, and another plunging for prey in the small pond at Cope's.

Galbulidae (Jacamars)

RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR (Galbula ruficauda) [*]

Heard in the ravine below the lodge, as well as along the Rio Pejibaye, but we frustratingly couldn't spot either bird.

Capitonidae (New World Barbets)

RED-HEADED BARBET (Eubucco bourcierii)

Great looks at a pair foraging in clusters of dead leaves at Rio Macho.

Semnornithidae (Toucan-Barbets)

PRONG-BILLED BARBET (Semnornis frantzii)

Vernon spotted a pair of these odd barbets perched quietly near the road at Rio Macho, and they showed no inclination to move, so we eventually had to walk away from them.

Ramphastidae (Toucans)

COLLARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus torquatus)

One in a fruiting tree at CATIE was nice, but it was even better to get those incredible close looks at 5 of these at Cope's feeders!

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

The larger, yelping toucan species. We saw a few of these really well at Manu, then followed that up with incredible views of one that came for bananas at Cope's feeders.

KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

The smaller, croaking toucan, which we heard and/or saw daily at Rancho.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

The tall oak forests on Irazu are home to this handsome woodpecker, and we saw several on our day up there.

BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pucherani)

Seen most days, with a trio of these paying regular visitors to Rancho's feeders.

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One of a handful of non-migratory warblers we encountered on the tour, this lovely Chestnut-capped Warbler was spotted in the scrub along Rancho’s entrance road as we walked down to Rancho Bajo. Photo by tour participant Richard Kaskan.

HOFFMANN'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes hoffmannii)

Mainly seen around the Hotel Bougainvillea before the tour started, except by woodpecker enthusiast Bruce, who was the last to arrive and had little birding time there. Frustratingly though we heard them elsewhere on several days, we never saw another, though I'm hoping Bruce caught up with this one before leaving for the airport at tour's end!

SMOKY-BROWN WOODPECKER (Dryobates fumigatus)

One seen just below the lodge early one morning. While the lighting wasn't great, this dull species doesn't look that much different in good light!

LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus)

Most folks managed to see one on the Bougainvillea grounds on the day the tour began. For those that missed that one, we had another on a couple of days at Rancho that cooperated for all.

GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus)

Heard a few times, and seen well once during breakfast at Rancho.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

I think all of our sightings were from the bus, with a few seen along the road in the Caribbean lowlands, and a couple more on our way to Rio Macho.

YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA (Milvago chimachima)

We saw the resident pair near the Bougainvillea on our first group outing, a couple at Casa Turire, another along the Rio Platanillo, and yet another at CATIE. When I first came to CR in 1993, they were found in none of these places, and were restricted to the southern Pacific lowlands from about Quepos southward.

LAUGHING FALCON (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

Probably the same bird was seen twice as we drove along the highway to and from Manu, but the road construction meant there was nowhere we could pull over safely to view it. At least on the return trip, the traffic was slow enough and the bird was close enough to the road that the views were not bad at all. Larry singled this out as his top trip bird, claiming it was the species that lit the spark for his interest in birding.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius) [b]

A female flew by as we birded along the shore of the Angostura Reservoir, and then perched in a lakeside tree where we were able to get good scope views. An uncommon winter visitor here.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEET (Brotogeris jugularis)

I guess these birds have been around the Rancho region for a while, but I was a bit surprised to see a pair at Rancho Bajo as I'd never encountered them here before. Much less of a surprise were the three that visited Cope's feeder!

BROWN-HOODED PARROT (Pyrilia haematotis)

We saw their shapes flying over on several occasions, but they were never close enough or in good enough light to actually get any color on them.


The common parrot around Rancho and area, and we saw them pretty much daily, with several good scope views.

WHITE-FRONTED PARROT (Amazona albifrons)

They weren't great looks, but we had a group of 4 birds fly over on our very first morning outing at the Bougainvillea. Some of you saw them well on the hotel grounds before the trip.


The common parakeet of the trip, though best seen around the Hotel Bougainvillea, where large numbers went over on our first morning, and in Paraiso Park, where one pair showed off especially well as they perched and preened just below the Barn Owl.

Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)

BLACK-CROWNED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus atrinucha)

One of the first species we got on our forest walk at Manu. These birds often come in and stay quite low when responding to playback, but this pair went way up into the canopy, where we would have lost them if it weren't for Vernon's persistence. He eventually found the male sitting high above us, and we managed to get some good scope views as he sang, beating his tail in time with the calls.

