Brief excursion to Carara brings at least one life bird

My wife and I were lucky enough to be invited to spend a weekend with friends Roman and Alicja in the Central Pacific beach resort of Jacó.  Bird-watching wasn’t really on the agenda but we did have one memorable half-day walking the main trail at the Parque Nacional Carara.  This was my first time here, since on my only other visit, for a Christmas Count, I was assigned to a different area.  The poster species for this area is probably the Scarlet macaw (Ara macao), too big to miss, especially since it also has a tremendously loud squawk.

The Jacó area is well-known for the still locally comon Scarlet macaw

The Jacó area is well-known for the still locally common Scarlet macaw

To my surprise, Roman and Alicja also enjoyed finding birds, as did my wife Ches.  Thanks to their quick eyes, I was able to run up a short list of species, which mostly comprises some common  easily seen in that area.   At the same time, however, I was able to tick off at least one life bird, the Dot-winged antwren (Microrhopias quixensis).  Here’s a shot of a female, though the bird we saw was the black male with its big white wing bar and shoulder dots.  Its a common enough bird, but its lowland range precludes its visiting my home patch.  I suppose I could get lucky nearby, down at San Diego at a little less than 900 m.  Not so far, however.

The female also has a few dots but its lower parts are reddish brown.

The female also has a few dots but its lower parts are reddish brown.


The toucans were represented on this trip by the Fiery-billed araçari (Pteroglossus frantzii) and the Chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii), both common in the area.  We do have the Collared araçari (Pteroglossus torquatus) in Turrialba, but the Chestnut-mandibled toucan is absent, as far as I know.  We had excellent views of two of these beautiful birds in heavy forest on the second part of the trail.

Our largest Costa Rican toucan, the Chestnut-mandibled

Our largest Costa Rican toucan, the Chestnut-mandibled


On the stream that runs through the park, we found a Muscovy duck and a White ibis.  Both were single birds in a heavily forested area.  I think the tinamou that was calling was the Little tinamou, but I must confess to not being always able to distinguish its call from that of the Great tinamou.  A glimpse of a King vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) overhead was a rare treat for all of us, but this is again a species that can be found near Carara without too much difficulty.  I always scan the skies in Turrialba because it may certainly turn up at any time.

From the large to the tiny: We  had little luck with hummingbirds, but the Purple-crowned fairy (Heliothryx barroti), a perched pair, was a nice sighting.  This medium-sized hummer is fairly easy to identify because it is completely white below and has a noticeably short bill.

Our only trogon was a presumed Slaty-tailed trogon (Trogon massena), identified by the all-dark back and tail.  Perhaps it could have been a female Baird’s trogon.  I am not very familiar with either species and we could never get a front view of the bird.  Both are found in that area.  Here’s a photo of a female Slaty-tailed, taken in Costa Rica, from Karel Straatman’s collection.

Female Slaty-tailed trogon with bi-coloured bill

Female Slaty-tailed trogon with bi-coloured bill

Our best flycatcher was a Bright-rumped attila (Attila spadiceus), if only because I have always found it very difficult to get a good look at this bird.  Its loud voice makes it fairly easy to detect, but it tends to hide out in dense foliage.  This one was sitting on a low branch right next to the main path and not far from the visitor centre.  I was disappointed not to find the Royal flycatcher, said to be present here at Carara.

A photo from flickr but I'd love to have an even better one!

A Red-capped manakin from flickr but I’d love to have an even better one!

All of our party agreed that our loveliest sighting was of a male Red-capped manakin (Pipra mentalis) who sat in full view for ten minutes or more.  Wish we had cameras!  Complementing the red head, the bright eye and the yellow thigh feathers make this tiny bird a real jewel of the forest.  The drab female was nowhere to be found, and we assume that it was the male giving the loud and sharp call that first betrayed its presence.  A sound to remember for the future.

As we drove back along the coast road between Tarcoles and Jacó, we were astonished at the huge number of Magnificent frigate-birds hanging in the skies overhead.  Stopping for photos of the area’s beautiful beaches, we also added Wood stork and Yellow-headed caracara to our list, which you will now find below.

This brief post will serve as a reminder of two wonderful days with friends Roman and Alicja.  And we never even went into Jacó!  They now move on to Guanacaste, before heading back to the snows of Thunder Bay, Canada, where we hope to see them again at some future date.


  1. Little tinamou
  2. Muscovy duck
  3. Magnificent frigatebird
  4. Wood stork
  5. Cattle egret
  6. White ibis
  7. Black vulture
  8. Turkey vulture
  9. King vulture
  10. Yellow-headed caracara
  11. Red-billed pigeon
  12. Inca dove
  13. Orange-chinned parakeet
  14. Purple-crowned fairy
  15. Slaty-tailed trogon
  16. Chestnut-mandibled toucan
  17. Fiery-billed araçari
  18. Hoffmann’s woodpecker
  19. Streak-headed woodcreeper
  20. Dot-winged antwren
  21. Bright-rumped attila
  22. Great kiskadee
  23. Social flycatcher
  24. Tropical kingbird
  25. Red-capped manakin
  26. Northern rough-winged swallow
  27. Long-billed gnatwren
  28. Rufous-naped wren
  29. Buff-rumped warbler
  30. White-shouldered tanager
  31. Bay-headed tanager
  32. Blue-gray tanager
  33. Palm tanager
  34. Buff-throated saltator
  35. Melodious blackbird
  36. Great-tailed grackle
  37. Yellow-throated euphonia

6 thoughts on “Brief excursion to Carara brings at least one life bird

  1. Pingback: Costa Rican doves and common basilisk | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. What a lovely description of our two days together in Jacó, Paul! We had lots of fun, especially around the pool in the evening!
    Both Alicja and I enjoyed your company guys tremendously and a big thanks goes to you for showing us all those birds even though, I have to admit, I only saw maybe a third of the birds from your list here (can’t believe you counted 37 species!).
    And I’m afraid, you got Alicja hooked on this bird watching. This weekend we went on a walk along Lake Superior and officially identified and photographed our first bird, Red-breasted Merganser (… I know, I know, a very rare species in our area!)
    On a side note, I miss Costa Rica…. I better start planning our next trip.


  3. Pingback: Costa Rican birds, bye-bye! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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