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12 - 18 March 1994  (updated October 1999)

by Greg D. & Debra G. Jackson

Our journey to Costa Rica was only of a week's duration, but we sampled several different zones to provide as much species variety as possible.  We birded in the northeast Caribbean lowlands, the lower-middle elevation of the Caribbean slope, the middle Pacific coast, and the highlands of the Cordillera de Talamanca.  Heavy emphasis was on forest and edge species, with little time spent in wetlands or field areas.  We had made one prior trip to Costa Rica in March 1991, though that week-long trip was plagued by illness.  Previously we had visited Monteverde, Carara, and Braulio Carillo, with a brief jaunt to Poás Volcano.

We planned the trip ourselves, and did not use local guides.  Travel arrangements were made by Destinations Travel in Birmingham, who worked with Costa Rica Experts.  All hotels were prepaid, and our car was rented from Adobe without problem.  Paved roads in Costa Rica vary from excellent to pothole-ridden and serpentine.  Fast driving and aggressive (sometimes suicidal) passing are frequent; I tried to stay within the posted speed limits to avoid attracting the attention of sometimes unscrupulous traffic police.  Driving in San José is not for the timid, but after Mexico City and Athens it actually seemed tame!  English was widely spoken by personnel connected with tourism, though a little knowledge of Spanish proved useful; the people were friendly and helpful.  The Stiles and Skutch guide was my constant companion/security blanket, and I found that carrying this rather large volume was easy using a "Storm-Petrel" shoulder bag available from ABA Sales in Colorado Springs.

We used Duranon-treated clothing and DEET repellent on bare skin, though insects were not bothersome.  We began malaria prophylaxis prior to the trip since we were visiting La Selva, but we opted to discontinue medication after suffering no mosquito bites in this area.  Hopefully this will not prove to be a mistake.  We drank the water and ate all foods everywhere; no problems with turista were encountered until the trip home (of all times!), making me suspect the freshly-washed glasses at La Georgina the prior day.


12 March: Arrived San José late the prior night. Left San José in late morning and drove via Route 9 to Selva Verde Lodge in Chilamate.  Arrived, after a few stops, at the lodge in early afternoon.  Birded briefly at the lodge, then drove back to Virgen del Socorro for a couple of hours of birding.

13 March: Morning and middle to late afternoon in La Selva reserve.  In the morning covered the area of the headquarters and residences, and walked portions of the CES, LOC, SSO, CCC, and SOR trails.  In the afternoon walked SOR to the north part of SHO trail.

14 March: Morning and late afternoon in La Selva reserve, with some birding in midday at Selva Verde Lodge.  Morning coverage included La Selva entrance road, headquarters, residences, SUR to Arboretum, and SOR to the north end of SHO.  In late afternoon walked CES to the north part of SAT.  Enjoyed birding this day with Bob and Brenda Scott, old acquaintances from Florida.

15 March: Morning with Bob and Brenda Scott in the Selva Verde area, including trips to the Butterfly Garden, Chilamate pond area, and the wooded hills across from the lodge.  Left Selva Verde (and the Scotts) after lunch to drive to Carara.  Stopped for a few hours birding at Virgen del Socorro.

16 March: Morning on the highway near the Vigilancia Trail in Carara (to the Tárcoles River bridge) and then on the trail (to about 2.5 km).  In late afternoon had a brief trip to the mouth of the Tárcoles River and then the bridge.

17 March: Morning at the mouth of the Tárcoles River, next the bridge, then on the Vigilancia Trail (to the lake at 1.5 km).  Afternoon drive to San José (non-birding).

18 March: Full day trip to Cerro de la Muerte (as far as KM 97).  Included the first five kms of the San Gerardo road at KM 80.1.  Most time was spent between KM 85 and KM 97.  Left San José the next morning for home.

NOTES ON LOCALITIES AND HOTELS (in order of itinerary)

Hotel Herradura, San José: Hotel is close to the airport, in a good location just off the highway to San José.  This is an excellent, modern facility with good service.  We were upgraded free to a large suite.  Turn right at the first traffic light from the airport driving toward San José, and take an immediate left; reception is in the middle building across the parking lot.  Parking is free and guarded.

Virgen del Socorro: Excellent birding area where we spent a few hours on two afternoons.  Morning birding here probably would be great.  This spot can be covered from Selva Verde, as only a 45 minutes drive back toward San José is required.  Going this way, you pass the toll station (30 colones), cross two creeks, and take the gravel road on the left at the top of the hill.  This road is signed for the Virgen del Socorro preserve and has many "No Parking" ("No Estacionamiento") signs as well.  You can drive down the dirt road a bit and park, as we did, pulling as far off the road as possible.  About 200 meters down the road is a gated track on the left with an even better parking area.  As the first part of the road was not that great for birding, this choice is probably better (and the car can't be seen from the highway).

