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A Complete Birdwatching Guide to Spotting the Clay-Colored Thrush in Costa Rica

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    In this blog, we share the best information for birdwatchers eager to observe the national bird of Costa Rica, the Clay-Colored Thrush to lesser-known avian treasures. With countless encounters with this Costa Rica robin, Andrea has enough experience to help tourists spot this shy bird in its natural habitat. She has crafted an expert guide tailored for enthusiasts seeking an unparalleled birding adventure. Drawing from her extensive experience and field-tested insights, Andrea offers seasoned recommendations, ensuring an unforgettable exploration of this exotic paradise’s diverse birdlife.

    Costa Rica is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with many species of birds located throughout its varied bird habitations. The clay-colored thrush, also known as the robin, Yigüirro, or Turdus Grayi, is the national bird of Costa Rica.

    A clay-colored thrush perched on a moss-covered branch with a pink flower, against a soft green background. Photo by Mario Wong

    “During my visit to Costa Rica, I had the incredible opportunity to observe this robin in its natural habitat. I vividly remember waking up to its melodious song every morning.”

    With its ordinary-looking brown-gray feathers, this bird may not seem like the most exciting national symbol. However, birding in Costa Rica is incomplete without a visit to the high-elevation forests, where this unique garden bird represents the country’s biodiversity.

    Read on to learn more about this local robin, the best places to experience birding, and how to plan the ultimate bird-watching adventure in Costa Rica.

    History of this Revered Bird of Costa Rica

    Designated as the national bird in 1977, this species has gray/brown colors and darker markings. More importantly, its melodic song was said to inspire those who first proposed it as the national symbol.

    Looks and Habits of the Costa Rica Robin

    A clay-colored thrush perched on a branch against a blurred background. Photo by Mario Wong

     “As an avid birdwatcher, I have spent countless hours in the rain forests of Costa Rica, patiently waiting for a glimpse of the elusive robin. Its distinctive call always fills me with excitement.”

    Measuring around 8 inches in length, this Costa Rica bird resembles the American robin but lacks the unmistakable bright red breast of its North American cousin.

    Unlike the parrot and some other common birds in Costa Rica, this bird has a pointed beak that is useful to forage on the ground or in trees. It feeds on insects, fruit, and berries. The clay-colored robin uses its bill to probe into the soil, leaf, and flower litter to uncover food.

    As an insectivorous forest bird, this robin-like bird plays an important part in its sustaining the forest ecosystem and must therefore be on your Birds of Costa Rica checklist when you go bird watching.

    Planning Your Costa Rica Clay-Colored Thrush Vacation

    Ready for bird watching in Costa Rica? Customizable vacation packages allow you to design the perfect tropical getaway.
    Build your dream vacation from the ground up.

    Choose your ideal lodging, add excursions and activities, and select airport transfers and rental cars. Expert local guides or Ticos can take guests to see the avian treasures and several species across the country.

    A brown bird with a sharp red eye perches among vibrant yellow and orange berries, surrounded by green foliage. Photo by Mario Wong

     “During a guided bird-watching tour in Costa Rica, our group was lucky enough to spot a pair of robins building their nest. Witnessing this intricate behavior was truly awe-inspiring.”

    Best Places For Yigüirro Sighting

    With abundant natural habitats, Costa Rica offers world-class bird-watching opportunities. Lowland rainforests, mountainous cloud forests, dry forests, and more provide homes for a wealth of avian life.

    Carara National Park, Joy for Costa Rica Birding Enthusiasts

    This national park shelters many birds beneath its forest canopy.

    Scarlet Macaw

    While the great green macaws are the largest flying parrots in Costa Rica, the scarlet macaw is one of the most majestic parrots in Costa Rica. With their bright red, yellow, and blue feathers, these birds blend naturally with the lowland tropical rainforests of Costa Rica.

    Tanager Sighting

    Carara is a great place to see the scarlet-rumped Tanager. Males have a bright red rump and underparts with a black face mask and wings. They like to forage high in the forest canopy.

    MotMots – Attractive Birds of Costa Rica

    The Blue-crowned Motmot looks beautiful with its distinctive black face and vent with blue crown, turquoise tail, and wings.

    Benefits:

    1. Over 400 species have been recorded in the park, including the robin, yellow-billed cuckoos, and herons. It’s a top spot for ecotourism and bird-watching tours.

    2. The park protects wet tropical forests, mangroves, and transitional moist forests, and provides safe habitats for different kinds of birds.

    3. In addition to birds, visitors may also see howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and crocodiles.

    4. Many tour operators offer guided birding tours that help visitors spot rare and elusive species more easily.

    Drawbacks:

    1. The heat, humidity, and rainy weather all year round can be physically draining. Proper clothing and hydration are important.

    2. The park is a 2+ hour drive from most tourist centers like Manuel Antonio, so you have to plan.

    3. Limited amenities are available, so a rental car or tours are required to access trailheads. Driving on dirt roads can be bumpy.

