Paintings gallery

Video clips




Site map




Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8


Species list

Text only

List of species seen

Brown Pelican

Only seen on the Pacific coast. ~20 birds were flying adjacent to the coast road on the approach to Punta Leona. A greater concentration of ~50 birds were resting on the sand at the mouth of the Tarcoles river. One or two were also fishing off the shore. One unfortunate moribund individual was looking most unhealthy on the tideline


Two birds were on the River Tarcoles at Carara

Magnificent Frigatebird

~30 overhead at Tarcoles. There seemed to be an equal mix of smartly plumaged males and the drabber females

Great Blue Heron

Singles at 3 locations – Tarcoles, the Tarcoles river at Carara, and on the Sarapiqui river at Selva Verde

Great Egret

1 at Carara and 2 at Tarcoles

Tricoloured Heron

1 at Carara and 1 at Tarcoles

Little Blue Heron

1 fishing on the River Tarcoles at Carara and 2 on the River Sarapiqui at Selva Verde

Snowy Egret

Only one seen during the whole week, fishing on the River Tarcoles at Carara

Cattle Egret

Small groups of birds were seen in cattle fields on the Pacific coast and Caribbean slopes. Up to 50 were seen on any one day

Green Heron

3 fishing in the grassy edges of the River Tarcoles at Carara

Boat-billed Heron

This was a species that we had been chasing since visiting Mexico in 2000. We had hoped to see some here, but thought that the best chance would be from a boat trip at Tarcoles. We needn’t have worried, since ~8 birds were roosting in a tree directly in front and above us at the edge of the River Tarcoles at Carara. Despite this species being mainly nocturnal, this group of birds was individually sporadically active within the tree – often moving to chasten one of its neighbours

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

2 adults were feeding alongside the water’s edge on the River Tarcoles at Carara. Initially one was seen on the opposite bank, with a second appearing from the reeds and then feeding in the open, again on the opposite bank, but on a different section of the river. We also picked up a fishing juvenile Tiger-heron amongst the rocks of the river at Villas Lapas. Closer inspection revealed an all dark bill, and the habitat was quoted as being more characteristic of Fasciated rather than the more open waters frequented by Bare-throated Tiger-heron, but the bill shape and geographical distribution favoured the latter species

Least Bittern

1 feeding on the grassy edges of the River Tarcoles at Carara

Wood Stork

~8 of these rather unattractive birds were in a roadside pool at Tarcoles

Green Ibis

2 separate birds were seen at La Selva. One was flying over the visitor centre, with the second bird landing on a bare tree from one of the trails. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t kind enough to show off the green sheen of the plumage

White Ibis

The first bird seen was an apparition of white in the centre of the shallow river at Villas Lapas. ~10 birds were seen later in the day at the roadside pool in Tarcoles

Roseate Spoonbill

~6 birds at the roadside pool, Tarcoles

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

This was the only wildfowl species seen, and can be in large numbers, particularly around the open marshes of the Guanacaste. The only birds we saw were in a group of ~20 on the River Tarcoles at Carara. Amusingly, although perhaps not for the ducks, one or two of the larger spectacled caimans made occasional half-hearted attempts to make them a morning snack, without success!

Black Vulture

These were seen on every day, in all habitats, and in good numbers. They were much the more common of the 2 vulture species seen

Turkey Vulture

Again, seen on every day in all habitats visited, sometimes numbering only single figures, and always in smaller numbers than Black Vulture


2 seen – 1 coastal bird fishing at the mouth of the River Tarcoles, the other inland over La Selva

Swallow-tailed Kite

All the birds seen were either quite distant or from the car, but were nevertheless still spectacular. The first was seen early in the day at Savegre Lodge over the high ridges, with a further 5 later on, again over the higher areas. 2 more were seen from the car, one on the journey from Savegre to Punta Leona, the other in the Braullio Carillo area when exiting the mountains towards San Jose

Black-shouldered Kite

Only one bird was seen – a brief glimpse of a hovering individual shortly after leaving the Buena Vista hotel on the first full day

Grey Hawk

Another bird seen only singly. This individual was picked up over one of the trails at Punta Leona, but had the decency to land on an exposed branch for some time directly over our heads

Zone-tailed Hawk

Only one bird was positively identified, putting in 2 appearances over the gardens of the Buena Vista hotel on the last morning, the first very low and directly overhead. What was possibly another of this species flew past us on the descent to Savegre Lodge on the first full day

Red-tailed Hawk

3 separate birds were seen, 2 in the Savegre Valley, and the third hovering for a considerable time over one of the peaks at Cerro de la Muerte

Crested Caracara

All birds were seen from the car – 3 on the coastal track South of Punta Leona, 1 at Punta Leona, 3 on the journey from Punta Leona to La Paz, and 1 at La Selva

Peregrine Falcon

The appearance of a single bird was a bit of a surprise, since it was picked up flying low over the mouth of the River Tarcoles, landing on the sand not far from a group of waders. It must have been eyeing up a snack for some time, but left the way it came, ploverless, after about 10 minutes of eyeing up the menu

Crested Guan

2 pairs of these outrageously prehistoric birds were seen at La Selva. The first 2 flew in and landed in a tree over the visitor centre, giving only half decent views, despite their size and proximity. The second brace landed in a tree above on one of the trails through the secondary forest, this time showing more in the open

Grey-necked Wood-Rail

This species is reputed to be difficult to see in the open here, despite its widespread distribution. The 2 that we saw alongside one of the tracks in the secondary forest obviously were keen on bucking trends


This is one of those mythical species that many birders have high on their most wanted lists, and it has usually been on that list for what seems like decades. The reason for this is probably a combination of it being an elusive species, singularly different to any other, and in short quite stunning in plumage, particularly when it deigns to flash the “suns” on its wings. We were aware of the fact that Selva Verde Lodge had a reputation for producing sightings, but not how accurate those reports actually are. A pair of birds seemed to have chosen this stretch of river for their home, and after a couple of fruitless crossings of the footbridge, one of the local guides pointed out initially one bird, with a second appearing minutes later, on one of the pools in the rocks adjacent to the river. They were more than happy for us to approach quite closely, when we not only gorged on them fishing, but also one preening and displaying the stunning pattern on one of its wings

