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Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger station, Braulio Carrillo National Park - BirdForum Opus

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Costa Rica


A site that should not be skipped on any visit to Costa Rica, especially if you have a day to spare in San Jose, is the Quebrada Gonzalez ranger station in Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Located about an hours drive from San Jose along the San Jose-Limon highway, this site offers access to a huge block of excellent forested habitat in the foothill zone. Many of the Caribbean slope species that have become hard to find at other sites due to deforestation are still readily found here and can be seen along two main trails; one behind the ranger station and another on the other side of the highway.

The birding can be very good in the vicinity of the parking area as well. Although the birding can be tough because of the dense vegetation, high canopy and high frequency of rain, it is well worth spending a day here. Birding quietly and with much patience is typically rewarding with looks at sveral uncommon species.


Notable Species

Here are some highlights and suggestions for seeing them:

Hawk-eagles and other raptors: all three species regularly occur here with Ornate Hawk Eagle most common. Keeping an eye on the sky from 10AM to noon (especially during sunny days) should result in looks at at least one Hawk Eagle species. This is a good time for other soaring raptors as well, the following species often seen: King Vulture, Barred Hawk, White Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk and Great Black Hawk.

A lucky few have even seen Crested Eagle inside the forest!

Quail-Dove: although uncommon, Purplish-backed Quail Dove and Olive-backed Quail Dove both occur.

Black-eared Wood Quail: uncommon, but still occurs here.

Hummingbirds: Crowned Woodnymph is the most common sp., Purple-crowned Fairy, Green Thorntail and Black-crested Coquette are often seen at flowering trees in parking area, Snowcap sometimes. Red-footed Plumeleteer is common inside the forest, White-tipped Sicklebill frequent at hanging "lobster claw" Heliconias.

Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo: very shy but present!

Lanceolated Monklet: present but very inconspicuous.

Lattice-tailed Trogon: fairly common- listen for "laughing" song.

Black-crowned Antpitta: very shy and inconspicuous but present in the gulley behind the station.

Dull-mantled Antbird: uncommon but present.

Black-headed Antthrush: uncommon but present.

Bare-necked Umbrellabird: rare but present.

Mixed flocks here can be excellent. The understory mixed flock usually has: Streak-crowned Antvireo and Plain Antvireo, Checker-throated Stipplethroat, White-flanked Antwren and Dot-winged Antwren, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Striped (Western) Woodhaunter, and Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher and Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and Spotted Woodcreeper and sometimes Brown-billed Scythebill.

Canopy flocks: Those with White-throated Shrike Tanager are usually the largest, flocks led by Black-faced Grosbeak are more common. The following species occur in both of these types of flocks (which can be witnessed from the parking area):

Squirrel Cuckoo

Red-headed Barbet

Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Rufous-winged Woodpecker and Cinnamon Woodpecker

Russet Antshrike

Spotted Woodcreeper

Yellow-winged Flycatcher

Sharpbill- rare

Tawny-capped Euphonia and Olive-backed Euphonia

Silver-throated Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Speckled Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Crimson-collared Tanager, Black and Yellow Tanager, Blue and Gold Tanager, and Ashy-throated Chlorospingus!

Green Shrike Vireo

Both Tityra species

Lesser Greenlet

and noisy Scarlet-rumped Cacique.

Antswarms occur here with some frequency as well. If you find one, it probably pays to stay with it as long as feasible (don't leave the trail!) as this will increase your chances of seeing Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo and Black-crowned Antpitta and can result in nice looks at species that sometimes make short visits to swarms such as Barred Forest Falcon, Striped Woodhaunter, motmots, and White-whiskered Puffbird. Other species more frequently seen at antswarms here are: Bicolored Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Zeledon's Antbird and Chestnut-backed Antbird and Northern Barred Woodcreeper and Plain-brown Woodcreeper.


Birds you can see here include:

Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Snowcap, Brown-billed Scythebill, Black-crowned Antpitta, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Black and Yellow Tanager 1

Other Wildlife

More than 150 species of mammals including Howler Monkey and White-faced Capuchin, Baird's Tapir, Deppe's Squirrel, White-nosed Coati, Northern Tamandua, Jaguar, White-tailed Deer, Ocelot, Pacas, Raccoon and Peccary.1

Site Information

Safety concerns: Birders parking along the main highway away from the station have been robbed. I have never heard of this happening at the Quebrada Gonzalez Ranger station itself.

History and Use

The National Park was established in 1978.

Areas of Interest

To do

Access and Facilities

Although the trails officially open at 8AM, I have had no problem entering before then and paying after.

Public transport: Buses to Guapiles leaving from the "Caribbean" bus station can drop you here. First one probably departs 5:30AM.

Contact Details

To do


  1. Costa Rica Guide: Braulio Carrillo National Park

External Links

Costa Rica Guide: Braulio Carrillo National Park