    4. Dense vegetation provides ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Insect repellent is essential.

    5. Popular guided tours can involve large groups diminishing the serene nature experience at times.

    Corcovado National Park is home to Motmots, jaybirds, and other Bird Species

    A brown bird perched on a branch, singing or calling, with a dark background. Photo by Mario Wong

     “During my research expedition in Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to study the foraging behavior of the Turdus Grayi. I observed how it uses its beak to probe the forest floor for insects and fruits.”

    This national park has many kinds of birds including:

    Keel-Billed Toucan

    The large, colorful keel-billed toucan is about 20 inches long with a bill that can measure over 7 inches. This attractive bird has a distinctive orange-yellow chest and neck, green back and wings.

    Benefits:

    1. Over 365 bird species have been recorded, including the Yigüirro, great green macaws, and endangered species.

    2. This is the most biologically intense area of the country, making the dense forest ideal for seeing birds.

    3. Experienced guides offer tours into the park and help identify birds that would otherwise be missed.

    4. It is isolated, which means that many areas remain undisturbed, improving the chances of rare sightings.

    5. There is also a chance to see jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, and other creatures in their natural habitat.

    Drawbacks:

    1. It’s remote with the closest towns of Puerto Jimenez and Drake Baia 2-4 hours away by boat/road.

    2. The park has limited amenities and trails as it can only be accessed on foot or by boat.

    3. Visits usually require tour bookings, park fees, and transportation, which add to the overall tour cost.

    4. Hikes can be long, muddy, and strenuous, especially in the rainy season. Counter the coming rains with the proper gear.

    5. A large number of daily visitors walk along trails like the Los Patos, which reduces the wild experience.

    Hummingbirds are among the most Beautiful Birds in Costa Rica

    Hummingbirds abound at feeders placed outside lodges in mountain settings like Monteverde Cloud Forest. Quetzals prefer the high-elevation oak forests of the San Gerardo de Dota region.

    Amazing Variety of Birds seen throughout the Country

    Birds are classified into different species. One of the jays in Costa Rica is the red-headed barbet, often seen in the Guanacaste, and Sarapiquí regions of Costa Rica, and the Tilarán Mountains.

    Best Time to Sight the Symbolic Bird of Costa Rica

    [A close-up of a brown bird feeding its chick in a nest. Photo by Mario Wong

     “While volunteering at a bird sanctuary in Costa Rica, I had the privilege of rehabilitating injured robins. It was a rewarding experience to witness their recovery and eventual release back into the wild.”

    Costa Rica’s avian diversity can be appreciated year-round, but the timing of your visit will impact your bird-watching experience.

    Costa Rica Birding Season

    The dry season from December to April is the peak time for observing birds in Costa Rica. Joining a targeted tour in March or April maximizes sightings. Migratory birds escape chilly northern winters to bask in the tropical warmth. The resplendent quetzal with its iridescent green plumage and birds of prey with the ability to hunt descend to lower elevations in search of food. Scarlet macaws gather at mineral-rich clay licks.

    Dry forests come to life with birds feeding on fruiting trees. Guides lead dry-season bird-watching tours tailored to target species and regions that offer the best bird-watching chances this time of year. Having a guide pays off, as they know where territorial birds can be found throughout the country.

    The most promising areas to find this local robin are forested parks with fruiting trees, like Carara and Manuel Antonio National Parks. Guides set up spotting scopes to provide close-up views.

    Bird Watching in the Monsoons

    Don’t overlook the monsoon weather from May to November. Resident and migrant bird populations swell as birds settle into nests, for courtship, and to breed. Several species of herons are found in wetland habitats near houses and settlements.

    One of the joys in Costa Rica is sighing the snowcap, a species of hummingbird with its wine-colored body and bright white cap.

    “During a birdwatching trip, I participated in a citizen science project focused on monitoring the population and behavior of the robin. It was fascinating to contribute to ongoing research efforts.”

    Is The Costa Rican Robin the Only Bird To See?

    1. According to a study published in bioRxiv, the most mentioned bird species were the Jabiru and Long-Tailed Manakin. This indicates that this shy Costa Rica robin is not easy to spot in the dense foliage even with guidance. Therefore, patience is needed to observe this elusive species.
    2. The Roseate spoonbill is quite commonly seen in open places around the Gulf of Nicoya and the Caño Negro region. This large bird reaches 30 inches in length and looks quite attractive with its red distinctive pale green head and the deep red color spread across its wings, long legs, and tail feathers.
    3. The Emerald Toucanet is an attractive bird found in the lush forests of Costa Rica. Its vibrant emerald-green body stands out against the rich green foliage. The Emerald Toucanet has a bill that appears like sunshine against its contrasting black lower part. On the other hand, the upper part of its body is a delicate shade of yellow, making it a sight to watch.
    4. The collared aracari is a toucan with a peculiar and clumsy appearance. Its large bill looks quite funny on its small body. Despite its comical appearance, the collared aracari is quite common at the Selva Verde Lodge, located in the Sarapiqui part of the country, where they frequently gather in large numbers to feed from the lodge’s bird feeders and eat fruit from the trees. It’s truly a sight to behold when you watch these unique birds going about their daily foraging activities.
    5. Costa Rica is truly blessed when it comes to hummingbirds, with over 50 species found within its relatively small borders. One of the most attractive birds is the Black Crested Coquette, a popular sight at the Arenal Observatory lodge, located at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano. its captivating behavior on top of its distinctive appearance attracts a lot of tourists.
      Hire Expert Tanager and Trogon Local Guides