Northern Jacana

We have seen quite a few jacana species around the world, but only one brief juvenile of this species, at Coba in the Mexican Yucatan. The 4 adults and 2 juveniles seen on the River Tarcoles at Carara thus filled in a void. They were initially on the opposite bank, but 2 of the 4 adults and both juveniles eventually landed only a few metres from us

Black-necked Stilt

1 feeding in the crocodile bearing river at Carara

Collared Plover 

We had trudged the couple of kilometres of beach in the heat at Tarcoles in the hope of seeing some of the reputed breeding Lesser Nighthawks. We dipped on them, but were rewarded with our only new species of wader for the trip. After the initially close first Collared Plover, a group of ~30 were seen further up the beach towards the mouth of the river, being eyed up as brunch by a standing Peregrine Falcon


A single bird of the dark rumped new world subspecies was feeding on the shoreline at Tarcoles

Spotted Sandpiper

3 were on the semi dry river at Villas Lapas lodge

Ruddy Turnstone

1 on the beach at Tarcoles


~20 on the beach at Tarcoles

Royal Tern

One surprise of the trip was seeing no gulls, and Royal Tern was the only tern subspecies seen. A single bird landed in front of us on the return walk along the beach at Tarcoles, with another 2 fishing offshore

Band-tailed Pigeon

2 groups of ~6 birds were around the Savegre Lodge, both landing for some time behind the cabins while waiting for Quetzal to put in an appearance

Red-billed Pigeon

This was most common around the Buena Vista hotel, with ~5 on the first morning, and ~20 on the last. Only one other bird was seen, at Punta Leona

Short-billed Pigeon

This species and Ruddy Pigeon are almost identical in appearance, which made the birds calling something of a godsend. There is also a variation in the altitudinal distribution, which made identification less of an impossibility than had been expected. 2 were along the trail at Carara, with another 4 at La Selva

White-winged Dove

Only 4 identified / noticed, at Orotina

Ruddy Ground-Dove

These were particularly common on the journey from Savegre to Punta Leona, most of which were along the coast road. Smaller numbers were also seen elsewhere

Inca Dove

2 at Buena Vista on the first morning, 1 on the last morning, and 1 at Villas Lapas

Grey-chested Dove

These birds behave quite differently than expected – very rarely flying, they tend to prefer slowly wading through the leaf litter of the forest floor, being occasionally also seen on grassed areas within the shade of trees. The first ones we saw were an elusive pair beside the track through the forest at Carara. The afternoon of the same day found another 4 in the forests of Villas Lapas in two separate pairs. There was also a pair at Selva Verde, but we had to wait until La Selva to find a pair out in the open, where 2 of the 4 were foraging under the cover of sporadic trees just outside of the main gates

Ruddy Quail-Dove

These have tended to be a bit of a bogey bird in the past, since they tend to be very elusive forest dwellers, and I have only heard them when in the correct habitat. However, a single bird did show itself in the undergrowth of the forest at Carara, not far from the main track

Scarlet Macaw

These incredibly noisy, large, and unnaturally bright birds are unfortunately now becoming a speciality of the Tarcoles area, due to population losses elsewhere. The first couple that we saw were coming in to roost within the grounds of Punta Leona on our first evening, although many more were heard. 3 were subsequently seen flying over the trees in the Tarcoles area, and 2 were presumably making their way to roost late afternoon at Villas Lapas

Sulphur-winged Parakeet

A group of ~15 were seen twice over the rear of the cabins at Savegre Lodge

White-crowned Parrot

This was our first parrot of the trip, when a group of 3 individuals landed noisily in flowering trees to the rear of the owners house at the Buena Vista hotel. A larger group of ~15 returned to this spot on the last morning there. The only other members of this species positively identified were 2 separate birds at La Selva

Mealy Parrot

La Selva was the location for these confiding birds, with a group of 3 on the morning walk along the entrance drive on the first morning in the area, and a fourth bird in La Selva itself the next morning. The 3 birds seen first landed in trees next to the entrance road, happily feeding on fruiting trees in our presence

Squirrel Cuckoo

All 3 birds seen were within foliage – the first at Carara was at the very tip of one of the tallest trees, the second at the top of a lower tree not far from us on the entrance drive to La Selva, and the third in the lower branches of one of the trees near to La Selva main gate on the second morning visit

Groove-billed Ani

2 groups of 4 were found, one in sparse bushes in front of the cabins at Villas Lapas, the second group at Tarcoles

Black-and-white Owl

One of the strangest sites that we came across was that of a pair of these deep forest dwelling species which had taken up residence in the trees of the small town square at Orotina. The town is on the main road between our stops at Punta Leona and La Paz, so we had to make the detour to see them. All the locals seemed to know not only of their presence, but also which branch of which tree to locate them. One bird was exactly where it should be, the other a few trees distant. The only disappointment we had was not seeing the Sloth which has reputedly also taken up residence in this unlikely spot

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

It’s likely that this is perhaps one of the easiest to see owls in the region, due to its wide range and abundance, and also the fact that it is diurnal and confiding. It was something of a surprise that we only came across one individual, in a low bare branch just behind the football field at Tarcoles. We stumbled upon it just before we exited the field to reach the beach on our nighthawkless trudge, and it provided ample compensation

White-collared Swift

These are a notably large swift, with very long, thin wings, and an obvious collar. They were the only swift subspecies we were happy enough to identify, although some slightly smaller all dark (apparently) birds with slightly broader wings were tentatively pigeonholed as Chestnut-collared. They were particularly common in the mountains around Savegre, overhead at the Buena Vista hotel, and in the skies over La Selva, where numbers probably easily eclipsed three figures. The only area we didn’t notice them was on the Pacific coast

Eastern Long-tailed Hermit

4 birds were seen, and they are quite spectacular when seen feeding in flight, which all of the birds seen were doing. The long decurved bill and equally long central white tail streamers turn a plain coloured hummer into an event. The first was feeding alongside the track at Carara, the second in more dense foliage next to the entrance road at La Selva, and the last two within the secondary forest of La Selva

