4 Jul 2014

CAÑO NEGRO… home of the Caiman

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Cano Negro is an area of river floodplain close to Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua, where the Rio Frio flows towards Lake Nicaragua. We visited at the end of February this year. 

As the lagoons dry out, there is lots of marshy habitat for birds and other wildlife.  If I was in charge, I’d market the area as “Costa Rica’s Okavango Delta”.  Instead of large african mammals, though, there are horses and cattle, so it's not quite the same. 

The far bank of the lagoon at Laguna Guaval

Most of the birding is done by boat along the waterways. 

Boat-billed Heron

We weren't the only birders on the river !

Good all-round viewing

A lot of the daytrippers arrive after nine o'clock, having come all the way from La Fortuna, near Arenal. We were usually finishing our morning boat trips by then, having had the best of the day, we felt.

Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

Hands Up if you're a Northern Jacana


Green Ibis

We did our first two trips with the guy who ran the place we stayed, but he wasn't particularly good at birds. Later, we approached Rosi Arguedas of Paraiso Tropical (office opposite the square and beside the landing jetty path) who spoke English. She told us that their guide, Ernesto Santamaria, was a very keen birder. Ernesto also spoke a bit of English, which turned out to be useful. 
That evening we hired Ernesto (three of us paid US$60) and soon added Green-and-Rufous Kingfishers, Giant Potoo, and Common Potoo to the growing list of birds we’d seen on Cano Negro boat trips. We didn't even have to get out of the boat to see the Potoos. 

Green-and-rufous Kingfisher
With the Green-and-rufous Kingfisher we completed the "set" of green american kingfishers depicted on plate 26 of "Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers" by Hilary and Kathy Fry, and Alan Harris.

Giant Potoo

Common Potoo

Sunset at Cano Negro

A morning boat trip with Ernesto netted us Agami Heron and Jabiru. He was very willing to lead us ashore here and there when it was necessary to get a view of the specialties. 

Agami Heron (immature)

Jabiru and other stuff at another drying lagoon

Olivaceous Piculets

Black-headed Trogon

Wandering around the area, we enjoyed the general ambience of Cano Negro, with Jacanas feeding like sparrows around grazing horses, and Amazon Kingfishers duelling over the river. 

Northern Jacanas and quadruped

Northern Jacanas and quadruped

Amazon Kingfisher

In the village itself we found some colourful birds near an open-air restaurant. 

Yellow-throated Euphonia

Red-legged Honeycreeper (male)
Golden-hooded Tanager
After three nights and four boat trips, as well as birding along the riverbank on foot, we added over thirty species to our growing Costa Rica list.


  1. Some amazing pictures, John. So many close kingfishers and love those colorful birds on the fruit. What a place to visit.

    1. Thanks, Russell ! There were a few visitors there, but not a "Touristy" place…we liked it.

  2. Those are some really amazing photographs. I did the day trip tour from Fortuna three times. Although I was satisfied by the many birds and other creatures that we saw, I see that I missed out on the best stuff. I did not see, Jabiru, Green Ibis, Green and Rufous Kingfisher, Olivaceous Piculet, and Agami Heron. Now I will have to go back and do the trip right.

    1. Thanks, John. It's worth actually staying at Cano Negro for those early morning/ late evening birds… and get Ernesto as your guide !

  3. Some beautiful images there. It's obviously a great place to visit too - somewhere to put on the wish list!

    1. I think Costa Rica is the kind of place where you can do itineraries of totally different sites and still have a great time !

  4. This is what I call a birding holiday. Wow! Great shots as usual, John.

  5. Thanks, Mun ! You can't go wrong in a place like Cano Negro.

  6. Sigh! Yet another place to add to the "must visit" list - shuck great looking birds - and the boat-billed heron is remarkable.

    Sorry for slow reply - hectic weeks!

    Cheers - Stewart M

  7. Yet more great pics of what seems to have been a wonderful trip. Looking forward to heading that way myself one of these days. The associated bird close-ups are fabulous - my favorite though is of the Jacanas and the horse.

    1. Thanks Jeremy, - Costa Rica is practically on your doorstep, isn't it ?

  8. Wow John, your trips get more amazing every time..................