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Birdwatching in Nosara, Costa Rica

Imagine: it's five o'clock in the morning as you hop off your motorbike, binoculars at the ready and local Field Guide in hand. The smell of dew and wet leaves fills your nose, the jungle teeming with life all around you. There's a light breeze in the air, a welcome break from the humidity. The sun will rise shortly, then you’ll begin your day surrounded by nature.

Maybe you'll see a purple and greenish-brown bird with peculiar pink legs, red eyes and a yellow beak dart past you, dueting with its mate. This is the Gray-Cowled Woodrail (Aramides cajaneus), often heard at early dawn and dusk. These birds are monogamous and their offspring are born precocial, meaning that they hatch covered in downy feathers with the capability to walk soon after their eyes open.

Maybe you'll get lucky and spot Costa Rica's national bird, the Clay-Colored Thrush (Turdus grayi). Keep your ears tuned as this species is not only known for its color, but for the beautiful song it sings at the start of the rainy season, a song believed to summon the rains. The Clay-Colored Thrush eats invertebrates and fruits, but is also known to follow army ants' path in search of prey disrupted by their march. How cool is that?

Take a chance and see if you can spot the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), that uses its tiny feet to shuffle along a branch. Or you might hear the rapid beating of wings as a male quickly darts side to side trying to attract a female. This tiny hummingbird migrates all the way to Central America every year. Come Spring the bird will eventually prepare for its 500 mile migration to south-eastern parts of North America. Research has shown these hummingbirds can increase their fat mass by two-fold in preparation for this journey, which allows them to fly nonstop until they reach their destination.

By learning more about local wildlife, we can learn how to reduce our negative impact

Having an understanding of the biodiversity of species in a given area helps conservationists learn how to be better environmental stewards. Bird-watching is a fun way to help contribute towards this initiative, but this hobby is especially great because it helps foster a greater connection between humans and nature.

Bird-watching allows us to continually learn as species occupy different parts of the terrain at different times of the day and year. The same species will sound different alone versus when in groups and will often showcase different accordingly. Sometimes even the males and females of a species will look entirely different from one another!

How can you get started?

Our advice? Step outside and explore the birds around you! If you're a beginner, you might snag a basic field guide and a pair of binoculars. Make sure the set you purchase is waterproof. As you learn more about different species, a good sturdy notebook always comes in handy to record the species you see, as well as any information you want to remember for the next time you spot it. Really, the cost of the gear, and how much you use, will depend on what all one wants to accomplish during birding. A field guide and binoculars are the simplest set of gear you need, but a camera can be a nice addition to help you capture memories of the adventure.

One way to improve your chances at sighting more birds is to learn a little more about the species. And what better place to start than in Nosara, Costa Rica? Birdwatchers in Costa Rica have recorded 850 species alone, with 270 of them being observed in Nosara. We recommend taking a walk on the Nosara Civic Association Trails and down at the Rio Nosara river-mouth. But you can always look for birds all over the place, and anyone can birdwatch! That's why it's such a wonderful hobby to get into.

There are several well known birdwatching resources available on the internet for you to use to classify the birds you see out on the trail. Try Merlin Bird Id if you're a novice and eBird if you're more advanced on your birding journey.

Now more than ever, we are seeing the local and global consequences that result from biodiversity loss. It is through programs like the the Nosara Biodiversity Project that we hope to contribute to this mission and assist others in doing so, too.

Check out our project page on iNaturalist to list your own observations and learn about what species have been sighted in the area!



Avibase. (2003). Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi) Bonaparte, 1838. Date accessed: July 8, 2021

Beauty of Birds. (2011). Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi).

Clark, C., Elias, D., & Prum, R. (2011). Supporting Online Material for Aeroelastic Flutter Produces Hummingbird Feather Songs. Science. 333. DOI: 10.1126/science.1205222

Costa Rican Vacations (2021). Birds. Date accessed: July 13, 2021.

eBird. (n.d.). Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). Date accessed: July 18, 2021

iNaturalist (n.d.). Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi). Date accessed: July 8, 2021

iNaturalist (n.d.). Gray-cowled Wood-Rail (Aramides cajaneus). Date accessed: July7, 2021

iNaturalist. (n.d.). Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). Date accessed: July 18, 2021.

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Son, N., Dung, L.,& Van, N. (2011). Developing bird watching ecotourism combined with education and natural conservation. VNU Journal of Science: Earth and Environmental Sciences, 27. ISSN 2588-1094. Available at: <>. Date accessed: July 6, 2021

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