PLAIN ANTVIREO (Dysithamnus mentalis)

A couple of folks got on one at our first stop at Rio Macho, while we tried to spot a loudly calling Zeledon's Antbird along the roadside.

CHECKER-THROATED STIPPLETHROAT (Epinecrophylla fulviventris)

We managed some pretty good looks at a trio of these birds (formerly known as antwrens) as they foraged through the scrub alongside the driveway on a pre-breakfast walk at Rancho.

SLATY ANTWREN (Myrmotherula schisticolor)

Richard managed to see a male down near the manakin lekking area one morning, but it slipped past the rest of us. But I think everyone did catch up with views of these in a little mixed flock on our final day at Rio Macho.

ZELEDON'S ANTBIRD (Hafferia zeledoni) [*]

We heard three different ones, with one bird being frustratingly close but remaining out of sight, at Rio Macho.

Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER (Sittasomus griseicapillus)

Carol B. spotted our only one foraging over the road at Rio Macho. Note that this species is due for some serious splitting (perhaps into 5 or more species!) so make sure to note where you've seen them as there could be some armchair ticks coming your way.

PLAIN-BROWN WOODCREEPER (Dendrocincla fuliginosa)

Nice looks of one that was foraging at the moth cloth early one morning at Rancho.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Spectacled Owl appears none too pleased to have its meal (Green Ibis, apparently) interrupted. The bird’s menacing glare was captured beautifully in this photo by tour participant Kim Tavernia.

WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Glyphorynchus spirurus)

Some folks got on one that showed briefly along the Silencio Road, the rest of us caught up with a couple of these, the smallest of the woodcreepers, at Rio Macho.

COCOA WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus susurrans)

Carol E. found us our only one, not far from the army ant swarm at CATIE.

SPOTTED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus erythropygius)

We had two sightings of this largish woodcreeper, first at Rancho, where one turned up over the hummingbird pools, then we had another at Rio Macho, one of 4 species of woodcreepers we saw there,

STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii)

This species seems to be more tolerant of disturbed habitats than most others, and is one of the easier ones to see. Unsurprisingly it was the most often seen woodcreeper on the tour.

SPOT-CROWNED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes affinis)

The last of our 4 woodcreepers seen at Rio Macho. This one looks very similar to the above species, but replaces it at higher elevations.

PLAIN XENOPS (Xenops minutus)

Great looks at one along the driveway at Rancho on a pre-breakfast walk.


A couple of these usually furtive birds foraged quite openly for insects around the moth cloth, giving us all excellent looks at what can be a tough bird to see well.

SPOTTED BARBTAIL (Premnoplex brunnescens)

These small Furnariids look very much like woodcreepers but though they're in the same family, they're distant cousins at best. We had pretty good looks at a pair along the roadside during our first stop at Rio Macho.

RED-FACED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca erythrops)

We saw at least 3 pairs of these very arboreal spinetails at Rio Macho, with one pair busily collecting nesting material and flying off to a nest out of view before returning to the roadside for another beak full of moss for the nest.

Pipridae (Manakins)

WHITE-RUFFED MANAKIN (Corapipo altera)

A lovely male at the hummingbirds was a pretty nice present on Christmas Day, I think!


Great views of several males on a large lek just below the lodge. Though we didn't actually see them display, the sounds from the lek were pretty fun to hear.

Cotingidae (Cotingas)

BARE-NECKED UMBRELLABIRD (Cephalopterus glabricollis)

I tried to keep my expectations in check when we made our visit to Manu, but I was secretly hoping we'd see one, as I have seen very few of these over the years. So I was thrilled when not only did we see two of them, but one was an adult male with a bright red throat sac, the first male I've seen since my first one back in the 1990's! Charlotte, Mike, and Richard all chose this as their top bird of the trip (and it was mine, too) putting it at number two overall.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA (Tityra inquisitor)

Nice scope views of a pair in the pasture on our first day at Rancho. A second pair was seen during our afternoon visit to CATIE.

MASKED TITYRA (Tityra semifasciata)

Generally the more common and oft-seen of the two tityra species, and our experience bore this out as we saw these birds several times during our stay at Rancho.

CINNAMON BECARD (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus)

Nice views of a pair at Casa Turire were followed by several encounters with these pretty birds at Rancho.

