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The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, located in the Tilarán mountain range in northwest Costa Rica, in a town called Santa Elena, is a birdwatcher’s paradise and one of the most beautiful national parks in this country.
This green upland forest is home to more than 400 different species of birds, attracted by the region’s mild, humid year-round temperature, an abundance of fruits, insects, and nesting sites. From small hummingbirds to powerful birds of prey, a visitor to Monteverde is practically guaranteed to see a wide variety of beautiful and unique birds. Let us introduce you below to the type of birds you can spot in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve that will turn your head and make you want to stay forever.
One of the most iconic birds of the Monteverde Reserve is the resplendent quetzal. This bird has a vibrant green body, a red breast, emerald green wings and tail, and a streamer of long tail feathers that can reach up to three feet. Male quetzals grow this exceptionally long tail to impress females during breeding season. Quetzals create nests in rotting tree trunks and feed on fruits such as avocados and small animals like lizards or insects.
More than 20 species of hummingbirds have been recorded in Monteverde alone, probably the greatest diversity of hummingbirds in a single place on the planet. These include gems like the purple-crowned woodnymph, the fiery-throated hummingbird, the violet sabrewing, and the stripe-tailed hummingbird. Although many of these hummingbirds can only be found in Costa Rica and western Panama, there are two gorgeous native hummingbird species unique to Costa Rica: the Mangrove and the Coppery Headed Emerald. Their high-speed little wings allow them to hover in place as they collect nectar from colorful tropical flowers using their slender bills. Watching hummingbirds feed is a mesmerizing spectacle of agile grace.
Several varieties of toucans reside in Monteverde year-round or seasonally, taking advantage of fruit trees that provide nourishment. The most frequently spotted are the Keel-Billed Toucan (a stunning bird known for its vibrant and distinctive appearance with a large, rainbow-colored bill, black body, and brightly colored plumage) and the emerald toucanet (which has bright green plumage on its back and tail, a red-tipped yellow bill, blue marks around the eye, and a white throat). The secretive black-mandibled toucan can also be found here, identifiable by its huge yellow, black, and red bill and loud yelping vocalizations.
These colorful relatives of the kingfisher have specially adapted tail feathers that end in blue rackets. This includes the rufous motmot and the broader turquoise-browed motmot. They use their unique tails to move back and forth in mating displays or when alarmed. Motmots hunt small prey by perching and swooping down from branches.
Oropendolas and Caciques
The Monteverde area has two beautiful species of oropendolas, the Crested Oropendola and the Chestnut-headed Oropendola, as well as the Scarlet-rumped Cacique. These social birds build long, hanging nests from vines and plant fibers. Hundreds may nest close together in colonies dotting the forest canopy. Their bright yellow tails and wing patches make them easy to spot from a distance as they fly. A true show that you won’t want to miss.
The Scarlet Macaw and Great Green Macaw, both iconic species in Costa Rica, showcase breathtaking beauty with their vibrant plumage. They are sometimes seen flying over the Reserve, while smaller parrot species like parakeets and parrotlets live in the forest year-round. These include the olive-throated parakeet, the orange-chinned parakeet, the brown-hooded parrot, and the blue-headed parrot. Parrots are highly social, traveling in noisy flocks and using strong curved bills to access nuts, seeds, and fruits.
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The strong claws and stiff tails of woodcreepers make them perfectly adapted to climb up and down tree trunks in search of insects and spiders to eat. Common species in the Reserve include the streak-headed woodcreeper, spotted woodcreeper, wedge-billed woodcreeper, and elegant woodcreeper. They have cryptic, subtle shades of brown, black, and white plumage that help them blend into the bark as they creep along branches.
Birds of Prey
Various raptors soar on air currents above the Monteverde Cloud Forest canopy seeking their next meal. Visitors may spot ornate hawk eagles, white hawk eagles, crested eagles, and gray-headed kites slowly circling overhead before diving downwards when prey is spotted. The most thrilling sight is a pair of rare orange-breasted falcons engaging in a mating display flight, in which they soar in tandem while vocalizing loudly.
It’s hard to miss a flash of brilliant red, blue, or orange darting through a dark forest from the many varieties of tanagers found in Monteverde. Some of the most vibrant species to watch for include the emerald tanager, silver-throated tanager, flame-colored tanager, blue-gray tanager, and golden-hooded tanager. Tanagers use their cone-shaped bills to pick fruit and sometimes catch insects too.
A wren is a small but beautiful bird with an upright tail that is abundant in Monteverde, foraging actively in low vegetation and along the forest floor for insects to eat. Notable members of the wren family to look out for here include the rufous and white wren, plain wren, riverside wren, and striped-breasted wren. Many wrens are more easily identified by their energetic and complex songs than by their sight, as they are fast-moving creatures.
Manakins and Saltators
Visitors may catch glimpses in the understory of strange little birds that have evolved elaborate dances to attract mates. These include the red-capped manakin, which does mid-air jumps between branches, showing off its bright plumage and strange vocalizations. Larger, dull, olive green saltators also make themselves known when males call loudly to defend territory or attract females.
The Three-Wattled Bellbird
One of the rarest and most sought-after species in Monteverde is the three-wattled bellbird. With its distinctive three long wattles hanging from its bill, this large bird is both elusive and iconic. Known for its distinctive bell-like calls that carry through the forest, the three-wattled bellbird is a testament to the conservation efforts that have allowed such magnificent species to thrive in the cloud forest habitat.
The Black-Breasted Wood Quail
The Black-breasted Wood-Quail of Monteverde is a striking bird species endemic to the cloud forests of Monteverde in Costa Rica, characterized by its distinctive black breast, vibrant plumage, and elusive behavior. This quail species inhabits the dense undergrowth of the lush cloud forest, adding to the region’s rich biodiversity.
Experience the Magic of Monteverde with Special Places of Costa Rica
For fans of birds and the great outdoors, the colorful feathers, varied species, and distinctive behaviors of Monteverde’s avian wonders provide an enchanting and unforgettable experience. The varied habitats in this magical cloud forest provide opportunities to see amazing bird species on a variety of hiking paths, in an organized bird-watching tour, or even from hotel balconies. Don’t ever hesitate to visit Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, one of the most famous birding destinations in Costa Rica. To find out information about our Monteverde Tour, click here.
Special Places of Costa Rica offers a unique and memorable stay in the beautiful Guanacaste Province, with a wide selection of vacation rentals, including beachfront homes, condos, and luxury villas. Situated in prime locations like Playa Flamingo and Playas del Coco, these rentals provide the perfect base for exploring Costa Rica’s stunning landscapes, rich culture, and diverse wildlife. Ideal for birdwatching enthusiasts visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Special Places of Costa Rica combines comfort, luxury, and convenience, ensuring an unforgettable experience in this tropical paradise.