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Welcometo the Birds of Ambergris Caye.

Quietly but steadily Ambergris Caye has been developing a private bird sanctuary. The sanctuary is located in the narrow but rich littoral forest region south of San Pedro, at Caribbean Villas.

The littoral forest is filled with a vast abundance of fruiting trees and shrubs. Some of the most important are the gumbo lumbo, the bearded fig, the wild sapodilla and the coco plum. These trees support a great array of birds.

Sitting in the center of the littoral forest is their towering "people perch". This multi-level observation tower was built especially for birders. It provides birders a superb opportunity to view birds from above the canopy of flowers and trees. This 360 degree view reaches to the Caribbean to the east, Hol Chan Marine Preserve to the south, San Pedro on the north and west to the San Pedro Lagoon and the Chetumal Bay beyond.

Birds frequently seen from the "people perch" include the white-eyed vireo, Yucatan vireo, common tody flycatcher, great Kiskadee, black catbird, yellow-bellied elaenia, white-collared seedeater, golden-fronted woodpecker, black-headed salator and the hooded oriole.

Less frequent but recent visitors have been a pair of green-breasted mango hummingbirds, numerous eastern kingbirds, both the scarlet and summer tanagers, two regal white-crowned pigeons and a rose- throated becard.

One of my favorite birds, the yellow-backed oriole, returned about a month ago. Its melodious song is very alluring and I frequently hear it as it perches in the sprawling bougainvillaea near our balcony.

One of my favorite birds, the yellow-backed oriole, returned about a month ago. Its melodious song is very alluring and I frequently hear it as it perches in the sprawling bougainvillaea near our balcony.

In Belizean Creole, blackbirds are birds such as grackles, orioles and more but blackbird generally refers to a family of songbirds. The family (Icteridae) includes orioles, cowbirds, meadowlarks, orependolas and grackles. Icteridae comes from Greek, which means jaundice or yellow, maybe referring to the orioles' color. Of the 94 species of blackbirds in the New World, 17 live in Belize. Blackbirds breed in almost every environment in the New World from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. Belize is close to the heart of blackbird country. The adjacent lowland of the Mexico plateau is where orioles evolved and where the highest concentrations of blackbird species breed.

Blackbirds are unusual in having a particular behavior that enables them to exploit a wider variety of habitats and prey on species in a way that others cannot. This is referred as gaping. Most birds have strong muscles to close their bills to crush or grasp its prey. Blackbirds have strong muscles to open their Montezuma Orependola bills against the resistance of soil, roots, wood etc. e.g. They would insert their closed bill into an area such as soil or the bark of a tree and open the bill, exposing the hiding place of an insect or grub.

Only the female blackbird incubates the eggs and in almost all cases she builds the nest. However, with the Melodious Blackbird, the male feeds the female while she incubates the eggs, and in some situations he helps build the nest.

Orependolas nest in colonies. You may see groups of pendulous nests in a tree, with a male giving a bowing display at the nesting site as he sings away. Nest building can be very complex in many blackbirds such as orependolas and orioles. Other members of the family such as cowbirds are brood parasites who have lost the need and ability to care for their young or build a nest.

Click here to see photos of area birds.

Yellow tailed Oriole Blackbirds build their nests in various areas and situations, always looking similar in structure and using similar materials. Orioles and orependoles first construct a loop or ring from which the nest hangs. Most of the weaving is done while upside down using the bill. Once a cup is formed the bird uses both the feet and the bill to manipulate the material. The birds may shred leaves with their bill while holding it down with the feet, producing fine materials to line the nest. Orioles and orependolas nests are often hung on branches away from predators and sometimes overhang water.

Red-Throated Ant-Tanager: One of the greatest attractions of tropical birds is the brilliance of their plumage. A birder from North America, where male birds are often much more colorful than the females, may be surprised to find that the sexes of most richly plumaged tropical species, including tanagers, parrots, and orioles, are alike or similar. Many of the more brilliantly colored birds tend to frequent the upper levels of the forest and open country, whereas those that inhabit the dimly lit undergrowth mostly wear dark, dull colors, often with attractively barred or streaked patterns. Birds such as the Barred Antshrike and Dotted-wing Antwren have contrasting areas of white buff and or black that are normally concealed but can be strikingly exposed in display.

