Birding and Wildlife attractions of the La Selva de Sarapiqui Area

Mantled Howler
Red-legged Honeycreeper Mantled Howler

La Selva OTS guided bird walks: The major attraction for birders and general naturalists visiting this area are the guided walks in the rainforest reserve at the La Selva Organization of Tropical Studies. The station is surrounded by a variety of habitats including excellent primary lowland rainforest. The guides speak English and are excellent at not only finding and identifying a multitude of birds but also with the mammals, reptiles, plants, invertebrates, and overall ecology of this tremendously diverse area. Possibly the single best birding site in Costa Rica, with competition from Carara, La Selva is a must for avid birders, a thrill for the casual birder, and a perfect destination for general nature lovers. Mammals are also well represented with Mantled Howler, Collared Peccary, Coati, Agouti, and the occasional Tayra. The station has meals and limited lodging available for those interested in awaking to a spectacular dawn chorus. (For description of the lodging here, see the “Lodges in La Selva de Sarapiqui” section).

Slaty-tailed Trogon
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Birding Selva Verde Lodge and forest trails: The lodge is located along the Sarapiqui River and has excellent birding on the grounds and in the private reserve across the river. The walkways of the lodge have fruiting trees and banana feeders where you can find such birds as Chestnut-mandibled and Keel-billed Toucans, Collared Aracari, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Bay Wren, Shining, Green, and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, and Orange-billed Sparrow. Also watch for the enormous Gray-necked Wood-Rail walking along the streams or forest floor. From the long swinging bridge you have good views of the river where Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Sunbittern, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers, Snowy Cotinga, and Buff-rumped Warblers can usually be found. A guide from the lodge is required to explore the primary forest trails beyond the river. Birds found there are typical of those in the same type habitat of La Selva OTS. For more information on this area look under Selva Verde Lodge in the “Lodges of La Selva de Sarapiqui” section.
Boat Ride on the Sarapiqui River: Another way to see the wildlife of the La Selva area is by long, arrow motorboats on the Sarapiqui River. Both Mantled Howler and Central American Spider Monkeys are not uncommon along with giant Green Iguanas sunning in the trees and a nice variety of waterbirds. Possibilities include Anhinga, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Sunbittern, Green, Amazon, and Ringed Kingfishers, and Buff-rumped Warbler among many others. The real find would be the uncommon and local Sungrebe swimming near the bank picking out invertebrates from the overhanging vegetation. Arrangements for this boat trip can be made by CRG or while staying at your lodge of choice. Amazon Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher

Lattice-tailed Trogon
Braulio Carrillo National Park: Less than an hour from Puerto Viejo is located the Quebrada Gonzalez section of the Braulio Carrillo National Park. At a slightly higher elevation and heavier rainfall, this section holds many specialty birds you will not typically find at La Selva. Regular sightings include Lattice-tailed Trogon, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, White-throated Shrike-, Ashy-throated Bush-, Tawny-crested, Emerald, and Blue-and-gold Tanagers. Rarities seen here on occasion include Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Black-crowned Antpitta, Gray-headed Piprites, and Sharpbill! Care should be taken on the trails that are mostly up and down and sometimes slippery. Day trips to Braulio from your lodging in Puerto Viejo with a knowledgeable bird guide and transportation can be arranged by CRG.
Birding at La Virgen del Socorro: An hour to the west of Puerto Viejo the road begins to climb along the deep, forested gorge of La Virgen del Socorro. A side road leading down to the river can be very productive for raptors, mixed flocks, and river specialists. Watch for the immaculate White Hawk,
Barred Hawk, and Swallow-tailed Kite soaring above you with Collared Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, Spotted Woodcreeper, Red-faced Spinetail, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Bay-headed, Speckled, Silver-throated, Emerald, Blue-and-gold, and Crimson-collared Tanagers moving together through the canopy and undergrowth. Along the river there are Black Phoebe, the darling Torrent Tyrannulet, and American Dipper.