The road continues diagonally into the valley, and provides easy birding and good viewing.  When we were there, the road looked drivable, but birding on foot would be best.  There is another gated road to the left about halfway down the hill, which we did not try.  We went just past this turn on the main road, but not to the bottom.

Nearby, we stopped twice at the beautiful La Paz falls to try for Torrent Tyrannulet, without success.  We did not check the other stream crossings, which may have produced the species.  The birding looks good in this entire area along the highway.

Selva Verde Lodge, Chilamate: Recommended place to stay for visiting La Selva.  The lodge is on the right a few kms east of the community of La Virgen.  Accommodations are rustic and simple but clean and reasonably comfortable.  Rooms are in elevated, tin-roofed buildings connected to other facilities by covered walkways.  Porches with chairs and small hammocks surround the rooms.  We stayed in #51, in a building very convenient to the dining hall and parking lot; the adjacent room #52 has a better view of the creek.  There is no air-conditioning, but the rooms have ceiling fans.  Rooms are screened, have private baths/showers, and have few insects for a jungle setting.  They are hot in mid-day and surprisingly chilly at night.

We drank water from the taps and ate all food without problems.  Food is served during the hours of 7-8 AM, 12-1 PM, and 6-7 PM only; I recommend arriving in the first 20 minutes of these periods, though this is not an absolute requirement.  The meals are simple but good and are served buffet-style in large quantities.  An attractive dining room overlooks the river.  The bar below is open just before dinner; an adjacent gift shop is open after lunch and dinner and sells natural history publications.

The friendly, English-speaking staff can arrange various local activities.  Free guided bird walks are held most mornings at 6 AM for one hour.  Other guided activities are by fee; to bird in the primary forest across the river, either hiring a guide or signing a waiver is required.

Birding is good around buildings and on trails in the lodge area and along the river.  An excellent spot is on the north (road) side of the covered walkway immediately west of the dining hall at a small clearing.  This area frequently had mixed flocks, including Blue Dacnis on two days.  Gray-necked Wood-Rails can be seen feeding along the bank of the small creek near the road leading from the parking lot to the dining hall.  The Butterfly Garden across the highway can provide good edge habitat, and walking north on the road to the bungalows is productive.  Black-and-white Owls feed at night on moths at the lights on this gravel road, and roost in the nearby trees by day.  The bungalows are also reached by a paved trail just to the east.  From the bungalows, trails lead north into tall secondary forest in the low hills, with good birding.  Purple-throated Fruitcrows were calling near the first trail to the left after crossing the ridge behind the bungalows, on the hill above a swampy creek.

Less than one km east of Selva Verde is a gravel road to the right that leads across the river to the lodge's primary forest.  Park just before the small bridge, cross, and take the trail on the right into the pasture.  Veer left across the pasture to a small creek, where Boat-billed Herons are found in the low trees.  We walked on the road past the next bridge, finding Gray-headed Chachalaca, Yellow Tyrannulet, Long-tailed Tyrant, and Olive-crowned Yellowthroat; Caiman were in the creek.

La Selva Biological Station: A fantastic place, which could easily consume a week to cover all the trails in this huge area.  Early morning birding is excellent on the entrance road and around the headquarters buildings.  Some of the species encountered in the front areas included Chestnut-collared, Gray-rumped, and Lesser Swallow-tailed swifts, Purple-crowned Fairy, Violaceous Trogon, three species of toucan, Cinnamon and White-winged becards, and Snowy Cotinga.  Check the marshy area on the left a few hundred meters before the gate, where we had Striped Cuckoo and White-necked Jacobin.  The unguarded gate was open by 6 AM, and reportedly closes at 10 PM.

You need a permit to cross the bridge to the preserve.  I arranged this far in advance through the Organization for Tropical Studies; cost was $15/day/person.  The fee includes lunch at the headquarters cafeteria at noon; we went back to Selva Verde to eat, so I don't know about the food quality at La Selva.  A limited number of persons are allowed in the sanctuary each day.  Birding around the headquarters and entrance could be done without a permit.  Accommodations are available in duplexes at La Selva; this looked acceptable from the outside, but Selva Verde is probably better.

