Location 10: Turrialba (Costa Rica)
A mixed landscape in and around the town of Turrialba.
While you explore, find out Who Lives Here?
My favourite site is probably the Tuis River Walk but this is quite adventurous. I also enjoyed visiting the historical site of Guayabo which is popular with general tourists and has some excellent birdwatching.
Turrialba is within the Central Valley. It is an area of higher elevation ground nestled within the mountains/volcanoes in the centre of Costa Rica. The elevation is between 600m and 1,200m and the bird species are from the Caribbean-side.
- Site 1: CATIE A botanical garden with areas of agricultural crops used for research. There is an organised trail eventually leading to a lake. Good for birdwatching. An optional extension to a second, larger lake is described. (GPS coords 09.8835N 83.6526W)
- Site 2: Guayabo An interesting archeological site with good forest views, good birdwatching and lots of mosquitoes. (GPS coords 09.9715N 83.6918W)
- Site 3: Tuis River Walk A difficult-to-find trail offering great views and birdwatching. (GPS coords 09.8280N 83.5698W)
- Site 4: Walk From Spanish at Locations A fun walk through fields and the edge of Turrialba. (GPS coords 09.9005N 83.6976W)
- Birds Seen in 1 Week in the Central Valley (Winter)
This is an Anhinga. Compared to the cormorant it is a different shape and has white in different places in the plumage. This was sat by the lake at CATIE near Turrialba.
This information is a summary only and times/routes may have changed.
Turrialba has regular public buses from San Jose. If you are following one of my recommended itineraries, the answer to the question "Is there a direct bus from La Selva?" is no. If you are also visiting Tapanti you might be able to visit Turrialba and Tapanti one-after-the-other and save some travelling.
There are public buses to all the sites mentioned for this location. The CATIE gardens are also on a bus route but you might choose to take a taxi as it is only a few dollars to get there and back from the centre of Turrialba.
A good budget and mid-range accommodation option is Spanish at Locations http://www.spanishatlocations.com/spanish-school-locations/costa-rica/learn-spanish-in-turrialba. There are dorm rooms and private rooms available. This is a Spanish language school with a number of hostels in Central America. They try to find slightly more rural locations for their hostels as this is one of the unique selling points: this therefore makes their hostels good for wildlife watchers. You can email them at email@example.com to find out more or book.
There is an ecolodge near Turrialba called Ranco Naturalista http://www.ranchonaturalista.net with very good access to the local forest.
El Copal http://keytocostarica.com/community/ecolodges/el-copal-reserve.html is a very famous ecolodge and will often be recommended to you if you ask a Costa Rican resident for a suggestion of a place to stay to see birds. It is between Turrialba and Tapanti and could be considered as an alternative to Turrialba or Tapanti to get many similar birds.
Birds of Turrialba
- possible birds: 314 species (of which 69 are likely)
- birds possible at this location but not in many other places in Costa Rica: (2 species) Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus canigularis) Prevost's Ground-Sparrow (Melozone biarcuatum)
- resident birds: 267 (in addition there are 16 passage, 30 winter and 1 summer)
- birds seen on 1 week research trip (winter): 122 species
- birds most often seen on 1 week research trip (winter): (starting with most common) Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) 13x11 (m48), Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) 11x2 (m3), Montezuma Oropendola (Gymnostinops montezuma) 11x2 (m6), Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 10x2 (m2), Passerini's Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii) 10x4 (m7), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) 9x2 (m2), Brown Jay (Cyanocorax morio) 9x3 (m9), Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) 8x2 (m3), Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi) 7x2 (m3), Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica) 7x1 (m1), Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum) 7x2 (m4), Red-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas flavirostris) 6x2 (m2), Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) 6x1 (m1), Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) 6x6 (m15), Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) 6x2 (m2), Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus) 6x3 (m9), Common Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum cinereum) 5x2 (m2), House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) 5x2 (m2), Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) 5x2 (m2), Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) 5x4 (m7)
- average birds seen in 1 day (winter): 38 species
Turrialba is a rural location (compared to San Jose) with some good-value accommodation. It is a chance to see Caribbean-distributed birds found at middle elevations.
The open habitats have lots of species such as sparrows (I saw my only Prevost's Ground Sparrow of my 3 month 2013 Costa Rica trip near Turrialba), warblers and flycatchers. I recommend watching for birds moving between gaps in the hedgerows and trees. There are many fields with long grass with birds feeding within the grass: I usually watch for movement or scan for the silhouette of a bird within the pattern of grass stems.
The main forest areas at Turrialba are at Guaybo and on the river walk near Tuis. Tuis is at a higher elevation (slightly over 1,000m) so the species there are different, including Tropical Perula. At Guayabo I saw some very good mixed flocks including woodcreepers, tanagers, warblers and gnatcatchers.
This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on June 2017.
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