At the biological crossroads of the Americas, Costa Rica hosts an astonishing array of plants and animals—over half a million species! Ecotourists, birders, and biologists come from around the world, drawn by the likelihood of seeing more than three or four hundred species of birds and other animals during even a short stay. To help all these visitors, as well as local residents, identify and enjoy the wildlife of Costa Rica, Carrol Henderson published Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica in 2002, and it instantly became the indispensable guide.
Now Henderson has created a dedicated field guide to more than one hundred tropical butterflies, moths, and other invertebrates that travelers are most likely to see while exploring the wild lands of Costa Rica. He includes fascinating information on their natural history, ecology, identification, and behavior gleaned from his forty years of travels and wildlife viewing, as well as details on where to see these remarkable and beautiful creatures. The butterflies, moths, and other invertebrates are illustrated by over 180 stunning and colorful photographs—most of which were taken in the wild by Henderson. A detailed and invaluable appendix that identifies many of Costa Rica's best wildlife-watching destinations, lodges, and contact information for trip-planning purposes completes the volume.
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I grew up as a farm boy near Zearing in central Iowa, and most of my early travels were within twenty-five miles of our family farm. I had quite a provincial view of life and no concept of ecosystems, biological diversity, or tropical rainforests. I just knew that I loved wildlife. I had no idea that Costa Rica, a small country thousands of miles away in Central America, would later play such a dramatic role in shaping the direction of my personal and professional life.
An early and enthusiastic interest in nature led me to major in zoology and minor in botany at Iowa State University. After completing my bachelor's degree at ISU in 1968, I enrolled in graduate school at the University of Georgia, where I studied ecology, forest and wildlife management, journalism, and public relations. During my search for a thesis topic, Dr. James H. Jenkins directed me to an Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) course in Costa Rica.
When I began my two-month OTS course in tropical grasslands agriculture in February of 1969, I had no idea it would be such a life-changing experience. Every day was an adventure! I tried to absorb all that I could about the land, the people, and the wildlife of Costa Rica. I quickly learned that this is not a country you can visit just once. By March I had already applied for another OTS course and was subsequently accepted. In June 1969, I drove from Georgia to Costa Rica with Dr. Jenkins for an OTS course in tropical ecology.
The OTS faculty, recruited from educational institutions throughout North and Central America, included some of the most notable tropical biologists in the world. They inspired me with their knowledge and enthusiasm about tropical ecosystems. By the end of the tropical ecology course, I had fallen in love with the country, with its people, and with Ethelle González Alvarez, a student at the University of Costa Rica. I returned to Costa Rica a third time in 1969. Ethelle and I were married in December of that year and have now been married forty years. We have a son, Craig, who shares our love and enthusiasm for his Tico heritage, along with his wife, Reem, and son, Mazen Nathaniel.
After returning to the University of Georgia, I wrote my master's thesis, "Fish and Wildlife Resources of Costa Rica, with Notes on Human Influences." The 340-page thesis analyzed human influences that were having significant positive or negative impacts on Costa Rica's wildlife. I also provided recommendations for changes in the game laws that would improve management of the country's wildlife.
In addition to my interest in vertebrates, I had previously studied entomology at Iowa State University and did a National Science Foundation undergraduate research project on mosquitoes under entomologist Dr. Kenneth L. Knight.
During the forty years since my first visit to Costa Rica, I have returned forty-one times. Since 1987, our visits to the country have included leading wildlife tours. Ethelle and I have led twenty-six birding and wildlife tours to Costa Rica since 1987 in coordination with Preferred Adventures Ltd. of St. Paul. We continue to see new species on every visit—and every day is still an adventure!
Each year thousands of first-time tourists are experiencing the same sense of wonder about the country's rainforests and wildlife that I did in 1969, and Costa Rica has become one of the top nature tourism destinations in the world. This book is written to share my enthusiasm and knowledge about the country's wildlife with those tourists and with Costa Ricans who share our love of nature. It is written to answer questions about identification, distribution, natural history, and the incredible ecological adaptations of many wildlife species. It also provides the opportunity to recognize the people and conservation programs that have made Costa Rica a world leader in preserving its tropical forest and wildlife resources. This is not a typical field guide. It includes selected species of butterflies, moths, and other invertebrates that are likely to catch the attention of tourists in Costa Rica because of their conspicuous colors, size, or unique life histories. It does not cover the invertebrates comprehensively, but it will assist in identifying many of the more common creatures that are likely to be encountered during a visit at the peak of the annual tourist season, from January through March.
Carrol L. Henderson has headed the Nongame Wildlife Program of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources since 1977. He is an award-winning wildlife conservationist who has helped bring back eastern bluebirds, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, river otters, and trumpeter swans; an avid wildlife photographer whose images have appeared in the New York Times, Audubon, Birder's World, and Wild Bird; an experienced birding tour leader to Latin America, Kenya, Tanzania, and New Zealand; and the author of many magazine articles and several books. In 2016, the Garden Club of America awarded Henderson the Frances K. Hutchinson Medal, which is given to figures of national importance for distinguished service to conservation. In 2012, he received the Gary T. Myers Bird Conservation Award from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, recognizing him as the top bird conservationist in North America.