Oxyruncidae (Sharpbill, Royal Flycatcher, and Allies)

RUDDY-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Terenotriccus erythrurus)

Nice spotting by Richard to pick up this small forest flycatcher at Centro Manu.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

OLIVE-STRIPED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes olivaceus)

The recent taxonomic update now treats the Costa Rica and Panama birds as a separate species, Olive-streaked Flycatcher, though the scientific name remains the same. We saw one bird in the Rio Tuis valley, then several the next day at Rio Macho.

OCHRE-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes oleagineus)

Though we first daw this species at the hummingbird pools, we had a much better view of one perched in good light near the parking area at Manu.

SLATY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Leptopogon superciliaris)

Our only sighting was of a bird bathing at the hummingbird pools.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A Lesson’s Motmot before breakfast is never a bad way to start out your day! Tour participant Richard Kaskan grabbed this image between sips of coffee early one morning at Rancho.

SCALE-CRESTED PYGMY-TYRANT (Lophotriccus pileatus)

We struggled to get everyone a look at a furtive one in the Rio Tuis valley, only to get excellent looks at a couple the following day at Rio Macho.

COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum)

Carol E spotted us our first of these charismatic little flycatchers at Casa Turire.

BLACK-HEADED TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum nigriceps)

It wasn't the best encounter with this tiny canopy species as it wouldn't sit still long enough to scope, but we did see one on the walk down to Rancho Bajo.

EYE-RINGED FLATBILL (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris)

A single sighting at Rio Macho. We did get the scopes on this one, but it flew off before many had a chance to get to the scopes.

YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias sulphurescens)

We had a few sightings of this one at Rancho and in the surrounding areas, though they were heard more often than seen.

YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)

A few of us that were lagging behind the rest of the group saw one at Casa Turire, and later we caught everyone up with a trailside pair in the Rio Tuis valley.

MOUNTAIN ELAENIA (Elaenia frantzii)

A lone elaenia was one of several birds plucking berries in a fruiting tree at the end of our walk at Rio Macho.

TORRENT TYRANNULET (Serpophaga cinerea)

A pair of these perky little birds flitted among the boulders of the Rio Platanillo along the Silencio Road.


Seen regularly, and heard pretty much daily.

TAWNY-CHESTED FLYCATCHER (Aphanotriccus capitalis)

A pair in a large stand of bamboo along the Rio Tuis showed pretty well for all. This is a local specialty, as it has a quite restricted range (only in CR and Nicaragua) and doesn't appear to be too common in many areas.

TROPICAL PEWEE (Contopus cinereus)

Nice looks at a pair fly-catching from low perches near the road at Casa Turire.

YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris) [b]

The common migrant Empid here, and we had several sightings of them.

YELLOWISH FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flavescens)

This distinctive Empid showed well at Rio Macho.

BLACK-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax atriceps)

Another distinctive Empid, this one restricted to higher elevations. One was seen by at least a few people in the ravine behind our lunch stop on Irazu.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

A few pairs along the rocky rivers we birded alongside on several days.

LONG-TAILED TYRANT (Colonia colonus)

We heard one near the parking area at Manu, then spotted it atop a tall tree, but I think only Brian got to see it as it flew off almost immediately never to be seen again.

BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA (Attila spadiceus) [*]

A very frustrating bird at Rancho, as it was calling loudly almost every morning, but proved impossible to find.

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

The only resident Myiarchus in this part of Costa Rica. We heard the mournful call almost daily, and added a few scattered sightings as well.

GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus crinitus) [b]

One sighting of a single bird at CATIE.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

None of our sightings came at Rancho itself, but they were seen daily in the surrounding areas we visited, and were regularly spotted on roadside wires as we drove from place to place.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Stripe-breasted Wren is not only one of the prettiest of wrens, it’s also one of the finest songsters. This bird at Manu didn’t just pose for us, it also treated us to a lovely vocal performance! Photo by tour participant Kim Tavernia.

BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua)

Never as numerous as the similar kiskadee, but still a pretty common bird, and we had several looks at these aptly-named birds.

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis)

Very common and seen every day except on our visit to the Caribbean lowlands, though I suspect we just weren't paying close enough attention.

GRAY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes granadensis)

Usually less common than the similar Social FC, but not uncommon, and often seen with Socials. We had a few nice looks at these.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

A common sight throughout the trip.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

LESSER GREENLET (Pachysylvia decurtata)

Good looks at a pair at Manu.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons) [b]

Not an uncommon winter visitor here. We saw singles on several days, mainly at Rancho.

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus) [b]

It was nice to see this northern migrant well a few times. Many of you saw this species prior to the hotel on the Hotel Bougainvillea grounds, where there were several hanging around. On the tour itself, we saw them at Rancho and in the Tuis River valley.