The biological station is about 15 minutes from Selva Verde, reached by heading east toward Puerto Viejo and turning right on the paved Horquetas road at the guard post.  One morning our car was inspected by the military guards, but they were pleasant and this was not a problem.  A gravel road on the right is less than three kms south of the guard hut, and is signed for the Sarapiquí Lodge.  There is a covered bus stop at the turn, with an "OET" logo on the top.  Take the first left on another gravel road to enter the station.

The office (in a large building to the right) supposedly is open 7 AM to 4 PM, and at least on the first day they want you to check in first and sign a waiver to enter the preserve.  Our first day was Sunday, and as the office was still not open at 7:15, we got a map from a passing staff person and crossed the bridge.  We did it the proper way the second day; you do not waste time waiting on the office to open, as birding is so good in the front areas.

The large swinging bridge across the Puerto Viejo River provides a good lookout, though we saw few birds there.  Across the bridge are the residences for the researchers.  This area is excellent for birds, and we found such species as Semiplumbeous Hawk, Mealy Parrot, E. Slaty Antshrike, Buff-rumped Warbler, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, and Dusky-faced Tanager.

A map is very helpful while in the preserve, and is essential to travel a circuitous route.  The trails are marked fairly regularly with small signs indicating the trail initials and the number of meters.  The first part of many trails is either paved or boarded; more distant paths are dirt.  We had no problems with mud, though if it was rainy some areas would be a quagmire.  Hiking boots were great for us, and since it was dry rubber boots would have been a liability, especially on the hilly sections of the LOC and SSO trails.  Insects were few, and we actually had no mosquito bites while in this part of the country.  Agoutis were easy to see and fairly tame; howler monkeys were heard frequently, though we never saw them.  Red and Blue Poison Arrow Frogs were plentiful in some areas.

The preserve is large, and to really get a chance to bird the farther trails and make it back for lunch, you would need to minimize early birding in the front sections and just hike to get deeper into the property.  Because of this situation, we never the opportunity to adequately cover the SAT and SHO trails, which appear to be excellent, and never reached the SUA area.  On our first day I wanted to spend a lot of time in primary forest (probably a mistake in terms of birding, but still enjoyable), so we took the LOC/SSO/CCC route instead of going on the more productive SAT.  This turned out to be a rough hike to try to rush back to make lunch.  You should allow extra time if trying to cover some of the back trails, as these are rough and cross many low ridges.

Trails that we walked included: CES - primary forest, easy walking on pavement and boards; slow birding, though did have several Mealy Parrots, Broad-billed Motmot, a pair of E. Slaty Antshrikes, and Orange-billed Sparrow.

LOC - no boardwalk, rough in places, hilly.  North half forms border of primary and secondary forest.  Birding just OK; best at the north terminus, where we had Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Chestnut-backed Antbird, and Long-billed Gnatwren.  Heard Three-wattled Bellbirds in the mid-portion of the trail on the ridges.

SSO - primary forest, no boardwalk, many low ridges, slow birding.

SAT - wide trail, easy walking, secondary forest, good birding.  We only had a small amount of time late in the day at the north end, but this appears to be an excellent area.  Birds here included Common Potoo, Sungrebe, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, and Scarlet-rumped Cacique.

CCC - primary forest, boardwalk, easy walking. Red-capped Manakin lek at CCC 300.

SOR (including Cantarana) - beautiful primary forest, boardwalk/paved, easy walking. Good birding, including Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Rufous and Broad-billed motmots, and White-fronted Nunbird.

SHO - successional plots on east side at north end.  Dirt trail, easy walking, birding good.  Birds included Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Bronzy Hermit, and Black-throated Wren.

SUR - primary forest, paved (to Arboretum), easy walking.  Good birding, especially at the Arboretum, where undergrowth has been cleared and viewing in the large trees is easy.  Species included Brown-hooded Parrot, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Shining Honeycreeper, and Scarlet-rumped Cacique.

Travel from La Selva to Carara: Time can be saved by not going to Heredia or San José.  After the "T"-intersection of Route 9 with Route 120 (to Poás Volcano), take the next large paved road (unsigned) to the right in a small community (obvious intersection).  This is a good road that takes you to the city of Alajuela.  Continue straight through much of the town, and then turn left toward the more central portion of Alajuela.  There is a large road leading south to the Pan-American Highway from here.  All of this is without benefit of signs, so you must "feel" your way, but it is not difficult.  At the Pan-American Highway, go right, turn off and then head left on Route 11 at the Atenas exit, and follow Taylor's directions to Carara.