    Hire Expert Tanager and Trogon Local Guides

    A colorful trogon perched on a branch in a natural habitat. “As a bird enthusiast, I have contributed sightings of the robin to online birding platforms, sharing my observations with fellow birdwatchers and contributing to the collective knowledge about this species in Costa Rica.”

    Add specialized birdwatching excursions led by expert local guides. They’ll take you directly to hotspots where these exotic birds are likely to be spotted.

    Start Birdwatching from the Airport

    Airport transfers in comfortable vans or 4×4 vehicles transport you between lodgings while looking for roadside bird activity. Rental cars allow flexibility to stop and watch birds along the way at your own pace.

    So, if you’re in the rainforest and want to find the country’s birds, listen to the whistling song in the trees. This bird’s singing makes the forest sound like beautiful tropical music.

    This Guide Vs Field Guides

    This content provides a broad overview of Turdus Grayi birdwatching in Costa Rica. It covers the bird’s appearance, habits, and the bird-watching experience in the country. In contrast, comprehensive guides like “The Birds of Costa Rica” by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean offer detailed species-specific information. These guides include illustrations, maps, and vocalizations for various birds. While observations made by expert local guides and photographers in this guide help birdwatchers appreciate the country’s biodiversity, it’s useful to have a book that accurately identifies the different species and provides a deep understanding of the region’s avian diversity.

    Conservation and Tourism of the Costa Rican Robin Compared to Other Species

     

    A brown thrush perched on a tree branch with a soft green background. “Having visited Costa Rica multiple times, I have had the pleasure of observing the Turdus Grayi in different ecosystems, from the cloud forests to the coastal regions. Each encounter has deepened my appreciation for this revered bird.”

    SINAC – Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación (https://www.sinac.go.cr/EN-US/ac/accvc/ambbr/Pages/default.aspx), is responsible for the integral conservation of forests and the protection of species like the Yiguirro. Bird-sighting tourism focused on this species targets its natural habitats in oak and elfin forests. Visitors can visit the Braulio Carrillo National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park, and Tapanti National Park to see the Turdus Grayi in its natural habitation.

    If you were to compare this to what attracts bird enthusiasts to Costa Rica, then the Resplendent Quetzal, considered one of the most attractive birds in the Americas, draws many birders. The must-see places include the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and San Gerardo de Dota. Bird-watching tourism here focuses on preserving cloud forest habitat.

    Also, found along the country’s Pacific coast, the large and colorful macaws attract birders to Dry Tortugas National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park. Tourism efforts aim to protect nesting sites and coastal mangroves crucial for this endangered species.

    Even rarer than the Scarlet Macaw, bird enthusiasts make special trips to the Osa Peninsula hoping to spot the Great Green Macaw, which favors coastal and lowland forest habitats. SINAC tourism efforts provide resources for the conservation of the macaw and its habitat.

    So, while the robin holds symbolic importance for the nation, other species like the Resplendent Quetzal and Scarlet Macaw generate more focused bird-sighting and photography tourism and habitat protection efforts due to their appealing features and endangered conservation status.

    FAQs about the Yigüirro

    What does the Costa Rican robin symbolize?

    According to the urban ecologist Deja Perkins, this bird truly represents peace of mind and inner peace.

    What kind of sounds and vocal behavior does the Yigüirro demonstrate in Costa Rica?

    The male shows off with its flute-like whistle song. It has a nice, relaxed rhythm to it that folks often describe as just strolling along at an easy pace. The melody gives off a bit of a melancholy feeling too.

    When these birds need to contact each other while foraging or during mating season, they do a short, high-pitched “seep” call. It’s quick and sharp so they can find each other easily. But if something starts startling them, watch out – they bust out a fast “chut” or “chut-chut-chut” alarm call.

    The baby birds are really noisy when begging for food from mom and dad. They let out loud, wheezy whistles while flapping their tiny wings, really playing up the distressed angle.

    How much does a clay-colored thrush tour guide cost in Costa Rica?

    There is no set price for hiring a specialized tour guide in Costa Rica. The cost can vary depending on the group size and type of tour. Expect to pay $100-150 per day for an exclusive private guide. If you’re visiting the Carara National Park and opting for the Nature Walk, then this 3-hour tour will cost $90 per adult, including the National Park entrance fee, access to a professional bird guide, and the use of binoculars.

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