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A Report from

Birds Found at Selva Bananito and Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, October 25 - November 3 , 2008,

Joe Franke, Jim Mattsson

Here’s a trip report from a group of professional ornithologists and interested birders to Selva Bananito, Costa Rica that took place from October 25th to November 3rd, 2008. Joe Franke of the International Association of Conservation Landowners organized the trip. IACL  is a new non-profit organization that seeks to provide assistance to landowners whose property abuts official protected areas, and to help coordinate management plans between landowners to as to facilitate biodiversity conservation and the provision of biological corridors so as maximize the conservation value of their properties.

Selva Bananito is a privately owned reserve on Costa Rica’s Atlantic versant, 15 km inland from the Caribbean. About 300 species of birds have been recorded in and around the reserve. Selva Bananito borders La Amistad National Park, and constitutes an important area for altitudinal and seasonal migrants. The altitude in Bananito ranges from 100 to 300 meters, with forest up to 900 meters in La Amistad accessible from the Lodge. The reserve contains 850 hectares (2000 acres) of primary old growth forest, as well as organic fruit orchards, rivers, wetlands and secondary forests in various stages of succession. The lodge was named by Outside Magazine as "One of the top 10 ecolodges in the world". It’s one of the few ecolodges in the country that actually walks the talk of sustainability while still managing to be very comfortable.

The purpose of the trip was to expand the list of birds found in and around the reserve, to identify critical habitat for species of particular interest, and to lay the groundwork for future management decisions. We are trying to keep the price of the trip at near cost as our primary aim is to attract a group of people able to assist in the biological inventory of Selva Bananito, and to help the reserve owners to document the importance of the reserve as a buffer for La Amistad National Park and to the conservation of biodiversity in the region.

Day 1 (October 26th)

We started our trip to Selva Bananito by assembling our group over a couple of days at the Milvia Hotel, a very pleasant bed and breakfast in the San Pedro area of San Jose, near the University. The place is owned by a British expat, and the staff are very helpful. There is a wonderful veranda on the roof of the Milvia, from which you can see a wide variety of birds that are tolerant of disturbed habitat, in this case the suburbs. Birds seen on the morning of our departure included: Hoffman's Woodpecker, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and White-winged Dove.

We Departed San Jose (Hotel Milvia) at 8:30am.  At a rest stop at one of Costa Rica’s many combination restaurant and butterfly gardens, one of our groups sighted a Scarlet-thighed Dacnis near the parking area. On the entrance road and at the river crossing within the SB property, we saw spotted sandpipers and a snowy egret. We Arrived SB around 2:00pm, had lunch, birded around cabins, then took the pasture trail on the edge of the forest, later dubbed the "poop loop" due to the copious numbers of cowpies we had to avoid, before dark. Birds seen on this walk included boat-billed herons, a pair of which can be seen regularly in the wooded wetland across the path from the pond, which has a resident population of purple gallinules and jacanas. Spectacled caimans, which are relatives of alligators and crocodiles, inhabit this pond as well.  Great Tinamous and white throated crakes were heard calling, and a group of grey-headed chachalacas were visible in a tree from the dining room  porch area. An adult Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle was seen in flight by one member of our group.

Day 2 - 5:30am some of us took poop loop again, then breakfast at ~8:00. 10:30-12:00 hiked to river, then back for lunch. 2:15 - 5:15pm took "nature trail". Birds seen included White-tailed Kite Double-toothed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Great Black-Hawk, great hawk eagle, bat falcon, laughing falcon (heard) Pale-vented Pigeon Short-billed Pigeon Ruddy Ground-Dove Gray-chested Dove (nest with two young near the cabins) brown hooded parrot, Blue-headed Parrot White-crowned Parrot Red-Lored Parrot Mealy Parrot, Chestnut-backed Antbird Squirrel Cuckoo, and Groove-billed Ani. In the evening, Vermiculated Screech-Owl, Spectacled Owl and Central American Pygmy-Owl were all heard near the cabins. Little Tinamou was heard as well.

Day 3 - 5:45am – Due to intermittently inclement weather, we birded the lodge area for 2 hours, especially productive was a fruiting ficus tree near the cabins, dubbed by the group as the "tree of life". Many species of tangers, euphonias, and other passerines were feeding on the fruit. Cinnamon Becard was seen near the cabins as well.  Other highlights of the day included Snowy Cotinga , Purple-throated Fruitcrow (heard only), Violaceous Trogon, Lattice-tailed Trogon, White-necked Puffbird. An adult Barn owl was also sighted near the cabins and patiently waited until it was viewed by all of the group.  We then traveled by pickup to the entrance road; sightings included Gray Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk White Tailed Kite and Double-toothed Kite and White-collared Manakin.

Day 4 – Heavy rain in a.m., not terribley productive morning, but in the afternoon we walked to a pasture bordering the beginning of SB’s old growth forest. Highlights were: Short-tailed Nighthawk,, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon Woodpecker, and in the forest itself, Broad-billed Mot-Mot.

Day 5 - Despite a steady hard rain, part of our group hiked up the Bananito River to a section of old growth forest. Highlights included both the Louisiana and Northern Waterthrush.

Day 6 - 8:15am drive to Puerto Viejo area w/ stop at Cahuita NP for monkeys, sloths, etc. Sighted in the park was a Bright-rumped Attila, sitting calmly in a tree right by the main path along the beach. In the early afternoon, some of our group made the 45 minute uphill hike to the Kekoldi raptor tower, arriving at about 1:30pm. Once in the tower we were treated to an unbelievable flight of thousands of migrating Short-tailed Hawks and Turkey vultures with a few other raptors such as Broad-winged Hawks and Peregrine Falcons for 2 solid hours!!

Day 7- in the early morning we hiked back through the pastures and to the old growth forest. New birds on this day included Paltry Tyrannulet, along with a nice recap of many of the species we’d seen thus far. 

Day 8 - Breakfast, final packing for return to San Jose. Tried birding along the way but got rained out. Mud slide on highway caused a 2 hour delay.

Day 9 – Departure from Costa Rica

For more information about the International Association of Conservation Landowners, please contact Joe Franke at:

For more information about Selva Bananito, please see:

Full list of species seen (34Kb .pdf)


Garrigues, R. and R. Dean. 2007. The Birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y.

Stiles, F.G., A.F. Skutch and D. Gardner. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, N.Y.


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