Jacó: Makes a convenient base for birding at Carara, about 20 minutes away.  We stayed at the Hotel Jacó Fiesta, which was fine, though older than the Hotel Fiesta we had used in 1991 closer to Puntarenas.  This is a typical touristy beach town, with plenty of places to stay and eat.  Killer Munchies Gourmet Pizza was good for dinner, though there was the big drawback of no liquor license (¡¿pizza sin cerbeza?!).  The gas station is on main highway near the south end of town.  The stretch of the main highway just east of the mid-portion of Jacó is terrible, with many large holes; this is also true of the northern approach to Jacó (at a diagonal turn to the right when coming from Carara).

Carara Biological Reserve: Wonderful spot with numerous birds and easy access.  The Vigilancia Trail leading east from the highway about a kilometer south of the Tárcoles River bridge is fantastic.  Parking is down the slope near the gate.  This area is guarded 8 AM to 12 PM, and again from 1:30 PM to 4 PM, but you should pay first (200 colones/person) at the headquarters on the east side of the highway about three kms toward Jacó (open 7 AM to 4 PM).  We were informed by reserve personnel that it is not safe to leave your car at the gate outside the guarded hours.  The first morning we did this without a problem, though we left nothing important in the car, left the glove box open, and used a steering wheel lock.

The Vigilancia Trail goes about four km, though we never have made it past the 2.5 km mark on this or our previous visit in 1991.  The trail is actually a wide dirt road that is very easy to walk.  There are several side trails to explore, but just walking on the road seems to be best.  Insects were bothersome here in 1991, but were not a problem this time.  The oxbow lake is reached in 1.5 km at a sign and a short trail to the left.  We tried to find the Spectacled Owls just back from the lake per Taylor's instructions, but were unsuccessful both days; we checked what seemed to be the only trail to the left when returning from the lake.

Three clearings are passed on the way to the lake providing a change of pace from the dense woods.  Birds are widely distributed without any spot that really stands out as best.  We had great looks at Baird's Trogons at about 1.25 km and 2.25 km.  At the first small stream crossing, I casually pointed to the right to show Debi where I had seen a Royal Flycatcher in 1991, and found myself looking at one again!  Mammals are abundant in this area.  We saw troops of White-faced Monkeys both days, as well as Coatis, an Agouti, a Tamandua, etc.  A party just behind us one day had a great look at two fighting Tayras, and had seen a Jaguarundi late the prior afternoon!

There is a large field across the highway that held flocks of Muscovy Ducks.  We had a Yellow-headed Caracara fly past us down the road here.  Scarlet Macaws are easily seen in good numbers along the highway early and late, and other psittacines may also be observed.  The best vantage is near the river bridge.  We did not find Collared Plover on the Tárcoles River despite several attempts at the bridge and the mouth, though there were Am. Crocodiles and many Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and other waterbirds near the bridge.  From the pulloff on the east side of the road at the south end of the bridge, a small trail leads east.  This is a good spot for Scrub Greenlet, and Scarlet Macaws may be in the trees.

Mouth of the Tárcoles River: There is moderately good birding on the road leading to the river and at the mouth of the river itself.  Take either of two dirt roads to the community of Tárcoles and bear north.  At a fork in town go right, and check the small creek on the left for Roseate Spoonbill and other large waders.  After a sharp left turn there is a wet field and a mangrove forest on the left and a field with a small pond on the right.  This is a good area for Mangrove Black-Hawk and Yellow-headed Caracara, and the pond may have waders.  At a small community bear right, which leads shortly to the shore of the river.  Just before reaching the shore is a drivable short track to the left between two fenced yards.  Park at the end of the track at the soccer field and walk to the mangroves at the river mouth to the north (about 100 meters).  Follow the mangroves to the shore, and then weave through the trees on the beach.  We had Panama Flycatcher in the mangroves here.  Continuing north along the shore will take you to a large sandbar in the river mouth for waders and larids; beware of crocodiles on this route.

Hotel L'Ambiance, San José: Very nice, moderately expensive, urban hideaway in the quiet northeast section of San José.  Reached by going downtown on Paseo Colón, then heading to Calle 15 near Avenida 9 and circling counterclockwise to the hotel on Calle 13.  Parking is in front of the hotel (watched by a doorman) until 10 PM, then in a guarded lot across street until morning (1000 colones/night).  Hotel is in an old mansion, with antique-furnished rooms off a central courtyard.  Ceiling fans provide adequate cooling.  The casually elegant restaurant is excellent, as is service.  Highly recommended.

