The Magnificent Avian Diversity of Costa Rica: Top 10 Birds to See and Where to Find Them

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting an extraordinary range of ecosystems that support over 900 bird species. This Central American gem is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, making it a prime destination for avian enthusiasts from around the world. From lush rainforests to misty cloud forests, mangroves to coastal regions, Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes offer a unique opportunity to witness a stunning variety of birds. In this article, we will explore the top 10 birds to see in Costa Rica and provide insights into where to find them for an unforgettable birdwatching experience.

1. Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

The Resplendent Quetzal is often considered the crown jewel of Costa Rican birdlife. Its vibrant emerald-green plumage and striking red breast capture the imagination of all who encounter it. To catch a glimpse of this elusive beauty, head to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve or the San Gerardo de Dota area, where the quetzal’s favored haunt, the wild avocado tree, provides a feast for their diet.

2. Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)

With its vibrant red, blue, and yellow feathers, the Scarlet Macaw is a true symbol of the tropics. Carara National Park and Corcovado National Park are excellent places to spot these magnificent birds. The echoing calls of macaws flying over the rainforest canopy create an awe-inspiring experience for any birdwatcher.

3. Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

Recognizable by its oversized, colorful bill, the Keel-billed Toucan is a charismatic and iconic species in Costa Rica. It can be found in various habitats, including rainforests and lowland areas. La Selva Biological Station and Tortuguero National Park are prime spots for observing these lively birds.

4. Resplendent Quetzal (Euptilotis neoxenus)

Another quetzal species found in Costa Rica, the Eared Quetzal is known for its distinctive ear-like feathers. It inhabits highland forests, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Los Quetzales National Park offer opportunities to witness its majestic presence.

5. Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis)

Hummingbirds are a favorite among bird enthusiasts, and the Fiery-throated Hummingbird is a dazzling example. Its iridescent plumage shimmers with shades of green, blue, and fiery red. To witness these tiny wonders, explore the cloud forests of Monteverde and San Gerardo de Dota.

6. Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa)

The Turquoise-browed Motmot’s unique appearance, characterized by its striking blue-green hues and distinctive tail feathers, makes it a sought-after sighting. In Costa Rica, the motmot can be spotted in habitats ranging from dry forests to rainforests. Santa Rosa National Park and Carara National Park are excellent places to encounter this captivating species.

7. Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus)

Known for its hauntingly melodic call that resonates through the misty cloud forests, the Three-wattled Bellbird is a captivating sight and sound. The Savegre Valley and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve offer opportunities to hear and observe these bellbirds during their breeding season.

8. Snowy Cotinga (Carpodectes nitidus)

The Snowy Cotinga stands out with its pristine white plumage and contrasting black wings. This bird inhabits the canopy of lowland rainforests and can be found in places like Tortuguero National Park and Corcovado National Park. Its ethereal appearance is a sight to behold against the lush green backdrop.

9. Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus)

Endangered and magnificent, the Great Green Macaw is a large parrot species with vibrant green and red plumage. These macaws are commonly seen in the Carara National Park, feeding on almond trees. Efforts to protect their habitat are crucial to their survival.

10. Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis)

The Long-tailed Manakin is a small bird with a striking black and blue plumage, and it is famous for its acrobatic mating dance. The lush forests of the Osa Peninsula, particularly in Corcovado National Park, provide an excellent chance to witness this fascinating courtship ritual.


Costa Rica’s rich avian diversity and stunning landscapes make it a dream destination for birdwatching enthusiasts. From the vibrant quetzals to the enchanting macaws, the country’s top 10 birds showcase the incredible variety that can be found within its borders. Whether exploring the misty cloud forests, the bustling rainforests, or the serene coastal areas, every corner of Costa Rica offers a unique opportunity to witness these feathered wonders. As you embark on your journey to witness these magnificent creatures, remember that responsible ecotourism and conservation efforts are essential to preserving the habitats that make Costa Rica a haven for avian life.

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