Birding and Wildlife Attractions of Arenal Observatory Lodge

Birding at the Lodge: You won’t have to go far from your room to see a great variety of birds.

The feeding table is often a buzz with oropendolas, woodpeckers, several species of stunning tanagers including euphonias and honeycreepers, 2 species of saltators, and colorful sparrows.

Around the lodge gardens the vervain flowers attract a variety of hummingbirds including Little Hermit, Brown Violet-ear, Red-footed Plumeleteer, Rufous-tailed and Violet-headed Hummingbirds, the precious Green Thorntail, and even Black-crested Coquette!

The primary forest near the lodge holds antshrikes, antbirds, manakins, a host of flycatchers, wrens, thrushes, warblers, more tanagers, and even the occasional raptor such as White Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, and Double-toothed Kite.

Mammals are also present near the lodge and include Coatimundi, Three-toed Sloth, White-faced Capuchin, and Howler Monkeys. Beautiful butterflies, orchids, and other interesting flora will all add to your wildlife experience while visiting this attractive eco-lodge.

Emerald Tanager at feeder
Heliconia Butterfly

Arenal National Park: The main entrance is signposted from the main road from La Fortuna to Arenal Lake with the best forest a long walk from this entrance.

There is another entrance to the park at the bottom of Arenal Observatory Lodge where tickets can sometimes be purchased at a kiosk just inside the park and you will have to cross a stream to enter.

It would be advisable to either purchase your tickets ahead of time at the main entrance however.

Once inside the park you can find patches of primary forest which holds a variety of species, some of which are difficult to see elsewhere in Costa Rica. White-collared Manakin leks occur here, listen for the loud popping of the wings.

If you are fortunate to find an army ant swarm you can be rewarded with close views of Great Antshrike, Spotted, Dusky, Dull-mantled, and Ocellated Antbirds, several species of woodcreeper and flycatchers, and even Nightingale Wren.

Though not common, Spectacled Owl, Great Curassow, Song Wren, Three-wattled Bellbird, and Bare-necked Umbrellabird all occur, the latter two are seasonal here.

Although mostly only heard, this area is the best in the country to actually see the mega-skulker Thicket (Fulvous-bellied) Antpitta. In the park, the middle of the day can be quiet, early morning and late afternoon are far better for wildlife viewing.

White Hawk along road
Spotted Antbird
Nearby Sites: Birding can be very productive anywhere you find good forest in the Lake Arenal area. Transportation is a necessity in order to explore these areas. Roads skirting the lake can be especially good as they pass through excellent habitat. Here you can search for Crested Guan and Gray-headed Chachalaca (both of which are common), a variety of parrots and trogons, toucans including Yellow-eared Toucanet, 3 species of kingfishers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, the highly sought after Keel-billed Motmot, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, woodcreepers, antshrikes, antbirds, Slaty Spinetail, flycatchers, wrens including Black-throated, both Olive-crowned and Gray-crowned Yellowthroats in the grassy patches, and many tanager species. Watch the cecropia trees for a stump of feathers – Great Potoo! Raptors are well represented and it is not uncommon to see White Hawk or Ornate Hawk-Eagle in this area. Wooded streams are the favorite habitat for both Fasciated Tiger-Heron and Buff-rumped Warbler. Long-tailed Tyrants have been seen regularly along the main road beyond the bridge and reports of Bare-necked Umbrellabird and Rufous-winged Tanager are noteworthy. If booking through CRG, we will provide you with a birding map of the area.
We recommend at least two nights at Arenal Observatory Lodge although three nights would be more relaxing and give you an opportunity to visit other sites in the area.
Specialty birds of Arenal Observatory Lodge and vicinity:
  Crested Guan

Crested Guan – Arenal is the best location to see this large cracid, especially in the forest around the edge of the lake.

Great Curassow – Not common here but the Arenal area is one of the better areas to see this impressive cracid.

White Hawk – Watch for this beauty either perched or soaring in the area

Ornate Hawk-Eagle – Usually heard before seen soaring above the forested areas.

Great Potoo – Difficult to spot, roosts in the forest around the lake, especially cecropias.

Black-crested Coquette – Not uncommon coming to the vervain around the lodge.

Keel-billed Motmot – Arenal is the only area where this rare motmot has been reported in Costa Rica in recent years.

The rare Keel-billed Motmot
Yellow-eared Toucanet – An uncommon and local small toucan, prefers primary forest. Smoky-brown Woodpecker – A widespread species more easily seen in this area then elsewhere in Costa Rica. Thicket Antpitta – On or near ground, this skulker is easily heard in its preferred habitat of thickets near and in primary forest. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to see. Ocellated Antbird – An obligate army ant follower that travels in small groups. Arguably the most stunning of Costa Rica’s antbirds. Spotted Antbird – One of my favorites, this army ant follower is fairly common in good forest in the Arenal area. Dull-mantled Antbird – Uncommon and local throughout its range, Arenal being one of 3 good sites for this skulker. Bare-necked Umbrellabird – Little info on this spectacular cotinga but there are many substantiated reports for this area, especially Arenal NP from Dec – April. Seasonal? Three-wattled Bellbird – Seasonal breeding visitor, mostly Feb – June. Its unique call lets you know they are on territory. Black-throated Wren – Listen for this skulker in thickets and vine tangles at edges of primary forest where it is fairly common.

Nightingale Wren

Hepatic Tanager

Nightingale Wren – Arenal is perhaps the best place to see this skulker. The lack of colorful plumage is more than made up for by its amazing song and peculiar shape and habits. It prefers undergrowth in primary forest. Song Wren – The third specialty wren in the area, this one with a very strange call. They travel in small groups, low in primary forest. Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush – Widespread within a narrow altitudinal belt, this one has a typical Nightingale-Thrush call and prefers undergrowth in primary forest. Emerald Tanager – A beautiful Tangara, typically an uncommon canopy species, AOL is the only location I have seen them at a feeder. Rufous-winged Tanager – Very rare and local in Costa Rica, watch for them in mixed species flocks in good forest. Hepatic Tanager – A possible future split from the northern and southern races, though quite uncommon in most areas, at AOL they are regular visitors to the fruit feeder.