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La Selva Area


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 birding experience. One is not allowed the time to bird for target species, and it's beginning to feel like they are just shuffling people in and out. In general, I think the lower Sarapiqui River area is a great place to bird, but there's no one place in the vicinity that is a strong "go-to" destination.

There are some accommodations with birding habitat. The more up-scale Selva Verde Lodge 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 which is a step up from the budget accommodations and still remains close to La Selva. 

I have personally only stayed at the more upscale Selva Verde Lodge 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 - not known to come to feeders - 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.

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.

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK
SQUIRREL CUCKOO
GROOVE-BILLED ANI
ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEET
RUFOUS-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD
PAURAQUE
ROCK PIGEON
RUDDY GROUND-DOVE
LAUGHING GULL
OSPREY
ROADSIDE HAWK
BROAD-WINGED HAWK
SWAINSON'S HAWK
CRESTED CARACARA
LITTLE BLUE HERON
SNOWY EGRET
GREAT EGRET
CATTLE EGRET
GREEN HERON
WHITE IBIS
BROWN PELICAN
BLACK VULTURE
TURKEY VULTURE
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD
YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA
DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER
TROPICAL KINGBIRD
GREAT KISKADEE
MASKED TITYRA
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO
CLAY-COLORED THRUSH
HOUSE WREN
BARN SWALLOW
HOUSE SPARROW (at gas stations)
TENNESSEE WARBLER
YELLOW WARBLER
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER
WILSON'S WARBLER
BANANAQUIT
SUMMER TANAGER
BLUE-GREY TANAGER
GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER
BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT
VARIABLE SEEDEATER
INDIGO BUNTING
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE
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