Little Hermit

1 seen briefly flying through while staking out our first White-collared Manakin on the entrance road to La Selva

Violet Sabrewing

This hummer is one of those that looks all dark in most lights, but glistens a beautiful violet (not surprisingly when the light hits it). It was also one of the commoner hummingbirds to regularly visit the feeders at La Paz. At least 8 birds were seen here, all of which seemed to be males

White-necked Jacobin

Only one seen, on one of the flowering trees adjacent to the restaurant at La Selva

Green Violet-ear

This was one of the most common hummers at Savegre Lodge, where they were a constant visitor to the feeders. They are an iridescent shimmering green, and not being the most sociable of birds, often flashed their purple ear tufts at others, both of their own and different species. ~20 were seen on any one day at Savegre, with ~5 visiting the feeders at any one time, and ~15 away from the feeders, mainly within the forest

Green-breasted Mango

A single female was at La Selva

Violet-headed Hummingbird

Another species seen only once – on a flowering shrub directly in front of reception at La Selva

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

The best place for this species seemed to be at our mountain stop (K76 on the way from San Jose to Savegre). This small area had at least 3 individuals. They were a little confusing at first, appearing as an all dark bird, but the flash of red on the throat solved the puzzle. Another bird landed briefly on the feeders at the Hotel Georgina on the way out of Savegre, with a further bird at La Selva

Coppery-headed Emerald

Of the 6 endemics to Costa Rica, only this species and Mangrove Hummingbird were on our potentials list, since they are the only ones to inhabit the areas we visited. We missed out on Mangrove, and the Coppery-headed male that was seen took some sorting out, eventually relying on video backup for identification. They are a very small bird, and when seen from the front, as our bird was, are mainly a shimmering, but unstartling green. Looking back, the coppery glow on the crown could be seen in certain lights, as well as the white undertail coverts

Black-bellied Hummingbird

This species is about the same size as Coppery-headed Emerald, in other words small, and at least 1-2 males put in regular appearances at the feeders of La Paz. However, as opposed to the other common feeder regulars, the Black-bellied seems to be forever on the move, visiting more than one feeder in a short space of time, not staying for long on any one, and then flying off

Blue-throated Goldentail

1 seen from below along the track at Carara. The most obvious feature is the thick and broad based red bill, quite characteristic of the hummers in this area

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

This is one of the more widespread hummingbirds throughout Costa Rica, and was seen in virtually every habitat, from coast to mountain. The only day when they weren’t seen was the full day at Savegre Lodge (none were seen at this location, although we did see one a little further along at K76). Numbers were never very high (peak of 6 on any one day) – 2 at Buena Vista on the first morning, with 3 on the last morning; 2 at K76; 1 at Punta Leona; 1 at Carara; 1 at Villas Lapas; 4 on the entrance driveway to La Selva; 4 at La Paz; 2 at Selva Verde; and 3 within La Selva

Steely-vented Hummingbird

Along with Plain-capped Starthroat, this was one of the 2 hummers only to be seen at the Buena Vista hotel, and both on the last morning of the trip. The first we saw of the bird was a green hummingbird with shining dark blue tail. We eventually had better views, when front on the white “socks” could also be seen. A point of interest is that Stiles & Skutch mentions its preference for coffee plantations – the exact spot where we found the bird!

Purple-throated Mountain-gem

The Mountain-gems at La Paz all proved to be of this species, as opposed to the Grey-tailed in the mountains. They were not the most regular hummingbirds to the feeders, but could often be picked up on branches in the surrounding vegetation. In all, we probably saw 3 males and 1 female

Grey-tailed Mountain-gem

These were the Mountain-gems of the mountains, with regular sightings on the feeders at Savegre Lodge. Both females and males were seen in equal numbers, with a minimum of 4 of each sex, all being seen in the vicinity of the hotel

Green-crowned Brilliant

This species was the most common visitor to the feeders at La Paz. The vast majority were males, and probably numbered at least 20. They were also very confiding, not appearing to notice our presence

Magnificent Hummingbird

While the Green-crowned Brilliant was the most common hummingbird to the feeders at La Paz, the equivalent at Savegre Lodge was the Magnificent Hummingbird. Again, most that appeared were males, with at least 20 on any one day. An extra bird was on Cerro de la Muerte, and 1 male amongst the equally large Green-crowned Brilliants of La Paz

Plain-capped Starthroat

The first we saw of Starthroat was two birds with very long straight bills tussling in the air within the coffee plantation of the Buena Vista hotel. One landed briefly, but didn’t show many characters apart from the long bill. Subsequent observations also revealed the purple throat and plainish head. This species was surprisingly only seen in the grounds of the Buena Vista

Scintillant Hummingbird

Of the four regular hummingbirds to the feeders at Savegre Lodge, the Scintillant was far and away the smallest. We had expected Volcano Hummingbirds also here, but as far as we could make out, all the smaller hummers were Scintillant. Most were females, and it took some time to pin down one or two wonderful little males with shining scarlet moustaches. The first birds were a couple of females at the K76 stop in the mountains, with a subsequent 12+ at Savegre Lodge. 3 were also amongst the more common Volcano Hummingbirds on Cerro de la Muerte

Volcano Hummingbird

After “missing out” on Volcano Hummingbird at Savegre Lodge, where they were more or less expected, it was a pleasure to catch up with this superb little bird on our way out from Savegre, when we stopped off for a sortie on Cerro de la Muerte. At least 10 birds were performing superbly, with a possible lek at one point, and showing the lilac throats characteristic of the form present in this area

Violaceous Trogon

The female of this particular trogon can cause confusion with male of Black-headed, and we fell into this trap at La Selva (as did one of the guides – shame on him!). We eventually decided that we had seen 2 females – one at the reception area, and one on the drive track between checkpoints, before we saw a male just outside of the main gate

Collared Trogon

A male was seen briefly around the grounds of Savegre Lodge on the first full morning at the hotel

Black-throated Trogon

A pair flew in over our heads and landed nearby along one of the tracks at Punta Leona. The male stayed for some time, moving to a nearby branch. We found a third bird quite high up along the track at Carara

Resplendent Quetzal

Many birders would consider this one of the Holy Grails of birds, certainly when visiting Central and North-western South America, and we were keen to include ourselves on this list. Thus it was that we were given the location of a currently nest building bird (reputedly doing so for the last week) within the forest, and spent at least 2 hours staking out the site from a comfortable distance. We even checked that there were shavings below the hole, indicating current hole making activity. After more than 2 hours – no Quetzal. So it was a great surprise to us that, on the same evening at around 5:15pm, after over an hours waiting (all other prospective Quetzal watchers had left for the bar!), we watched our first Quetzal fly into an avocado tree in front of our viewpoint. And this only about 30 metres from the doorstep of our cabin at Savegre Lodge. The predictability of this bird (or another equally stunning male) was proved when we dined on another in the same tree at 6:00am the next morning. We left satiated – at least 3 birds were seen at the same spot later in the morning, with an additional sighting at the hotel entrance by the bridge!