Many of Belize's birds, especially some of the thrushes, are fine songsters. The dawn songs of the Melodious Blackbirds are quite lovely. The Rufous-tailed Jacamars have charming, elaborate songs. Trogons sing melodiously, and the song of the tinamous can be deeply stirring. At times, in the deep forests and thickets, we may have to identify birds by their songs and calls. Although sometimes we may not get a chance to see them, knowing their vocalizations makes it easy to identify them. It is fascinating seeing these Belize birds. For great birding trips contact as us at Birding in Belize.

Very soon birders can look for signs identifying this area as a private sanctuary open to birders from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Contact Caribbean Villas Hotel for additional information at 226-2715 or [email protected].

Here are other related birding links about the island:

For a listing of tour guides in the area, click here.

For a historical prespective Bruce Miller wrote an article Ornithology in Belize 1960-98.

Here is a list of the birds spotted recently on a birding expedition:

Pied-billed Grebe
Brown Pelican
Magnificent Frigatebird
Double-crested Cormorant
Olivaceous Cormorant

Royal Tern
Gull-billed tern
Forster Turn
Least Tern
Sandwich Tern

Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull

American Golden Plover
Wilson's Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Snowy Plover
Black-bellied Plover
Collared Plover
Ruddy Turnstone

Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Upland Sandpipper
Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper

Short-billed Dowitcher
Common Snipe
Little Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron (white phase)
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Northern Boat-billed Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Reddish Egret
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Bare-throated Tiger Heron
Tri-colored Heron
White Ibis
Wood Stork
Black-necked stilt
Lesser Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs
Roseate Spoonbill
Clapper Rail
Gray-necked Rail
Purple Gallinule
Sandhill Crane
American Coot
Swainson's Thrush
Louisana Water Thrush
Northern Water Thrush
Wood Thrush

Ringed Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher

Common Black Hawk
Great Black Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Gray Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Black-shouldered Hawk
American Kestrel
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Laughing Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
White-tailed Kite
Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle
Common Night Hawk
Lesser Night Hawk
Common Pauraque

Blue-Winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
Northern Shovler
Blk-Bellied Whistling Duck
White-crowned Pigeon
Pale-vented Pigeon
Caribbean Dove
White-winged Dove
Common Ground Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove
Gray-headed Dove
Gray-fronted Dove
Rock Dove

Aztec Parakeet

Mangrove Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Cave Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow

Gray-breasted Martin
Brown Jay
Yucatan Jay
Tropical Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Black Catbird
Black Albinated Catbird
Clay-colored Robin
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Crimson-collared Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager

Black-headed Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
Gray Saltator

Blue Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting

American Red Start
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green
Black and White Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Canadian Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Mangrove Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Yellowthroated Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Swainson's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat

Green-backed Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Cedar Waxwing
Solitary Vireo
Mangrove Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Yucatan Vireo
Cozumel Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Rufous-browed Peppershrike

Bronzed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle

Baltimore Oriole
Hooded Oriole
Orange Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Yellow-backed Oriole
Yellow-billed Cacique
Yellow-headed Blackbird

White-collared Seedeater
Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater
Black Seedeater
Sharpe's Seedeater

Clay-colored Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

Cinnamon Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Little Hermit
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Green-breasted Mango
Forked-tailed Emerald

Masked Tityra
Great Kiskadee
Social Flycatcher
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcher
Forked-tailed Flycatcher
Great-crested Flycatcher
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Common-tody Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Duskey-capped Flycatcher

Rose-throated Becard

Tropical Pewee
Eastern Wood Pewee
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird

Squirrel Cuckoo
Mangrove Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo

Groove-billed Ani
Smooth-billed Ani

Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Caribbean Elaenia

Citreoline Trogon
Black Headed Trogon

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Yucatan Woodpecker/Red-vented
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Birding Videos.....

Birds of Ambergris Caye, Belize

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