Coppery-headed Emerald
Rarities such as Lanceolated Monklet and Gray-headed Piprites have also been recorded here. Further along the main road our driver or guide will take you to a restaurant overlooking the gorge. The banana feeders here attract an impressive variety of tropical birds including both barbets, Blue-throated (Emerald) Toucanet, a host of tanagers, and Montezuma Oropendola. Hummingbird feeders just inches away attract such jewels as the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, Green Thorntail, Violet Sabrewing, White-bellied Mountain-gem, Green Hermit, Brown Violetear, and an occasional Black-bellied Hummingbird or Magenta-throated Woodstar. Further up this route you will come to the scenic La Paz Waterfall, a definite photo op! The La Paz Waterfall Gardens is located just above the falls on the main road. They too have hummingbird feeders, the list being similar to those listed above. A trail through good forest can be good for birding and leads to the top of the waterfall. Entrance fee is required. Day trips from your lodging in Puerto Viejo with a knowledgeable bird guide and transportation can be arranged by CRG.

We recommend at least three nights in this area in order to absorb its vast diversity of wildlife and seemingly endless array of birds, four or five nights if you are planning on visiting nearby Braulio Carrillo NP and/or La Virgen del Socorro. We highly recommend the guided bird walk and the general nature walk at La Selva OTS Station.

Specialty birds of the La Selva area (Does not include Braulio or La Virgen):

Red-footed Plumeleteer Great Potoo
Slaty-breasted Tinamou – Can be found with patience on the primary forest trails at La Selva OTS, less common on Selva Verde Lodge primary forest trails across the river. Fasciated Tiger-Heron – Resident on rocky rivers in the area, Selva Verde or any fast flowing river are your best bets. Green Ibis – Increasing, frequenting El Gavilan Lodge property and other marshy areas with nearby forest. Semiplumbeous Hawk – Seen in primary forest and forest edge, regular at La Selva OTS, less common at Selva Verde. Sungrebe – decreasing in Costa Rica, possible on the Sarapiqui Boat Ride and from swinging bridge at La Selva OTS. Olive-backed Quail-Dove – Best looked for on the primary forest trails of La Selva OTS. Great Green Macaw – A glorious Macaw, it is seasonal in the La Selva area with occasional stragglers through dry season depending on food supply. Vermiculated Screech-Owl – La Selva OTS guides sometimes locate day roosts. Great Potoo – Difficult to spot, hopefully a La Selva OTS or Selva Verde Lodge guide has info on a recent day roost. Semicollared Nighthawk – Active just before dawn and at dusk, flies bat-like over open areas and forest canopy, El Gavilan and La Selva OTS are two good places to watch for them. Red-footed (Bronze-tailed) Plumeleteer – Prefers the heliconia flowers, the guides at La Selva OTS usually have a territorial male staked out. Pied Puffbird – Local, but to be watched for along the entrance road to La Selva OTS. Chestnut-colored Woodpecker – A stunning woodpecker, La Selva OTS is the best place, occasionally found at El Gavilan Lodge. Western Slaty, Fasciated, and Great Antshrikes – All three are resident at La Selva OTS, primary forest, forest edge, and secondary forest, respectively. Ocellated Antbird – Very difficult obligate army ant swarm follower, found with luck at La Selva OTS. Snowy Cotinga – A stunning bird, seen regularly at La Selva OTS, less so at Selva Verde and El Gavilan Lodge. Purple-throated Fruitcrow – Resident groups can usually be located by call in La Selva OTS. Long-tailed Tyrant – La Selva OTS forest and entrance road are regular sites. White-ringed Flycatcher – This uncommon look-alike canopy flycatcher is usually located by its call on the La Selva OTS trails and/or entrance road. Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant – At just 2.5 inches, this tiny tyrant is the smallest passerine in Central America. Not uncommon in the mid-strata of primary Caribbean rainforest, best seen at La Selva OTS. Black-throated, Bay, and Song Wrens – Secondary growth and forest edge, undergrowth (especially heliconia thickets) near water, uncommon in more open undergrowth
in primary rainforest, respectively. Plain-colored Tanager – Canopy species found regularly in small groups along the La Selva OTS entrance road. Dusky-faced Tanager – Undergrowth species found regularly in small groups at La Selva OTS, El Gavilan, and Selva Verde. Pink-billed (Nicaraguan) Seed-Finch – A local near endemic, uncommon in grassy marsh areas in the area. Yellow-tailed Oriole – Very local in Costa Rica, sometimes seen on the La Selva entrance road, has declined due to illegal pet trade.
Snowy Cotinga
Western Slaty Antshrike
Pink-billed Seed-Finch