Punta Morales is a small village just north of Puntarenas along the Gulf of Nicoya in northwestern Costa Rica. While primarily known to birders as a great site for observing the shorebirds that congregate in the commercial salt pans at high tide, there are many more species of birds that can be found here.
It’s well worth visiting Punta Morales for several days if you have the time. I stayed at Cabinas Brisas del Mar, a small friendly family run hotel with clean rooms (with AC) and delicious meals.
During my visit I recorded a nice variety of shorebirds at the salt pans, including a long-awaited lifer, Long-billed Curlew! Other species observed included Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson’s Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, and Willet.
Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Gull-billed Tern, and Black Skimmer were also present, as well as Wood Stork, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, and Roseate Spoonbill. One afternoon I took a kayak out in the mangroves adjacent to the salt pans for several hours, adding Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Green Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, and American Pygmy Kingfisher to my list.
I saw a nice variety of raptors, including Hook-billed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Osprey, Common Black Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, and Peregrine Falcon.
Many tropical dry forest species can be found in Punta Morales. Some of the species I located included Crested Bobwhite, Common Ground-Dove, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Turquoise-browed Motmot, White-fronted Parrot, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Banded Wren, Stripe-headed Sparrow, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Scrub Euphonia, Streak-backed Oriole, Spot-breasted Oriole, Western Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, and Indigo Bunting.
Some additional highlights included Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Panama Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole, Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Vireo, Mangrove Cuckoo, and the resident “Mangrove” subspecies of Yellow Warbler.