Cerro de la Muerte: Good high-altitude birding less than two hours from San José.  We covered it in a day-trip, but it was exhausting; next time I'd stay at the Tapanti Mountain Lodge near KM 62 and work the area from a local base.  The Pan-American Highway is curvy and has a few rough stretches but really is not that bad; pay attention to warning signs, though, and expect heavy truck and bus traffic.  East of San José there is a fork with both options signed to Tres Ríos; take the one also signed to Panama.  Just before Cartago make sure you take the right turn toward San Isidro.

We started high and worked our way back.  Many of the km-markers are gone, though enough are still present to keep oriented.  The best birding was in the KM 85-86 area.  The following were checked at least briefly (directions to right and left from San José):

KM 65.8 - road on right with large gate.  This is reportedly an excellent forest road, and certainly looked good.  The gate has a sign stating that visitors should get the key (and permission) to bird this road from the pulperia about three km back toward San José in the community of La Trinidad.  We felt obliged to follow these directions, but it was late in the day and we opted to head back to San José.  About 1/2-km toward San José is a track on the opposite side of the highway that had Fiery-throated, Magnificent, and Volcano hummingbirds.

KM 80 - small trail to a bamboo thicket on the left across the road from a pulloff 100 feet beyond the km-marker.  Briefly checked; species included Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Ruddy Treerunner, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and Black-cheeked Warbler.

KM 80.1 (San Gerardo) road - gravel road on right leading down to a creek crossing in about five kms.  The road is rough and steep, though it is paved in couple of places.  About 15 minutes are required to reach the bridge, just beyond which are large oaks which had a few birds.  This is the quetzal spot described by Taylor, though our brief mid-afternoon visit did not produce this bird.  Species included Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Tufted Flycatcher, Ochraceous Wren, Collared Redstart, and Yellow-thighed Finch.  The oaks mentioned by Taylor at three km from the highway looked poor.

KM 85-86 - a power line crosses the highway at about KM 86.  This stretch of road at the junction of scrubby woods and páramo was excellent, though be careful of traffic.  Species included Fiery-throated and Volcano hummingbirds, Black-capped Flycatcher, Timberline Wren, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Yellow-winged Vireo, Flame-throated Warbler, Large-footed Finch, and Slaty Flowerpiercer.

KM 89 (approx.) - obvious gravel road on right just before Los Torres restaurant on left.  Leads through good páramo to towers on mountain crest.  Species on the lower part of the road included Ruddy Treerunner, Black-capped Flycatcher, Timberline Wren, and Black-cheeked Warbler.

KM 95 - La Georgina restaurant (good lunch stop with freshly-baked bread) on left.  A gravel road across from the restaurant leads through woods and a power line cut and is moderately good for birds.  These included Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Black-capped Flycatcher, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Large-footed Finch, and Slaty Flowerpiercer.  The small road just beyond La Georgina on the left is now gated.

KM 97 (approx.) - a gravel road on the right leads to a sharp left curve just before a church and school.  Up the hill to the left at the curve are a road and trail into a terraced open area that has had Peg-billed Finch in recent years, though we missed it on two checks.  We did have Volcano Hummingbird, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Yellow-thighed and Large-footed finches, Slaty Flowerpiercer, and Yellow-bellied Siskin.

San José Airport: Arrive at least two hours ahead of scheduled departure time, especially if traveling in coach class.  There is a long line for check-in (much less in first class), then a short line to pay the departure tax (about $6.50/person), then another long line to clear immigration to leave the country (insane system).


Species: 274
Life Birds: GDJ - 82
DGJ - 94


Life bird for GDJ and DGJ; life bird for GDJ; life bird for DGJ.  All recorded by GDJ.

Bird names according to Clements' world checklist.

