Snapshot Story: Flying high with the beautiful birds of Costa Rica

In CENTRAL AMERICA, SNAPSHOT STORIES by Janice and George25 Comments

birds of costa rica - quetzal

The sea suddenly boils up with a seething ball of silvery jackfish.

Brown pelicans, soaring gracefully overhead in a V formation, break apart and dive-bomb into the water. They shoot down beak-first with such speed we wonder they don’t knock themselves out!

Uttering whoops of excitement, a couple of fishermen who have been watching the scene, dash into the water, toss their lines in – and within the space of a few minutes, haul out four big jackfish.

Birds of Costa Rica

We just returned from a small-ship expedition cruise with UnCruise Adventures from Costa Rica to Panama. Dive-bombing pelicans were just some of the many stunning birds of Costa Rica we marveled at on our trip.

Costa Rica is home to more than 850 species of birds – and birders go gaga over spotting all the different birds found there, especially the resplendent quetzal (that’s the brilliantly-colored scarlet and teal bird with two extraordinarily long tail feathers).

birds of costa rica - resplendent quetzal

On several hikes, we happened to be in the same small group with fellow guest and photography buff, Richard Hall Patterson. He gamely lugged his Nikon D3S with Tamron 15-600 mm zoom lens along with him – a necessity if you want to capture any decent bird shots, we discovered after reviewing our little Sony’s photos.

(And if you do go to Costa Rica for the birds, be prepared to look up, waaaaaay up, to spot them. Somehow, we expected them to be flying around at face level. Guess we’ve been spoiled by watching too many National Geographic shows… Those toucans like to hide!)

Anyway, here are a few of Richard’s fantastic photos of some of the birds of Costa Rica we saw. If you love birds, these photos will whet your appetite to go see them in the wild for yourself…

Brown pelicans

birds of costa rica - brown pelican


Pelican flying above ship

birds of costa rica - brown pelican

Pelican and ship

Black vulture

Black Vulture

Tiger heron

birds of costa rica - tiger heron

Chestnut-mandibled toucan


Toucan in Costa Rica

Egret (type? we don’t know…)

birds of costa rica

birds of costa rica

Mangrove black hawk

Mangrove black hawk in the trees

birds of costa rica - mangrove black hawk



birds of costa rica

All the bird photos here (except the quetzal) were taken by Richard Hall Patterson. (Thanks Richard!) If you want to use any of his photos, please give him photo credit. And he’d love it if you made a small donation to a worthy wildlife cause of your choice.

Janice and George Signature


    1. Author

      And it’s not just beautiful birds you find in Costa Rica! The country is also home to a huge variety of other critters and creatures. If you want to see sloths, monkeys, snakes, coatis and more, then go to Costa Rica :-).

  1. We will be in Costa Rica next year and look forward to seeing some of the same birds you did. The quetzal would be the ultimate entry on the life list. P.S. It looks like a great blue heron.

    1. Author

      Everybody loves the resplendent quetzal! Crossing fingers for you that you’ll see one – or more! And you think that egret (which we have a question mark beside) is a great blue heron? Thanks for the clarification :-).

  2. These are all beautiful, but that photo of the pelican diving is amazing! I love love love birds, so I would just love this trip. I hear what you’re saying about having to look way up. The first time I went hiking in the forest in Brazil, I expected to see all the birds that live there but just saw a few feathers way up in the trees :)

    1. Author

      We’re spoiled by all the nature shows we see on TV. We forget that the photographers and film-makers spend days and weeks of shooting to get the few beautiful images that end up on TV! Guess if we went to a zoo we could get closer views – but seeing the birds in the wild is much more exciting :-).

  3. You’ve got me looking up the Uncruise itineraries right this second, as this sounds like such a wonderful way to travel this part of the world and although I like to think, my little compact camera has a pretty good zoom, there’s not a chance it’d capture photographs like this. What amazing wildlife and how beautifully Richard has captured it!

    1. Author

      We just bought a smaller Sony a6000. Tired of lugging around our big DSLR! So it was great Richard was happy to share his photos – we get to enjoy our memories of the birds of Costa Rica through him :-). And, by the way, check out our other UnCruise Adventures stories from our cruises in Alaska and Hawaii – you’ll get a better idea of what it’s like on their cruises:

  4. Great photos. All of those are perfectly captured. I’m pretty sure you poured a lot of effort into taking shots of those birds. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    1. Author

      Richard took his time taking these pics – and then spent more time editing them… So, yes, a lot of effort does go into capturing and sharing some good photos :-).

  5. We were in Costa Rica back in 2011 for a month – and saw so many beautiful birds. Never seen anything like it anywhere else. Such a variety, including little hummingbirds all over the place. Was a highlight for us.

    Frank (bbqboy)

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