Listed below are several categories of books that we feel would be of interest to both first time and repeat visitors to Costa Rica. We have read and re-read them and recommended them over the years to family members and friends—each one is a tried and true winner in its category.
Further down this page, we also note the gradual arrival of digital guides, provide several SVBC publications that may be of interest to birders, and give a link to some advice on this site about how to bird-proof windows.
For birders, the first two field guides are essential. Every birder who visits Costa Rica will want to have Stiles and Skutch’s original work as a reference guide and the newer—and smaller—Garrigues & Dean book to carry in the field. In the San Vito area, the Panama field guides are often helpful since southern Costa Rica and western Panama share a number of endemic species.
A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, F. Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch
The Birds of Costa Rica (2nd edition), Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean
A Bird-Finding Guide to Costa Rica, Barrett Lawson
A Guide to the Birds of Panama, Robert S. Ridgely and John A. Gwynne, Jr.
The Birds of Panama, George R. Angehr and Robert Dean
A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama, George R. Angehr, Dodge Engleman and Lorna Engleman
For travelers beguiled by butterflies, Costa Rica has a dazzling array of more than 1,000 species. The two field guides recommended here are comprehensive and helpful with identifications. The first one, unfortunately out of print at present but worth keeping an eye out for used, includes moths and is bi-lingual with text in Spanish and English; its photos have scientific names only. The second guide, wider in geographic scope, has English common names for a majority of species.
Mariposas de Costa Rica/Butterflies and Moths of Costa Rica, Isidro Chacón and José Montero
A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America, Jeffrey Glassberg
General Interest Natural History Guides.
These books provide excellent reference sources and preparation for first-time visitors to this species-rich wildlife wonderland.
The Wildlife of Costa Rica, Fiona A. Reid, Twan Leenders, Jim Zook and Robert Dean
Costa Rica, Les Beletsky (A Travelers’ Wildlife Guide)
Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica, Carrol L. Henderson
Natural History of Costa Rica, edited by Daniel Jansen
The first two books listed in this category offer fascinating insights into ecological processes, both written in charming, comprehensible styles. The last book addresses the geological and ecological history of Central America as well as offering several cultural viewpoints on the many varied native peoples before and after Spanish colonization and into modern time.
A Neotropical Companion, John Kricher (2nd edition, revised)
Tropical Nature, Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata
Central America: A Natural and Cultural History, edited by Anthony G. Coates
Digital bird guides.
Digital field guides of birds (applications or “apps” for mobile devices) have long been available for North America, Europe and other locations, but only recently have started to appear for the birds of Costa Rica. We will report on such guides as they become available (and we become aware of them!). For the first such report, please click here.
Plants recommended for attracting birds and animals.
With the help of Federico Oviedo Brenes of Las Cruces Biological Station as well as natural history guides and our own experience, the Club has put together a list of plants–trees, shrubs, flowers, and vines–that are native to Costa Rica and known to attract birds and other animals such as butterflies and mammals. Certain birds types–hummingbirds, parrots, parakeets, and toucans–are noted if they are specially associated with the given plant.
Vegetation Survey of the three sites used for the SVBC Avian Monitoring Project.
This survey, completed for the Club in August 2011 by Veronica E. Pereira, updates a similar survey done in 2007 and classifies and analyzes the vegetation surrounding the three Avian Monitoring Project sites near San Vito–Finca Cantaros, Finca Corteza, and Finca Sofia. The survey will be useful in analyzing the bird data collected by the Avian Monitoring Project. The copy of the survey report below is in Spanish, with an English translation in process.
Bird list for the San Joaquin Marsh, San Vito.
The dangers of windows to birds: some advice and solutions.
Members of the Club, with the help from friends, have published two “Viewpoints” posts on this site about the problems windows pose to many birds and some ways to help prevent bird collisions. For convenience, we have combined these two pieces into one: please click here.