Ringed Kingfisher 

A single bird was seen briefly on the main river at Selva Verde from the foot bridge

Amazon Kingfisher 

We first picked up this female hovering over the fast flowing river at Selva Verde lodge from the bridge. We followed it to a perch over a small tributary much nearer to the hotel, and were both surprised and delighted to be looking at a new species of Kingfisher, which was a smart bottle green on the back, with similar coloured slash across a white underside, and obvious crest on the crown

Green Kingfisher

We have built up better and better views of this species over the years, from a flash in front of our moving boat in Trinidad’s Caroni Swamp, to 2 birds along the waters edge at Bentsen in Texas, USA, last year, and culminating in a pristine female perched only metres away over the River Tarcoles at Carara. There were also an additional 2 birds seen on the same day, on the river at Villas Lapas and at Tarcoles

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Possibly my bird of the trip. This tiny and endearing bird was first picked up flying on to a single stick of a perch on the opposite side of the river at Carara. It was then seen to fly over to our side of the river, landing only about 20 metres away. Not content with this, it flew even closer, landing on a perch for some time which was only about 10 metres from us, seemingly unconcerned with our presence

Blue-crowned Motmot 

This is another of the reasonable list of species that was only seen at the Buena Vista hotel. Our first bird, on the first morning sortie around the hotel grounds, was very approachable. On our return at the end of the week, the single bird had become a pair, with a third (separated by the absence of racquets) spotted from the coffee plantation

Turquoise-browed Motmot

One seen over the track through the forest at Carara

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

This is yet another of species which we seem to have been chasing for some time. Our patience was rewarded with a perched pair in front of us on the riverside walk at Carara. They were more than worth the wait! A third bird was seen briefly on the return walk from the river at the same location later in the morning

Red-headed Barbet

2 females and a brief male at the fruit feeders of La Paz were quite exhilarating – a chocolate box bird, but very welcome

Prong-billed Barbet

As opposed to the paint box Red-headed Barbet, the Prong-billed Barbet is more of a birder’s bird. The colours are reminiscent of the smart Hawfinch of Europe, with an added extra touch in the novel shape of the bill. 2 infrequently returned to the fruit feeders at La Paz

Emerald Toucanet

Only one bird was seen. It returned at reasonably regular intervals to the avocado tree behind the cabins of Savegre Lodge while waiting for Quetzal to put in an appearance

Collared Aracari

5 were seen outside the main gate of La Selva on the first visit, with ~8 within La Selva itself during the guided tour. In addition, ~5 flew in to the trees at the entrance of Quebrada Gonzalves at the Braullio Carrillo national park

Keel-billed Toucan

All birds seen were either around the reception area of La Selva, or flying in loose lines over the Sarapiqui River (from the bridge at La Selva). At least 25 were present

Black-mandibled Toucan

The first bird of this species was a singleton in front of the cabins at Villas Lapas. The main concentration was at La Selva, amongst the larger numbers of Keel-billed Toucans – at least 15 here

Acorn Woodpecker

These were only seen at Savegre Lodge and the surrounding forests, where they where quite regular. The greatest concentration was 5-6 birds amongst the cabins of the lodge on the morning of the first full day. ~10 were seen in total that day, with 2 on both the day before and the day after

Black-cheeked Woodpecker

These were only seen around the Sarapiqui area. 6 were at various points along the drive to La Selva, between the two security huts. 4 were the seen on the afternoon at Selva Verde lodge, with another 4 at La Selva on the following morning

Hoffmann's Woodpecker

These were more or less the most widespread of the woodpeckers, although we didn’t see them in all lowland localities as expected. First was a single bird on a bare tree in the coffee plantation below the Buena Vista hotel. A nesting pair with hole directly above some of the cabins were at Villas Lapas, with an extra 2 over the main road at Tarcoles. Most unexpected was the single bird in the town square at Orotina, and we ended up with at least 3 separate birds from the Buena Vista on the last morning

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 

A single bird was outside of the entrance to La Paz

Smoky-brown Woodpecker

2 pairs of birds were seen, both along the entrance drive to La Selva. The first were studied for some time, since they were hacking away on the bark of a slender tree, not far in from the road

Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker 

This was arguably the most stunning of the woodpeckers seen, not just due to its admirable chestnut and golden plumage, but also its prolonged hammering on what was no more than a slender twig only metres from us

Pale-billed Woodpecker

These are the largest of the woodpeckers seen, and are somewhat comical in appearance. They were usually in groups of 2-3, which may have included at least in part some young birds. They weren’t difficult to pick up, since they were either noisily knocking on trees overhead, or showing themselves quite clearly on trunks lower down. First 3 were in a group at Punta Leona, with a subsequent 7 at Carara (3 separate groups of 3, 2, and 2), and another pair at La Selva, along the approach driveway

Ruddy Treerunner

After the first bird seen from a little distance at the stop near K76 on the journey into the mountains, this species subsequently proved quite easy to catch up with. All the birds following that first sighting were in the Savegre area, with another ~11 on the first afternoon, with a further 6 during the full day at the lodge

Plain Xenops

By far the most common of the two Xenops species encountered. A pair and a separate singleton were at Carara, 1 alongside the approach road to La Selva, and another 4 in the La Selva area on the second morning visit

