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Bird Watching

Costa Rica is a small country but with a rich biodiversity. Tourists can see some of the 850 species of birds in our territory. We have four avifaunal zones, Northern Pacific lowlands, Southern Pacific lowlands, Caribbean lowlands, and the interior highlands. Of the 850 species, 630 are residents and the other 220 migrate from USA and Canada from August to April.
The deep heart of the jungle is not the best place to look for birds: you cannot see well amid the complex, disorganized patterns cast by shadow and light. For best results, find a large clearing on the fringe of the forest, or a watercourse where birds are sure to be found in abundance.

Here are some examples of what you might see.

There are more than 300 species of New World hummingbirds constituting the family Trochilidae (Costa Rica has 51), and all are stunningly pretty. The fiery-throated hummingbird, for example, is a glossy green, shimmering iridescent at close range, with dark blue tail, violet-blue chest, glittering coppery orange throat, and a brilliant blue crown set off by velvety black on the sides and back of the head. Some males take their exotic plumage one step further and are bedecked with long streamer tails and iridescent moustaches, beards, and visors.  These tiny high-speed machines are named because of the hum made by the beat of their wings. At up to 90 beats per second, the hummingbirds' wings move so rapidly that the naked eye cannot detect them. They are often seen hovering at flowers, from which they extract nectar and often insects with their long, hollow, and extensile tongues forked at the tip. Alone among birds, they can generate power on both the forward and backward wing strokes, a distinction that allows them to even fly backwards!

The quetzal, or resplendent trogon, is a rare jewel of the bird world. Many birdwatchers travel to Costa Rica simply to catch site of this magnificent bird. What this pigeon-sized bird lacks in physical stature it makes up for in audacious plumage: vivid, shimmering green which ignites in the sunshine, flashing emerald to golden and back to iridescent green. In common with other bird species, the male outshines the female. He sports a fuzzy pink punk hairdo, a scintillating crimson belly, and two brilliant green tail plumes up to 24 inches long, edged in snowy white and sinuous as feather boas.

No other word fits them - toucans are spectacular animals. Their shape, brilliant colouring, and tropical quintessence make them one of the most popular "poster animals" for the tropical forests of the Americas and one most visitors want to see. The toucan family, Ramphastidae, is classified with the woodpeckers, and contains about 40 species - the toucans and the usually smaller toucanets and aracaris (AH-rah-SAH-reez); all are restricted to the American tropics. Six species occur in Costa Rica.

The first sighting of toucans in the wild is always exhilarating - the large size of the bird, the bright colours, and the enormous, almost cartoonish bill. Toucans are usually first noticed flying from treetop to treetop in small groups. The bird's most distinguishing feature - its colourful, disproportionately large bill - is actually light, mostly hollow, and used for cutting down and manipulating the staple diet of tree fruit.