Aves, Community Outreach

Avian Workshops with Local Osa Peninsula Students

Bird biodiversity on the Osa Peninsula extends upwards to about 364 species and therefor represents 42% of the total avifauna in Costa Rica. It is for that reason that Costa Rica has become a centralized mecca – a paradise, really – for ornithologist and bird lovers alike. Resident and migratory birds can be observed in all matter of locations: from far remote and rural, to urban.

With the objective of expanding the young minds of the Osa Peninsula to the wealth of avian knowledge, and to also instill a sense of excitement and pride for all that Costa Rica has to offer, these last few months our Environmental Education Program has implemented 4 avian workshops throughout 6 different educative centers located in the Osa Peninsula (Escuelas Saturnino Cedeño; Amapola; La Orquídea; Santa Cecilia; Piro y Rio Oro). A total of 174 students participated ranging through grades 4 to 6, and all of them became acquainted with the following topics: the importance of birds, avian biology and adaption, avian life cycles and migratory patterns, and avian identification and conservation.

At the end of each workshop students received coloring books titled “Aves de Costa Rica” (Birds of Costa Rica) which were generously donated by the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica (The Ornithologist Association of Costa Rica).

Students showing off their new Birds of Costa Rica coloring books

Students showing off their new Birds of Costa Rica coloring books

On that note students from the Santa Cecila School also came together with family and friends to visit the Manikin Trail that is located in the National Wildlife Refugee in Lomas del Sierrpe, and to the pleasure of all visitants several Red Headed Manikins (Ceratopipra mentalis) graced us with their presence, dignifying the trails with it’s namesake.

Step by step and little by little we are planting the seeds of wildlife education in our students with the hope that we are transmitting to them the knowledge and understanding that as a culture we should all become more environmentally cognizant.


Pilar Bernal, Osa Conservation Educational Coordinator, poses with workshops students showing off their new coloring books.

Pilar Bernal, Osa Conservation Educational Coordinator, poses with workshops students showing off their new coloring books.

Aves, Birds

Sighting of Yellow-billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae) in the Piro area of the Osa Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica.

Written by: Manuel Sánchez Mendoza & Pablo Porras Peñaranda

The Yellow-billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae) is a regional endemic bird that occurs on the Pacific lowlands of southern Costa Rica and Northern Panama. This species is listed as Endangered (EN) by IUCN’s red list, and its small population, estimated at only 298 to 794 individuals, is thought to be declining rapidly. In the past years, Osa Conservation has led efforts to study this species and its habitat needs to conserve one of Osa Peninsula’s most unique treasures.

Observations of Yellow-billed Cotinga at several locations indicate that it requires access to mature fruits from Lauraceae, Annonaceae, Moraceae and other mixed forest tree species. Recent work by Osa Conservation has documented movement between mangrove and premontane tropical habitats during their suspected breeding season (December to June); however, spatial parameters of home range size and habitat use, and patterns of movements between breeding, feeding and roosting areas remain unknown. Few observations of Yellow-billed Cotingas exist within mangrove habitat during months the birds are thought to be non-breeding, which has lead researchers to believe that the species migrates or “wanders” locally or possibly attitudinally between July and November, but this has never been confirmed. Individuals have been observed at two inland sites on the Osa Peninsula several kilometers away from typical mangrove habitats between the months of September and November, but the breeding status and origin of these birds with respect to their reproductive grounds and their migratory movements is unknown.

The gaps in the natural history of the Yellow-billed Cotinga are slowly filled to technology and birdwatchers sharing their sightings as part of a big citizen-science network. The Yellow-billled Cotinga has been reported in new sightings throughout the Peninsula, specifically at the Osa Wildlife Refuge; nevertheless these sightings are still incredibly scarce and often have a large time-lapse between them. Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird online platform last reported a sighting at the Lapa Rios’ property in 2011 (see map attached).

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Osa Conservation’s naturalist Manuel Sanchez Mendoza along with his brother and niece, Elfer Daniel Sanchez Mendoza and Jennifer Robles Sanchez, have been observing Turquoise Cotingas (Cotinga ridgwayi) at his house backyard (neighboring OC’s Piro Biological Station) foraging on “Aguacatillo” Trees (Lauracea family) for several days when on August 17th to his surprise, an adult male Yellow-billed Cotinga was with the group of birds feeding on that tree. This is a truly amazing report after three years of “silence” (picture attached).

