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A BIRD WATCHERS TESTIMONIAL from Ray Leggett - Natural History Consultant


From mid November 1997 to mid January 1998 I spent naturalising with Steve Wilson of the Queensland Museum in Costa Rica. We spent on average 7 days at 7 different sites, namely:


Rio Blanco, just east of Parque National Braulio Carillo.    Santa Elema, close by the Monteverde cloud forest.    Campimg ground at Parque National Santa Rosa.    La Purruja Lodge Golfito and Parque National Corcovado.    Restaurant Georgina, Cerro de la Muerte at 3200m above sea level.    Tortuguero Village with the adjacent rivers and wetlands.    La Fortuna and Volcan Arenal.


During the eight weeks I spent time searching for and photographing reptiles, spectacular insects, freshwaterfish and mammals. I spent on average only 1 hour a day full on bird watching, generally at first light. I identified the birds seen using the excellent Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Stiles & Skutch. The guide is available in book shops in San José.


In all I saw 282 species, 114 at la Purruja Lodge and surrounds with makes this area the best birdwatching area I found in all of Costa Rica. The placement of the Lodge with a western view over rainforest and a small valley of rural land gives the birdwatcher an excellent early morning view with the sun from behind. Many birds can be seen perched on the top branches of the tallest trees catching the first rays of the sun. The Lodge gardens and immediate surrounds contain many native and introduced fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs.

It is not difficult to see 20-30 species while sitting enjoying an early morning cup of the famous Costa Rican coffee, my kind of birdwatching!


Just a few of the highlights seen were Yellow-headed Caracara nesting, White-fronted, Red-lored & White-crowned Parrots, Keel-billed & Chestnut-mandibiled Toucans, Golden-hooded, Blue-gray, Scarlet-rumped, Hepatic and Western Tanagers, Redlegged Honeycreeper, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Seedeaters, Grosbeaks, Finches, Flycatchers and Sparrows and large numbers of humming birds.


On th 14th January we flew out to Houston, then LA, Auckland in New Zealand and then Brisbane and home. A verry long trip but well worth it to have visited your lovely friendly country and I will always remember you as a very helpful person that made our visit to the Golfito area the highlight of our stay in Costa Rica.

Ray Legett




Birdwatching at the Purruja Lodge, Golfito from Jorn Rojgaard Nielsen - a Danish birdwatcher. jornrn(at)hotmail.com


On a 7 weeks birding trip to Costa Rica in March to May 2008 I spent 12 days in the Golfito-area.

The main purpose was to visit one of the rainforest lodges in the area.

My choice was the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge (Piedras Blancas NP), but I were late and the booking was not easy.

I had to settle there for three days only.

Then I searched the internet for other interesting possibilities in the area and found a description from an australian - Ray Leggett - who had birded at the Purruja Lodge ten years earlier.He saw 114 species at the Purruja Lodge and near surroundings during his stay.

It was interesting. I had six days in the Golfito area before Esquinas Rainforest Lodge and three days after.

I decided to book Purruja Lodge for the first six days.

From the 6th to the 12th of April 2008.

The Golfito/Corcovado/Piedras Blancas is no doubt the best birding area in Costa Rica.

The rainforest is extensive and always close by and it is raining a lot partly because of the rainforest (a good circle).

However it seldom rains before 2 o’clock in the afternoon. There are plenty of fruiting trees, flowers and insects.

And therefore also plenty of birds.I saw 107 species at the garden of the Purruja Lodge and 12 species more if I add the surroundings (1½ km south). It was nearly the same result as Ray Leggett had ten years ago.

However I added very few species during the last days.

So spending three days there will be a good choice.

The Purruja Lodge is placed near the main road from Golfito to San José.

 If you come from the San José side you meet a signpost to Purruja Lodge around 4 km before Golfito. The side road to the Purruja Lodge is about 100 meter long and goes steep down, crosses a watercourse and goes steep up again. The Purruja Lodge is placed between forested hills. The forest along the garden is not good to the far left side but to the right side you have a patch of mixed forest starting about six meters below the garden.

It is too difficult to enter. But you can stand in the garden and watch the birds in this forest. The best place – however - is to stand or sit in the pavillon to the other side of the garden looking down on several fruiting trees on the lower part of the garden.

