Species Lists

Species List Costa Rica




Crustaceans        Arachnids        Insects        Amphibians        Reptiles        Mammals        Birds



Costa Rica, a small Central American nation roughly the size of Scotland, is estimated to house around 5% of the world's animal and plant species, many of them found nowhere else. The country is especially well-known for its prolific and highly visible bird life, and for large marine fauna including hammerhead sharks that gather around the offshore Cocos Islands. The country is well-represented in less iconic wildlife groups. For instance, there are around 400 species of amphibians and reptiles. The country's diversity in so many wildlife groups has been attributed to its position between the major biogeographic realms of North and South America; on land, species from both continental faunas are represented, while at sea the wildlife of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans can be found in Costa Rican waters.


Costa Rica has long been hailed as a conservationist's paradise. It contains one of the most extensive and best-managed protected area networks in the world, and one of the world's best-known ecological research facilities at La Selva. At the same time, timber extraction remains a major threat in the highly diverse southern region of the country, and has been calculated that Costa Rica's reserve system has only reduced deforestation by around 10% since the 1960s, when the first national park was established. Monteverde was at one time renowned for its biodiversity; since the 1980s this site has become a symbol of both the amphibian decline crisis and loss of biodiversity more generally: mammals, reptiles and insects are also more scarce on the mountain than they used to be. This decline has been blamed in part on a rising cloud layer that has resulted in less moisture reaching the forest floor, and this has been attributed to both strong El Nino events and ongoing climate change. It has, however, been argued that a better-understood and potentially more easily remedied factor is to blame: disruption to the water cycle caused by the destruction of unprotected lowland rainforest below the mountain.




Costa Rica has over 110 species of marine decapod (crabs, shrimps and lobsters), making them among the country's major marine animal groups. On land, Halloween crabs (Gecarcinus quadratus) (pictured) are commonly encountered in lowland forest on the Pacific coast. These crabs are an important influence structuring coastal forest ecosystems through their role as seed predators, resulting in a gradient of forest types that provide habitats for a wide variety of other wildlife.



Halloween Crab

Gecarcinus quadratus






Costa Rica has several notable species of tarantula, among them the red-kneed tarantula (Brachypelma smithi) familiar from pet shops. More than 1,800 species of arachnid are known from the country as a whole, including potentially undescribed members of the black widow family (Theridiidae).





Red-kneed Tarantula

Brachypelma smithii

Golden Silk Spider

Nephila clavipes






In total, some 34,000 described species of insect are known from Costa Rica, with many undescribed forms known. There are about 1,250 species of butterfly in Costa Rica, a little less than twice the number in the continental United States, among them several large, electric blue Morpho species. The Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules), said to be the world's heaviest insect, and several species of both leafcutter and legionnaire (army) ants are also among the nation's charismatic insect inhabitants. Over 8,000 species of moths are known from the country, and it is also home to the world's largest living odonate, the damselfly Megaloprepus caeruleata, which has a wingspan of 191 mm and a body length of 120 mm.




Saturniid Moth

Rothschildia triloba

Monarch Butterfly

Danaus plexippus

Blue Morpho

Morpho peleides

Julia Longwing

Dryas iulia





Costa Rica boasts a well-studied, large amphibian fauna of over 170 species, more than 40 of them endemic to the country.. The country rang early alarm bells following reports that several formerly abundant species of amphibians had disappeared from Monteverde National Park in the early 1990s. It has since been discovered that amphibian populations are declining catastrophically worldwide, but the loss of over 20 species from Monteverde in the space of a few years remains one of the most extreme examples of this trend. Known only from Monteverde, the golden toad (Incilius, formerly Bufo, periglenes) is thought to be extinct, having not been seen for almost twenty years. This species had become a national icon following its discovery in 1966; several other missing species have been rediscovered in other locations.


Cane Toad

Rhinella marina

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Oophaga pumilio

Green-and-black Poison Dart Frog

Dendrobates auratus





There are over 200 species of reptile in Costa Rica, ranging in size from the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) to species of anole (small lizards of trees, shrubs and modified habitats). The country's coast forms part of an internationally important series of marine turtle nesting beaches, and the country's first national park was created to protect this habitat. Lizards are a common sight throughout the country; ctenosaurs (Ctenosaura simlis) frequent tourist resorts and even take scraps of food that diners drop. Basilisks, famous for the male's large crests and their habit of running on water, can be abundant (three of the world's four species occur in Costa Rica), and whiptails with brightly-coloured flanks and limbs (genus Ameiva) are often active among  forest leaf litter.


