Costa Rica Animals

Wildlife and Animal Guide for Costa Rica

By Joanna Bonachita – Google+

The beautiful country of Costa Rica provides more than just paradise to tourist and locals alike. Not only will you be able to view the most beautiful scenic views on the face of the planet, but you can also have an adventure of a lifetime. Because Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot, you are sure to see some of the most fascinating plants and animals found on Earth. There are over 500,000 varieties of species that consider Costa Rica their home. Conservationists are drawn to this wonderful country to protect and learn about the different wildlife, and how humanity can benefit from them.

Because of the various animals found in the country, you are sure to come across potentially deadly species if you are not careful. You should really be aware of the Costa Rica Wildlife guild for your safety. An encounters with a sea snakes could turn fatal if you are not cautious of your interaction with these sea creatures. A spider bite, while not necessarily deadly, can become painful and dangerous if not treated properly. A hike in the rainforest may lead to illness or death if you are not respectful of the creatures you come across. However, if you are not sure of the kind of bug, snake or animal you see, it’s always best to leave it alone. This way, you are able to fully appreciate the beautiful wildlife Costa Rica has to offer without worrying which species may be dangerous to you.

Birds of Costa Rica birdwatching-lineatedwoodpecker

Currently, Costa Rica has recorded almost 900 different bird species. This number includes about 600 permanent bird residents of the country, and about 200 immigrant birds that fly down from North America. These birds come in different colors and sizes ranging from the elusive Scintilant Hummingbird to the large Jabiru or American White Pelican.


The rainforest of Costa Rica is also home to the colorful and popular Macaws. There are several species of Macaws that can be spotted — from the Great Green Macaw to the Scarlet Macaw. They are usually captured as pets to be sold in the black market, but because of their threatened status, it is being protected and conserved by organizations focused in helping them survive today’s ecology.


You’ll also be able to find different species of Heron. The Boat-billed Heron is the most rarely seen species. It is usually spotted when it visits Costa Rica on accident. However, you have a slightly larger chance to encounter sporadic visitors such as the Tricolored and Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Permanent heron residents of the country include the Green Heron and the Little Blue Heron.


There are also around 17 different species of hawks to be found as part of the Costa Rica wildlife guide. The most commonly spotted would be the Broad-winged hawk, White or Grey Hawk and the Short-tailed Hawk. If you are lucky, you may be able to get a glimps of the Black-collared Hawk or Tiny Hawk who may also drop by Costa Rica on accident.


Other species of birds, such as doves, pigeons, eagles, saltators, orioles, kingfishers, hummingbirds and parakeets, can also grace your wildlife adventure with their presence. Of all the Of all of the species of birds in Costa Rica, there are 19 listed as endangered. Among these endangered birds include the Great Curassow, the Quetzal and the Scarlet Macaws. However, there are a few protective reserves where you will be able to find these beautiful creatures.

Insects and Spiders of Costa Rica thornbug

There are around 5,000 different insects in Costa Rica, and about 1,000 of these are species of butterflies. Here, you can find the critters such as the Hercules Beetle. While its size can be alarming, this kind of beetle is known to be harmless and are often made into pets.

Scarabs can also be found in the area. Like the Hercules Beetle, these large insects can cause a mini heart attack when spotted, but they are harmless. Ants are also pretty common insects to spot from leaf-cutter ants to army ants.


When it comes to spiders, Costa Rica does house several of the most fascinating species. You will be entranced by the golden orb spider and his luminous web. You’ll be happy to know that while his bite may be potent, it is not lethal. The aggressive Brazilian Wandering Spider, who comes in eight different species, is a similar story. This scary spider is can leave your skin feeling burnt, but it will eventually heal. You’ll be ecstatic to know that the spiders and bugs in Costa Rica are not lethal to humans. To be safe, however, keep in mind that if you leave them alone, they will also leave you alone.


Costa Rica also has some of the most amazing species of butterflies and moths. In fact, ten percent of them do reside in this tropical country. Their diverse, bright colors add life to the rainforests and pollinate to help create the beautiful flora in the area.

Several of the butterflies also show amazing adaptability to the environment. For example, as a caterpillar, the Swallowtail imitates bird droppings to avoid becoming a prey. As butterflies, their bright colors warn off predators that they are toxic.

The most common butterflies found in Costa Rica include the Morpho Butterfly, the Glasswing Butterfly, The Thoas Swallowtail, and the Branded Peacock among others.

Mammals in Costa Rica petpizote

212 mammals are housed in Costa Rica, and 14 of them are considered threatened. One species, which is the Harris’ Rice Water Rat, is critically endangered. There are also four who are endangered, and these are Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey, Dice’s Cottontail, Harris’ Olingo and Baird’s Tapir. The seven vulnerable species are: Central American Squirrel Monkey, Rodriguez’s Harvest Mouse, Talamancan Small-eared Shrew, Van Gelder’s Bat, Tacarcuna Bat, Sperm Whale and Derby’s Woolly Opossum. The Giant Anteater, Oncilla, and Jaguarundi are the three mammals considered to be near threatened.

Several wildlife reserves are making sure that we are still able to enjoy and learn about the threatened mammals of Costa Rica. The Nine-branded Armadillo, Mantled Howler Monkey and sloth can also be spotted in the jungles of the rainforest.

