New Bird Species in Costa Rica

AUTHOR: Walter SanchezProfessional Birder and Naturalist Guide, Local and Certified with ICT

The birdlife in Costa Rica is a dream come true for local and international birders from all over the world. The bird list of this country is well established, with over 926 bird species recorded so far up today for the country. The Osa Peninsula is home to about 375 birds, including several regional endemic birds that occur only in southern Costa Rica and part of Western Panama. This means that birding in the Osa Peninsula is exceptionally productive and variegated. Birders must carry their birding gear all the time if possible and be aware that rare bird species might be anywhere and show up randomly at any location. 

A good example was when I spotted a rare bird in the garden next to our garage. As a true birder, I never leave my equipment too far from my hands; sometimes, this practice pays off more than I imagine.

Last October, while I was cleaning my car, I noticed a group of Scarlet-rumped Tanagers with a flock member that had a much more vibrant red color than the others of its kind. So, I quickly took my binoculars, spotting scope, and cell phone and did some filming and photos of this bird.

After researching, comparing, and analyzing photographic evidence from other similar bird species, distribution ranges, and similar birds, I realized that this particular bird was not reported on the official bird list of Costa Rica. I immediately shared the information in some major birding forums, chats, and social media groups for advanced birders. 

The bird I saw was the Crimson-backed Tanager (Ramphocelus dimidiatus) and its distribution is in northern South America. I am adding some map screenshots with its distribution range taken from eBird.

New Bird Species in Costa Rica - CBT Distribution

After that, I got hundreds of texts, emails, and phone calls from birders from all over Costa Rica. Scientists, bird researchers, twitchers, photographers, and E-birders of all levels contacted me to arrange a visit to see this bird. Some of them were at the front gate around 5 am!

Professional birders and scientists from the Ornithology Union of Costa Rica also visited my home to observe this bird and add the official record to their bird list. The entire situation was a huge surprise because I unknowingly added a newly registered bird to the country. Lord, what a lucky birder I was! 

Birdwatching is all about keeping your eyes and ears open at all times and expecting the unexpected. This rare sighting was a perfect example. The Crimson-backed tanager is now a new bird species for Costa Rica, and it’s exciting knowing I had something to do with this incredible discovery.

New Bird Species in Costa Rica - Crimson-Backed Tanager

I have been leading birding-focused tours in Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay, and the Osa Peninsula for over a decade. The least I could imagine was finding a new bird record for Costa Rica in the Osa Peninsula.


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