Birding and Wildlife Attractions of Rancho Naturalista

Resident Bird Guides: A very important aspect to Rancho is the resident bird guide. They will help in pointing out birds on the balcony, taking you on walks on the property trails, and joining you to nearby Tuis Valley and/or day trips to Tapanti or Irazu. Their knowledge of the birds will add immensely to your birding experience while at Rancho, not to mention your life list! Many of Rancho’s past guides have gone on to work for major birding tour companies such as Field Guides and Bird Quest.

*Rancho Naturalista has recently changed their Resident Bird Guide policy. It will now NOT be included in the price.  The overall price would be the same as before as when two guests had the guide to themselves. If more birders participate on the bird walk then the price is equally divided amongst the number of guests in the group. CRG can guarantee you that you will have a guide if requested but we cannot guarantee that it will be a private guide to yourselves. For this reason CRG does not wish to collect guide fees for Rancho in advance and guests should be prepared to pay in cash or credit card at Rancho for any guide services they wish to hire. Here are the prices for hiring the resident bird guide at Rancho, this is the total…not per person:

Full Day: $110    /   Morning only: $60   /   Afernoon only: $50

Crimson-collared Tanager Balcony birding: While enjoying your coffee or tea in the early morning on the balcony you will be amazed at the variety of tropical birds coming to the feeders. Groups of Gray-headed Chachalacas, Collared Aracaris, Passerini’s Tanagers, and the impressive Montezuma Oropendolas will all provide quite a show. Other likely possibilities include Blue-crowned Motmot, Lineated and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Golden-hooded and White-lined Tanagers, and Scarlet-rumped Cacique. Hummingbird feeders only a few feet away are usually buzzing with Green Thorntails, White-necked Jacobins, Green-crowned Brilliants, Green-breasted Mangos, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds. Watch the vervain flowers for the unique Black-crested Coquette and the dazzling little Snowcap. The surrounding trees are good for Keel-billed Toucan, Brown-hooded and White-crowned Parrots, and both Masked and Black-crowned Tityras. Secretive species like Slaty Spinetail, Black-throated Wren, and Yellow-billed Cacique can sometimes be spotted in the bushes along the garden. All this before your 7:00 am breakfast! Typical year lists of birds seen from the balcony reach 200 species with early morning highs of 60 when the northern migrants are in town from Nov – May. What a great way to start the day!
Hummingbird feeders: While the hummingbirds around the lodge feeders are very impressive, the forest hummingbird feeders even have more variety. Regulars here include Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Snowcap, Green Hermit with its incredibly long decurved bill, the large purple Violet Sabrewing, the occasional Red-footed Plumeleteer, and more White-necked Jacobins, Brown Violetears, and Green Thorntails. Natural perches offer great photographic opportunities as well. Hummingbird bathing pools: A short walk into the gorge by the lodge takes you to sitting benches overlooking a small stream. In the afternoon, hummingbirds come in to take a bath after being around sticky sugar water and nectar all day. Here you can sit and watch one hummingbird after another come in, hover over the water, and then dip several times into the pools. Snowcaps and Violet-crowned Woodnymphs are regular bathers along with one or two stunning Purple-crowned Fairy. Green Hermit
Non-hummingbird species that sometimes frequent the pools include Dull-mantled Antbird, White-throated Spadebill, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, and Olive Tanager. It is not unusual to see a  Tawny-throated Leaftossers  came in for a splash around 5:30 pm, much to the delight of the patient birders looking on.
Butterflies and Moths: While at Rancho you are sure to see some beautiful butterflies including Morphos, Clear-wings, Swallow-tails, Skippers, and others. Over 12,000 species of Moths are found in Costa Rica and it seems that Rancho has a sizable percentage of those. On clear nights you can ask the staff to put out the insect light behind a sheet to attract them. In the morning even the avid birders have to stop in amazement to see what has come in. Sometimes the large Cecropia and Imperial Moths are present along with a seemingly endless variety of smaller moths. Other insects may include a Scarab Beetle that looks like it has been dipped in gold and Praying Mantis of different shapes and sizes. Collecting is not permitted at Rancho.

Tuis Valley Birding:This wet valley below Rancho is worth a visit to see species not normally found near the lodge. A trail follows the Tuis River, gradually climbing up the valley through patches of forest. This trail is more like a horse track which tends to be a little muddy. Possibilities include raptors such as Swallow-tailed Kite, Barred Hawk and Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Sunbittern which nest along the river, Red-headed Barbet, the mythical Lanceolated Monklet, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Buff-rumped Warbler, mixed flockswith Black-and-Yellow and Emerald Tanagers, and many others.A host of beautiful butterflies can be seen along the river and trail. Rancho can arrange a vehicle for the 15 minute transfer for an additional fee. They will also provide a pack lunch for those wanting to explore further up the trail.

Silent Mountain Birding: Silent Mountain lies at a slightly higher elevation than Rancho and is 25 minutes by 4WD to the trailhead. The hike to the good birding areas is steep, muddy, and very strenuous and should only be taken by those in good physical condition with a burning desire to see the specialty birds found here. Regularly seen rarities include Costa Rica Pygmy-Owl, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, the aptly named Lovely Cotinga, Rufous-browed and Zeledon’s Tyrannulet, Black-and-White Becard, and Sharpbill.

Other fairly common notables include Black Guan, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Black-bellied Hummingbird, White-bellied Mountain-Gem, nesting Resplendent Quetzal, Prong-billed Barbet, and Silvery-fronted Tapaculo.

Occasionally seen rarities include Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, and Zeledonia. Rancho will provide you with a pack lunch for this all day excursion. They can also arrange transport at an additional cost. The resident bird guide will accompany you on this labor of love.

Resplendent Quetzal
We recommend at least three nights at Rancho to take in the atmosphere, birds, and wildlife. Many guests enjoy a more relaxed one week stay so they can visit nearby National Parks or Guayaba Monument.
Specialty birds of Rancho Naturalista:Sunbittern – Spectacular in flight, at least one pair is resident along the Tuis River below Rancho.Snowcap – Best place in the world to see this little local jewel, a common hummingbird at the forest feeders and along the vervain in front of the lodge. Green Thorntail – Another sparkler found commonly at the hummingbird feeders around the lodge and in the forest. Purplish-backed Quail-Dove – Several pairs are resident, watch for these skulkers of the forest floor along Rancho’s trails. Lanceolated Monklet – Almost mythical, this small puffbird has been seen somewhat regularly in the Tuis Valley near Rancho, the only regular site in Costa Rica in the past few years. Rufous Motmot – A stunning bird, Rancho being one of several places where it can be found with regularly in Costa Rica. Brown-billed Scythebill – A very impressive bill, not uncommon in mixed flocks while birding the forest trails. Checker-throated Antwren – Resident, moving with mixed flocks in the primary forest. Spotted Antbird – Fairly widespread but local overall, this darling little antbird is seen regularly in the forest undergrowth at Rancho, especially when army ants are present. White-crowned Manakin – A local species which has a lek on Rancho’s upper trail, feeding in fruiting trees elsewhere in the forest. Tawny-chested Flycatcher – A rare and local bird found rather commonly at Rancho in the forest mid-strata.
Lanceolated Monklet
Rufous Motmot