BROWN-CAPPED VIREO (Vireo leucophrys)

Just one sighting of a single bird on our final day at Rio Macho.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio)

Common and conspicuous, and only missed on our Caribbean lowland day.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca)

The common swallow of upland areas, and we saw these pretty little swallows daily.

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Some of the rough-winged swallows we saw went unidentified, mainly for lack of effort once we'd seen them both, and ultimately we only positively ID'd this one at CATIE, where they were the most numerous of the 4 swallow species present.

SOUTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis)

Recorded more regularly than the above species, with several good views of their diagnostic peach-colored throats and pale rumps.

GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea)

One was seen flying over a hillside pasture along the Silencio Road, and a handful were perched on roadside power lines at a regular location in the Caribbean lowlands.

MANGROVE SWALLOW (Tachycineta albilinea)

Despite the lack of mangroves, a small number of these swallows have been present at the soccer fields at CATIE for as long as I've been visiting CR. We had great scope views of 9 birds perched on a wire and flying over the playing fields showing their contrasting white rumps.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

LONG-BILLED GNATWREN (Ramphocaenus melanurus)

A lone, singing bird near the start of the trail at Manu only showed itself to a few people.

WHITE-BROWED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila bilineata)

Formerly known as Tropical Gnatcatcher (this name still applies to the various subspecies east of the Andes). We had mediocre views of a pair at Casa Turire, then somewhat better views of another pair at Manu, together with the elusive gnatwren mentioned above.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

A commonly heard voice in scrubby areas throughout, and we managed to see a few as well, without any special effort. CR's birds belong to the northernmost subspecies (intermedius) in the "Southern" House Wren grouping. Watch for the House Wren to be split into several species in the coming years.

OCHRACEOUS WREN (Troglodytes ochraceus)

Looks like a rusty House Wen, but acts very differently, creeping along mossy branches and foraging high in bromeliads and epiphytes in montane forest. Some may have seen one on the slopes of Irazu, but they were most common, and more visible, at Rio Macho, where we saw several.

TIMBERLINE WREN (Thryorchilus browni)

Often silent and impossible to find on Irazu at this time of year, though it's pretty common there. We were lucky to hear one singing spontaneously near the crater parking area, and managed to lure it in for some pretty good views.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Once known as Long-tailed Hermit, but now called Long-billed Hermit. Either way, it’s a long hummingbird, and we were pleased to enjoy some long looks at Cope’s feeders. Even the Red-legged Honeycreeper couldn’t help but take a pause to watch! Photo by tour participant Richard Kaskan.

BAND-BACKED WREN (Campylorhynchus zonatus)

A half dozen of these large, handsome, arboreal wrens showed beautifully on our visit to CATIE.

RUFOUS-NAPED WREN (Campylorhynchus rufinucha)

Seen by most on the Bougainville grounds prior to the official start of the tour. On the tour itself, we saw just one on our first outing across the street from the hotel.

BLACK-THROATED WREN (Pheugopedius atrogularis)

A skulking species that is easily heard, not so easily seen, but several folks managed a brief view of a pair from Rancho's balcony one day.

STRIPE-BREASTED WREN (Cantorchilus thoracicus)

Super views of one perched out in the open near the parking area at Manu.

CABANIS'S WREN (Cantorchilus modestus)

At least a couple of folks saw one on the hotel grounds before the tour started. For the tour itself, this was one of our final birds, tallied on a scrubby hillside at Rio Perlas.

BAY WREN (Cantorchilus nigricapillus)

Another vocal species that can be tough to get a good view of. We heard them on several days, but only had one look (a pretty good one, though) in the roadside forest at Cope's Spectacled Owl spot.

WHITE-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucosticta)

Heard often at Rancho, and seen well at the moth cloth early one morning.

GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucophrys)

Replaces the above species at higher elevations. We saw a reasonably cooperative pair at Rio Macho, where the two wood-wrens do come into contact, and I certainly enjoyed hearing both species from a single spot along the entrance road.

SONG WREN (Cyphorhinus phaeocephalus)

Another tough species to see well, though at least a couple folks managed a look at a trio we stumbled across on the forest at Centro Manu. The rest of us had to settle for hearing their interesting songs and seeing a few understory plants moving.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis) [b]

An uncommon winter visitor on this tour route and our only one was spotted by Richard as it fed in a fruiting tree at CATIE.