Common Slider

Trachemys scripta scripta

Black River Turtle

Rhinoclemmys funerea

Green Basilisk

Basiliscus plumifrons

Brown Basilisk

Basiliscus basiliscus


Ctenosaura similis

Middle American Ameiva

Ameiva festiva

Spectacled Caiman

Caiman crocodylus

American Crocodile

Crocodylus acutus





Costa Rica has about 200 species of mammal, a little less than 5% of the world total. Prior to human occupation, this total would likely have been somewhat higher, and is in any case surprisingly high when taking into account the Neotropical zone's relatively depauperate marine mammal fauna. Jaguars and tapirs may still persist in relatively large numbers in some of the country's larger reserves. Although Costa Rica lacks other large land mammals, there are numerous species of smaller cat, 100 species of bat, two of sloth, and three native monkeys, the black howler, white-faced capuchin and woolly spider monkey. A fourth, the squirrel monkey, is a relatively recent introduction from Brazil and has a more restricted distribution in the country.



Dasyprocta leporina


Nasua nasua


Eira barbara

White-faced Capuchin

Cebus capucinus

Woolly Spider Monkey

Brachyteles arachnoides

Black Howler Monkey

Alouatta caraya





 With 830 species, more than the entirety of continental North America north of Mexico, Costa Rica has a strong claim to possess the most diverse bird fauna of any similarly-sized country in the world. These include many colourful and charismatic species; one of the largest populations of scarlet macaws (Ara macao) in Central America, the rare great green macaw (Ara ambiguus), several species of toucan, numerous hummingbirds and, most famously, the bright turquoise-and-red resplendent quetzal (Pharomacrus moccino), largest member of the trogon family whose feathers were once prized as a mark of status among indigenous populations through much of Central America.


Highland Tinamou

Nothocecus bonapartei

Brown Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis

Brown Booby

Sula leucogaster

Olivaceous Cormorant

Phalacrocorax olivanceus


Anhinga anhinga

Magnificent Frigatebird

Fregata magnificens

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Tigrisoma mexicana

Boat-billed Heron

Cochlearius cochlearius

Cattle Egret

Bubulcus incus

Green Heron

Butorides viridiscens

Little Blue Heron

Egretta caerulea

Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

Great Egret

Casmerodius albus

Green Ibis

Mesembrinitis cayennensis

Roseate Spoonbill

Ajaia ajaja

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna autumnalis

Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura


Pandion haliaetus

White Hawk

Leucopternis albicollis

Common Blackhawk

Buteogallus anthracinus

Short-tailed Hawk

Buteo brachyurus

Zone-tailed Hawk

Buteo albonotatus


Aramus guaraunca


Heliornis fulica

Northern Jacana

Jacana spinosa

Spotted Sandpiper

Actitis macularia

Scarlet Macaw

Ara macao

Mealy Parrot

Amazona farinosa

Red-lored Parrot

Amazona autumnalis

Little Hermit

Phaethornis longuemarcus

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird

Phaeochroa cuvierii

Violet Sabrewing

Campylopterus hemileucurus

Brown Violet-ear

Colibri delphinae

Green Violet-ear

Colibri thalassinus

Green-breasted Mango

Anthracothorax prevostii

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Amazinia tzacatl

Green-crowned Brilliant

Heliodoxa jacula

Magenta-throated Woodstar

Calliphlox bryangtae

Resplendent Quetzal

Pharomacrus mocinno

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Trogon massena

Black-headed Trogon

Trogon melanocephalus

Violaceous Trogon

Trogon violaceus

Ringed Kingfisher

Ceryle torquata

Blue-crowned Motmot

Momotus momota

Swainson's/Chestnut-billed Toucan

Rhamphastos swainsonii

Keel-billed Toucan

Rhamphastos sulfuratus

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Campephilus guatemalensis

Long-tailed Woodcreeper

Deconychura longicauda

Spotted Woodcreeper

Xiphorhynchus erythropygius

Blue-crowned Manakin

Pipra coronata

Tropical Kingbird

Tyrannus melancholicus

Golden-bellied Flycatcher

Myiodynastes hemichrysus

Social Flycatcher

Myiozetetes similis

Great Kiskadee

Pitangus sulphuratus

Tufted Flycather

Mitrephanes phaeocercus

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

Elaenia flavogaster

Blue-and-white Swallow

Notiochelidon cyanoleuca

Brown Jay

Cyanocorax morio

Riverside Wren

Thyrothorus semibadius

Clay-coloured Robin

Turdus grayi

Sooty Robin

Turdus nigrescens

Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush

Catharus mexicanus

Buff-rumped Warbler

Phaeothlypis fulvicauda

Montezuma Oropendola

Psarocolius montezuma

Scarlet-rumped Cacique

Cacicus uropygialis

Giant Cowbird

Scaphidura oryzivora

Long-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus mexicanus

Nicaraguan Grackle

Quiscalus nicaraguensis

Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula galbula

Scarlet-rumped Tanager

Ramphocelus passerinii

Yellow-thighed Finch

Pselliophorus tibialis

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Zonotrichia capensis

Costa Rica

Disclaimer: This map contains public domain material originally from the United States Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.