By: Genna Marie
Guanacaste, Costa Rica is kind of a big deal when it comes to birdwatching. This region provides a much different and dryer habitat than other bird havens (like the Central Valley, the Caribbean or the Osa Peninsula), so here you can expect to find lots of unique species that you might not be able to easily find anywhere else.
Santa Rosa National Park along with Palo Verde National Park are your best bets in Guanacaste for guaranteed bird sightings. However, pretty much any state protected conservation area will do just fine – think places like Rincon de la Vieja and Barra Honda National Park. Try to go exploring at sunrise or sunset, when it’s not so hot.
So here you go – 6 of my personal local favorites. Full disclosure: I’m no birdwatching expert. But I do know a beautiful bird when I see one.
It looks like a hawk…it acts like a hawk…but it’s a falcon! These beauties are all over the place, particularly around Playa Avellanas and inside Hacienda Pinilla. Like vultures, cara caras usually dine on the decaying flesh of dying animals (carrion), but they’re also happy to wait around to opportunistically steal prey from other bird species that do the heavy-hunting for them.
Try to say ‘rufous-naped wren’ ten times fast. This species of bird is GORGEOUS. Their striped heads and spotted feathers make them a spectacular, but not necessarily uncommon, find. I also love the melodious rhythm of their bird call.
White Throated Magpie Jay
These omnivorous birds have a diverse diet, eating everything from caterpillars and frogs to sandwiches straight from the hands of unsuspecting tourists. Expect to see these all around Tamarindo – but if you spot one while you’re eating lunch, be on guard. These guys are quick!
Tiger herons like to hang out near water, particularly around estuaries. They stand incredibly still waiting for small animals like fish and crabs to pass by. Then they lash out as quick as lightning to snatch them up. Tiger herons are also known for their interesting mating behavior, which involves ruffling up their feathers and imitating one another in a hypnotic dance.
For ordinary birds, only the male usually expresses itself with bright colors. Not so for the extraordinary motmot. Both genders exhibit impossibly beautiful colors that look like they couldn’t possibly be made in nature. When threatened, they wag their gorgeous tail feathers back and forth. This basically tells the predator “I see you, and you won’t be able to catch me.”
Green and Red Macaws
Like most of the rest of the world, red and green macaws pretty much disappeared from Guanacaste years ago. The green ones are particularly endangered, as there are fewer than 1000 individuals left in the wild. However, a rehabilitation program called the Ara Project has a base in Punta Islita, just south of Tamarindo. Check it out. If you visit, bring earplugs – those things are LOUD! Macaws are the largest of all of the planet’s 370 species of parrots. Fun fact: they have hollow bones, which makes them lighter and therefore easier for them to take flight.