Streaked Xenops

1 in the woodland at Punta Leona

Streak-breasted Treehunter

A single bird initially appeared above the lower fruit feeder (next to the orchid house) at La Paz. It was followed a few metres to the other side of the feeder, where it was relocated preening directly above us for some time

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

2 birds were in the woodland on the entrance drive to La Selva, with a third bird in the secondary forest of La Selva itself on the next morning

Northern Barred Woodcreeper

This is the largest of the woodcreepers that we saw, and is a very smart and eye-catching bird. The first sight of it was often a ruddy brown flash of wings as it landed, and then a chase to try to get good views before it disappeared round to the opposite side of the trunk. The bars on the back were difficult to see in most lights, but those on the throat and breast were more easily seen if the bird deigned to pose for any length of time. ~10 were in the grounds of the Selva Verde lodge, with another 2 at La Selva

Streak-headed Woodcreeper

Small numbers were seen throughout the week, with probably more unidentified birds escaping our lists, due to the pitfalls of woodcreeper identification. 2 initial light-billed Woodcreepers at Savegre proved to be Spot-crowned, with Streak-headed at Punta Leona (1), Carara (1), and La Selva (2)

Spot-crowned Woodcreeper

This species is very similar to Streak-headed, and despite the books seeming to indicate that the markings on the head are more defined and spotted, in practice this distinction is almost impossible to make. We thus had to resort to distribution for our identification, since this species tends to favour the higher altitudes such as at Savegre, with Streak-headed more of a lowland bird

Fasciated Antshrike

This was amongst the most stunning birds that we encountered, partly due to its remarkable striped plumage with red eye, and also because it appeared atypically right out in the open in front of us, lower in the same tree as a Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker moments earlier. Our first sighting of this or a nearby bird was much more typical, sitting motionless deep in the cover of foliage

Great Antshrike

Separate male and female birds briefly in foliage along the entrance drive to La Selva

Barred Antshrike

2 females and a male were seen all too briefly at Carara, with a similar sighting of a female near to the Great Antshrikes along the entrance drive to La Selva

Black-hooded Antshrike

2 males were picked up on or near to the ground in the woodland at Punta Leona, with one of the birds perching for some time more or less in the open. We then found a singing male, again near to the track and in the open, at Carara, with a subsequent female later in the morning. Another female was in the forest at Villas Lapas

Dot-winged Antwren

These are an eye-catching little antbird, and seem to be constantly on the move. A male and smartly plumaged pair of females were picked up flying across one of the trails at Punta Leona, and were pinned down for a short time before they continued on their way

Dusky Antbird

2 of these fairly secretive birds were seen, both trying to hide in the foliage of trees – 1 at Carara, and the second in the forest at Villas Lapas

Chestnut-backed Antbird

This bird was an end of the day addition to the list. I was returning for one last look at one of the feeders at Selva Verde, when a couple of birds darted across the path, from and to deep foliage. The birds were calling, and the branches moving slightly just before dusk, when one of these dapper chestnut and black birds, with an obvious blue eye “ring”, showed itself in the open for seconds before moving on to yet more cover. Although only this one bird was identified for sure, the two other shadows seen were probably also of this species

White-collared Manakin

We had hoped to see some Manakins on the trip, and despite this being the only species seen, the individuals found put in worthy appearances. The first bird was located near to the first gate on the entrance road to La Selva. It had a penchant for some of the flowering plants in one particular spot, and returned here for at least an hour. Another male was seen more briefly back towards the second entrance gate, in the company of an even briefer female. The next morning, during the sortie around the tracks of La Selva, 5 males were chanced upon

Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet

1 along the trails in Punta Leona

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

These birds were only seen at the Hotel Buena Vista. Four were there on the last morning, and the one seen on the first morning may well have been one of these

Mountain Elaenia

Only seen on higher ground at Savegre Lodge. 3 were seen on the first afternoon, and 5 on the full day there, including some in the grounds of the hotel

Torrent Tyrannulet

The presence of a pair of these around the bridge at the entrance to Savegre Lodge was a pleasant surprise. Only one was evident while we were watching, with the second only making a brief appearance. A third bird was seen briefly alongside the river further into the forest

Common Tody-Flycatcher

2 were around the spot where we observed the River Tarcoles at the end of the track at Carara. At least one was present close to off and on most of the time while we were there

Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher

2 separate birds were seen well in the rain forest of Braullio Carillo. They were the only birds of note during our trek of around 1.6km. They are very similar to Black-tailed Flycatcher, with the possibility of them being a superspecies, and one of the best identification factors is distribution

Tufted Flycatcher

This is an endearing little flycatcher, and as the full day at Savegre went on, the 15 or so birds that we saw seemed to become more confiding. They appeared at first to be a canopy dweller, with most views being accompanied by a stiff neck, but it transpired that some fed from branches down to eye level. Only one other bird was seen away from Savegre, at La Paz, in the forest to the rear of the main part of the gardens

Yellowish Flycatcher

This species was impossible to miss in the forest around Savegre Lodge, since they tended to feed on the lower branches, and were also very confiding. Probably about 5 birds were seen, all at very close quarters

Black-capped Flycatcher

The first 2 birds seen were a little distant, flycatching around the higher branches in the clearing off K76. The third and last bird was very much closer, only a metre or so away at eye level on the edge of the forest at Savegre

Black Phoebe

Only one pair was seen, in a clearing next to a small “boating lake” at a recreation area just downstream from the Savegre Lodge. A point of interest is that the local race is all black, in comparison to the western USA birds I have seen in the past which have obvious white undertail coverts and belly

Bright-rumped Attila

A very confiding bird was followed as it foraged along the edge of the entrance drive to La Selva

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

2 outside the main entrance gate to La Selva

Panama Flycatcher

4 were at Punta Leona, and 2 at Selva Verde

Great Kiskadee

Seen regularly on most days in small numbers: 2-3 at the Hotel Buena Vista; 4 at Punta Leona; 4 at Villas Lapas; 2 at Carara; ~6 at La Selva; and 4 at Selva Verde lodge

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Seen only at 2 locations – 2 were above the cabins at Savegre Lodge, and 3 along the entrance drive to La Selva