These birds are relatively recent arrivals in the country, but have ben expanding like crazy since they first appeared. We saw a handful, including in some places I'd never had them before like the Hotel Bougainvillea.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)


Nice looks at a few of these highland thrushes right up around the crater at Irazu.


One was singing in roadside scrub at Rio macho, and we managed some decent looks before it moved back further into the forest.


I was pretty surprised to actually go an entire day without seeing or hearing this species while birding at both Rancho and Casa Turire. This rarely happens anywhere in CR! For the record, I repeated this feat on the 2nd tour, on the same birding day. Carol and Larry did see one along the driveway at Rancho, so it maintained its status as an everyday bird.

SOOTY THRUSH (Turdus nigrescens)

A bold and easy to see highland thrush, with good close views of several on the upper slopes of Irazu.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

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

A quiet and unobtrusive species. We had quick views of a male with a mixed flock in the fog at the top of Irazu, then far better views of a pair at Rio Macho.


Most got a scope view of one of a pair teed up on bare branches at the scenic overlook on the way up to Irazu. We also had a pair at Rio Macho, though they were seen only briefly.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Much more widespread than when I lived here, though still primarily tied to towns and cities (and gas stations!).

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

GOLDEN-BROWED CHLOROPHONIA (Chlorophonia callophrys)

Pretty good scope views of a male on our first morning's walk at Rancho, then even better views of several at Rio Macho, where one gorgeous male sat long enough for most to get a scope view.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The vervain hedges at Rancho Bajo were a big hit with small hummers, including the delicate male Green Thorntail in this photo by tour participant Kim Tavernia.

YELLOW-CROWNED EUPHONIA (Euphonia luteicapilla)

Nice looks at a pair on or first morning at Rancho, one of four species we saw from a single spot in the pasture.


A group of at least 7 of these were seen together with the above species and the next two at Rancho. This is arguably one of the tougher euphonia species to find in the country, but Rancho is a reliable spot for them.

YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia hirundinacea)

A pair at Rancho, and a few more at CATIE. This is the only species here in which the male has a yellow throat.


Seen or heard most days at Rancho. The most interesting sighting was of a male with pigment issues at Rancho Bajo. Its wings were mainly lacking in pigment and looked like they'd been bleached.


We had several nice looks at this handsome and distinctive euphonia, first along the Silencio Road, then again in the Tuis valley and at Rio Macho.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

A group of about half a dozen were a bit of a surprise in the coffee plantations near the Bougainvillea as I'd never seen them there before. More expected were a couple on the lower slopes of Irazu, where we had especially good views of a striking, black-backed male perched in a bare tree below us.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

SOOTY-CAPPED CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus pileatus)

Common and pretty conspicuous in the stunted forest at the top of Irazu Volcano.

COMMON CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus flavopectus)

Common and very conspicuous in the mid-elevation forests at Rio Macho.

BLACK-STRIPED SPARROW (Arremonops conirostris)

A single bird was a periodic visitor to the backyard at Rancho, where it fed on the ground below the verbena hedge.

ORANGE-BILLED SPARROW (Arremon aurantiirostris)

A regular visitor to Rancho's feeders and seen daily, and easily, from the balcony there.


A surprise visitor the the hummingbird pools, though only those of us that were standing at the right end of the viewing area were able to see it.

VOLCANO JUNCO (Junco vulcani)

We struggled to find one in the poor weather conditions when we first got to the top of Irazu, but once the skies cleared and the sun emerged so did the juncos, and we had great views of at least 5 birds.

RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis)

A common highland species, though on this tour we encountered only a couple along the Silencio Road after our first day when we saw plenty around the Bougainvillea and on Irazu.

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

Elusive, and getting tougher as the habitat near the Bougainvillea continues to decrease with the construction of numerous gated communities in areas that once were prime ground-sparrow habitat. At least one pair is still holding on there, though, and about half the group managed decent looks at one that Richard spotted on our first morning.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

Our first was one perched atop a roadside fencepost on the way up Irazu Volcano. We later saw a couple more at Casa Turire and Hacienda Oriente. The birds here are residents, not migrants, and belong to the race alticola, which occurs in highlands from southern Mexico south to CR.


Nice looks at a trio of birds (two males, one female) at the Hacienda Oriente.


Seen daily at Rancho, where a flock of 20-25 seemed to be hanging around. But it was hard to beat the views at Cope's feeders, where the birds are no more than about 10 feet away!