This part of the garden is rather dense and partly shaded. Other parts of the garden is more open and less interesting.Birds seen include Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Orange-collared Mannakin, Green Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Fiery-billed Aracari, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, 7 species of Parrots, 4 species of Euphonias, 6 species of Hummingbirds, Long-billed Gnatwren, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Masked Tityra, Orange-billed Sparrow and Buff-throated Saltator.    Close to the Purruja Lodge (about 300 meters to the south) there is a small food shop. In Golfito there are banks, supermarkets, internetcafés and a postoffice. You will also note the big United Fruit Company pier – a reminiscence from the huge banana export which ended quite dramatically in 1985. Golfito is a very long but narrow town created by the United Fruit Company in 1938.

It has now more than 10.000 inhabitants and has a tax free area close to the airport. It is beautifully placed between the Golfo Dulce and the forest covered mountains. You can take the boat to Puerto Jiménez several (six?) times a day each way. The trip takes about 45 minutes with the fast boat. You may see Brown Boobies from the boat and you will see a lot of Scarlet Macaws at Puerto Jiménez. You can also walk the hill forest at Golfito (Golfito Rainforest Reserve). It can be approached from three side roads in Golfito, one starts from the airport, another starts near Banco National (it turns into a trail at the back of the colourful – former - United Fruit Company’s houses) and the third one starts about 200 meters before the south end of the town. The two last mentioned are the best. You can also go south to Zancudu or Pavones (extensive mangroves at the Coto River).You can fly from San Josè to either Puerto Jiménez or Golfito.


Birds seen at the Purruja Lodge (4 km from Golfito).  

6 days from 6th – 12th of April 2008. 

Birdnames and taxanomy are taken from Garrigues and Dean: “Birds of Costa Rica”, 200

107 birds at the Purruja Lodge (104 seen - 3 heard) + 12 birds seen in the surroundings. 

Abriviations: F: The hill forest, seen from the garden, G: Garden. H: Heard only. 


Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

G (4) overhead

Black Vulture

Coragyps atratus

Common, overhead

Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Common, mostly overhead

Yellow-headed Caracara

Milvago chimachima

G (1)

Short-billed Pigeon

Patagioenas nigrirostris

F (1)

Ruddy Ground-Dove

Columbina talpacoti

G (6)

White-tipped Dove

Leptotila verreauxi

G (6)

Gray-chested Dove

Leptotila cassini

F (2)

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

Aratinga finschi

G, common, mostly overhead

Brown-throated Parakeet

Aratinga pertinax

G, common, mostly overhead

Orange-chinned Parakeet

Brotogeris jugularis

Abundant, overhead

Brown-hooded Parrot

Pionopsitta haematotis

F + G (10), overhead

White-crowned Parrot

Pionus senilis

Common, overhead

Red-lored Parrot

Amazona autumnalis

G, common, mostly overhead

Mealy Parrot

Amazona farinosa

F + G, abundant

Striped Cuckoo

Tapera naevia


Squirrel Cuckoo

Piaya cayana


Smooth-billed Ani

Crotophaga ani

G (4)Common


Nyctidromus albicollis

Several heard calling

Black Swift

Cypseloides niger

G (8) overhead

White-collared Swift

Streptoprocne zonaris

G (6) overhead

Costa Rican Swift

Chaetura fumosa

Common, overhead

Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift

Panyptila cayennensis

Common, overhead

Stripe-throated Hermit

Phaethornis striigularis

G (4)

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird

Phaeochroa cuvierii

G (5)

Charming Hummingbird

Amazilia decora

G (4)

White-necked Jacobin

Florisuga mellivora

G (2)

Garden Emerald

Chlorostilbon assimilis

G (1)

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Amazilia tzacatl

G, common

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Galbula ruficauda 

F (1)

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Ramphastos swainsonii

G (2)

Fiery-billed Aracari

Pteroglossus frantzii

F (1) 

Golden-naped Woodpecker

Melanerpes chrysauchen

F + G (4)

Red-crowned Woodpecker 

Melanerpes rubricapillus

G, common

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Campephilus guatemalensis

F + G (2)

Lineated Woodpecker 

Dryocopus lineatus 

G (1)

Tawny-winged Woodcreeper

Dendrocincla anabatina

F (1)

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper 

Glyphorhynchus spirurus

G (2)

Cocoa Woodcreeper

Xiphorhynchus susurrans

G (1)

Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet

Ornithion semiflavum

G (2)

Paltry Tyrannulet

Zimmerius vilissimus

G, common

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

Elaenia flavogaster

G (3)

Piratic Flycatcher

Legatus leucophaius

G, common

Yellow-olive Flycatcher 

Tolmomyias sulphuresc

G (1)

Common Tody-Flycatcher

Todirostrum cinereum

G (2)

Northern Bentbill

Oncostoma cinereigulara

 G (4)

Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher

Terenotriccus erythurus

F (2)

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher

Mionectes oleagineus

F + G (2)

Bright-rumped Attila 

Attila spadiceus

G (2)

Eye-ringed Flatbill

Rynchocyclus brevirostris 

G (3)

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Contopus virens

G (4)

Tropical Pewee

Contopus cinereus

G (3)

Alder Flycatcher

Empidonax alnorum

 G (1)

Alder/Willow Flycatcher

Empidonax sp.

