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#454103 - 12/24/12 02:43 PM Birdwatching Guide to Belize
Marty Offline

With a turn of the dial on the binoculars, the magnificent red bird comes into focus: nearly three feet long (the glorious tail plumage more than half this length), with slender scarlet feathers tinged in royal blue, so bright they almost glow in the morning sun. Its cerulean and yellow-tipped plumes look like an artist took a paintbrush to them. This is the endangered scarlet macaw, only one of nearly 600 bird species to see while birdwatching in Belize.

Belize is a hotbed of avian activity. For comparison’s sake, there are about 700 bird species in all of North America, while Belize (a country roughly the size of Massachusetts) has 560 feathered friends. Well-traveled birders visit Belize to see species they’ve been waiting for all their birdwatching lives. The protected rainforests of Belize provide safe homes for the world’s rarest birds such as the keel-billed motmot, a species commonly spotted in the Caracol Archaeological Reserve. Other exotic species frequently seen on birding tours in Belize include the great curassow, crested guan, jabiru stork, yellow-headed parrot, boat-billed heron, orange-breasted falcon, rufous-capped warbler, white-crowned pigeon, red-footed booby and the scarlet macaw.  Everyone – from experienced birders to first-timers – can appreciate the unique songs and colorful plumage of the birds of Belize.

Belize’s diverse landscape offers visitors tremendous variety in birdwatching locations, ranging from broadleaf forests to wetlands, pine forests to mangroves, and savannahs to rainforests. Home to 16 birds on the endangered species list, Belize protects these ecosystems in its numerous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. What’s good for the bird is good for the birdwatcher! We glanced through our binoculars at some of Belize’s protected areas to brief you on what to look for at the best birdwatching spots in Belize:

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

Trekking along the country’s most well-maintained trails through the reserve’s 128,000 acres of lush tropical rainforest, you may glimpse the emerald toucanet, keel-billed toucan (Belize’s national bird), king vulture and scarlet macaw. Although the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was originally established as the world’s first jaguar preserve to protect Belize’s endangered jaguar population, it also serves as a refuge for around 300 species of birds.  Avid birders visit this preserve for all the dazzling color flitting around the canopy, but some will also have the rare experience of spotting the most elusive of the big cats.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Established by the Belize Audubon Society in 1984, this wildlife sanctuary quickly became an important refuge for water birds during the wet season and feeding birds during the dry season. As the largest flying bird in the Americas, the five-foot-tall jabiru stork (with a ten- to twelve-foot wingspan) represents the biggest draw for birders and birding tours. Your best bet for seeing a jabiru: take a boat tour of Crooked Tree when the water is low.

Caracol Archaeological Reserve

After exploring Belize’s largest and most impressive Mayan ruin, take some time to look around for the keel-billed motmot. Though an endangered species, this stunning little bird is a common sight at the Caracol Archaeological Reserve. A glimpse of its lemon-yellow breast and brilliant sapphire tail makes an interesting contrast with the ruins – living beauty next to faded glory.

Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

Granite rock formations worn down by 300 million years of water, wind, and rain frame the majestic falls cascading down into the clear blue Rio On Pools. Above this impressive show of nature’s strength and beauty, a hepatic tanager glides through the air. Along the trail to the Frio Caves, songs and calls fill the forest as orange-billed sparrows and white-throated robins fly curly-cues in the air above. At the 1,000-foot Hidden Valley Falls, breasted falcons and king vultures soar alongside the crashing water.  The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is not only a stunning natural destination, it is also home to some of Belize’s most unique bird species.

Half Moon Caye National Monument

The air is rife with the squawks and screeches of thousands of red-footed boobies nesting in the ziricote thicket of Half Moon Caye National Monument. The healthy population of red-footed boobies on Half Moon Caye leaves the ground covered in white and black feathers. These odd-looking birds are entertaining to watch, and a platform in the heart of the nesting area makes it easy for birders to get up close and personal with the boobies.

Contrary to some peoples’ beliefs, birding is for young adventurers as much as it is for retirees. Observing the unique qualities of different bird species while wandering through secluded forests, marshes and grassland takes adventure travel to a whole new level. Birdwatching lets you fall more deeply in love with Mother Nature and appreciate her incredible knack for variety, and spotting a rare bird in the wild is an unforgettable experience for both expert and amateur birders.

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#454115 - 12/24/12 07:49 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: Marty]
BeBelize Offline
Great article -- thanks for sharing, Marty. We've been to Cockscomb Basin and Crooked Tree, and both were AMAZING for birdwatching. I can see that we may need to plan a trip to Caracol to look for the Keel-Billed MotMot!

Emily
_________________________
Former Belize expat traveling the USA & Mexico
http://travelingtwosome.weebly.com

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#454119 - 12/25/12 02:46 AM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: Marty]
ScubaLdy Offline
I hope having a Jabiru Stork fly overhead is an omen of good things go come. This happened to me about mid-day today. I have never seen anything so big and so black with long legs extended out behind. It soared just over my unfinished roof without making a sound.
Electric Dave has told me that he occasionally has one visit the lagoon behind his house.
A pair of Great Horned Owls visit my roof every night and many mornings.

I invite anyone to stop by my place, Birdland, any day and enjoy the flocks of birds that drain my feeders everyday.
_________________________
Harriette
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

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#454147 - 12/25/12 06:33 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: ScubaLdy]
BeBelize Offline
Harriette, are you sure it was a Jabiru and not a Wood Stork? If you saw the red throat, then it was a Jabiru, but we have seen several Wood Storks (which look almost identical to Jabirus but no red throat) on our bike rides out at Grand Belizean Estates. They are also huge!

Wood Stork Images
_________________________
Former Belize expat traveling the USA & Mexico
http://travelingtwosome.weebly.com

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#454148 - 12/25/12 07:22 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: Marty]
ScubaLdy Offline
No - I'm not sure. Could have been the Wood Storks. The only thing I am sure of was that it was HUGH and the legs were black and very long trailing behind the body.
_________________________
Harriette
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

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#454150 - 12/25/12 08:28 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: ScubaLdy]
SP Daily Offline
Maybe a US surveillance drone

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#454180 - 12/26/12 05:53 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: Marty]
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
I take the point, and Belize is a wonderful place for birding, but most experts would put the number of bird species in North America -- the continent traditionally being defined as Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the seven countries of Central America and various islands of the Caribbean Basin --at around 2000. Perhaps the author is suggesting that North America is the U.S. and Canada?

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#454181 - 12/26/12 06:03 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: Lan Sluder/Belize First]
SP Daily Offline
Ahhh.. the Grinch is back!

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#454194 - 12/26/12 07:44 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: Marty]
elbert Offline
Harriett, try and collect some of its droppings for identification, be sure and get a fresh sample, put them in envelop addressed to the San Pedro Daily att: Jesse Cope.
_________________________
The Dive Shops Daily Blog
http://scubalessonsbelize.blogspot.com/

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#454196 - 12/26/12 08:18 PM Re: Birdwatching Guide to Belize [Re: SP Daily]
champion Offline
Originally Posted By: SP Daily
Ahhh.. the Grinch is back!

You sure are!
_________________________
Reality is only an illusion that occurs due to a lack of alcohol

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