scarlet macaws

Bird watching in Costa Ballena

Birdwatching in Costa Rica is a year-round activity and not just for snowbirds themselves. More than 850 species can be found throughout the country. About 600 are year round residents and the remaining are passing migrant birds or seasonal residents. The dry season, from December to April, is generally considered the best time to go birding. During this period, you’ll encounter a higher number of resident and migratory species, it’s thrilling to catch sight of a bird taking flight or if lucky enough to witness it catching its prey.

Did you know?

The scarlet macaw is the most common bird found in the Osa Peninsula! This splendid bird can not be mistaken for any other. The colors are simply magnificent with a scarlet red head and back, sapphire blue wings, green and yellow stripes and a striking white mask, the Scarlet Macaw is certainly one of nature’s most wonderful gifts. Macaw also has the tell-tale SQUAWK that can be heard long before you see this fantastic bird flying overhead. Many can be found in Costa Ballena, with local residents who have planted almond trees in order for the majestic birds to grace their properties.

Long sleeve and long pants are typically the best choice to prevent insect bites and stings. A pair of hiking shoes is very important, a good grip is required as surfaces can often be slippery with morning dew. Wearing muted colors and adapting to the environment is a must, that means moving slowly, not wearing perfumes. Find a spot to set up where there is a clearing or water source, that being said hiring a local guide will result in you seeing way more than going on your own. Like they say, locals know best.

Green Parrot

green parrot

Costa Rica is fortunate to have 15 species of Parrots and Parakeets and 2 species of Macaws. With bright colorful plumage and raucous vocalizations, Parrots are favorites, not just bird watchers and bird photographers, but also nature lovers in general. Listen and look up to see some of your favorite Parrots while visiting Costa Rica. The Crimson Fronted Parakeet is the most common Parakeet in the Central Valley and many flocks are found in the mountain ranges of the Pacific Coast. Easiest to identify by its long pointed tail, red on the leading portions of the wings, and a red forehead (easiest to see when it’s perched), and usually found in large flocks. Listen for sharp squeaky notes, like a noisy chattering of many birds catching up on the day’s events.



No bird says the tropics like the Toucan. Their colorful long bills, and beautiful bright patterns of feathers make them a favorite for bird watchers, bird photographers and naturalists. Costa Rica is fortunate to have 6 species of toucans and even better, most are fairly easy to see! In general, toucans are very social birds that occur in pairs or small flocks. The call of the Keel Bill makes it easy to identify, just listen for a frog like croak coming from the trees above. They particularly love papaya trees and the 4 o’clock golden hour jungle line chatter.

Pro Tips for Birdwatching in Costa Rica

The best birding is often between dawn and 11am, when birds are most active. This is particularly the case in the early summer and spring, when birds sing in the early morning. On cloudy days, birds sometimes remain active, and singing, longer.

Enjoy our field guide from Edition 21 about bird beaks.

bird beaks field guide - costa pacifica living magazine - edition 21
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