Are all birds created equal? I bet a Common Raven would tell you otherwise, and so would a lot of birders. Blasphemy say ye? Just ask yourself if you feel like giving the same value to a ratty looking Rock Pigeon as a candy-colored Jambu Fruit-Dove. Nothing against the Rocky Pigeon but let’s be honest, if a breeding plumaged Blackburnian Warbler hops into view, It’s pretty easy to forget about that pigeon, Warbling Vireo, or even a Pine Warbler when you can treat the good old retinas to a striking combination of red-orange, black, and white. Even the most emotionally detached birder on the block would be forced to admit, that “Yes, now that bird is hot-damn beautiful.”

We also have birds to which we attach the cute label. Bird species with big eyes and small bills tend to be labelled like so because those anthropomorphic features can trigger an emotional response but so what? Cute is cool, and especially when the bird is a lifer. Go birding in Costa Rica to get these avian examples of cuteness on the life list:


Collared Redstart– cute and common in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama.

This species is sometimes known as “amigo del hombre” (friend of man) because it can follow people through the forest to catch bugs scared out of hiding. Yeah, it’s just using you as a beater but you get rewarded with close looks and photos.


Snowcap– all hummingbirds are cute but this one is tiny AND the male looks like wine candy.


Green Thorntail– like I said, all hummingbirds are cute (except maybe the Giant Hummingbird of South America. That one almost looks like a swallow with a super long beak).


American Pygmy Kingfisher– it’s tough to express the cute factor of this species with a photo. See one in person, though, and the tiny size, shining colors, and ticking call notes will get your attention.


Long-tailed Tyrant– this cute little flycatcher likes to sit out in the open and flick its super long tail as it gives a soft call note.


 Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl– Despite their rapacious ways and penchant to eat other cute birds, some owls fall smartly into the cute category.

Since cuteness depends on who is doing the looking, we could also talk about everything from Crane Hawks to antpittas and manakins. However, instead of being intrigued by pictures of cute birds, I suggest visiting Costa Rica to compare avian degrees of cuteness with your own bins. Hope to see you here!

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.