Costa Rica represents over 8% of the world’s bird species boasting an amazing 850 species that can be found within the national borders. This figure is higher than the amount of birds that can be found in all of North America. With varying temperatures and levels of rainfall, this mountainous country provides an ideal home for its entire bird species with vast and expansive rainforests and ecosystems.
It is believed that parrots, cuckoos, waterfowl and pigeons began colonizing what is now Costa Rica, dating back to 65 million years ago. This is when tectonic activity began to form volcanic islands that began to fill the gap between Nicaragua and Panama. Approximately three million years ago the volcanic islands rose far enough out of the sea, completely bridging the gap between the two countries. This began a series of bird migrations from the north and south. Hummingbirds, puffbirds, woodcreepers, jacamars and antbirds flew up from South America while quails, jays, thrushes and gnatcatchers flew down from the north.
In Costa Rica, bird watchers can catch quite the show one a good day. Become mesmerized by mixed flocks, where within a second, a quiet rainforest can burst into a frenzy of birds hawking and foraging throughout their entire habitat. Costa Rica has recorded up to 30 different species within a mixed flock and the effect can be quite bewildering to the observer. As quickly as a mixed flock appears, they can disappear into the depths of the forest just the same. Almost immediately, the rainforest returns to quiet.
Additionally, bird watchers may come across a bird lek, where two or more males perform songs and dances to attract females. A bird lek can may sing alone or with another bird, flap his wings in butterfly flight or perform summersault dances. While these encounters are rare, they are incredible to witness.
It is not uncommon to set out upon a birding trip or expedition in Costa Rica and witness 300-400 species of birds over two weeks. Even on a smaller budget, visitors can still witness a variety of habitats rich with wildlife.
The Tilarán mountain range is home to Costa Rica’s celebrated Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve which is inhabited by some of the world’s most gorgeous bird species. The quetzal, the magnificent national bird, can be found here along with a variety of other species including the azure-hooded Jay, the three-wattled bellbird and the zeledonia.
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