Lineated Woodpecker - Bruce Hallett
La Selva OTS is a popular destination for lowland Caribbean birding. As a biological reserve of some importance, there are many researchers there. Consequently, people aren't supposed to walk the trails without a guide. There are guided walks in the morning, and a birding walk at around 5:45 am.
Good birds abound at La Selva. Just sitting around the research station, you might see three species of honeycreeper, several hummingbirds, and birds like Plain-colored Tanager will likely make an appearance. La Selva is also a good place for seeing Fasciated Antshrike and White-ringed Flycatcher around the station. Rufous Motmot and perhaps a Great or Slaty-breasted Tinamou can sometimes be found on the trails. On the early morning walks, occasionally a Great Potoo or an owl be located. Around the La Selva vicinity is one of the best places to see the endangered Great Green Macaw. We observed a Sunbittern at Selva Verde Lodge along the river. La Selva OTS is highly managed, so you might read up on all the rules and make sure you have a lunch ticket in advance if you plan to stay that long.
My personal opinion of La Selva OTS has changed over the years. It's good for birders new to Costa Rica because the birds are so active at that location, but it now seems to me to be overly-managed for a really productive target-birding experience.
Some other roads nearby offer some good birding. A road known as Pueblo Nuevo runs north from La Selva and can be very productive for birds like Pied Puffbird. Another drive south on the highway will take you to a place called Rio Corinto which has a short trail that might be good for Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant and Dusky-faced Tanager. The drive south will also take you by Rio Tigre marsh which will be on the left as you drive that direction. That area can produce the rare Nicaraguan Seedfinch and occasionally Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters. Both of these can be seen along the highway if you stand next to the fence. The marsh has been under some strain recently and the grass is infrequently cut. At present, the La Selva OTS is attempting to buy the property so that it is protected for birds.
There are some accommodations in the area with birding habitat. The more up-scale Selva Verde Lodge is down the road a few minutes from La Selva OTS, and they provide early morning bird walks there. Budget places like El Gavilan and Tirimbina Lodge can be found in close proximity to La Selva OTS. Many birding tour groups, on the other hand, stay at the mid-priced LaQuinta Sarapiqui (my recommendation) which is a big step up from the budget accommodations and still remains close to La Selva.
I have personally stayed at the more upscale Selva Verde Lodge, the mid-priced LaQuinta Sarapiqui, and the more spartan Tirimbina. Tirimbina can only be described as "adequate" in terms of accommodations and food but does have some deep forest habitat and a good trail system. However, the nice system of trails around Tirimbina are offset a bit by not opening those trails until 7:00 AM - a time perfectly fine in temperate zones, but almost too late in the tropics. I did have a Snowy Cotinga at the first Tirimbina bridge, but birding the trails at Tirimbina didn't yield as much as I had hoped.
Another place good for new birders to the tropics is a place called The Nature Pavilion - only a few hundred meters up the road from Tirimbina and well-marked. This is not so much a birding location, but a place to become visually acquainted with several regular lowland and foothill species. They have a significant feeder system and will make sure it's well-stocked when customers are there. It's also a great place to take photographs. Several feeding stations exist for both hummingbirds and fruit-eaters. Even birds like the Red-throated Ant-Tanager was seen skulking around the pavilion. On my trip, I took close-up photos of Red-Legged and Green honeycreepers, Buff-throated Saltator, Golden-hooded Tanager, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, and a few others. The Collared Aracari has been known to come to the feeders and both Toucans are usually in the trees surrounding the property. The price is about $20 a person, but the value is really in the up-close viewing. It can be very satisfying for new birders in the tropics and people wanting to take pictures. I enjoyed my two hours there. Target birders, however, don't need to stop.
Not too far up the road from La Selva, is the dirt road to Virgen del Soccoro - a good place for mid-altitude Caribbean birding. I deal with this location on a separate page.
Throughout Costa Rica
All birds here can be included in any list at most locations conditional to the appropriate habitat
This list includes birds seen commonly throughout my trips to Costa Rica. These birds were either quite common or easily seen in the appropriate habitat and season.
In the case of shorebirds, your best bet is the Tarcoles River mouth near Carara or perhaps near the city of Puntarenas. They can also be found near the town of Chomes or off the road to Puerto Morales where shrimp and salt ponds collect shore birds when it's high tide. Nearly all of my shorebird sightings are from the northwest quarter of Costa Rica.
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