Business & Economy

Costa Rica’s Caribbean region a key flyway for birds of the Americas

Tortuguero, Costa Rica, Feb 2 (EFE).- Costa Rica’s Caribbean region serves as a vital route for migratory birds of the Americas and also is a growing avitourism destination, a place authorities say offers birders the chance to see more than 100 different species in a single day.

A biological bridge due to its geographical location, that small Central American country offers visitors a great vantage point to witness the fall migration (August to December) of birds from North America to South America and their return journey in the spring (February to May).

Costa Rica makes up just 0.03 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet it accounts for around 5 percent of global biodiversity and boasts 925 species of birds (just over 9 percent of the world’s total).

While the Caribbean region is an undisputed avitourism paradise, the entire country is a treasure trove for avid birders.

“One of Costa Rica’s advantages as a country for bird lovers is that the territory, being relatively small, facilitates birdwatching,” Rafael Soto, project manager of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute’s (ICT’s) National Bird Watching Route, told Efe.

“You can get up in the morning in Limon (Caribbean coast), drive by car to the capital, San Jose, stop at Braulio Carrillo National Park and see birds from another avifaunistic zone. Then continue on to the Pacific and see shorebirds in the afternoon,” he said.

ICT figures indicate that between 2017 and 2019 ecotourism was the primary activity for nearly 65 percent of visitors to Costa Rica; of them, 12.3 percent bird-watched using special equipment.

Costa Rica also is one of just five countries worldwide where a million or more raptors can be observed in a single migration season, with the Kekoldi indigenous reserve on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast one of the most emblematic watch sites for those birds of prey.

Between August and November, Caribbean Costa Rica becomes one of the world’s leading corridors for those migratory birds, a place where more than 3 million raptors belonging to 17 different species journey southward to find warmer winter weather.

Pablo Camacho, an ornithologist and director of the Fundacion Rapaces de Costa Rica (Costa Rican Raptor Foundation), told Efe that the region ranks second (behind only Veracruz, Mexico) as the world’s most concentrated migratory raptor flyway.

As part of the efforts to bolster avitourism and protect bird species, the ICT last weekend organized the fifth edition of an annual bird counting event in the northern Caribbean region’s Tortuguero National Park.

This year, more than 40 experts observed a record 221 species in a single day, up from 186 species in 2021.

Tourism Minister Gustavo Alvarado stressed the unique natural beauty of Costa Rica’s Caribbean region and said the event goes beyond a mere tally and “is about learning about the birds, placing them, learning from them, generating knowledge about the country’s birds.”

Authorities see birdwatching as a niche ecotourism activity that has room to grow and allows travelers the chance to enjoy a unique experience without the need to cover long distances.

It also can play a role in helping the country’s vital tourism sector – its main source of hard currency – recover from the debilitating impact of the pandemic. EFE


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