Anyone who has stayed in the Costa Ballena for even a single day knows what an amazing variety of birds reside here. Big, small, colorful, drab, predator, prey, and every description you can think of. The accumulative total from all of the Christmas bird counts to date is 488 species for the area. That is around half of the number of bird species in all of the United States and Canada combined. By Christmas time all of the migratory species from North America have arrived in Costa Ballena. From December to March our bird population is at its peak, and so is the population of bird watchers. I don’t know how many birders visit the Costa Ballena per year, but during the year 2018 at Hacienda Barú our expert birding guides took more than 400 visitors in search of our beautiful feathered friends. In 1987 when we started taking guests on nature hikes at Hacienda Barú, tour operators still thought of bird watchers as a small, insignificant sector of the market. The Costa Rican Tourist Bureau lumped bird watching together with what they called “nature-based tourism”, but that perception has changed. People of all ages and all walks of life have found that they receive great pleasure from viewing and listing the birds they see. Bird Watching is the fastest growing recreational activity in the United States and, though no figures are available, the same appears to be true for Europe.
According to the US Game and Fish Department statistics, there are over 47 million birdwatchers in the United States who spend more than $107 billion on their hobby each year. About half of that is spent on transportation, hotels, meals, tours, etc. Each year over 3 million US birders ventures abroad in search of new species to add to their life lists. I don’t know how many of those come to Costa Rica, but we need to let them know about the South Pacific, a bird watcher’s dream.
By Jack Ewing