Carara National Park, Costa Rica

Published by Charles Hamel (PacNW47 AT

Participants: Charles Hamel, Jacob Patchen, Andrew Wheelan


During my time in Costa Rica between January 1st and March 30th 2005 I visited Carara National Park four times. My first trip was on January 5th. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this park, it lies on the superficial boundary in which the Mexican dry forest and the amazonian type rainforest meet. This leads to extreme species richness and diversity. I would classify the type of forest as moist tropical forest where ground-covering plants aren't as common as they are in Braulio Carrillo or the Osa Peninsula.
There are two main trails: the river trail which is straight and flat. And the double loop trail which is (duh) a pair of loops. The latter has a slight elevation change in a few places. My advice would be to be at the entrance of the River Trail (Sendero Quebrado) at 6:00am. When I first walked this trail I saw Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Ruddy Quail-dove, Rufous-and-white Wren, Northern Bentbill, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Three-wattled Bellbird (this bird was calling from atop a tree my friends and I had the privaledge of watching it through a spotting scope.), Brown-hooded Parrot, Scarlet Macaw, Plain Xenops, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Masked Tityra, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Dot-winged Antwren, Orange-collared Manakin, Baird's Trogon, Common and Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher, Purple-crowned Fairy, Long-tailed and Little or Stripe-throated(same species)Hermit, Turkey, Black and King Vulture, Streaked Flycatcher, Cocoa or Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Rufous-breasted Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Black-throated Trogon, Violaceous Trogon, Black-headed Trogon, Lineated Woodpecker, Riverside Wren, Cherrie's Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Golden-hooded, Summer and Gray-headed Tanager, White-collared Swift, Boat-billed Flycatcher. For those of you who are especially looking for the Orange-collared Manakin, one of the most coveted species in Carara, my friends and I located the Lek (courting grounds) twice once in early January and once in late March. We found it on the river trail, right hand side about 10-20 paces past the little concrete bridge that crosses the stream running through the path. Remember, only the males are orange and black. The females are leaf green, yellowish belly, wide, dark bill, orange legs, and short tail. Another saught after bird is the Scarlet Macaw. These are much easier to find. Very noisy birds that drown out other birds' songs and calls. As for the trogons they all have very similar calls, which can be set to the rhythm of a bouncing ball, most birders are familiar with this analogy. Trogons are very sedentary so locating them by sound will help a lot.

If you don't have a vehicle to get you from the river trail and the double loop trail you will have to walk. It will be the most uncomfortable fifteen minutes of your entire day, but for hardcore birders it's worth it. If you arrive at the double loop before 2:30 PM take a break to hydrate and/or eat lunch if you haven't already. If you start your second hike at about 2:30 you will have about 3 hours of good light left. The first 100 meters are surrounded by dry low forest in which I saw Blue-black Grosbeak, Variable Seedeater, Barred Antshrike and Rose-throated Becard (most R-T Becards you'll see don't have rose throats, so don't let that fool you. The rest of the coloration should be the same). In the thicker taller forest I saw Great Tinamou, White-winged Becard, Golden-crowned Euphonia, Black-faced Antthrush, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Plain-capped Starthroat, Ochraceous Flycatcher, Fiery-billed Aracari, Laughing Falcon and finally Chestnut-mandibled Toucan before leaving the park.

I made three other trips to the park; One in Late January, one in mid February and one in early March. Of the species above most of them were familiar residents of the park. The exceptions are Three-wattled Bellbird, Ruddy Quail-dove, White-winged Becard, Plain-capped Starthroat and Brown-hooded Parrot. New birds seen on the later trips were: Crested Guan, Bright-rumped Attila, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Chestnut-collared Swift, Buff-throated Saltator, Orange-billed Sparrow, Blue-crowned Manakin, Amazon Kingfisher, Gray-necked Wood-rail, Olive Sparrow, Worm-eating Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Ovenbird, Blue-throated Goldentail, White-shouldered Tanager, Rufous Piha, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Painted Bunting, Long-billed Gnatwren, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Muscovy Duck, Buff-rumped Warbler, Gray Hawk, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Bay-headed Tanager.

Species Lists

There were many species and individual birds but since no species was extremely abundant I will not have the (a) for abundant on any bird. Instead I will use (vc) for very common.

vc-very common: many during 3 or all 4 trips
c-common: at least one on 3 or all 4 trips
fc-fairly common: at least one 2 or 3 trips
u-uncommon: seen at least once but heard on most trips
r-rare: only one trip
w-wintering: peak population in January, don't expect this bird in the northern summer.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher c-w
Chestnut-sided Warbler c-w
Yellow-throated Vireo c-w
Ruddy Quail-dove r
Rufous-and-white Wren c
Northern Bentbill vc
Black-hooded Antshrike vc
Dusky Antbird vc
Three-wattled Bellbird r
Brown-hooded Parrot u
Scarlet Macaw vc
Plain Xenops vc
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper c
Masked Tityra fc
Northern Barred Woodcreeper fc
Dot-winged Antwren vc
Orange-collared Manakin c
Baird's Trogon c
Common Tody-flycatcher c
Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher vc
Purple-crowned Fairy fc
Long-tailed Hermit vc
Stripe-throated Hermit vc
Turkey Vulture vc
Black Vulture vc
King Vulture fc-I may have been lucky
Streaked Flycatcher fc
Cocoa Woodcreeper c
Rufous-breasted Wren vc
Black-bellied Wren u
Black-throated Trogon c
Violaceous Trogon c
Black-headed Trogon vc
Lineated Woodpecker c
Riverside Wren c
Cherrie's Tanager fc
Red-legged Honeycreeper c
Golden-hooded Tanager fc
Summer Tanager fc-w
Gray-headed Tanager u
White-collared Swift c
Boat-billed Flycatcher c
Great Kiskadee vc
Social Flycatcher c
Tropical Kingbird vc
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird vc
Hoffmann's Woodpecker c
Rufous-naped Wren vc
Clay-colored Robin c
Blue-black Grosbeak fc
Variable Seedeater fc
Barred Antshrike c
Rose-throated Becard fc
Great Tinamou u
White-winged Becard u
Golden-crowned Euphonia fc
Black-faced Antthrush fc
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher fc
Chestnut-backed Antbird c
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner u
Plain-capped Starthroat u
Ochraceous Flycatcher fc
Fiery-billed Aracari fc
Laughing Falcon fc
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan fc
Crested Guan u
Bright-rumped Attila u
Pale-billed Woodpecker fc
Chestnut-collared Swift u
Buff-throated Saltator c
Orange-billed Sparrow vc
Blue-crowned Manakin u
Amazon Kingfisher u
Gray-necked Wood-rail fc
Olive Sparrow u
Worm-eating Warbler u-w
Kentucky Warbler u-w
Ovenbird fc-w
Blue-throated Goldentail c
White-shouldered Tanager u
Rufous Piha fc
Yellow-olive Flycatcher c
Golden-naped Woodpecker u
Painted Bunting u-w
Long-billed Gnatwren u
Tawny-crowned Greenlet u
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher u
Slaty-tailed Trogon c
Muscovy Duck r
Buff-rumped Warbler u
Gray Hawk c
Rufous-tailed Jacamar u
Bay-headed Tanager fc
Baltimore Oriole c-w
Barn Swallow vc-w
Southern Rough-winged Swallow vc