Belize has some of the world's most rich and diverse wildlife. Belize's low population and small amount of industry make this possible. Since there is so little population and industry, so much of the country's land has remained untouched. The people of Belize are proud of the wildlife that their country has to offer and therefore they try to protect it. Although the country is pretty small, it still offers a wide variety of animal and plant life. The country offers savannahs, lowlands, forest, and mountainous regions. This variety in habitat is what allows for the great variety in animal and plant life.
Belize is known for its cats, including the endangered nocturnal Jaguar; the beautiful striped and spotted ocelot; the Jaguarundi; the puma or mountain lion; and the margay, the smallest of the Belizean cats (weighing in at about 11 pounds).
In addition, you'll find monkeys such as the black howler monkey and the smaller spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), as well as the ant-eating tamandua, the omnivorous coati, and the piglike collared pecarry (Peccary angulatus).
With it's lush trees and brush, Belize is home to more exotic, rarely seen birds than almost any other location in Central America. From the spectacularlly hued keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) - the national bird of Belize - to the king vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), orinthologists and nature-lovers alike will thrill at the brilliant colors and diversity of birds in Belize.
Along the shores of South Water Caye you may spot the magnificent black frigate bird (Fregata magnificens) peacefully sharing nesting space with rare red-footed boobies (Sula sula) and other birds. In the jungles at Blue Creek the jabiru stork (Jabiru mycteria) and keel-billed toucan can be seen high up in the trees in open areas above the rainforest.
Insects & reptiles
The tropical jungles of Belize have literally tens of thousands of insects and arachnids. Throughout Belize there are many species of lizards, snakes, turtles and even crocodiles.
From beautiful moths and butterflies such as the blue morpho (Morpho menelaus) and the orange-barred sulphur (Phoebis philea) to interesting lizards such as the basilisk lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus) - also known as the "Jesus Christ lizard" for it's ability to run across swampy areas and creeks using its webbed hind feet - Belize will fascinate you with its colorful biodiversity.
In the extrodinarily clear waters of the Belize Reef lives an amazing world of colorful limestone corals and incredible variety of fish and sea mammels.
There are shy, colorful queen angelfish and french angelfish (Pomacanthus paru); coral-eating rainbow parrotfish (Scarus Guacamaia); schools of bluestripped grunt; curious Nassau grouper; handsome yellowtail snapper; as well as large green moray eels; sluggish nurse sharks; territorial barracuda; and the ever-graceful stingrays, eagle rays, and mata rays. Bottlenosed dolphins, manatee, and sea turtles can also be seen by divers and snorkelers.
Belize has over 500 species of amazing birds. The national bird of Belize is the Keel-Billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus). If one is lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this beautiful bird, the most distinct characteristic is the bird's gorgeous red, green, black, yellow, and orange bill. This bird is typically found in lowland forest and forest borders. It feeds on fruits, insects, reptiles, and bird eggs.
Below is information on some other interesting birds of Belize:
Wood Stork. Standing five feet tall with a wingspan of up to eight feet, the Jabiru Stork is one of the largest birds in the New World. This bird is found in savannas along coastal lagoons and marshes. They typically feed on fish and reptiles. As mentioned earlier, the Jabiru is an endangered bird. Wildlife Sanctuaries (such as Crooked Tree) have been set up in attempt to protect this beautiful creature.
Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao). This bird is arguably one of the most beautiful birds in the world. This bird is in the parrot family. It is generally found in tall deciduous trees where they feel on tropical forest fruits. Like the Jabiru stork, these birds are also endangered. The endangerment of these birds is a result of humans capturing them as pets. This picture was taken at the Belize Zoo.
Great Egret (Casmerodius Albus). The Great Egret is relatively common in Belize. We saw many of these birds during our expeditions. They are typically found in the marshlands where they feed on fish, aquatic invertebrates, and reptiles. They feed by using their long skinny neck to spear their prey.
Great Blue Herron (Ardea herodias). This bird is a long legged wading bird. It is one of the largest birds in the New World standing at four feet tall with a six foot wing span. It is the largest of North American egrets and herons. This bird typically feeds on turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards, and rodents. They use their long, pointed beaks for hunting.
Belize has over 145 species of mammals. Among these animals are the five different species of wildcat that can be found in this country. Belize is home to the world's only jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve. The preserve is over 100,000 acres of land set aside to protect this endangered cat. Below is a description of just a few of the amazing animals Belize has to offer.
Jaguar (Pantera onca).
Belize is home to both the spotted and black jaguar. As stated above, Belize is the only place in the world with a jaguar preserve. These animals typically weigh 150-250 pounds and are about six feet long. Jaguars typically hunt at night and feed on a variety of ground living mammals. For the most part, jaguars are solitary animals. They can be found in lowland forests.
The four other species of cats are: Ocelot, Puma, Margay, and Jaguarundi.
Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii). These massive animals are also known as "mountain cows" in Belize. They can grow up to 500 pounds. These animals are believed to have remained unchanged by evolution for quite some time. The word "tapir" comes from a Brazilian Indian word meaning "thick" which refers to the animals hide. These animals are in the same family as horses and rhinos. As stated earlier, this is the national animal of Belize.
Black Howler Monkey (Alouatta pigra). The chances are good that you will hear a black howler monkey before you see one. These animals are well known for their distinct noises that they use to protect their territory from other troops. Black howlers are known in Belize as "baboon". This species is the largest monkey in Belize where they are relatively common. They are typically found in lowland forest where they feed on fruit, leaves, and flowers.
Coatimundi (Nasua narica). This animal is a member of the raccoon family. These animals often travel in large packs. They are found in a wide variety of habitatas. Typically Coatimundi (or white-nosed Coati) feed on fruit, insects, and small animals.
Here are a few other mammals we saw:
Belize has over 135 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more are being discovered. Among these are the beautiful green red-eyed tree frogs, green iguanas, crocodiles, and numerous snakes.
Green Iguana (Iguana iguana). Iguanas are literally everywhere in Belize. We saw numerous iguanas on our expeditions. It is locally known as the "bamboo chicken". This animal is the largest lizard that can be found in Belize as it can grow up to seven feet long. Iguanas feed mostly on plants, but will occasionally eat small mammals or birds.
Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii). Morelet's crocodiles can be found in freshwater rivers and lakes. They feed on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They are a smaller species of crocodile but can grow to around twelve feet long. In Belize, you must be careful where you swim because these animals can be dangerous to humans and will attack you if you invade their territory.
Red Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas). These beautiful creatures can be found in the forest of Belize. Like other reptiles, they require water for life. They are well known for their beautiful and distinct colors. Their body is a bright green with light blue stripes on the side and marvelous red eyes.
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