Why come bird watching in Costa Rica?
“Costa Rica is a place of stunning natural beauty and diversity, an international treasure”
Costa Rica is a safe, friendly Central American country that has enjoyed over 60 years of uninterrupted democracy. Its capital city, San José, is easy to reach from most U.S. and Canadian cities. Costa Rica understands the appeal of environmental tourism and has 186 protected natural areas. Spanish is the official language, but it’s fairly easy to find someone who speaks English as well. Passports are required, but visas are not needed.
Despite Costa Rica’s small size (about the size of West Virginia) in contains an incredible 894 bird species, which is more than in all of the United States and Canada combined! This is the greatest density of bird species of any continental American country. Around 600 bird species are resident to Costa Rica, the remaining species are present during the winter months as migrants from North America.
The incredible diversity of birds in Costa Rica is the result of a varied geography and climate. The multiple mountain chains of Costa Rica form the spine of the country and rise as high as 3,500m. Moisture laden air blows in from the Caribbean and rains out on the eastern slopes. This creates a rain shadow effect and complex seasonal rainfall patterns throughout the country. The result is a diverse array of micro climates with varying altitude, temperature and rainfall that all lead to the astonishing diversity.
However, the incredible number of species can not be explained by this alone. Millions of years ago, North America and South America were separate continents, until volcanic activity eventually fused them together and created the land bridge that is now Central America. Species that had evolved in total isolation to each other were now able to mix and event known as the Great American Exchange. Bird groups flooded in from the North and the South, mixing together to form the diverse bird life that is now seen today.