Summer tanager

Family Visit to Costa Rica? 5 Major Ways Birding is Good for Kids!

Costa Rica is an excellent option for a family friendly vacation. This stable, safe country offers plenty of fun and healthy outdoor activities for both kids and adults, and many of those activities also have an educational component. One such option is birding.

When it comes to birding or “birdwatching”, Costa Rica is a top destination and with good reason. This small, dynamic nation has a bird list of well over 900 species including colorful toucans, parrots, Scarlet and Great Green Macaws, and more than 50 hummingbirds (!).

Blue-vented Hummingbird (Colibri vientriazul), one of several hummingbirds in the beautiful gardens of Villa San Ignacio.
Blue-vented Hummingbird (Colibri vientriazul), one of several hummingbirds in the beautiful gardens of Villa San Ignacio.

A lot of people visit Costa Rica to see birds but birding isn’t just for retired folks or other birders. Believe it or not, it’s also an excellent activity for children. The following are 5 of several reasons why birdwatching is beneficial for kids.

1. It Helps Kids Learn to Concentrate and be Patient

By nature, looking for and seeing birds requires focus, concentration, and perseverance. At first, this might be a challenge but once a kid sees the details of their first bird through binoculars, don’t be surprised if they work hard to find the second and third, especially when they realize they can be good at it and are better at seeing birds than their parents.

2. Birding Fosters Interest in the Natural World

When kids look for birds, they won’t help but notice other aspects of nature. In Costa Rica, those other aspects are abundant and can include everything from exquisite butterflies and orchids to monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and towering fig trees. In these days of increasing pressure on natural habitats, getting in touch with and learning about nature is vital. The sooner kids can find an interest in nature, the better.

3. Promotes Learning

Birdwatching always has a learning component. Before looking for birds in Costa Rica, kids can check out laminate field guides, birding apps for Costa Rica, or books to learn about the birds they might see. As with other nature-focused activities, birding commonly gives rise to curiosity and questions about bird behavior, and birds themselves can act as a nexus for learning. For example, when a migrant Summer Tanager is seen in Costa Rica, that opens the door to learning about the place where it came from, why it flew all the way to Costa Rica, and why males have bright red plumage but females have less obvious yellow-green coloration.

Summer tanager
Summer tanager

4. Promotes Independence

Birding can also help kids grow by promoting independent behavior. Although someone might help them look for birds, when a young person sees a bird and uses binoculars to focus in on it, they did that all on their own. That independent learning takes another step forward when they look the bird up in a field guide to identify it. If they want to learn more about birds, kids will search for more information on their own and may want to take the initiative to see which birds they can find, see which ones they can show to their parents.

5. Easy to Do and Can be Shared with the Family

Best of all, watching birds is as easy as walking outside and looking around. Birds are everywhere, especially in Costa Rica; all you need to see them is binoculars and the will to look for them. This also makes it an easy hobby to share with the family and when you do that in Costa Rica, you spend memorable time together in beautiful tropical surroundings.

These are five major benefits of birding with kids when visiting Costa Rica but they aren’t the only advantages. In addition to less screen time, discover the other positive benefits of this fun hobby by taking a young person birding. If you look for birds at Villa San Ignacio, you might even see a motmot!

Maybe you will see a motmot?
Lesson’s motmot

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.