MONTEZUMA OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius montezuma)

A common species that we only missed on our day up to Irazu, though there were fewer around than I'm accustomed to.

BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE (Icterus prosthemelas)

Our only one was a subadult bird at Cope's feeders.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Rancho Bajo was also the place for one of Rancho’s most coveted hummingbirds, the tiny Snowcap. Participant Richard Kaskan snapped this portrait of a male as he paused between bouts of feeding at the vervain hedgerow.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula) [b]

A lot of these winter here in Costa Rica, and we saw small numbers of them every day.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Like the Eastern Meadowlark, this is another familiar bird from home represented here by a resident race. I suspect the race represented is either brevirostris, having spread from SE Nicaragua, or grinnelli, from NW Costa Rica. In either case, they've become increasingly common on the Caribbean slope, where we saw 3 at Cope's feeders. In addition to sounding different than NA birds, we noted that the non-red part of the epaulet was a rich burnt orange color, very different from the pale yellow seen on northern birds.

GIANT COWBIRD (Molothrus oryzivorus)

At least 4 birds at Casa Turire gave nice views as they sat in a dead tree, no doubt keeping a close eye on some oropendola nests in the distance.


Quite widespread in CR after first showing up here in the late 1980's. We didn't really see that many, but they were present at most open-country sites we birded.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Numerous throughout, and seen daily.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla) [b]

Brief looks for some of a single bird along the Rio Platanillo when we stopped for our first Sunbittern.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera) [b]

Singles were seen at Rancho on 4 days, with a couple of birds at Rio Macho on our final day.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera) [b]

Despite displacing the above species across much of their breeding areas, this species is much rarer as a wintering species here. We saw just one, a male, in a mixed feeding flock at Rio Macho.

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

Not an uncommon migrant and we had several of these, primarily at Rancho.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea) [b]

The shores of the Angostura Reservoir are the only place we can really expect this species on this tour, and that's just where we had our only sighting of a bird bathing under some overhanging branches next to the dock.

FLAME-THROATED WARBLER (Oreothlypis gutturalis)

A highland species that unfortunately stayed high in the trees, too. Despite that, that fiery orange throat makes these birds unmistakeable, even when they're right in the canopy, so the views we had on Irazu weren't bad at all!

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina) [b]

A very common and widespread wintering warbler. We had sightings from the Caribbean lowlands right on up to the upper slopes of Irazu Volcano.

MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia) [b]

This skulking warbler might be somewhat easier to see here than up north, and may have been a lifer for some of you. A female paid a couple of visits to the backyard pools for a siesta break bath, and we had others both along the Rio Platanillo and in the Rio Tuis valley.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) [b]

Our two sightings were both of the same bird, an adult male that seems to be spending the winter below the feeders at Rancho.

TROPICAL PARULA (Setophaga pitiayumi)

Perhaps heard more often than seen, but we did see a good number of these pretty warblers, often feeding in Cecropia trees where they are relatively easy to spot.

BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Setophaga fusca) [b]

A fairly common winter visitor, though relatively few adult males seem to be among the ones that remain here for the winter, and most, if not all, of our sightings were of females/juveniles.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) [b]

Oddly we didn't record any around the reservoir this trip, and our only sighting was of a couple of birds on our first morning's walk near the Bougainvillea.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica) [b]

Along with Tennessee Warbler, the most common wintering warbler here, and we only missed this one on Irazu.


Not uncommon in highland forests, and we saw several each on the upper slopes of Irazu and at Rio Macho.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our first Crimson-collared Tanagers might have given us the slip, but not this one on our last morning at Rio Macho, which posed long enough for tour participant Kim Tavernia to snap a couple of photos!

CHESTNUT-CAPPED WARBLER (Basileuterus delattrii)

This is the species that should have been on our lists, not Rufous-capped, from which this one was split fairly recently. We heard these more than saw them, but did manage to see a couple on our walk down the driveway to Rancho Bajo.

BLACK-CHEEKED WARBLER (Basileuterus melanogenys)

A pair of these Chiriqui highland endemics showed beautifully in the little ravine across from our lunch stop on the upper slopes of Irazu.

GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER (Basileuterus culicivorus)

A common voice at Rancho, and we had some great looks at 3 or 4 that foraged for insects at the moth cloth.

BUFF-RUMPED WARBLER (Myiothlypis fulvicauda)

A pair showed pretty nicely along the Rio Platanillo during our stop for our initial Sunbittern, and another was seen pretty well along the Rio Pejibaye.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) [b]

A fairly common wintering warbler at higher elevations, and we saw a fair number on Irazu and at Rio Macho, with a single one seen bathing in Rancho's backyard pools one morning.

SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus)

Quite common at Rio Macho, where we had great views of several birds, with a pair the previous day in the Rio Tuis valley.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) [b]

A pretty common wintering bird here, and we saw them in small numbers daily (including some nice red adult males) except on our Caribbean lowland excursion.

FLAME-COLORED TANAGER (Piranga bidentata)

Passable views of a pair that remained high in the oak trees along the road on Irazu's upper slopes.

WHITE-WINGED TANAGER (Piranga leucoptera)

We had pretty good looks at a lovely female at Rio Macho. Her mate stayed out of sight, though we could hear him calling back to her from the forest below the road.


It used to be a lot more difficult to see these birds at Rancho, but now they are practically exhibitionists at the moth cloth, and turn up at the backyard feeders regularly, too!

CARMIOL'S TANAGER (Chlorothraupis carmioli)

A pair of these chunky, olive tanagers (formerly known as Olive Tanager), popped in for a bath at the hummingbird pools.

BLACK-FACED GROSBEAK (Caryothraustes poliogaster) [*]

Though we had a half a dozen of these sociable grosbeaks come past over us at Manu, I don't think anyone saw them well enough to want to claim they'd really seen them.

BLUE-BLACK GROSBEAK (Cyanoloxia cyanoides)

Great looks at a pretty cooperative pair at Cope's Spectacled Owl stakeout.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

At least 2 males and 2 females were seen in the tall grasses flanking the coffee plantation near the Hotel Bougainvillea on our first morning. I suspect these birds were part of the resident population (subspecies lazula) but can't be certain they weren't migrants of the nominate subspecies which also occur here.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea) [b]

The female we saw in the same place as the Blue Grosbeaks was definitely a winter visitor.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)


Seen on several days at and around Rancho, including a trio (2 males and a female) that dropped in for a late afternoon bath at the hummingbird pools.

WHITE-LINED TANAGER (Tachyphonus rufus)

Hard to believe we had just one this trip, a lone male perched on the fence of a cow shed along the Silencio Road.

CRIMSON-COLLARED TANAGER (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus)

We were all a bit disappointed when Vernon spotted one of these in the Tuis Valley that got away before anyone else laid eyes on it. But the next day at Rio Macho, someone (Kim perhaps, or Carol B.?) spied a couple of these handsome tanagers with a nice feeding flock, and those birds did not get away!

SCARLET-RUMPED TANAGER (Ramphocelus passerinii)

A regular, spectacular, Rancho area species, including a couple of pairs at the backyard feeders.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We realistically have just one chance to see Resplendent Quetzal on this tour, our first morning on Volcan Irazu. Lucky for us this gorgeous male was right where we hoped he’d be, and participant Richard Kaskan grabbed this lovely photo to commemorate the experience!

BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus)

Common, widespread, and recorded every day, this was probably most of the group's first tanager in the country.

PALM TANAGER (Thraupis palmarum)

Rarely as numerous as the above species, but also a common widespread species.

SPECKLED TANAGER (Ixothraupis guttata)

This beautiful tanager's gotten somewhat harder in the Rancho region than when I lived here in the 90's, but I was happy that we managed to find one pair, anyway, with a nice tanager flock along the Silencio Road.

GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER (Stilpnia larvata)

One of the more numerous of the small, colorful tanagers, and we saw these every day at Rancho, missing them only on our transfer days to/from the lodge.

BAY-HEADED TANAGER (Tangara gyrola)

Pretty much daily at and around Rancho, but in smaller numbers than the above species.

EMERALD TANAGER (Tangara florida)

We only had a handful of these brilliant green tanagers along the Silencio Road, but I think everyone got a pretty nice look at them.

SILVER-THROATED TANAGER (Tangara icterocephala)

Their distinctive buzzing call note was heard often enough, and we did see a fair few, but there were certainly far more around than our few sightings might have indicated.


Seeing at least a dozen of these glowing turquoise birds on our first morning at Rancho was a wonderful surprise, and slightly unexpected if the Ebird filters are anything to go by. Smaller numbers on a few other days were a bit more normal. Brian was especially impresssed by the colours, and chose this as his top bird of the trip.

SHINING HONEYCREEPER (Cyanerpes lucidus)

Just one, a streaky green female, in the flowering tree above the parking area at Manu.