When no location is listed, species was noted in multiple areas.
Great Tinamou La Selva, Selva Verde, Carara
Little Tinamou La Selva [heard only]
Slaty-breasted Tinamou La Selva
Brown Pelican Tárcoles R. mouth
Neotropic Cormorant Tárcoles R. mouth
Magnificent Frigatebird Carara area
Great Blue Heron Carara area
Great Egret Carara area
Snowy Egret Carara area
Little Blue Heron -
Tricolored Heron Carara area
Cattle Egret -
Green Heron -
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Tárcoles R. mouth
Boat-billed Heron Selva Verde
White Ibis Tárcoles R. mouth
dark ibis sp. La Selva
Roseate Spoonbill Tárcoles R. mouth
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Carara
Muscovy Duck Carara
Black Vulture -
Turkey Vulture -
Osprey -
White-tailed Kite San José to Selva Verde
Mississippi Kite Carara
Barred Hawk Virgen del Socorro
Semiplumbeous Hawk La Selva
Mangrove Black-Hawk Tárcoles R. mouth
Broad-winged Hawk Virgen del Socorro
Yellow-headed Caracara Carara, Tárcoles R. mouth
Laughing Falcon Selva Verde
Bat Falcon La Selva
Gray-headed Chachalaca Selva Verde
Gray-necked Wood-Rail Selva Verde
Purple Gallinule Carara
Sungrebe La Selva
Gray Plover Tárcoles R. mouth
Black-necked Stilt Tárcoles R. mouth
Northern Jacana Carara
Lesser Yellowlegs Carara
Solitary Sandpiper Tárcoles R. mouth
Willet Tárcoles R. mouth
Spotted Sandpiper -
Whimbrel Tárcoles R. mouth
Ruddy Turnstone Tárcoles R. mouth
Laughing Gull Tárcoles R. mouth
Royal Tern Tárcoles R. mouth
Sandwich Tern Tárcoles R. mouth
Black Skimmer Tárcoles R. mouth
Rock Dove -
Red-billed Pigeon -
Band-tailed Pigeon Cerro de la Muerte
Short-billed Pigeon -
Inca Dove Carara, Tárcoles R. mouth
Ruddy Ground-Dove -
Blue Ground-Dove Carara
White-tipped Dove Carara, Tárcoles R. mouth
Gray-chested Dove -
Olive-backed Quail-Dove La Selva
Olive-throated Parakeet La Selva
Orange-fronted Parakeet Carara
Scarlet Macaw Carara, Tárcoles R. mouth
Orange-chinned Parakeet Selva Verde, Carara
Brown-hooded Parrot La Selva
White-crowned Parrot La Selva
Red-lored Parrot La Selva, Selva Verde
Mealy Parrot La Selva, Selva Verde
Yellow-naped Parrot Carara
cuckoo sp. (prob. Mangrove) Tárcoles R. mouth
Squirrel Cuckoo -
Striped Cuckoo La Selva
Groove-billed Ani -
Short-tailed Nighthawk Selva Verde to La Selva
Lesser Nighthawk Carara, Tárcoles R. mouth
Common Paraque La Selva, Selva Verde
Common Potoo La Selva
Chestnut-collared Swift La Selva *
White-collared Swift -
Vaux's Swift Carara, Cerro de la Muerte
Gray-rumped Swift La Selva
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift La Selva
Bronzy Hermit La Selva, Selva Verde
Long-tailed Hermit -
Little Hermit Virgen del Socorro
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird Carara
White-necked Jacobin La Selva
Brown Violet-ear Virgen del Socorro
Violet-headed Hummingbird Virgen del Socorro
Green Thorntail Virgen del Socorro
Fiery-throated Hummingbird Cerro de la Muerte
Charming Hummingbird Carara
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird -
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer La Selva
Magnificent Hummingbird Cerro de la Muerte
Purple-crowned Fairy La Selva, Selva Verde, Virgen del Socorro
Volcano Hummingbird Cerro de la Muerte
Black-headed Trogon Carara
Baird's Trogon Carara
Violaceous Trogon La Selva
Collared Trogon Virgen del Socorro
Slaty-tailed Trogon La Selva, Selva Verde
Rufous Motmot La Selva
Broad-billed Motmot La Selva
Ringed Kingfisher La Selva, Carara
Amazon Kingfisher Selva Verde
Green Kingfisher Selva Verde, Carara
White-fronted Nunbird La Selva
Red-headed Barbet Virgen del Socorro
Collared Aracari La Selva, Selva Verde
Keel-billed Toucan La Selva
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan La Selva, Selva Verde, Carara
Black-cheeked Woodpecker La Selva, Selva Verde
Hoffmann's Woodpecker Carara, Tárcoles R. mouth
Chestnut-colored Woodpecker La Selva
Pale-billed Woodpecker La Selva, Carara
Ruddy Treerunner Cerro de la Muerte
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner Carara
Plain Xenops Carara
Olivaceous Woodcreeper Virgen del Socorro
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper -
Barred Woodcreeper Selva Verde, Carara
Spotted Woodcreeper Virgen del Socorro
Streak-headed Woodcreeper -
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper Cerro de la Muerte
Brown-billed Scythebill Virgen del Socorro
Barred Antshrike Carara
Black-hooded Antshrike Carara
Eastern Slaty Antshrike La Selva
Russet Antshrike Virgen del Socorro
Streak-crowned Antvireo Selva Verde
Dot-winged Antwren Carara
Dusky Antbird Carara
Chestnut-backed Antbird La Selva, Carara
Paltry Tyrannulet La Selva, Selva Verde
Greenish Elaenia Carara
Mountain Elaenia Cerro de la Muerte
Olive-striped Flycatcher Virgen del Socorro
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher La Selva, Selva Verde
Yellow Tyrannulet Selva Verde
Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant La Selva
Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher Carara
Common Tody-Flycatcher -
Yellow-olive Flycatcher Carara