Social Flycatcher

As with Great Kiskadee, seen regularly in small numbers throughout the week: 3 at Hotel Buena Vista (one of the first birds seen on the first morning); 3 at Savegre Lodge; 6 at Villas Lapas; 2 at La Selva; and 2 at La Quinta lodge, Sarapiqui

Grey-capped Flycatcher

This species is of a similar size to Social Flycatcher, and was usually in association with it, so they had to be checked carefully for identification. Most were at Villas Lapas (4, all with Social Flycatchers), and a fifth was at La Selva

Streaked Flycatcher

Only seen at Villas Lapas, a pair was along the track through the forest, directly overhead, with a third bird further on

Tropical Kingbird

Very common, seen every day in all habitats. Not too many were checked for Western Kingbird, which apparently can also be seen. Numbers weren’t high, perhaps barely reaching double figures on any one day, but they were always quite evident when present, perching out in the open

Cinnamon Becard

1-2 birds were along the circular forest trail, not high above our heads, but always busily foraging between bare branches

White-winged Becard

1 male seen briefly flying over the trail at Carara

Masked Tityra

3 birds were seen, but all were brief views (no more than 10 seconds at any one time): single males were at Selva Verde lodge and Buena Vista Hotel on the last morning, with a lone female along the entrance drive to La Selva

Black-crowned Tityra

2 were seen, both males, with one in the canopy at Carara, and the other barely closer and all too brief in trees opposite the White-collared Manakin stakeout along the entrance drive to La Selva

Blue-and-white Swallow

Very common in the Valle Central over and around the Buena Vista hotel, with perhaps even greater numbers in the mountains around Savegre Lodge. Strangely, they were not seen at all on the Pacific Coast or Sarapiqui, where they seemed to be replaced by Rough-winged Swallows

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Those identified specifically (can be tricky when not seen well due to similarity with Southern Roughwings) seemed much more common than the latter species. Small numbers were at Carara, 2 at La Quinta, Sarapiqui, 4 at La Selva, and ~10 over Buena Vista

Southern Rough-winged Swallow 

Only 2 specifically identified, at La Selva

Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher

Only one was seen, on the first full day, at the pull off at K76 while travelling from Alajuela to Savegre. It was also one of the first birds to be seen – after parking the car out of sight, we walked about 20 metres, and this bird appeared for a short time to feed on a low bush at the side of a track. And that was it – no more to be seen during the trip!

Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher

I couldn’t decide whether these were a chocolate box bird, or a birders’ bird. Whichever it was, we were pleased to see them, and they eventually put on a little bit of a show. The first two were seen poorly when we stopped off at the 3km point on the descent to Savegre Lodge. However, the clearing next to the “boating lake” just downstream from Savegre Lodge was the best spot for them. ~12 birds were noisily flying to and fro here, many of them in trees near to where we stood

Band-backed Wren

As with many of the wrens in Costa Rica, this species is both large and beautifully marked. There were two pairs along the entrance drive to La Selva, and both pairs seemed to be nest building. One of the pairs was probably seen twice on successive days, near to the second security gate, with another lone bird in one of the trees behind the restaurant at La Selva

Rufous-naped Wren

A single bird was seen amongst the coffee plants below the Hotel Buena Vista on the first morning, and a subsequent pair were above our heads at the edge of the River Tarcoles at Carara

Black-bellied Wren

This was probably the most elusive of all the wrens seen. On the return along the Riverside Trail at Carara, we heard an explosive song from a nearby bush. A bird subsequently flew across the trail, unidentified, and continued to sing sporadically. We eventually saw the bird for what must have been seconds – a classic skulking wren, with outstanding voice, and matching elusive nature

Rufous-breasted Wren

A pair were seen briefly at Carara

Riverside Wren

These were difficult to pin down for different reasons than the Black-bellied Wren. After crossing the first rope bridge across the River Villas Lapas, we picked up some of these birds in bushes at the base of the bridge. They were very active in the reasonably thick foliage, and we counted at least 5 separate individuals. However, they were constantly on the move, and so not easily viewed with any ease

Rufous-and-white Wren

A single bird was at Carara

House Wren

2 separate birds at the Buena Vista Hotel (presumably one of these birds was the one seen on the return visit on the last morning), 1 on the journey from Savegre to Punta Leona, and 1 at La Selva

Ochraceous Wren

Only 2 birds were seen – 1 at Savegre, in the woodlands during the full days birding there, and 1 at La Paz. The latter bird frequented the area around one of the fruit feeders, and appeared regularly. At one point, it almost hopped over my feet while crossing from one side of the arbour to the other, which was one of the entrances to the hummingbird garden

Grey-breasted Wood-Wren

For a small wren, this has a huge voice, and this is how the single bird seen at La Paz was first picked up. It was seen for a short time below the restaurant, and appeared a little closer in the bushes around the upper feeders later in the day

Black-faced Solitaire

A pair of birds was in the forest of Savegre

Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush

The bird seen at La Paz appeared at the base of the fruit feeders for a short time, and at first bore some resemblance to Sooty Robin. It was only there for a short time, and unfortunately didn’t reappear

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush

A single bird landed close to briefly at the clearing just off the K76 marker on the way to Savegre

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush

A nice surprise – probably around 5 birds frequented Savegre Lodge, mainly in the vicinity of the private housing above the reception. After being pleased with pinning down the first two in bushes, other birds were much more confiding, feeding on the lawns only metres away from us

Swainson's Thrush

The only bird seen was at the Buena Vista hotel on the last morning

Wood Thrush

Singles at Selva Verde lodge, La Selva, and the forest trail of Braullio Carillo at Quebrada Gonzalves

Sooty Robin

The first bird found was in the small hamlet 3km into the descent to Savegre Lodge, and fed quite happily alongside the edge of the road while we watched on. A second bird was also at the side of the road, seen from the car as we exited the hamlet, continuing on our way. On the return journey two days later, 2 more birds were seen from the car at the same place

Mountain Robin

After disturbing the odd Clay-coloured Robin at Savegre Lodge, we realised that Mountain Robins were amongst them, with the main identification factor being the black bill – the plumage colour wasn’t as distinctive as we had expected. In all, about 4 birds were around the lodge, with another couple seen in the forest

Pale-vented Thrush

A small group of thrushes was chanced upon along the trail in the secondary forest at La Selva. The pale under tail coverts were not nearly as obvious as expected, so it was fortunate that this group contained a tailless bird, which clinched the species. The other birds weren’t studied to any depth following the discovery of this bird, since there were other distractions such as Wood-rail and Fasciated Antshrike to observe at the same time!