G (4)

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 

Empidonax flaviventris

F (2)

Great Crested Flycatcher

Myiarchus crinitus

F (1)

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Megarhynchus pitangua

G, common

Great Kiskadee

Pitangus sulphuratus

G, common

Social Flycatcher

Myiozetetes similis

G, common

Gray-capped Flycatcher

Myiozetetes granadensis 

G (2)

Streaked Flycatcher

Myiodynastes maculatus

G, common

Tropical Kingbird

Tyrannus melancholicus

G, common

Western Kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis

G, (1), rare

Masked Tityra

Tityra semifasciata

G (2)

Orange-collared Manakin

Manacus aurantiacus

F (1)

Yellow-throated Vireo

Vireo flavifrons

G (4)

Yellow-green Vireo

Vireo flavoviridis

G (2)

Red-eyed Vireo

Vireo olivaceus

G (3)

Lesser Greenlet

Hylophilus decurtatus

F + G, common

Mangrove Swallow

Tachycineta albilinea

Abundant, mostly overhead

Grey-breasted Martin

Progne chalybea

G (4) overhead

Northern Rough-w. Swallow

Stelgidopterys serripennis

G (2)

Southern Rough-w. Swallow

Stelgidopterys ruficollis

G, common, mostly overhead

Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

G (2)

Long-billed Gnatwren

Ramphocaenus melanurus

F (1)

Tropical Gnatcatcher

Polioptila plumbea

G (2)

Plain Wren

Thryothorus modestus

G (1)

House Wren

Troglodytes aedon

G, common

Swainson’s Trush

Catharus ustulatus

G, common 

Tennesee Warbler

Vermivora peregrina 

G, common

Yellow Warbler 

Dendroica petechia 

G, common

Chestnut-sided Warbler 

Dendroica pensylvanica

G (4)

Bay-breasted Warbler

Dendroica castanea

G (1)

Prothonotary Warbler

Protonotaria citrea

G (2)

Northern Watertrush

Seiurus noveboracensis

 G, common

Mourning Warbler

Oporornis philadelphia

F (2)


 Coereba flaveola

G (10)

Summer Tanager

Piranga ruba 

F (1)

Cherrie’s Tanager

Ramphocelus costaricensis 

F + G, abundant

Golden-hooded Tanager

Tangara larvata

G, common

Blue-gray Tanager

Thraupis episcopus

G, common

Palm Tanager 

Thraupis palmarum

G, common

Blue Dacnis

Dacnis cayana

G (2)

Green Honeycreeper

Chlorophanes spiza 

G (2)

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Cyanerpes cyaneus

G (6)

Thick-billed Seed-Finch

Oryzobarus funereus

G (4)

Variable Seedeater

Sporophila americana

G, common

Blue-black Grassquit

Volatinia jacarina

G (8)

Orange-billed Sparrow

Arremon aurantiirostris

F + G (4)

Black-striped Sparrow

Arremonops conirostris

G (2)

Buff-throated Saltator

Saltator maximus

G (5)

Great-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus mexicanus

G, common

Bronzed Cowbird

Molothrus aeneus

G (2)

Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula

G (4)

Thick-billed Euphonia

Euphonia laniirostris

G, common

Yellow-crowned Euphonia

Euphonia lutiacapilla

G, common

White-vented Euphonia

Euphonia minuta

F + G (2)

Spot-crowned Euphonia  

Euphonia imitans

F (2)


Birds seen in the surroundings (1½ km south)

Wood Stork

Mycteria americana


Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Tigrisoma mexicanum


Great Egret

Ardea alba  


Snowy Egret 

Egretta thula


White Ibis

Eudocimus albus


Northern Jacana

Jacana spinosa


Roadside Hawk

Buteo magnirostris


Pale-vented Pigeon  

Patagioenas cayennensis   


Blue-headed Parrot 

Pionus menstruus                 


Fork-tailed Flycatcher 

Sporophila torqueola  


White-collared Seedeater

Tyrannus savana 


Giant Cowbird

Molothrus oryzivorus