Yellow-margined Flycatcher Virgen del Socorro
Royal Flycatcher Carara
Tufted Flycatcher Cerro de la Muerte
wood-pewee sp. -
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Virgen del Socorro, Selva Verde, Carara
Black-capped Flycatcher Cerro de la Muerte
Black Phoebe Virgen del Socorro, Selva Verde
Long-tailed Tyrant Selva Verde
Bright-rumped Attila -
Dusky-capped Flycatcher -
Panama Flycatcher Tárcoles R. mouth
Great Crested Flycatcher Carara
Great Kiskadee -
Boat-billed Flycatcher -
Social Flycatcher -
Gray-capped Flycatcher La Selva, Selva Verde
White-ringed Flycatcher La Selva, Selva Verde
Streaked Flycatcher Carara
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Carara
Piratic Flycatcher Selva Verde
Tropical Kingbird -
Cinnamon Becard La Selva, Selva Verde
White-winged Becard La Selva, Carara
Rose-throated Becard Carara
Masked Tityra La Selva, Selva Verde
Black-crowned Tityra La Selva
Snowy Cotinga La Selva
Purple-throated Fruitcrow Selva Verde
Three-wattled Bellbird La Selva [heard only]
White-collared Manakin La Selva, Selva Verde
Orange-collared Manakin Carara
Red-capped Manakin La Selva
Mangrove Swallow -
Blue-and-white Swallow San José to Selva Verde, Cerro de la Muerte
N. Rough-winged Swallow San José to Selva Verde
S. Rough-winged Swallow Virgen del Socorro to Selva Verde, La Selva
Barn Swallow Carara
Brown Jay -
Azure-hooded Jay Virgen del Socorro
Band-backed Wren La Selva
Rufous-naped Wren Carara
Black-throated Wren La Selva
Bay Wren Selva Verde, La Selva, Virgen del Socorro
Stripe-breasted Wren La Selva
Rufous-breasted Wren Carara
Rufous-and-white Wren Carara
Plain Wren La Selva, Carara
House Wren -
Ochraceous Wren Cerro de la Muerte
Timberline Wren Cerro de la Muerte
White-breasted Wood-Wren La Selva, Selva Verde
Long-billed Gnatwren La Selva
Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush Cerro de la Muerte
Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush Virgen del Socorro
Sooty Robin Cerro de la Muerte
Mountain Robin Cerro de la Muerte
Clay-colored Robin -
Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher Cerro de la Muerte
Yellow-throated Vireo Virgen del Socorro, Carara
Yellow-winged Vireo Cerro de la Muerte
Philadelphia Vireo Carara
Scrub Greenlet Carara
Lesser Greenlet -
Golden-winged Warbler Virgen del Socorro, Carara
Tennessee Warbler -
Tropical Parula Virgen del Socorro
Flame-throated Warbler Cerro de la Muerte
Yellow Warbler Carara, Tárcoles R. mouth
Chestnut-sided Warbler -
Black-throated Green Warbler Virgen del Socorro, Cerro de la Muerte
Black-and-white Warbler La Selva, Selva Verde
Northern Waterthrush Tárcoles R. mouth, Carara
Kentucky Warbler Virgen del Socorro, Selva Verde
Common Yellowthroat Carara [heard only]
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat Selva Verde, Virgen del Socorro
Wilson's Warbler Virgen del Socorro, Cerro de la Muerte
Slate-throated Redstart Virgen del Socorro
Collared Redstart Cerro de la Muerte
Golden-crowned Warbler Virgen del Socorro
Black-cheeked Warbler Cerro de la Muerte
Buff-rumped Warbler La Selva
Bananaquit Selva Verde, Virgen del Socorro
Plain-colored Tanager Selva Verde
Silver-throated Tanager Virgen del Socorro
Speckled Tanager Virgen del Socorro
Bay-headed Tanager Virgen del Socorro
Golden-hooded Tanager
Blue Dacnis Selva Verde
Green Honeycreeper La Selva, Selva Verde
Shining Honeycreeper La Selva, Selva Verde
Red-legged Honeycreeper Carara
Yellow-crowned Euphonia La Selva
Yellow-throated Euphonia Carara
Olive-backed Euphonia La Selva, Selva Verde
Tawny-capped Euphonia Virgen del Socorro
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager Selva Verde, La Selva
White-shouldered Tanager Carara
Red-throated Ant-Tanager Selva Verde
Summer Tanager -
Passerini's Tanager La Selva
Cherrie's Tanager Carara
Dusky-faced Tanager La Selva
Common Bush-Tanager Virgen del Socorro
Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager Cerro de la Muerte
Black-and-yellow Tanager Virgen del Socorro
Buff-throated Saltator -
Black-faced Grosbeak La Selva, Selva Verde
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Selva Verde
Blue Grosbeak Tárcoles R. mouth
Yellow-thighed Finch Cerro de la Muerte
Large-footed Finch Cerro de la Muerte
Yellow-throated Brush-Finch Virgen del Socorro, San José to Cerro de la Muerte
Orange-billed Sparrow La Selva, Carara
Black-striped Sparrow La Selva, Selva Verde
Blue-black Grassquit -
Variable Seedeater -
White-collared Seedeater Tárcoles R. mouth, Carara
Lesser Seed-Finch La Selva, Selva Verde
Yellow-faced Grassquit Selva Verde
Slaty Flowerpiercer Cerro de la Muerte
Rufous-collared Sparrow San José to Selva Verde, Cerro de la Muerte
Eastern Meadowlark Selva Verde to La Selva
Great-tailed Grackle -
Bronzed Cowbird Virgen del Socorro to La Selva, La Selva
Northern (Baltimore) Oriole -
Scarlet-rumped Cacique La Selva
Chestnut-headed Oropendola Virgen del Socorro to Selva Verde
Montezuma Oropendola Selva Verde, La Selva
Yellow-bellied Siskin Cerro de la Muerte
House Sparrow San José

