Birding Costa Rica’s Central Mountains at Bosque de Paz

Hummingbirds danced in and out of the bushes as they visited the feeders at Bosque de Paz , a private ecological preserve between Poás Volcano National Park and the Juan Castro Blanco National Park in Costa Rica’s Cordilleran Central.

There were Magnificent Hummingbirds, Green Hermits, Purple-crowned Fairies, Green-crowned Brilliants, Magenta-throated Woodstars, and my favorite the Violet Sabrewing. Their names said it all!

Violet Sabrewing

Violet Sabrewing

We had left the Caribbean lowlands that morning and made our way into the cloud forest of the central mountains. Mudslides from the recent earthquakes had washed out some of the roads, necessitating a detour which took us through Ciudad Quesada and the terraced farms of the foothills. “This is one of the Red Cross aid stations,” our Costa Rican Expeditions guide told us as we passed through the town of San Miguel. Rescue vehicles were still stationed there.

A short ways down the road we stopped to admire a White Hawk as it stood watch and then flew a short distance giving us an opportunity to see its black-tipped wings.

As we entered the valley where Bosque de Paz was located, we left the rain behind. The air was cool, crisp and bathed in sunshine – perfect for sitting on the benches near the feeders. In addition to the hummingbirds, Chestnut-capped Brush Finches, Common Bush Tanagers, Yellow-thighed Finches, Rufous-collared Sparrows and White-tipped Doves enjoyed the seed and fruit feeders.

A couple of Coatimundis visited the area – both males with battle scars, along with some Agouti, their coats shimmering in the sun.



After lunch, we took one of the trails that led into the vast preserve where we saw Olive-sided and Yellowish Flycatchers, a Hairy Woodpecker – which had a much browner chest than its North American counterpart, Brown-capped Vireo, Mountain Robins, and Slate-throated Redstart.

“Come here,” Helen beckoned as she looked through the view finder of her long-lensed camera. “I think that a parakeet flew into that tree up there.”

“Loro,” I called to Niño as he scurried down the trail with his scope.

“It’s a Chlorophonia,” he stated. We took turns looking at the bright green Golden-browed Chlorophonia through the scope. Part of the finch family and smaller than a parakeet, it nonetheless had similarly colored green feathers.

As we descended the trail Niño warned us about army ants on the move. Their path was about five feet wide. We had to scurry through since their sting can be quite painful. I was glad I had my pant legs tucked into my socks.

We had seen a Black Guan briefly in the woods. As we approached the lodge, there were more guans in the trees. They seemed to be gathering. In the evening, the lodge staff put out fruit in the tray feeders, which the guans flock to eat.

Black Guan at feeder

Black Guan at feeder

When we met for our 6:00 a.m. pre-breakfast walk, Bill noticed a bird in a tree next to the lodge – an Emerald Toucanet. Bill, Sue and I were delighted since it was a bird we had missed at the Savegre Hotel. As we walked up the hill, we saw Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper and Ochraceous Wren.

“Come here,” Charlie called as we gathered for our morning walk. “Great Black-Hawk.” There were two of them and they seemed to be gathering nesting materials. When they flew, we easily could see the black and white barring on the male’s tail. A Short-tailed Hawk soared nearby. Blue and White Swallows were still snatching morning insects.

We headed into the woods. Pretty soon Charlie let us know what he was seeking. “Ants,” he said.

For the next half hour we watched Slaty-backed and Rudy-capped Nightingale Thrushes and Three-striped Warblers while they gobbled up the ants and bathed in a shallow pool adjacent to the river.

A little further up the trail we stopped to watch the antics of some Howler Monkeys – our first sighting after several days of hearing them.

Charlie started calling for a Resplendent Quetzal. Pretty soon we were rewarded when first a female, and then a male, flew into some trees just above us, its tail feathers blowing in the breeze. They stayed for quite a while allowing everyone good looks and pictures.

Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal


Chris summed it up. “It is spectacular.”

Stephanie, our ANS co-leader, located some of the tiny avocados that the quetzals like to eat, seed and all.

Tiny avocados favored by Quetzal

Tiny avocados favored by Quetzal

In a clearing further along the trail were more ants – and more birds. We watched a Barred Becard and a stunning Azure-throated Jay.

As we exited the woods, Rebecca noticed some tiny white flowers. “A member of the begonia family,” Stephanie explained.


“I thought they looked like begonias,” she replied.

In the afternoon we walked down the road, stopping first where the river crossed under the road. An American Dipper flew along over the water and then perched on a rock. In keeping with my bad luck regarding dippers, I had missed it the prior day when someone’s hat had moved in front of my binoculars, so I was delighted with this opportunity to see it.

Nearby we saw a Boat-billed Flycatcher and White-throated Spadebill.

The trees on either side of the road were alive with warblers – neotropical migrants, including Golden-winged, Yellow, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Black and White, Wilson’s, and Townsend’s – as well as endemic species, including Flame-throated, Collared and Slat-throated Redstarts and many Tropical Parulas.

“Notice the different colors of these flowers,” Stephanie said, pointing to some foliage on the side of the road. “Once they are pollinated by a hummingbird, the center of the flower turns color and then pops up so the tanagers can get the berries growing inside.”

Charlie located a Red-faced Spinetail, . Its coloring blended in so well, it was difficult to locate. “It’s dropped down now,” Mark relayed as we tried to focus our binoculars on it. One of the ovenbirds, it indeed had a tail that appeared to have jagged-like spines.

On our way back to the lodge, we noticed more Army Ants alongside the road. “See how they seem to be racing in a narrow path?” Charlie said as he gestured. “They travel in narrow lines when they are moving to a new location.” I captured a close-up picture of one of them.

Army Ants on the move

Army Ants on the move

It was raining in the morning when we left. We drove through the nearby town of Bajos del Toro, and then drove across the newly re-opened road which had been washed out by the mudslides. It appeared treacherous and we were grateful for Niño’s skillful driving.

By noon we would be back in the lowlands near the Nicaraguan border.


2 thoughts on “Birding Costa Rica’s Central Mountains at Bosque de Paz

  1. The RESPENDAND QUETZAL CERTIANLY LIVES UP TO HIS NAME and even in SOUTH AMERICA birds will come to a bird feeder but the birds know where their food come from they,ll return time and time again

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review « It’s a bird thing…

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