The birding comes easy in Costa Rica. Accessible habitats in a small area translate to an abundance of birding opportunities. It means that you don’t have to go far to see glittering hummingbirds and other highland species in cool, misty surroundings on the first day and exotic tropical birds of humid lowland rainforest the next.
Given the proximity of habitats jam-packed with diversity, day trips from Villa San Ignacio are a feasible way to see literally hundreds of species. Visits to different habitats are key to seeing more birds, the following ideas are three of the easiest, exciting birding trips possible from our hotel:
High Elevations- Poás Volcano
A certain suite of Costa Rica birds only occur above 1,500 meters and many of them live in the highland habitats of Poás Volcano. Just 30 to 40 minutes drive from the hotel, the Poás area is easily birded from the side of the road that leads to the national park. Many birds can also be seen in the gardens and on the grounds of small, local restaurants, some of which have feeders that attract hummingbirds.
Other birds that occur in roadside patches of forest can include the svelte Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, comical Prong-billed Barbet, and, for lucky birders, the incredible Resplendent Quetzal.
Birding tip – Dress for cool weather, watch for mixed flocks and fruiting tress, and enjoy the scenery!
Lowland Rainforest Habitats- Carara
About an hour and 20 minutes from the hotel, a huge number of species live in the mosaic of lowland rainforest, wetlands, and other habitats in the general vicinity of Carara National Park. Carefully walk and bird the trails of the national park and you could see trogons, wrens, manakins, antbirds, and many other species.
Bird the edge and wetland habitats outside of the park and a different variety of birds are possible including the Roseate Spoonbill and Striped Cuckoo.
Birding tip – A lot can be seen in the seasonal wetlands and forest patches around the village of Tarcoles including Scarlet Macaws. The national park opens at 7 in the high season and at 8 for the rest of the year.
Tropical Dry Forest Habitats
Seasonally dry forest is the main type of habitat at Villa San Ignacio and much of northwestern Costa Rica. It can be easier to see birds in this type of habitat because the vegetation is more open. In addition to birding at the hotel, there is excellent roadside birding from 40 minutes to an hour and a half drive to sites to the Orotina-Ceiba road, the Gucalillo road, Caldera, and other places.
Some of the common species include White-fronted Parrot and Barred Antshrike.
Head to lower elevations and you have a good chance of also seeing Black-headed Trogon and Turquoise-browed Motmot among many other species.
Birding tip – After 9 a.m., bird activity drops as these habitats heat up. Get an early start, bring something for hydration, and don’t forget the sunscreen.
These are just a few of the easy birding day trips possible from Villa San Ignacio. If your ideal day of birding includes birds seen during a scrumptious breakfast followed by relaxation, lounging at the pool, and happy hour later on, that works too!
Blog by Patrick O’Donnell
Patrick O’Donnell started birding at the age of 7 in Niagara Falls, NY. A biologist by trade, he has worked on bird-related projects in a number of places and has guided birders in Ecuador, Peru, and Costa Rica. Patrick has lived in Costa Rica since 2007 and when not birding, writes about birds, travel and tourism, and other topics.