Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge
Cano Negro is a marshy wetland with water levels that are highly variable during certain seasons. It is a good place for wetland birds like Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Sungrebe, Green Ibis, Agami Heron, Black-collared Hawk, Green-and rufous Kingfisher, Pygmy Kingfisher and possibly Snail Kite. Occasionally, Great Potoo's are seen from the boat tours or on roads around the marsh. Birds like Spot-breasted Wren, Snowy Cotinga and Pied Puffbird are sometimes sighted in the surrounding forest. Recently Jabiru have been observed nesting at Cano Negro and can occasionally be seen in the marsh or by scanning the wetland from the Cano Negro observation tower.
Unfortunately, there is no trail system into any wooded habitat. Most of your birding will be done by walking the small roads or by boat.
Many tours to Cano Negro are offered from places around Arenal Volcano as well as places near the Tenorio Volcano like Rio Celeste Lodge. One's options are much better with a good bird guide. I personally know people who have picked up true rarities like the irregular Gray-breasted Crake and Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher with a strong bird guide. My personal recommendation is Chambita Tours with Barnaby “Chambita” Romero as your boat operator\guide. Other tours are available, but Chambita is, without question, the hardest working and best bird guide on the marsh. Email Chambita at firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +506 84123269
A Cano Negro boat trip or a visit to the Medio Queso marsh (see below) are about the only places to easily see Nicaraguan Grackle, observed in grassy patches on both boat trips. In both locations, Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures can sometimes be spotted flying low over the wetlands.
If at all possible, The Medio Queso marsh should be done in conjunction with Cano Negro. Both wetlands are within a short distance of each other, and you can hire Chambita for both tours even scheduling them on the same day if time permits.
Medio Queso is a slightly different marsh with slightly different birds. Medio Queso is about the only place in Costa Rica to reliably see Least Bittern, Pinnated Bittern, and Yellow-breasted Crake. The highly localized Nicaraguan Grackle is also much easier to spot on this boat tour and you will have several observations. Other birds on our trip that are both uncommon and irregular were Northern Harrier, Common Yellowthroat, and a surprising Blackpoll Warbler in a tree by the boat dock.
Boat guide and bird guide Barnaby "Chambita" Romero (L) with our personal bird guide Johan Chaves (R) Chambita can reached through email at the link above or through WhatsApp.
Yellow-Breasted Crakes from Medio Queso Marsh