Each country has chosen a bird as a national symbol, and in Central America the national birds tend to be both emblematic and extremely beautiful, given that the tropical life zones in all these countries have a privileged biological diversity.
Costa Rica is one of the top 5 most visited bird watching destinations in the world by bird lovers, since it doesn´t only have the biodiversity but also an extense network for education and research in many public and private institutions, that facilitate the wildlife observation in its natural habitats. This is why, in our blog we tell you what are those beautiful birds that represent Central America, but that you can spot in your visit to Costa Rica.
Toucan: the Keel-billed Toucan is Belize´s national bird. Its scientific name is ramphastos sulfuratus. The most notable characteristic is the beautiful canoe-shapped bill with vivid colors. Its habitat and distribution goes from the tropical side of México to northern Colombia and Venezuela. However in Costa Rica it is a common resident of the lowland forests of the Caribbean coast; the population decreases towards the north on the Pacific side and the Central Valley, but it is also very common in the lower outskirts of the Guanacaste Mountain Range, the Nicoya Península and some areas of the Osa Península. In a bird watching tour, it´s going to be one of the first guests checked into your bird list!
Scarlet Macaw: this gorgeous bird represents Honduras. It has an intense red color, mixed with other vivid colors; the beauty of its fly and the fact that they are monogamous (so the mostly fly in couples), make of this species a unique finding for any bird-watcher. You could find it virtually anywhere in the country back in the 70´s, but now it´s not that easy. However, it can be added to your checklist if you visit the Central Pacific: el Carara National Park and Tárcoles are excellent destinations to watch the scarlet macaws, and nowadays it is more and more common to find them as you move down south on the Pacific coast line. In fact, the other perfect area to find the ara macao is the Osa Peninsula. The other species of macaw that lives in Costa Rica is the great green macaw, ara ambigua, that can be found in the northern lowlands. Those are, without a doubt, two of the species you will want to spot in your next birding tour in Costa Rica.
Resplendent Quetzal: some say it´s one of the most beautiful birds in the world, and it´s Guatemala´s national bird! Bird watchers think it is easier to spot it in the area called los Santos in Dota, Costa Rica. It is a trogon which´s scientific name is pharomachrus mocinno. It lives in the highland cloud forests, so it can also be found in Monteverde. However, if you include San Gerardo de Dota in your bird watching expedition, the sighting of the quetzal is practically guaranteed all year long. On top of that, you will enjoy an amazing natural cloud forest landscape, with the rivers, waterfalls, birds and wild life in general: this is definitely one of our most recommended locations for a spectacular vacation in Costa Rica.
Turquoise-browed motmot: this small but beautiful bird represents both El Salvador (since 1999) and Nicaragua (since 1971). The locals in El Salvador call it “torogoz” and in Nicaragua they call it “guardabarranco”, the scientific name being eumomota superciliosa. It lives in less dense forests along with cleared areas, and it spends much of their time perched among tree branches and fences, moving their tail side to side. If you have included Guanacaste with its tropical dry forest in your bird watching itinerary in Costa Rica, you will surely add this species to your bird list.
Harpy Eagle: its name comes from the legendary beast half bird – half woman, from the greek mythology. It is the biggest eagle in America, the female tends to be bigger than the male, reaching a wingspan of two meters. It feeds from other tree-dwelling species like monkeys, sloths or iguanas, prey that they can easily snatch from the tree branches with their powerful claws or talons. It´s Panamá´s national bird, and many institutions are devoted to protectem over there; it is also a national symbol for biodiversity in Ecuador. Of all the bird species mentioned in this blog, harpia harpyja is the most endangered one, and rarely seen: you would be really lucky if you find it in your Costa Rica birding expedition, and you would need to go deep into the highlands of Talamanca. You will possibly get a better chance if you go bird watching in Panamá with us.
We have only mentioned five bird species, all of them beautiful and important in Central America. Its importance is not only aesthetic or political, but they also play a crucial role in conservation: they are called umbrella species because by protecting them, many other species of birds and wildlife are indirectly protected. Travel to Costa Rica with Elemento Natural so you can watch these and other hundreds of species that live in our forests.