Wild cats

Big wild cats are a treasure of the Costa Rican wildlife. These nocturnal creatures – Pumas, Jaguarundis, Margays, Ocelots and Little Spotted Cats – are most likely found hiding in the rainforest trees. The largest of these wild cats would be the Jaguar, which can reach up to 2 meters in length. While they are slick, capable creatures of fatally wounding a person, their numbers have been declining drastically over the years. The smallest wild cat, comparable to the common house cat in size, is the Little Small cat found in cloud forests. Once, Black Panthers were found roaming the lands of this interesting country, but they officially became extinct in Costa Rica.

Marine Animals in Costa Rica whale-shark-costa-rica

Costa Rican Marine Life is another feat to enjoy. Sea life has always brought the unique brand of life, and Costa Rica houses some of the favorite marine mammals and fish.

Marine Mammals

Dolphins, from the most common to bottle-nosed or pacific spotted dolphins can be found racing through the water waves. Along with dolphins, it isn’t uncommon to see orcas playing from the shoreline. Other whales you may be able to spot include Humpbacks, Blue Whales, Beaked Whales and Pilot Whales depending on the season.

Marine Reptiles

When diving into the waters of Costa Rica, three possible sea turtles you will find are the Green Sea Turtles, Olive Ridley Sea Turtles and the Leatherback Sea Turtles. Leatherbacks are the largest of all turtles. An encounter with these majestic creatures is very safe.
Sea snakes, on the other hand, will mesmerize you with their sea dance, but are deemed venomous. While they are not particularly aggressive, they do have a temper and should be handled with caution, especially since they can be found in the shallow waters when diving. One of the most commonly seen is the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake.


Sharks can be found in the deep waters when diving. Some of the sharks you may encounter are the hammerhead, the bull, nurse and white tip sharks. Tropical fish such as the Cortez Angelfish, Butterfly fish, Snappers, Horse-eyed Jacks, Costa Rica’s Jewfish, Parrot Fish, Puffer Fish, and schools of sardines inhabit Costa Rican waters. The more often you dive, the more you will be able to see other various sea creatures like sea horses, eels and rays.


There are over 39 sea mollusks found in the waters of Costa Rica. Some common names of these sea slugs include, but are not limited to, the Babosa Marina, Nudibranquio, Navanx enigmatico, and Liebre marina. They all vary in shape and color, and they add a spectacle of colors and textures on the bottom of the ocean. In addition to sea slugs, sea snails can also be found. Clams like the Burgao or sea snail like the Trifora, Oliva or Caracol Marino comprise the 33 species in this category. There are other sea mollusk that are included in the family of sea shells, terrestrial snails and chitons that can also be found on the bottom of the shore lines.

Reptiles in Costa Rica green-lizard-closeup

About 70 lizards and 120 snakes are a part of the 225 reptiles inhabit Costa Rica. These reptiles vary in size, shape, and danger.


Large lizards such as the Green or Black Iguana and the Striped Basilisk are commonly found reptiles. Iguanas are not harmful, and are often turned into pets if caught. Basilisk, also known as ‘the Jesus Christ lizard’ is extremely interesting because of its ability to run on water.


Both venomous and non-venomous snakes can be found in the forests. Boas are commonly seen in trees and are non-venomous. However, there are several viper species, including the eyelash viper and bushmasters that lurk on the ground whose bite have a deadly effect. As long as they are left alone and unthreatened, these snakes will not strike. If bit, however, one must be sure to seek immediate medical attention.


The Spectacled Caiman and American Crocodile are the two crocodilians found in the country, the latter being the more dangerous of the two.

Amphibians in Costa Rica

85% of the Costa Rican Amphibians are frogs. Interestingly enough, frogs have an amazing ability to locate fishless water to house their eggs and young. After all, fish will not hesitate to eat these pre-formed frogs. However, because of sensitivity to environmental degradation, there has been a dramatic decline in the populations of amphibians – 3 species of amphibians have already been noted as extinct, one of which is the Golden Toad.

Some of the more notable species of frogs to be found are the Poison Dart Frog, glass frog and the Smokey Jungle Frog. The red-eyed tree frog is another species often sought after for study and as pets. An amazing amphibian specie is the Giant toad who is known to eat almost anything. Documentations of its food have included bugs, smaller frogs, mice, vegetables and small mammals.

Conservation Efforts in Costa Rica

Because Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) protects over 25% of its national territory. After all, there are over 500,000 species in this small country alone, and over 10% of the world’s wildlife is located here. There is a strong belief that our ecosystem is dependent of each species in some way, and the extinction of one species will affect several others. From marine life conservation in general to specific land animal conservation, several organizations – both profit and non-profit – are making effort to study our ecosystem. The prevention of deforestation, control of pollution and trash, and other ways to help strengthen the ecosystem is being studies and practiced to preserve and rebuild our world today.

Costa Rica is already a marvelous place to visit because of the tropical climate, beautiful scenery, amazing creatures and various plants. You can have an amazing adventure taking a trek down the rainforest or diving deep into the abyss of the Costa Rican waters. Every inch of land, or island for that matter, is able to show you something new and different every time. From the sea inhabitants of the waters surround Costa Rica to the land roaming animals to the sky soaring birds of the country, your stay in Costa Rica is guaranteed to be filled with life and color.

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