Birding from Costa Rica to Portland

One of my very first family vacations outside of the US was a trip to Costa Rica.  Oregonians are quite fond of this small country, and I ran into numerous folks with ties to the two places.  No doubt the green-loving personality of a typical Oregonian is enamored with a tiny country where more than 25% of its land is dedicated to national parks, reserves and wildlife refuges.

Costa Rica hosts more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity even though its landmass only takes up .03% of the planet’s surface. There are more than:

  • 130 species of freshwater fish
  • 160 species of amphibians
  • 208 species of mammals
  • 220 species of reptiles
  • 850 species of birds
  • 1,000 species of butterflies
  • 1,200 varieties of orchids
  • 9,000 species of plants
  • 34,000 species of insects
  • and still counting as new species are discovered every day!

So it comes as no surprise that I stumbled into my first brush with bird watching while touring Costa Rica. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing recreational sports in the world.  The equipment required can be nothing more than your eyes and ears, so you can do it ANYWHERE–but I have to say, it’s especially fantastic in Costa Rica!  Traveling just a short distance by bus into the jungle, a young man guided my family and I into a lush setting where we saw Woody Woodpecker!   Wow – he was real!  And macaws!  And toucans!   Holy smokes – those cartoons from my childhood took on a whole new meaning!

After the initial excitement of seeing those showy tropical birds of Costa Rica, it might seem less enticing to head into a slick muddy trail in Forest Park back home to find little brown birds.  But little brown birds, it turns out, are also an exciting bunch of birds.  Most of us will come into contact with the tiny Bushtit both at home and in the work place on a daily basis.  You’ll know them because, first of all, they are REALLY tiny, and they swoop in with the whole dang family and a cast of friends. And boy, do they keep a schedule.  DANG, these guys are predictable!   That’s one of the characteristics that helps Birders identify their birds.

Birding can be frustrating if you’ve had the experience of someone spotting these gorgeous creatures for you, and then head out on your own to find them.  Birding by Ear is one of the solutions, and it’s offered this spring at the Audubon. Check them out!


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