C. Manuel Sanchez

This photo was taken by Manuel Sanchez at his home while observing Turquoise Cotinga’s with his family.


Aves, Birds, Community Outreach, Environmental Education

Migratory birds uniting communities and countries

by Pilar Bernal, Environmental Education and Outreach Manager


On March 1, Puerto Jimenez was filled with color, music, and recreational activities for children and adults. More than 200 people congregated to say their farewells to the migratory birds that will be returning to their nesting habitats in North America. The occasion celebrates the first migratory bird festival of the Osa Peninsula, an event jointly organized with Osa Birds and ACOSA-SINAC, with support from Tropical Wings and the National Park Services of the United States.

The festival’s objectives were to promote knowledge and awareness in communities of conservation and protection through recreational activities, lectures, and exhibitions. As well as bringing to light the joining of the National Park Services of the United States and Costa Rica, the event sought to make people aware of the responsibilities and actions shared by both countries for the conservation of bird species that call both of our countries home.

Participants had the opportunity to take part in a birding walk tour led by the most renowned birders of Osa Peninsula and to learn about migratory birds through talks with Osa Birds, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Osa’s incredible bird species. Participants were also able to learn about edible plants for birds with Reinaldo Aguilar and conservation projects for birds with the Ornithologist Union of Costa Rica. All this was organized to answer this question at the end of the day: why are the birds so important?

A complementary migratory bird festival will take place in bird nesting locations in St. Croix, Minnesota, in the United States, sponsored by Tropical Wings United States, the St. Croix Scenic River Association and the National Park Service. An art exchange will take place between students from schools of Osa Peninsula and schools in St. Croix.

Check out some photos from this incredible event!


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Aves, Birds, Miscellaneous, Volunteers and Visitors

OC gears up for birding and filmmaking!

It’s that time of year again – birding time!

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Aside from the hundreds of native tropical birds who reside in the Osa, the peninsula is also winter home for many North American migratory birds. Every spring, they return to nest – the Scarlet Tanager, the Indigo Bunting, the Golden-Winged Warbler, the Baltimore Oriole, and scores of other migrant songbirds. And every winter, they make the perilous journey back to the rainforests of Central America to wait out the long cold season. Unfortunately, their wintering grounds are under intense pressure from development and natural resource extraction. The rainforests of Central America are being degraded at an alarming rate – and the birds that call these forests home – the endemic species and the migrants who winter there – have no where to turn. North America’s birds need a place that is still wild – our birds need the Osa.

Every winter, OC hosts birding groups from all over the world at our biological stations who come to see Osa’s magnificent birds and help us to protect their home. Unfortunately, aside from these avid birders, not many people understand the global significance of the Osa’s biodiversity or how many of our birds depend on it for survival – so this coming January, a film crew from Wisconsin will be traveling to the Osa with one of these birding groups to conduct a field shoot for the production of two documentaries – one to highlight the importance of the Osa as a biological hotspot, and another to document the efforts of Osa Conservation in protecting Osa’s birds – particularly the Yellow-billed Cotinga. From January 23 – 31st, 2014, this birding trip, led by veteran conservationist, OC board member, and birding addict Craig Thompson, will take the crew on a locally-guided tour of rainforest, beach, river, and wetlands to spot the most elusive Osa birds and interview local Osa residents.

Meet our crew!

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Luckily, our film crew are no strangers to filming in the jungle! Producer and writer Jo Garrett has been making documentaries for over 25 years. For the last decade, Jo and videographer Frank Boll have collaborated on a series of stories and documentaries for PBS on the plight of wildlife – including bats, black bears, pine martens, wolves, rattlesnakes, and more – but Jo’s favorite stories spotlight birds and the problems and successes in bird conservation. That passion led to the production of the documentary Our Birds, which highlights the struggles neotropical migratory birds face on their perilous journeys.

Frank Boll has trekked the world shooting stories for over 40 years. Frank’s most recent project took him to Peru in 2012. Funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, Frank spent a month in the cloud forests, documenting the efforts of conservation groups working to save Peru’s critically endangered Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey.

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Kerman and Frank on location for a previous film shoot.


