The Clay-Colored Thrush: The National Bird of Costa Rica

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: December 30, 2022
© William Berry/
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Costa Rica has some of the most diverse bird species in the world. The rainforests are teeming with colorful big-billed toucans, rainbow colored scarlet macaws and emerald green resplendent quetzals. It must have been hard for the people of Costa Rica to choose just one bird to represent their country as the national bird. The bird they decided on may surprise you but when you learn what it symbolizes you will understand the significance of the countries’ choice. Read on to find out all about the national bird of Costa Rica!

What is the National Bird of Costa Rica?

The clay-colored thrush is a similar size to the American robin.
The clay-colored thrush is the national bird of Costa Rica where it goes by the name of “Yigüirro”.

©William Berry/

The national bird of Costa Rica is the clay-colored thrush. In Costa Rica they go by the name “Yigüirro” and they used to be called clay-colored robins. That gives you hint as to what these birds are like, they are very similar to the American robin. About the same size as a robin but with a different the coloration, with brownish-tan feathers, a lighter chest and dull yellow beak. The scientific name of the clay-colored thrush is Turdus grayi.

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Why did Costa Rica Choose the Clay-Colored Thrush as the National Bird of Costa Rica?

Costa Rica chose the clay-colored thrush as their national bird for a variety of reasons. For years the clay-colored thrush has been represented in folk stories, songs and novels. They are one of the most common birds in the country and choose to live in close proximity to humans so they are a familiar symbol to the people of Costa Rica. One of the most endearing characteristics of the clay-colored thrush is the beautiful song of the males in spring. Every spring farmers anticipate hearing the mating songs of the males to signal the oncoming green season and spring rains.

Where do Clay-Colored Thrushes Live?

Clay-colored thrushes live throughout the country, usually in urban, suburban and small cities. From the edges of small forests to backyard gardens, these birds seem to be able to adapt to a variety of habitats. They are common in cities like San Jose, Liberia and Limon, often found in local parks. Clay-colored thrushes are nesting birds that make a nest from twigs, grass and mud. They may even make their nest just outside your window in your windowsill!

What do Clay-Colored Thrushes Eat?

These common birds are not picky eaters. They will hop along the ground and search for seeds, earthworms, insects, spiders and fruit. Besides foraging for food along the ground they also will pick small fruit from trees.

Are Clay-Colored Thrushes Endangered?

Clay-colored thrush
The clay-colored thrush is not endangered and is classified as “least concern”.

©Petr Simon/

No. The clay-colored thrush is not endangered, it is listed by the IUCN as a species of “least concern”. There were last assessed in November of 2020 when it was estimated that there were around 20,000,000 clay-colored thrushes spread throughout its’ range. They live as far north as the southern tip of Texas throughout Central America down to northern Columbia. Their population seems to be remaining stable throughout its range.

What Other Animals Live in Costa Rica?

Other animals that live in Costa Rica include some of the flashy birds mentioned above like the keel-billed toucan, scarlet macaw and resplendent quetzal. Owls, like the spectacled owl, striped owl and crested owl are all found in the country. Another surpisinlgy colorful bird is the King Vulture, while they may not be one of the favorite birds they do have bright orange, red and yellow markings on their head.

Besides the bird world, there are hundreds of unique animals to find in Costa Rica. The coatimundi is a raccoon-like animal that is relatively common. The red-eyed tree frog is often featured in literature promoting travel in Costa Rica. There are also crocodiles, white-faced capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys and two toed sloths. Along the coast you might see moon crabs and further out at sea look for humpback whales and bottle-nose dolphins.

What is the National Animal of Costa Rica?

A white-tailed deer standing in a meadow
The stunning white-tailed deer is the national animal of Costa Rica.

©Paul Tessier/

Is the national animal of Costa Rica the massive humpback whale, smiling three toed sloth or the brightly colored toucan? No. The national animal of Costa Rica is the white-tail deer. Again the people of Costa Rica went with a common animal that represents the mix of tenderness and strength as well as the prosperity of the Costa Rican people. White-tail deer can be found in southern Costa Rica in many of the national parks. They are masters of blending in with their surroundings and silently moving through forests and grassland.

Is the National Animal or Bird on the Costa Rican Flag?

No. The Costa Rican flag has five alternating horizontal stripes of blue, white, red, white and blue. The middle red stripe is wider than the other blue and white stripes. Off center to the left is the coat of arms of the country.

Is the National Animal or Bird on the Costa Rica Coat of Arms?

No. The coat of arms features three volcanoes with a large merchant ship in the front and one in the distance. The sun can be seen on the horizon of the sea to the left and seven stars are above the volcanoes, each representing the seven provinces of the country.

Is the National Animal or Bird on the Costa Rica Currency?

The national animal, the white-tail deer is featured on one of the bills but the clay-colored thrush is not. You will find other treasured animals of Costa Rica proudly displayed as well. The currency in Costa Rica is called the Colon. Here are some of the animals featured on the Costa Rica currency:

  • 1000 Colones: white-tail deer
  • 2 Mil Colones: bull shark, red cushion sea star
  • 5 Mil Colones: white-headed capuchin monkey, mangrove crab
  • 10 Mil Colones: brown-throated sloth
  • 20 Mil Colones: volcano hummingbird
  • 50 Mil Colones: morpho butterfly

When can you Hear the Beautiful Song of the Clay-Colored Thrush?

The first song of the clay-colored thrush can be heard as early as March but typically in April as the male serenades the female during mating season. The mating season is usually April-May. The song of the clay-colored thrush is similar to the song that robins make in the spring in the United States. Once you hear the song of the clay-colored thrush you will understand why it was chosen as the national bird of Costa Rica.

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The clay-colored thrush is a similar size to the American robin.
The clay-colored thrush is the national bird of Costa Rica.
© William Berry/

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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