We’d love to send the presenters of BBC’s Springwatch to Costa Rica. We just know Chris Packham and Co would go into overdrive. After all, Costa Rica is a twitcher’s paradise. Here’s a taster of just some of the feathered beauties that call this slice of Latin America home…
Simply say the word ‘parrot’ and most people will conjure up an image of one of these red-feathered fellas in their mind’s eye. No wonder then that they’re such a tick-list coup for avian aficionados. Scarlet macaws live in forests from Mexico right the way down into South America. In Costa Rica, you’re most likely to spot one over on the Pacific Coast. In the wild, these kaleidoscopic birds can live between 30 and 40 years, but some have been known to notch up 50 years on the clock. And yes, before you ask, these guys can mimic human words. Altogether now, ‘who’s a pretty boy, then?’
The dream spot of any twitcher worth their binoculars, these aptly-named chaps are usually found in the high altitude cloud forests of Central America. For a good chance of spying one, head to the Monteverde Cloud Forest or to Los Quetzales National Park. During the mating season, male quetzals grow amazing twin tail feathers that form a metre-long train. Females don’t have trains but still sport vivid blue, green and red colouring. Interestingly, quetzels were revered by the Maya and Aztecs, with emperors and high priests donning their feathers for ceremonies.
If this bird was to do a personality test, we’re pretty sure it’d come out as an ‘extrovert’. After all, there’s no point being a shrinking violet when you’re endowed with the ultimate show-off accessory known to nature. Flaunting bills that would give a pack of Crayola’s a run for their money, Rainbow-billed toucans (or Keel-billed toucans as they’re also known) just scream ‘look at me’. Despite their size, toucan beaks are deceptively light – in fact they’re pretty much hollow. To be in with a good chance of clapping eyes on one, check out the Monteverde Cloud Forest or the Tortuguero National Park.
Boasting shimmering plumage, these plucky birds are like little flying jewels. They are, of course, famous for the distinctive sound made by their beating wings. Although, we’d argue humming doesn’t really do it justice. As they buzz past your ears, they make a whirring noise more akin to Luke Skywalker’s light sabre. Sound effects aside, hummingbirds are the Harrier Jump Jets of the natural world – they can perform daredevil aerial acrobatics and are unique among birds in being able to hover for long periods of time and to fly backwards. Costa Rica plays host to around 50 different types of hummingbird, many of which can bee seen in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.
We can’t help but feel sorry for these guys. Unlike the kaleidoscopic wonders listed above, vultures are pretty dull in comparison. In fact, they’re borderline ugly.Modelling hooked beaks and goose-bumpy bald heads, they’re hardly going to win first prize in Costa Rica’s birdy beauty pageant. But what they lack in colour and good looks, they more than make up for in terms of flying technique. With wing spans between 1 to 2 metres, these enormous scavengers effectively surf air currents, hitch-hiking on thermal updrafts. Species in Costa Rica include the Turkey Vulture, the King Vulture and the Black Vulture. They’re widespread across the country – you may even see them on the beach.