Volunteers partnering with scientists to answer real-world questions

Our Neotropical Migratory Birds Monitoring Program
runs annually from September through June




 Dates available during the following periods

 October 4 - December 6, 2021

December 16 - 26, 2021

Dates in 2022 to be determined

Contact us if you have specific dates in mind 


No extensive knowledge of birds required
Just bring your interest in nature and desire to learn
Contribute to our understanding of birds
Support habitat conservation

   CLICK on the following link to view:  THE BIRD LIST OF BIJAGUAL RESERVE


Bird Monitoring at Bijagual Reserve
Though birds can spend up to 8 months of the year at their wintering sites, most studies focus on the breeding grounds and the activities of migratory birds during the breeding season. Less is known about the exact locations of wintering grounds, fidelity to those sites, resources available, factors affecting birds’ site choices, timing and duration of migration, changes in climate at overwintering sites, etc. Because little data exist for birds at their winter sites as well as for those sites themselves, there are insufficient data to understand what happens to birds during a significant portion of their lifetimes and the effects of climate change on their wintering ranges. Due to this lack of knowledge about wintering sites and the subsequent exclusion of them from predictions of how climate will affect future ranges of migratory birds, it is likely that even more birds are threatened by global climate change than studies have been able to predict or to identify so far. Effective plans to protect migratory birds will need to incorporate knowledge about their overwintering ecology and sites.

Bijagual Ecological Reserve serves as a wintering ground or a stopover location for at least 54 species of Neotropical migratory birds. This makes it an ideal place to study the overwintering ecology of migrants and learn about their Neotropical wintering grounds. Furthermore, our Neotropical Migratory Birds Monitoring Program runs annually from September through June which also allows us to detect first arrival to and last departure from Bijagual Reserve for passage migrants that overwinter in South America.

The bird project at Bijagual focuses on monitoring resident and migratory populations as well as measuring the health of individuals for several species.

History of Banding at the Reserve

Banding of resident and migratory birds began in 2011 as a field techniques demonstration for undergraduate courses and over the years has developed into a year-round monitoring program.

Currently, our citizen science project focuses on three specific aspects of our monitoring program: banding both migratory and resident birds, measuring the health of individuals as well as surveying the migratory bird population at Bijagual annually from September through June.


A total of 924 bird species are known to occur in Costa Rica, a relatively large number of species for a small area. It is estimated that approximately 25% of species occurring in Costa Rica are migrants from North America. These birds include raptors, vultures, waterfowl, shorebirds, hummingbirds and passerine species such as thrushes, warblers, orioles, and tanagers. There are also a handful of species that live and breed in Costa Rica half of the year before migrating to South America for the other half of the year.

At the Bijagual Ecological Reserve, at least 303 bird species have been observed to date: 33% of all species found in Costa Rica. We include only species that have actually been seen or heard within the reserve's boundary. This number continues to increase over time. Our staff, visiting ornithologists and participants of the annual Christmas Bird Count are continually adding species to the bird list. An example of some species commonly seen at the reserve include: the Great Green Macaw, White-collared Swift that roost behind a waterfall, Agami Heron, Sunbittern, American Pygmy Kingfisher, toucans, manakins, motmots, four species of trogons and various hummingbirds.



The Bijagual Ecological Reserve and field station, established in March 2001, are managed by a U.S. non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, the Bijagual Center for Environmental Education & Conservation, which is dedicated to conservation, education and research. The reserve protects 709 acres (286 hectares) of rain forest in the lowlands of the Sarapiquí region. It lies 2.5 miles (4 km) west of Braulio Carrillo National Park and 5.6 miles (9 km) southeast of the town of La Virgen. San Jose is a 3.5-hr drive. The field station houses overnight and long-term guests with ample room for lectures, workspace, and relaxation.

The reserve is situated at an elevation of 950 - 1345 feet (290 - 410 meters) above sea level. Temperatures range from lows of 63℉ (17℃) to highs of 91℉ (33℃). Northeasterly winds on the Caribbean coast provide plentiful rain all year round. Average annual rainfall is 216 inches (5500 mm) with a minimum of 4 inches falling during any given month. The wettest months are between May and July and the "drier" months during March and April.

Several different habitats can be found within the reserve: old-growth forest, riparian forest, selectively-logged forest, secondary forest, natural regeneration, reforestation areas, swamps, an arboretum, and a garden area planted with native species. Two rivers flow through the reserve: the Bijagual River runs through the eastern side, and the Tirimbina River runs through the western side. There are an additional 20 streams and 6 waterfalls that are wonderful swimming spots and accessible via the maintained 12.5 mile (20-km) trail system.

In the area surrounding the reserve, Brauilio Carrillo National Park is the closest protected park. The remaining area is a matrix of active pastures, exotic and native tree plantations, patches of forest, remnant gallery forests along rivers and streams, ornamental plantations and intensive production of pork and poultry.



Costa Rica is located in Central America on the isthmus that joins North and South America. It is situated between Nicaragua to its north and Panama to the southeast. Its total area is approximately 19,730 square miles (51,100 sq km) or the total areas of the states of Massachussetts and New Hampshire combined. The greatest length spanning north to south is 288 miles (463.5 km), and the narrowest width between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea is 74 miles (119 km).

Three mountain chains run almost the entire length of Costa Rica from northwest to southeast. They are divided into the Cordillera de Guanacaste to the northwest, the Cordillera Central, and the Cordillera de Talamanca to the southeast. The highest peak is Chirripo at 12,529 feet (3,819 meters) in the Talamanca range. The southern side of the Cordillera Central overlooks the Valle Central which includes the capital San Jose with an elevation of 3,809 feet (1161 m). To the northeast of the Cordillera Central lie the Caribbean lowlands which makes up approximately one-fifth of the country's area.


Rain forests are defined as forest ecosystems characterized by high levels of rainfall, a closed canopy and high species diversity and are actually found widely around the world, including both temperate and tropical regions. Tropical rain forests typically occur in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, latitudes that have warm temperatures and relatively constant year-round sunlight. Tropical rain forests support the greatest diversity of living organisms on Earth. Although they cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s surface, tropical rain forests house more than 50 percent of the plants and animals on the planet. Rain forests provide important ecological services, including storing hundreds of billions of tons of carbon, buffering against flood and drought, stabilizing soils, influencing rainfall patterns, and providing a home to wildlife and indigenous people. Rain forests are also the source of many useful products. Every year an area of rain forest the size of New Jersey is cut down and destroyed. Throughout Latin America, deforestation is squeezing migratory birds into ever smaller wintering grounds, threatening their long-term survival.

For more information about tropical rain forests, the World Wildlife Fund provides a good resource at the following link: http://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/nt0130