There’s nothing like a birdy, bird-filled lunch and I’m not talking about some lemon domesticated jungle fowl tagine either (although that is damn good too!). I mean watching cool birds at close range while enjoying the midday repast. In Costa Rica, whether I happen to be birding for fun or searching out target birds for others,  I strive to combine birds with lunch.

In Costa Rica, that’s easy enough to do. All you need are a few bananas, plantains, and papayas, and the birds come a flying. Most are commoners like the good old appropriately named Clay-colored Thrush, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Great Kiskadee, and saltators but you can also be surprised by tropical woodpeckers, toucans, and chachalacas. It’s all good because no matter which birds show, they can do so at crazy close range.

Recently, while guiding in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica, I have had the pleasure of enjoying lunch with birds at an overlooked gem known as the Bar Restaurant Horquetas.Restaurant las Horquetas

Don’t be put off by the moldy sign, that’s par for the course when you pour 12 feet of a rain on it per year.

In Costa Rica, there are lots of little, family-owned diners like this one. If you see “bar” and “restaurant” on the same sign, it’s because they have a liquor license. Most offer good, home-cooked fare but very few also happen to feed the birds. As for the Bar Rest. Horquetas, you wouldn’t even know that the owners were bird friendly if you didn’t enter and take a seat. Go in and sit down, and shortly thereafter, someone will come by with menus in one hand and plantains in the other. As soon as they put those plantains on sticks in their tiny garden, birds come out of nowhere to munch on the fruit ten feet from your face and the camera lens.Collared Aracari

Don’t reach for a plantain because it’s reserved for cool birds like Collared Aracari,

Golden-hooded Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager,

Green Honeycreeper

Green Honeycreeper,

Passerini's Tanager

Passerini’s Tanager,

Red-legged Honeycreeper

and Red-legged Honeycreeper.

Striped Basilisk

On the ground, Striped Basilisks also show up for scraps.

If you happen to be birding in Costa Rica at or near La Selva, and feel like enjoying a local lunch accompanied by a bunch of colorful birds, make a stop at the Bar Restaurant Horquetas. If coming from the La Selva area, go 13 to 14 kilometers south on the main road to Guapiles and watch for the small restaurant at a wide turn-off on the right. If coming from the road through Braulio Carrillo National Park or Limon, watch for it on the left, about 15 kilometers after the turn off onto the roadto Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.

Written by Patrick O'Donnell
Patrick O'Donnell became a birder at the age of 7 after seeing books about birds in the Niagara Falls, New York public library. Although watching thousands of gulls in the Niagara Gorge was sublime, more bird species (and warmer weather) eventually brought him to Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and other very birdy tropical places. A biologist by training, he has worked on bird-related projects in Colorado, Washington, Peru, and other locales, and has guided birders in Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. These days, he lives in Costa Rica where he juggles guiding, freelance writing, developing bird apps for Costa Rica and Panama, posting on his Costa Rica birding blog, and discussing dinosaurs with his young daughter.