New Course Offering- Birds of Costa Rica

DANTA is delighted to announce a new course offering for summer 2017!  Birds of Costa Rica will be held from July 15-July 30, 2017 at Osa Conservation‘s Piro Research Station in Costa Rica’s spectacular Osa peninsula. As the one of the largest tracts of rain forest north of the Amazon (roughly 400,000 acres in the Osa Conservation Area), it is renowned for high species diversity. It is one of only a few sites in Costa Rica that contain 4 species of primate (mantled howler monkey, black-handed spider monkey, white-faced capuchin and squirrel monkey). Four species of sea turtle also nest along its beaches. Please help us protect this unique region which is of international conservation concern.

Our courses are intended for undergraduates or early graduate level students who have a keen interest in tropical biology and conservation, but have little or no experience of working in a tropical environment.

For more information, please visit our website and/or contact us at

Program cost: $2500

Registration Deadline: June 1, 2017


Course Description

Costa Rica is justly renowned for its extraordinary bird diversity, and for the depth of study that has focused on the life histories of these delightful animals, often so social, colorful and full of song.  We will take advantage of these highlights, with a course designed around the ecology and behavior of some of Costa Rica’s most easily seen (and heard) birds, and the biologists who have studied them.  Knowing the history of bird studies in Costa Rica will help us understand these birds more fully, and will also let us see how growth in knowledge of their biology was linked to the vibrant conservation movement that has helped to define this country.

We will base our studies at the remote but comfortable Piro Research Station on Costa Rica’s spectacular Osa Peninsula, home to some of Central America’s last remaining primary forest and its wildest beaches.  Our Piro studies will focus on four key topics: 1) Learning to identify birds by sight and sound. While no one can expect to learn all of Costa Rica’s birds in 2 weeks, students will become familiar with the most common species found on the Osa in early January, at the start of the dry season; 2) Methods of collecting and analyzing the behavior of free-ranging birds. Here we will focus on birds easily seen, designing short but focused studies on such topics as foraging, habitat choice, interactions within flocks, and song (we will have access to basic equipment for recording and analyzing song).  3) Patterns of species diversity: here we will look broadly, and from an ecological and evolutionary perspective, at what kinds of birds are found in Costa Rica.  Why, for example, are there dozen of species of hummingbirds and flycatchers, but far fewer parrots, pigeons and quail?  4) Key studies of Costa Rican birds: some of the giants in American ornithology have spent their careers researching Costa Rican birds. We will pick highlights from these studies, gaining an understanding not only of how ornithology is done, but also of what topics emerged from these studies and how they helped shape conservation in Costa Rica.

Students are welcomed from all walks of biology, but a background in biology is not a prerequisite; key is a keen desire to learn more about Costa Rican birds and ornithology.  Physical demands in this course are modest but real; students can expect to walk 2-3 kilometers/day, occasionally in uncomfortable weather (heat, rain). Good binoculars are key to studying birds: students are encouraged to bring their own, but a few loaner pairs will be available to those who don’t have them.

The course includes a field trip to an sustainable chocolate plantation,and boat tour of the Golfo Dulce for dolphin viewing and snorkeling. We overnight on the Boruca Indigenous Reserve where we will learn about the community and their traditional lifeways, and help with needed projects. The field trip is in cooperation with Planet Conservation, our sustainable and socially responsible travel partner.

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