Kerman Eckes has worked for twenty years as a location sound recordist and sound designer for Wisconsin Public Television. She’ll get great stereo recordings of the birds calls of the Osa but she also brings other talents to the job: she’s fluent in Spanish, she’s an accomplished professor with a master’s in film production, and she’s served on video production crews in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

This film shoot will definitely put Jo, Frank, and Kerman’s skills to the test, as they trek through jungle and wetlands to document the stories of Osa’s birds. Filming birds in the wild also presents a unique challenge – perhaps even more so than other animals. Birds, especially warblers, are constantly moving – searching the trees and ground for insects, fruit, and other sources of food. How do you capture such tiny, quick creatures on camera, especially ones that are far away and so easily startled? The answer is to combine a camera and a telescope!

Videographers use a digiscope to capture birds on film – essentially a digital camera mounted to a birdwatcher’s spotting scope, which is a light, portable telescope. Frank uses a digiscope comprised of a Canon 60D DSLR camera attached to a Swarovski 30-70X spotting scope, pictured below:

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Due to their constant activity, following birds with such high-powered magnification presents another significant challenge. Footage often has to be trimmed to clips less than 10 seconds long that are later edited together – a serious time investment!

Check out some footage that Frank has already shot with his digiscope of one of Wisconsin’s migrants, the Yellow Warbler, known affectionately as the “little yellow comet.” We’re hoping to spot one of these little guys on our shoot down in the Osa!


Here’s some more footage shot by Frank, of two Orioles engaged in a “flyoff!”


This year, I’ll be joining this birding trip, so stay tuned for updates on the field shoot as it unfolds – direct from the Osa!

Read more about our film project here – and even help fund it!


Aves, Birds, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Uncategorized, Volunteers and Visitors

Join a Conservation Birding Trip this winter!

Dahl_Vermiculated Screech Owl Pair

A pair of Vermiculated Screech Owls. Photo by Alan Dahl


Fall is fast approaching, and the change of seasons signals something particularly exciting for the Osa Peninsula – the return of migrating birds! The Osa is home to almost 500 resident bird species and many more who migrate to the peninsula from boreal forests in the US and Canada. Now in the middle of September, the migratory bird season is well under way, with species such as the Golden-winged warbler, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, and the Baltimore Oriole making their long journey to Central America.

Besides the many species that winter in the Osa, the peninsula is a year-round home to an astonishing diversity of tropical birds. When the continents of North and South America merged some 3 million years ago, birds living on either side of the divide poured into the newly-formed land bridge, creating a wealth of avian diversity seen few other places in the world. Protecting these birds’ habitats has become a top priority for conservationists as their territories face increasing threats from deforestation, farming and climate change.

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A pair of Scarlet Macaws. Photo by Alan Dahl

Fortunately, you can help protect these birds and their nesting grounds by joining one of our Conservation Birding Expeditions this winter! These amazing adventures, taking place from January 18 – 26 and February 9 – 16, 2014, include extensive birding, hikes through old-growth rainforest and mangrove patches, ogling of sloths and howler monkeys, and general frolicking throughout the jungle. You’ll also hear nightly presentations from Osa Conservation staff on the conservation efforts currently underway at our research stations,  including sea turtle nesting, reforestation efforts, environmental education, and large cat conservation. All birding tours and hikes are led by local naturalist guides with plenty of experience in flushing out the most elusive nesters.

The first five nights will be spent at Piro Biological Station, where you’ll bird along the Rio Piro, Cerro Osa and other spots local spots while witnessing biological research and conservation in action. The remaining nights will be spent at Bosque del Rio Tigre, an intimate ecolodge on a 31-acre private wildlife reserve, where you can spot up to 60 different bird species in the morning and fall asleep to the sounds of cascading waterfalls in the evening!


Guest house at Piro Biological Station

This is an amazing opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Osa Peninsula and its globally-significant biodiversity, and to revel in the wonders of the animal kingdom. All adults, ages 18 and over, are welcome to join a trip. For more information, including a detailed itinerary, costs and accommodations, please email info@osaconservation.org or visit our Conservation Birding page. We hope to see you there!

**Note: listening to excessive birdsong may cause giddiness, lightheadedness, and uncontrollable gaiety. Please take proper precautions, such as drinking plenty of water, eating regularly, and bringing a change of shorts.**

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