Clay-coloured Robin

Very common – seen on every day in every locality, with a maximum of 30+ birds on any one day

Tawny-faced Gnatwren

A single bird was seen well on the entrance drive to La Selva

Tropical Gnatcatcher

One bird at K76

Brown Jay

The only location that these were seen (and heard) was at the Hotel Buena Vista, where they occasionally passed noisily through the coffee plantation. ~8 were seen on the last morning, with only 3 on the first morning

House Sparrow

Almost a clean slate, with the trip House Sparrow-less until the last afternoon, when a single hanger on flew from the petrol station forecourt as we were about to leave (just North of San Jose)

Yellow-throated Vireo

1-2 birds were picked up in the bushes below the coffee plantation (which were actually the upper boundary of the road outside) next to Buena Vista Hotel. One was tracked as it foraged upwards in the coffee plants, and was eventually seen feeding quite close to

Yellow-winged Vireo

These were chanced upon reasonably regularly on the full day’s birding at the Savegre Lodge, with ~6 birds seen

Philadelphia Vireo

1 in the forest at Savegre Lodge

Yellow-green Vireo

1-2 birds were singing in the coffee plantation at the Hotel Buena Vista on the last morning

Lesser Greenlet

Punta Leona (2); La Selva entrance driveway (1); La Selva reserve (~6)

Yellow-bellied Siskin

After a female picked up on a low bush in the village of San Gerardo de Dota (just down from Savegre Lodge), a male was found singing from the top of a swaying bush

Tennessee Warbler

The most common wood warbler encountered. They were particularly abundant at La Paz (~25) where many would come to the fruit feeders. ~10 were at the Hotel Buena Vista on the first morning, 2 on the first afternoon and 3 on the first morning at Savegre Lodge, and ~6 at La Selva

Flame-throated Warbler

These were only seen in the Mountains, with an initial bird at the track opposite K76, and 3 at Savegre Lodge (1 on the first afternoon, and 2 within the forest on the second day)

Yellow Warbler

2 at K76, and 1 in the forest at Savegre Lodge

Chestnut-sided Warbler

All those seen were in the lime green capped, grey-bodied livery of non breeding plumage: Carara (3); Villas Lapas (1); La Selva entrance drive (2); Selva Verde Lodge (1); La Selva (4); Braulio Carrillo (1); Buena Vista (1)

Black-throated Green Warbler

K76 (2); Savegre Lodge (2 first afternoon, ~5 on the full day); Punta Leona (1); Carara (2 females); Buena Vista Hotel (1 female)

Louisiana Waterthrush

4 Waterthrushes were seen along the track at Carara, but views weren’t sufficient to identify specifically. The fifth bird, striding from rock to rock in front of us beside the Sarapiqui River at Selva Verde Lodge, had the splayed hind supercilium and poorer under striping of this species

Grey-crowned Yellowthroat

A single male was amongst the mangroves of Tarcoles

Wilson's Warbler

Quite common in the mountains (1 at K76, 4 at Savegre Lodge, and 1 at the Hotel Georgina) and Punta Leona (3)

 Slate-throated Redstart

3 birds were picked out just below the canopy at La Paz. They were in the forest to the rear of the main gardens, where we walked upstream of the waterfalls

Collared Redstart

5 separate bird were seen on the full days birding at Savegre Lodge. The first was studied for some time from a little distance, but the second was anything but shy, performing admirably right in front of us for 15 minutes or so, totally unconcerned by our proximity

Rufous-capped Warbler

This was another of those species only seen at the Hotel Buena Vista. After having picked up the first views of Plain-capped Starthroat within the coffee plantation only moments before, an active Rufous-capped Warbler moved swiftly between bushes before disappearing

Black-cheeked Warbler

3 very mobile birds were encountered in the forest at Savegre Lodge, between the wooden footbridge and Quetzal stake out site


Not as common as expected, the grey throated form of this widespread species was only found in the vicinity of La Selva (~10), apart from a loner appearing on the fruit feeders of La Paz

Common Bush-Tanager

Seen at 2 locations – Savegre and La Paz. The first of five birds at Savegre was elusive at first, in bushes alongside the “boating lake” just downstream of Savegre Lodge. It eventually deigned to show in the open. At La Paz, Common Bush-tanager was a regular at the fruit feeders, where it was unusual not to see them in small flocks. ~20 were here in total

Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager

This seems to be even more of a highland specialist than the Common Bush-tanager, and was only seen in the mountains of the Talamanca range. After ~20 passed through at the K76 clearing, we subsequently saw ~10 on both days at Savegre Lodge, and another 3 on the slopes of Cerro de la Muerte

White-shouldered Tanager

Only seen in two small parties at Carara, with a total of around 4 males and 2 females

Red-throated Ant-Tanager

2 pairs were in along the circular forest trail at Selva Verde lodge, and a third pair within the secondary forest at La Selva. The first pair found at the former was particularly confiding, with the male spending some time preening at eye level not far from our gaze

Summer Tanager

All but one seen were males: Villas Lapas (1 male); La Paz (single of male and female at the fruit feeder separately); Selva Verde (2 males); Buena Vista Hotel (1 male on the last morning)

Flame-coloured Tanager

2 males were at Savegre Lodge, both singing, one of which was directly overhead for some time on wires

Passerini's Tanager

All seen were of the Caribbean slope subspecies (usually only discerned due to location and plumage of the females. They were seen at La Paz (3 males and 1 female), La Selva entrance drive (~20), Selva Verde lodge (4), and La Selva (20+)

Blue-grey Tanager

Buena Vista Hotel (~20 on the first morning, ~10 on the last morning); Savegre Lodge (1); Villas Lapas (2); La Paz (25+); La Selva entrance drive (2); La Selva (4)

