The Umbrellabird Project

The Project:

Please note that The Umbrellabird Project is not currently taking applications for the 2018 season!

Volunteers are needed for an ongoing study of Bare-necked Umbrellabird Cephalopterus glabricollis in The Global Classroom’s Aula Global Biological Reserve, located in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. These birds, listed as Endangered by the IUCN, are rare altitudinal migrants endemic to Costa Rica and Panama, and travel annually from lowland nonbreeding to highland breeding habitat. Though the species has been reasonably documented, many details concerning the behavior and ecology of the umbrellabird are still poorly understood. To date, only a single nest had ever been documented until our 2016 season when we discovered two active Bare-necked Umbrellabird nests.

Aula Global Reserve is a remote, private reserve encompasses hundreds of acres of pristine old growth pre-montane, montane, tropical wet and cloud forest. 15 years ago 30% of Aula Global Biological Reserve was deforested cow pasture and has since been completely reforested with a variety of fruiting trees, such as Lauracaea, known to be a significant part of the umbrellabird’s diet. In addition to the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, the reserve also boasts a wide variety of other rare bird species; Three-wattled Bellbird and Resplendent Quetzal are regularly seen, and were often spotted from the hide while observing an active umbrellabird nest during our 2016 season. Though our focus will be the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, birding opportunities will be plentiful!

Goals will be locating the birds and conducting intensive behavioral observations. This will require long hours searching the property using Aula Global’s established trail system as well as occasional off trail bushwacking. If a lek or nest site is located, observations will commence immediately from sunrise to sunset. Our intention is to better understand the umbrellabird’s reproductive ecology, distribution patterns, and population throughout the reserve. If possible, mist netting and banding of birds, as well as fitting with satellite transmitters, may occur. Volunteers will need to be self-motivated, be capable of carrying up to 25 pound backpacks while traversing rugged terrain, and can expect to work long hours rising early and working late in all weather conditions. Work will be distributed among small teams as well as independently. Please consider that this project can be physically demanding!

In 2016 we were lucky enough to discover two active nests; though we certainly hope for more of the same, we unfortunately cannot guarantee success in locating more nests. Volunteers should be aware of the fact that they may leave the field station without having seen or studied the umbrellabird. The more eyes we have, the better; every volunteer, regardless of their level of experience, can help make this project a success!


For our 2017 season we are accepting volunteers from March – June. Time commitment ranges from a minimum of one week up to three months – please consult with Sabrina at about your availability and length of stay. Those wishing to stay for more than three 1-week sessions will receive a discount. Please contact us for more information.

 How to Apply:

Please visit our application page for further instructions on how to apply to this position.

Project Cost:

 Cost is $450/week and covers onsite lodging in dorm-style housing with bunk beds, food, equipment use and transportation to and from the field station from Monteverde/Santa Elena. Please note that this does not include the Aula Global conservation fee (see below).

 Conservation Fee:

 A conservation fee of $25/week is paid directly to Aula Global Biological Reserve and allows for the continuing use of the property for research projects like this one. Aula Global does not allow tourism and depends on this fee from volunteers like you to keep its rainforests pristine and natural. Your investment in Aula Global allows for a peaceful, wild environment for the umbrellabird, jaguar, and countless other species that call Aula Global home.

Arrival In-Country:

We will meet you in the mountain village of Monteverde/Santa Elena at 12:30PM on the day your session begins – please make sure to arrange your flight with this in mind. Upon enrollment, you will receive a detailed information packet with all necessary bus schedules, taxi information, pre-trip lodging possibilities, a full packing list etc.

The Monteverde/Santa Elena bus takes about 4.5 hours from San Jose. There is a rest stop about halfway for 15 minutes; don’t wander off, as the driver will leave you there! You will be taking the bus all the way to its final stop. This is the same bus that you will take out of Monteverde and back to Alajuela on your final day of your session: plan on taking the 2:30PM bus out.

**Any and all questions concerning the project, accommodations, travel, etc. should be sent to