Postcard #3 from Costa Rica: Scarlet Macaws

Click anywhere on the Postcard to play movie

Last week we shared our joyful experience of getting monkeys on camera at Bosque del Cabo.

But “Nature’s wardrobe/holds a fair supply of costumes” and today we’re featuring colour and love. Swirls of brilliant avian plumage, the vermilion, royal blue, daffodil yellow and dazzling white of a pair of scarlet macaws who spent the afternoon loving each other on the beach. While we watched, for almost three hours. “Nowhere else in the world can these birds be seen in such numbers as on the Osa,” our guide Ben reminded us. “There are two nests in dead trees right at the beach’s edge, and the birds are always around and very active.” No wonder people become birders!

From where we were staying, Bosque del Cabo (note their logo, shown on Magellan’s videos, features a scarlet macaw), it’s a 1.3 mile walk via their Golfo Dulce Trail to where these Lapas nest on a section of Matapalo Beach called Backwash. (That’s what the Pacific riptide does to surfer dudes here, backwashes them out to sea.) For we birders in the back of a van, it was  a half-hour ride.

It’s no surprise birders come to Costa Rica. I mean, look at this!

An ecological superpower, in addition to the scarlet macaws the country has 914 other species of birds, almost ten percent of that in the entire world! (I know, a lot of exclamation points today. But how wonderful is that?)

It started in 1969 when Costa Rica’s government established its first two national parks. Not simply to preserve wildlife and scenery for sentiment and recreation like park systems in other countries—but “to perpetuate all of the country’s biological resources—habitats and ecosystems as well as scenery and wildlife.”

Today Costa Rica has an astonishing 6% of all known species and ecosystems in the world even though it only occupies 0.03% of the earth’s surface. More than twenty-five percent of its land is protected by national parks and reserves, both private and public. Biologist Peter Raven described Costa Rica’s system as “one of the great accomplishments of the human race over the last thirty years.”

The country is a magnet for one of the fastest-growing tourist activities in the world. One-third of the people worldwide who are enrolled in birding associations travel abroad to pursue their hobby—that’s three million birders (those who look for birds). And they’re not all jubilados. In the US, half of them are under the age of 54. According to, birdwatching (looking at birds) ranks sixth after reading, travelling, fishing, crafts and TV. Maybe higher for Magellan and me after watching this lovey-dovey pair of Lapas.


Arias, L. “Costa Rica launches plan to attract bird-watching tourists.” Tico Times, June 14, 2016.

For more info on the tours we took, take a look at Backcountry Journeys.

Baker, Christopher P.  MOON Costa Rica. Berkeley: Avalon Travel, 2015. Our favourite guide to this wonderful country.

Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge—where the rainforest meets the ocean has a comprehensive website that details everything you’d want to know about a stay there.

For hobby info,

Stiles, Gary F. and Skutch, Alexander F. Birds of Costa Rica. New York: Comstock Publishing, 1989. Thank you Karol for lending us this classic tome.

Szymborska, Wistawa. MAP. Collected and Last Poems. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. The quote in paragraph two is from the poem, “Among the Multitudes” by this Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet.

Wallace, David Rains. The Quetzal and the Macaw—The Story of Costa Rica’s National Parks. San Francisco: Sierra Books, 1992. “A vivid portrait of natural beauty and human commitment that reveals why Costa Rica has become model for all developing Latin American countries in balancing political enlightenment with environmental concerns.”

14 Responses

  1. We had to honour of witnessing the first hyathinth macaws bred in captivity…They are truly amazing creatures..So happy that you have this new hobby…Kewep it going. Heather

    1. WOW! Just googled hyacinth macaws—love their royal purple plumage—and their habitat is in the Osa as well: one more reason to return to Costa Rica, should the fates allow. Where did you see them?

  2. Many thanks, yet again! We should dress in those fantastic colours sometime. You first, haha.
    We have friends working in Cloud Bridge Rainforest in Costa Rica. Check their facebook page, if you wish.
    They host researchers from many locations all over the world.
    Costa Rica has some useful priorities.

    1. Cool: Cloudbridge is a half-hour walk from a town called San Gerardo de Rivas—we stayed in San Gerardo de Dota, similar name and only about 20 miles away as the macaw flies but hours by car.

    1. Our site use Map Markers Pro and for Costa Rica, base map tiles from OpenStreetMap, which is usually reliable. It’s working fine on my iMac (Google Chrome browser) and iPad, but not my iPhone. But on the iPhone, if I zoom in or out, the map is fine.
      Is anybody having difficulty on other platforms?

  3. Wow! So beautiful. I have never seen 2 birds being so intimate as these two. Good on Costa Rica to preserve their wildlife and habitats. They have obviously succeeded. Thats all folks! Lol

  4. “Treasure Island anyone”. RRR MATEY, RRRR”
    Indeed a treasure of avian beauty, to the extreme.

    Birds the world over, provide us with colours unmatched by any other living thing, they truly inspire us all.
    Gives us self isolators a purpose, as our bird buddies are everywhere for us to share without actually possessing them, just Mother Nature’s way of spreading the word on just how lucky we are to share the land.
    Stay safe everyone,

    1. Do you know the writing of Terry Glavin, a journalist who writes for The National Post, Maclean’s and other publications? Yesterday I discovered he wrote a book called Waiting for the Macaws (which we now have on order from the VPL). Here’s a quote from it that fits what you’re saying: “…deep within the human consciousness is an ancient and abiding desire to be in the presence of flourishing, abundant, and diverse forms of life. Like the desire for narrative, enchantment with the beauty, utility and diversity of living things is an inescapable aspect of human nature.”

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