We have tried to avoid selecting the top ten birds for Costa Rica for as long as we have a memory of it. There are over 900 species to choose to range from tiny endemic Volcano Hummingbird to a rather rare sighted Black-crowned Antpitta. The enormous array of colours, sizes and shapes makes it a difficult call to select a list. We will also like to consider other attributes less obvious to the human eye such as nest construction, feeding habits, hunting techniques, life expectancy, natural history and so on. We are sure the list would change drastically if there selected by their pretty melodious calls or for its complexity in the case of Riverside Wren or a Three wattled Bellbird or what about the never heard once Turquoise Cotinga???

Most top 10 lists are based on general public “tastes” which we share a good majority of times. CRBJ clearly agrees that Resplendent Quetzal is a mind-blowing bird but we also love seeking those dark underground dwellers as in the case of Scaly-breasted Nightingale Wren. All birds at to admire for one reason or another.

Birding in Costa Rica can well be overwhelming for any level of skills and even more for those who had never been before in the rainforest tropics. Since we were born here for us to see Scarlet Macaws as we go for groceries at Jaco Beach or any kind of Toucan as you ride a bike along the coastline in Sarapiqui is very common in fact not to see one would be the rare thing.

Our selected list would be based on a mix of conditions between ecological importance, endemism, colours, calls and much more.

The given list is with no real order to be either number 1 or 10. We simply add by alphabetical order.

1.Bare necked

Umbrellabird way to start don’t you think?!!!. Our company logo was chosen by our director and company owner Randall Ortega Chaves. This cotingidae family bird is located in the Caribbean Lowlands and mid-elevations. A rather black bird with a funny looking crested and a beautiful double chin of striking scarlet red. At 43 cm long this large Cotinga has it all to be a top 10. Its consider uncommon, the population is unknown its bird call is nearly perceptible to humans but it sounds as if you were blowing gentile thru an empty glass bottle. Its natural history is quite secret too and we know so little about its natural history that it can take decades to discover all its secrets. Until today there has been only a single nesting report 1988; even today with thousands of people searching for a glimpse of it. Some of the best places to be found are based on the month of the year but here we would be sharing a few. Veraguas Rainforest, Tapir Lodge, San Luis Valley, Monteverde Cloud Forest, La Selva Biological Station.


2. Common Potoo

Sounds like a joke, there is nothing common about this odd-looking bird. Resembling a piece of dry forest wood, this nocturnal creature still gives chills to rural people; several legends had raised due to its witch-like call. Rather solitary and very very still during the daytime Nyctibius griseus is also a must-see bird in Costa Rica. Often” found in lowlands of both slopes and less common” at upper elevations. Its owl-like behaviour makes it difficult to study. Once is found it can sit on the same tree and even branch (if undisturbed) for weeks and even months. No rain or sun is strong enough to make it go away. We have chosen this marvellous bird due is camouflage, weird sounds and nocturnal habits.


3. Emerald Tanager

We need to add Tanagers they could not stay out of this list. There are 26 species of Tanagers and Ant-Tanagers in the country and we are fully aware that most of them are very attractive the Emerald Tanager is a flash of neon green/yellow impossible to ignore. Chosen for its physical attributes this small specie is so vivid against the green shades of the rainforest it could not be listed here. Like any other of its family, Tanagara florida is a fruit eater and therefore; a seed dispersal of great importance for the natural restoration of our flora.


4. Great Green Macaw

For many years the second largest “parrot” of Costa Rica was in an extremely dangerous situation; the known population for the country was under 300 individuals, we reckon to lead tours with sometimes a difficulty to spot one. Luckily today a good number of people both local and foreign has united in a tremendous effort to establish healthy populations. Also big thumbs up to non-profit organizations and governmental officials for bringing in some hope for this nearly disappeared rainforest icon. Great green Macaws are still vulnerable due to deforestation and genetic exchange. Along with our neighbouring countries, a large scale conservation network was set up between San Juan – La Selva; this was created to protect the remaining Caribbean lowland rainforest and lower cloud forest as the one near La Virgen del Socorro. Great green Macaws nearly vanished from most of Latin America. The estimated population in the late 1990s was about 2500 in America but as for today, it looks like the rapid” disappearing of the specie has reached a critically endangered with a low estimated of 500-1000 of them left in the wild. We are still uncertain how many are in Costa Rica but we can surely say they are many more flying free today as they were 10 years ago. We have selected this magnificent specie due to its size, beauty and join efforts of hundreds of people. Definitive a true icon for the tropical rainforest.

Great Green Macaws

5. Jabiru

A 132 cm tall and with a 256 cm wingspan this bird is a huge bird!!! The so infamous Galan Sinventura or Handsome without luck is by far the largest water bird in Costa Rica, mostly found in wetlands, rice fields and other water bodies this extraordinary bird is chosen for multiple reasons. Number one is a threatened species located on 3 sites in our country. Palo Verde-Tempisque Area, Caño Negro-Los Chiles and recently spotted at Jaco Beach (although we suspect there are more individuals in the area since the one found was a youngster). Due is the elegant presence and its obvious size. In Costa Rica, there are estimated 80 individuals. Yes. You read correctly; therefore if you see one or two consider yourself a lucky person.




6. King Vulture

From all beautiful Costa Rican raptors we chose the Sarcorampus papa; the king of all kings (that is a beat exaggerated) but it sounds cool..! Its ancestral importance as our major deity or God and cultural importance is the main reason why to lean over this specie over eagles, hawks or even rare falcons. We certainly appreciated its ecological role as a pest control. Its evident beauty is also a good reason to call it in. We are more than happy to share that is not an uncommon bird as some bird field guides suggest. Here at Central Pacific is often seen soaring along the mountain ridges near Carara National Park.




7. Resplendent Quetzal

Nearly impossible to ignore since it might well be one of the first birds people are eager to see in Costa Rica. A must-see bird while in the tropics of America and without any questions every photographer’s dream. We are placing this bird on our list for all the good reasons why a bird should be nominee. Size, colours, habits, shape, conservation efforts, and beauty….



8. Scarlet Macaw

When it comes to striking colours macaws are amongst those who are flashy and definite an all-time tropical bird icon. From pre-Columbian times to old legends of Pirates, Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) are some of those flying friends that are irresistible. Even for those who don’t know much about birds, surely they are aware of what a Macaw looks like. In Costa Rica, hundreds of businesses either have a Macaw on their logo, paint, wall, or t-shirt. They are the king of tropical gems. Although their story is almost tragic due to deforestation and pouching. Today there are more free and wild Lapas, Rojas, that 20 years ago.

Green Macaw

Scarlet Macaw

9. Three wattle Bellbird

Is by far a weird bird. Its ultrasonic sound, the fact is endemic, and that it looks rather odd are some of the reasons why this bird shall be on our list. Much of its natural history is still a secret and very few people have seen its nest. A superb choice for those hardcore birders and amateurs alike.




10. Turquoise Cotinga

A bird specie that we at Costa Rica Birding Journeys should be selected as our new national bird. Rare to see in most of the country ranging from Carara National Park to San Vito de Cotobrus Pacific Low and mid-elevations. An extremely colourful cotinga with equally strange habits. They are so secretive that NO one has ever filmed, recorded calling. We don’t know what they sound like or a nesting site has ever been found. How much more would this lovely bird would it need to be added to our Top 10 birds for Costa Rica??