Swarms of these flashy birds were attacking the fruit and nectar feeders at Cope's! No one seemed to mind.

GREEN HONEYCREEPER (Chlorophanes spiza)

Seen in ones and twos almost every day of the trip (except the transfer bookend days), usually in the company of dacnises and other tanagers.

BLACK-AND-YELLOW TANAGER (Chrysothlypis chrysomelas)

Kim's choice for bird of the trip, and it's not hard to understand why, these little tanagers are stunning ! We had good looks at a group of half a dozen or so in the Rio Tuis valley.

SLATY FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa plumbea)

Quite a few of these nectar thieves were robbing the flowers in the highlands of Irazu Volcano.

BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT (Volatinia jacarina)

Just a couple of birds were tallied with a bunch of other seed-eating birds on our first morning's outing at the Bougainvillea.

VARIABLE SEEDEATER (Sporophila corvina)

The default seedeater on this tour route, with small numbers in appropriate grassy/weedy areas throughout.

MORELET'S SEEDEATER (Sporophila morelleti)

A lone female, easily told by her prominent wing-bars, was found among the other seed-eating species on our first morning outing.

BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola)

Daily, except on our Irazu excursion. A pair were regularly foraging amongst the flowers of Rancho's verbena hedgerow.


Fewer than I would have expected, and only seen well in some of the pastures along the Silencio Road.


Seen or heard most days, with some good views of a pair that were regular feeder visitors.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Don’t let that innocent face fool you, Tayras are voracious predators, though luckily for the birds, the ones we saw at Rancho were more interested in easier prey, namely bananas. Photo by tour participant Kim Tavernia.

BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR (Saltator atriceps)

A trio of these large, raucous saltators were seen from Rancho's balcony a few times, though I don't know if they ever ventured on to the feeders.


Formerly known as Grayish Saltator, which was recently split into 3 species. I think a few of you saw them around the Bougainvillea prior to the tour, but on the tour itself, we only had them on our final day, with one singing across from our bathroom stop in Orosi, and another in a fruiting tree at Rio Macho.



Vernon had spotted one on our drive to Manu early in the morning, and on the way back to Rancho, we managed to find a place to pull off and get some good scope views.

VARIEGATED SQUIRREL (Sciurus variegatoides)

The common large squirrel, and a daily visitor to Rancho's feeders.

RED-TAILED SQUIRREL (Sciurus granatensis)

The smaller squirrel, also a common visitor to the feeders. We got great pleasure one day from watching one of these squirrels removing bananas from the feeders, and caching them elsewhere on the feeder trees, often in full view for any other bird going over. It really needed some work on its hiding skills.

DUSKY RICE RAT (Melanomys caliginosus)

A couple of these dashed in and out from the corn meal and rice offerings on the ground below the feeders.

CENTRAL AMERICAN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta punctata)

It's good to see mammals like these bouncing back at Rancho, as we saw very few of the while I lived here, and ever at the feeders. I was a bit surprised to see three of them at the feeders together, the most I'd seen here until now.

WHITE-NOSED COATI (Nasua narica)

A male raided some bananas at the feeders once or twice during the week, and also sauntered past as we watched at the hummingbird pools.

TAYRA (Eira barbara)

Lisa had mentioned that there were three of these large weasels coming to the feeders, a mother with two large cubs, though we only saw two at a time.


GROUND ANOLE (Anolis humilis)

Vernon and several of the group saw one of these small lizards, though I can't remember where that was.

PUG-NOSED ANOLE (Norops capito)

A few of us saw one of these fairly large anoles clinging head down on a slender tree trunk at Cope's.

GREEN IGUANA (Iguana iguana)

Brian spotted a massive male, which was more orange than green, next to the pond at CATIE.

GREEN BASILISK (Basiliscus plumifrons)

Also at CATIE was this bright green lizard (one of the lizards that routinely runs across water), sitting quite high up in a tree near the army ant swarm.

COMMON HOUSE GECKO (Hemidactylus frenatus)

Mainly just a voice emanating from some well-concealed hollow at Rancho, most nights.

SPECTACLED CAIMAN (Caiman crocodilus)

One was spotted just offshore in the pond at CATIE.

BRILLIANT FOREST FROG (Lithobates warszewitschii)

A couple of these glistening frogs were seen on the forest floor at Manu.

CENTRAL AMERICAN MUD TURTLE (Kinosternon angustipons)

This was the drab turtle lounging on the log at Cope's.

Totals for the tour: 273 bird taxa and 7 mammal taxa