In the era of digital cameras and social media, images of birds are easy to come by. Even photos of the rarest of birds can be found, even heart-wrenching images of bird species that are no longer with us. The fleeting photo of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker tugs at and flies away with a piece of the heart, that final image of a Slender-billed Curlew is difficult to look at, it’s a stab deep inside.

The lost ones are a terrible pill but they can at least remind us of how susceptible birds and biodiversity are to what people do, how so much of life is dependent on our actions (“life” also including the future of Homo sapiens). We are also made aware of the magnificent diversity of birds still available to us today by way of millions of images of birds, all at the touch of a finger. It’s such a far cry from the way things were in pre-Internet times that those days almost seem to be located in another world, another universe where we opened the pages of a magazine and gazed in awe at images of unbelievable birds. Species like the Gyrfalcon, the aerial powerhouse of the tundra, of stunning, breeding-plumaged May warblers. It was just as exciting to open a field guide and gaze at plates with species we hoped to see, birds like antpittas or the Purple-throated Mountain-gem.

We still look at fantastic photos with awe and hungry eyes but the illustrated field guide hasn’t been replaced. Far from it because after all, who doesn’t appreciate finely illustrated avian art? The birds have to be correctly drawn, show the right colors, postures, and be painted with care but when it all comes together, beautiful bird art is in a category of its own. During the restricted days of our pandemic, fine avian art can also act as a calming means of escape, as a way to study birds, or maybe just to look at something other than the screen.

In Costa Rica, lately, I have been enjoying the class and elegance of bird poster art produced by CaraCara. A locally owned company started by Birding Experiences founder and guide Diego Quesada (with whom I have watched Buff-breasted Sandpipers among other birds), CaraCara offers poster art of bird families that occur in Costa Rica. They also plan on eventually offering stickers, mugs, and other bird-related items but until then, I enjoy taking inspiration from the classy bird art shown on the CaraCara posters in the office. Posters of three groups of birds are currently available; toucans, trogons, and hummingbirds.

These are all of the toucan species that occur in Costa Rica. As with the other posters, the illustrations are accurate and a pleasure to look at.

All of the trogons are also depicted, and yes the tail coverts of the Resplendent Quetzal really are that long!

A selection of 13 hummingbird species are shown on this poster, maybe other posters will eventually be made to show the other 40 species.

Personally, I like how the posters are printed on flat, sustainably-made paper rather than a glossy surface. Not only is this the right way to go about using paper, but it also adds a touch of old-school class. I see them in my place and imagine them being more at home on the walls of upscale hotels, nature lodges, a doctor’s office and other office space. They add a touch of class to their surroundings, hopefully, they will inspire me to complete more projects as I work from home. I know they will also inspire me to get back in the field as soon as and whenever I can because every birder knows that the next best thing to looking at fine bird art is looking at the actual, living subject. In Costa Rica, I already know that feathered subject will be in beautiful surroundings and near lots of other fantastic tropical birds.

The posters come with a sheet that includes range maps and other information. It’s also worth mentioning that this bird art from CaraCara is currently also available in the USA and a part of the proceeds will be used to study the company namesake, and threatened species in Costa Rica, the Red-throated Caracara. I look forward to the day when birders can visit Costa Rica and take in the colors of mountain-gems and look for threatened caracaras. In the meantime, we can at least reward ourselves with beautiful bird art and support the local Costa Rican economy.

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.