The answer is very simple actually - there are more bird species in COSTA RICA per square mile than any other country in the world. According to Mongabay.com, there are 838 bird species in Costa Rica, a small country of only 19,800 square miles. This translates to .42 species of birds per square mile. The runner up in this category would be Panama, Costa Rica’s neighbor to the south, which overall has a recorded 904 species (more total species than Costa Rica) but with a total area of 29,762 square miles, so the bird species density in Panama would be .3 per square mile. These figures really shouldn’t surprise anybody!
In Costa Rica (and in Panama) you will find many bird species that are found in either North America or South America, as Central America is a land bridge that connects North America to South America. In fact, over 200 species of birds from North American can be found in Costa Rica during North America’s cold winter months, only to return to their North American homes sometime during the Spring. These birds are called migrants. It is not surprising, that there only 4 bird species endemic to mainland Costa Rica.
While Costa Rica has the most species of bird per square mile, the countries which have the greatest number of bird species are primarily in South America – Colombia is the leader with 1821, followed closely by Peru with 1781 and by Brazil, the South American Giant, with 1712 species. After Brazil, the the rankings continue with Indonesia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Now if you take into consideration that Colombia’s total area is 440,000 square miles, that would make the bird species density .04 square mile (compared to Costa Rica’s .4 per square mile). That is a significant difference! Considering that Colombia is 22 times the size of Costa Rica, you will realize why – all things being equal - Costa Rica is considered the best (and most practical) destination for birders in the world!
Other factors which contribute to Costa Rica’s popularity among birders are:
- It’s a very safe destination
- Many of the popular birding spots are within 90 minutes – 2 hour radius of the capital, San Jose which is located in the Central Highlands
- There are many dedicated ecoresorts in the most popular birding areas, many of which cater to birding enthusiasts
- Ecotourism infrastructure is very advanced
Curiously enough, of the 888 bird species recorded in the USA, more than 1/3 are in Hawaii