[Tweeters] Bird guide for Costa Rica

Jesse Ellis jme29 at cornell.edu
Sat Sep 13 23:39:44 PDT 2008

Hey all-

I have an opinion on this! I did my Ph. D. work in Costa Rica and
have birded there quite a bit. Hands down the best guide is Stiles
and Skutch, Birds of Costa Rica. Skutch was an amazing naturalist and
could capture the essence of a bird in writing such that you could
identify it based on a quick viewing or a few calls. That said, some
of the the illustrations are weak, and there are no range maps. This
means you have to refer to the maps in the front of the book until
you're comfortable with the local geography (alternatively you could
scrounge up bird lists for some of the places you'll visit - always a
good idea). he book is also largish, and has the color plates in the
center, separate from their lengthy descriptions. Habits and
idiosyncracies, which can be just as useful in differentiating
species as plumage, are very well described in the book.

Another book has recently hit shelves. Garrigues and Dean (The birds
of costa rica: a field guide) is pocket-size and quite handy, AND it
has range maps. Those features tip the scales for many people.
However, I would caution that for BOTH books range is tricky in Costa
Rica. Stiles and Skutch is vastly outdated at this point, but
Garrigues & Dean's maps are small and not highly accurate. And many
areas of Costa Rica are not well birded and you may find birds
supposedly out of place. In addition rapid habitat change has meant
many invasions and range changes. The illustrations of G&D are a bit
stronger (but no Sibley or Peterson), but the book is smaller,
meaning (if I recall correectly) that some variation is lost in
illustrating species. In addition each species only gets a few lines
of text to describe the relevant facts. This loss, to me, makes S&S
the better book.

Dunno what the situation with Flora & Fauna Books is these days, but
if he's still got local inventory perhaps if you're near Seattle you
could check them both out side by side.

Jesse Ellis

>I forgot to ask this as well: what's the best -- or maybe, only! -- bird

>field guide for Costa Rica, in the tweeter opinion? I have my old Birds of

>Panama guide squirreled away somewhere and could dig that out, but probably

>there's something better, no?


>-Josh Hayes, josh at blarg dot net


>There is great chaos under heaven, and the situation is excellent. - Mao-Tse





>Tweeters mailing list

>Tweeters at u.washington.edu


Jesse Ellis, Ph. D.
Neurobiology and Behavior
jme29 at cornell.edu
111 Mudd Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, 14853

More information about the Tweeters mailing list