Birds of Different Feathers on Our Costa Rica Farm

Before we moved to our current house in Costa Rica, we rented a small place about 100 meters lower in elevation just below us. We delighted in the number and variety of birds that would come to visit our yard with their only incentive being a partially peeled banana or orange. You can see many of them mixed into the slide show in the right column of this blog. 

We moved up the mountain in July of '09 and to our chagrin the birds up here  wanted nothing to do with any of the schemes I tried to deliver them tasty fruity treats. The initial effort was with a flat feeder that was perhaps a bit too much in the open. In the summer months we have Kites here (called Tijereras locally because of their scissor-shaped tails) that like to swoop down on unsuspecting small birds for a quick meal. Sheltering the feeders seemed to make no difference, though.

At last, and with no explanation I can fathom, except perhaps too many birds and too little food, they started coming, ... and coming, about 3 months ago. 

Now, it's not uncommon to have 5 or 6 or 7 species clamouring over the several bananas we set out (and have to re-stock a few times a day). The only ones that we don't see up here that we did below, and which I miss greatly, are the Cusingas, members of the Toucan family. 

The current banana-eating crew are mostly different types of tanagers with a few others mixed in. Some of the irregulars include migrating Baltimore Orioles. One new regular is the Red-headed Barbet (named for the male, but you can see the less striking female has interesting markings as well).  

Most of the other birds, even the larger ones, are intimidated by the Barbets with their big sturdy beaks and their pushy attitude, so the Barbets often eat alone. 

There is another bully in the packs, called a Saltator, which is about the size of an American Robin. He's pushy too but a cowardly bully who backs down readily if a smaller bird stands its ground. 

I was a little surprised to see this flicker one day. It looks so much like the flickers we had in Oregon, albeit a bit smaller. 

Checking our Costa Rica bird book, however, I see that flickers are quite common here and there are several varieties.

By far, amongst all the birds who take advantage of our largess, our favorite is the Blue-crowned Mot-Mot (aka Bobo locally). 

What a grand bird with his striking colors and pendulous tail that he/she flips back and forth. 
 When the Mot-Mot comes, the other birds clear out temporarily. He sits regally on the side of the feeder and takes his own sweet time studying the bananas before taking out huge chunks and gulping them down with jerky motions. His/her visits usually coincide with dawn or dusk, but they can stop by any time.

Hummers frequent our floral gardens, but the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is the most frequent visitor to our long hedge of Cola de Raton also knows as Porterweed. The Latin name is Stachytarpheta frantzii, and it is a Costa Rican native plant. 

Occasionally the hedgerow receives visits by Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, though they seem to prefer the east side of the house. They typically get chased off by the Rufous-bellies who jealously guard their hedgerow against other hummers and even butterflies and bees

When we recently pruned the hedgerow aggressively, after it had reached about 6 feet high, the hummers decided to pay attention to our sugar water feeders in earnest and these tided them over well. 

Now, the long stalks of purple flowers are coming back and they are using the feeders only as a supplement. 

This is one of the best ways I know of to enjoy a close-up look at one small part of the astounding color and biodiversity that Costa Rica offers. I'm working on setting up a web cam on the feeders, though I've run into some technical and logistical problems that aren't making it a snap to accomplish.

I'd appreciate hearing from other Costa Rica bird lovers as to how they attract birds and the types that come to your feeders.


  1. I really enjoyed your post and pictures. I'm in Puriscal, and just
    getting into feeding the birds.
    Check out my blog:

  2. Thanks Myra! Your blog URL didn't come through, can you send it to me in e-mail? casey at tomochka dot com

  3. You have such colorful birds to enjoy feeding, I guess the Flickers have more color in CR than the ones who feed on my suet cakes. The winter bird population at my feeders in Oregon is sparse, and I am waiting for the return of the migratory birds.


  4. Hi Casey,

    We work at Pacific U and are friends with Doug Ryan, who told us he had a friend (you!) living in Costa Rica. We are planning to move to CR as soon as possible (we have property in Ojochal) and would love to meet and learn from others who have blazed a trail from the US to CR.

    If you are interested, we'd love to strike up a conversation. I can be contacted at:

    Best wishes,

    Ed and Pam


Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey