Image of the Month May 2023: Lovely Cotinga

Photographer: Adam Riley   Destination: Guatemala

Explore Central America with the Lovely Cotinga. This absolute stunner of a species is found throughout Central America, along the Atlantic slope from southern Mexico to northern Panama. Along with the others in the Cotinga genus, they play a vital seed dispersal role in the tropical lowland forests they inhabit, consuming entire fruits and later regurgitating the seeds intact.

While the Lovely Cotinga is distributed across much of Central America, they are by no means easy to see. This unobtrusive, silent species is most frequently observed as a single bird, perched high in the canopy, but unmistakeable even at distance. For close views and photos finding a fruiting tree is key.

On a journey along the Lovely Cotingas range, we are bound to encounter some of the world’s most sought-after species, amongst an utterly outrageous number of avian specialities.


Starting in the unspoiled lowland forests of Guatemala, amid the historical Mayan ruins of Tikal, the highly coveted Ocellated Turkey, Scarlet Macaw, Agami Heron, and Great Curassow add to the staggering display of birdlife. Keep an eye out for the Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys too.


Honduras is a hidden gem boasting more than 700 bird species and is filled to the brim with highlights for the nature enthusiast. Here we’ll have the opportunity to marvel at the Honduran Emerald, the country's sole endemic, alongside the charismatic Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, and Lovely Cotinga at spots like Pico Bonito Lodge, one of the most spectacular eco-lodges on the planet!

Costa Rica

Further south, Costa Rica awaits with its impressive tally of 850+ bird species. The scenic mountain ranges of Costa Rica are a treasure trove of unique avifauna, where cloud forests teem with exotic species like Snowcap, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Snowy Cotinga, and Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher. Meanwhile, the central highlands harbour a list of various trogons, toucans, and motmots that would make any global lister envious.


Home to over 930 bird species and offering accessible rainforests and mystical montane cloud forests. The Western Highlands region is a true haven for highland endemic species, with Resplendent Quetzal being one of the star attractions. Birders here can also spot a multitude of highland hummingbirds, tanagers, and trogons while the monotypic Wrenthrush is another major highlight. Panama's vast protected areas make it an emerging must-visit destination for birders, offering chances to see rare mammals like sloths, Mantled Howler Monkeys, and if lucky even Ocelot or Kinkajou.