Palm Tanager

K76 (1); La Paz (1); La Selva entrance drive (~10); La Selva (1)

Yellow-throated Euphonia

3 birds were seen all too briefly – a pair at the top of one of the trails at Punta Leona, and a male at Carara

Olive-backed Euphonia

2 males and a female were regular visitors to the fruit feeders at Selva Verde lodge, with another female at the Quebrada Gonzalves entrance to Braullio Carillo national park

Tawny-capped Euphonia

Only seen at La Paz, where 2 males and a female were regular visitors to the fruit feeders

Silver-throated Tanager

This became a common sight at La Paz, where it was one of the most frequent visitors to the fruit feeders. In all at least 30 birds were seen here. They were seen in much lower numbers elsewhere, with 1 at Savegre Lodge, 2 at Selva Verde, and 2 at La Selva

Golden-hooded Tanager

This is another species which we only saw on the Caribbean slopes of the Sarapiqui area, and numbers were nowhere near as high as Silver-throated Tanager. The first we saw of the species were 2 birds in the trees in front of the parked car as we arrived at La Paz. We then waited some time before 3 separate pairs of birds were seen in the gardens, 2 pairs at separate feeders, and another feeding on bushes. 2 were seen the following day along the La Selva entrance drive, with 2 at La Selva proper, and even 3 on the feeders of the La Quinta lodge

Spangle-cheeked Tanager

We were quite fortunate to catch up with this species, since only 2 birds were seen (together) passing through the forest of Savegre Lodge in a small feeding party, which also contained our first Silver–throated Tanager

Scarlet-thighed Dacnis

2 birds were seen – one in a flowering tree with honeycreepers at Punta Leona, and a second, again with a collection of honeycreepers, at Carara

Green Honeycreeper

A pair began visiting one of the fruit feeders at Selva Verde in the fading light, and a second pair were in one of the flowering trees adjacent to the restaurant of La Selva

Shining Honeycreeper

This was the most common of the two purple (coloured) honeycreepers encountered, with the yellow legs making them easy to identify: Punta Leona (2); Selva Verde (a pair visiting one of the fruit feeders together); La Selva (female)

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Only 2 males were seen, in small feeding party along the Riverside Trail at Carara

Variable Seedeater

The variant of this species present at La Selva is the all black (male), with the only white a notch on the wing. This makes identification that little bit more difficult since it bares resemblance to other seedeaters and like finches. Thankfully, the 3 males and 2 females present were confiding enough for good views

Yellow-faced Grassquit

4 were seen at Savegre Lodge, with 2 in the lodge area, and another 2 in the village of San Gerardo de Dota

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Despite being relatively common, these birds are constantly on the move when feeding, and tend to keep to the depths of the foliage. This may have been one of the reasons (as well as inexperience) why the first bird at K76 was misidentified as the very similar Peg-billed Finch. Reasonable views of some of the birds were eventually had: K76 (1-2 males); Savegre Lodge (~ males / females); Cerro de la Muerte (4); La Paz (separate singles of a male and a female)

Yellow-thighed Finch

These were regularly seen on the mountains, and were the first birds we saw as we pulled up to park the car at the clearing of K76: K76 (~15); Savegre Lodge (3 on the first afternoon, ~10 on the full day); La Paz (4 visiting the fruit feeders)

Large-footed Finch

3 were seen for a short time at K76, with 2 slightly more confiding birds at Savegre Lodge the next day

Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch

2 of these birds were seen in the forests of Savegre Lodge, but they had to be worked for, since they are very elusive. They were initially heard at ground level, but were under dense cover. A further 2 were seen visiting the fruit feeders briefly at La Paz, and again they were on the ground

Orange-billed Sparrow 

We had missed this striking sparrow at Carara, where the guide of a passing birding group was trying to refind an elusive bird for his patrons. However, superb views of 2 ground feeders were had along the circular trail of Selva Verde

Black-striped Sparrow

2 birds were singing near to the main entrance gate of La Selva just after parking the car on the first morning visit to the area

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Very common in most areas, and this was the second species to be seen on the first morning at the Buena Vista Hotel. ~40 were seen during the whole of that first day, with ~50 at Savegre Lodge, 5 at La Paz, and another 6 at the Hotel Buena Vista on the last morning

Greyish Saltator

One singing at the Hotel Buena Vista on the first morning

Buff-throated Saltator

La Paz (3); La Selva entrance drive (~6); Selva Verde (2); La Selva (2)

Black-thighed Grosbeak

3 of these stunningly plumaged birds flew past us while staking out the Quetzal nest hole in the forest at Savegre Lodge

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

After quite distant views of 2 birds at Hotel Buena Vista in the first morning, 2 pairs of much closer birds visited the fruit feeders at La Paz

Great-tailed Grackle

Seen throughout the week, in all areas apart from the mountains around Savegre Lodge, but in slightly lower numbers than expected, being between ~10-20 birds each day

Yellow-tailed Oriole

After a single bird calling from the tops of the trees, a feeding party of these, Black-cowled Oriole, and Passerini’s Tanagers was chanced upon not far into the walk along the La Selva entrance drive. The 2 Yellow-tailed Orioles in the party became the most confiding, feeding on the kernels of the flowering plants in the open

Baltimore Oriole

Very common – seen on every day and in all habitats: Buena Vista Hotel (4 on the first morning, 6 on the last); Savegre Lodge (3 on the first afternoon, 5 on the second, 2 females only on the last morning there); Villas Lapas (2); La Paz (10+ males, 5+ females); Selva Verde (2 males); La Selva (1 male, 2 females)

Black-cowled Oriole

2 were in with the feeding party of Yellow-tailed Orioles and Passerini’s Tanagers on the entrance drive to La Selva, and although reasonable views were had, they were more flighty than the latter Orioles

Yellow-billed Cacique

2 flew across the La Selva entrance drive

Montezuma Oropendola

Common in the La Selva area, where we saw ~18 on the first morning, mainly around the main entrance, and ~20 in the reserve proper the next morning


Paintings gallery

Video clips




Site map




Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8


Species list

Text only