* Chestnut-collared Swift: Five seen 14 March at headquarters of La Selva reserve by Jacksons and Scotts. Seen for several minutes in excellent light as close as 150 feet with Zeiss 10x40's. Flying with Lesser Swallow-tailed and Gray-rumped swifts. Slightly larger and blacker than the Gray-rumpeds, with obvious chestnut collar seen well.


We were very satisfied with the trip, short as it was. With more attention paid to waterbirds and open country species, I'm sure we could have topped 300 species. If I were to repeat the journey, the only major change would be to spend the night near Cerro de la Muerte to be able to access this area early and late in the day. The biggest miss of the trip, though there were many, was the Volcano Junco; I can't explain not finding even a good candidate for this evidently common bird during our time in the páramo.


Jim Holmes and George Stebbing-Allen gave helpful advice prior to the trip. The best map I found was the 1:500,000 map of Costa Rica by International Travel Map Productions, Vancouver, British Columbia. The following publications were useful:

Blake, B. and A. Becher. 1993. The New Key to Costa Rica, revised ed. Ulysses Press, Berkeley, California.

Box, B. (ed.). 1993. 1994 Mexico and Central American Handbook, 4th ed. Passport Books, Chicago.

Clements, J.F. 1991. Birds of the World: a check list, 4th ed. Ibis Publishing Company, Vista, California.

Franke, J. 1993. Costa Rica's National Parks and Preserves - a visitor's guide. The Mountaineers, Seattle, Washington.

Pope, N. 1992. The kingdom of the quetzal - birding in Costa Rica. Birding World 5: 424-432.

Principe, B. 1991. A Check List of the Birds of Costa Rica, 2nd ed. Bird Processing Electronic Publishers, Flintridge, California. [good for daily list]

Ridgely, R.S. and J.A. Gwynne. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Panama, 2nd ed. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. [helpful auxiliary identification reference]

Rachowiecki, R. 1994. Costa Rica - a travel survival kit, 2nd ed. Lonely Planet, Berkeley, California. [best general travel guide]

Sargent, D. 1992. A Birders Guide to Costa Rica. D.E. Sargent (privately published). [useful]

Searby, E. 1993. The Costa Rica Traveler, 3rd ed., updated. Windham Bay Press, Occidental, California.

Stiles, F.G. and A.F. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. [indispensable]

Taylor, K. 1993. A Birders Guide to Costa Rica, 3rd ed. Keith Taylor Birdfinding Guides, Victoria, British Columbia. [very useful, and much improved from last edition]

April 1994 (updated October 1999)

Greg D. Jackson
2220 Baneberry Drive
Birmingham, AL 35244

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