A Dissertation by Stephen Mims Russell
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College


This study is the first comprehensive report on the birds of British Honduras. It deals with the composition and distribution of the avifauna.

A preliminary examination of 4400 specimens collected over the last one hundred years in British Honduras and a review of all published and several unpublished reports made by collectors in British Honduras revealed localities requiring additional investigation. An itinerary was prepared in order to distribute wisely the additional necessary field work carried out by the author. Specimens selectively collected in 11 months in the field provided additional distributional records and supplemented existing specimens as a basis for taxonomic considerations. Published references, field notes compiled by the author, and records made by others were considered in preparing statements regarding each species.

All ornithological investigations in British Honduras are outlined. A gazetteer and map identify collecting localities. Accounts of each of the 463 species definitely recorded in British Honduras present the critical data. Over 6100 specimens of 457 species are listed in the species accounts with the collecting locality, date of collection, and an indication of the present repository. Sex and weight are recorded for 1600 of the birds collected by the author or his field associates. Seasonal and geographic distribution, habitat preferences, and breeding season are briefly stated for each species. Data pertinent to other phases of natural history are given in cases where the information is not generally available. Specimens of polytypic species are identified to race. Nomenclatorial and taxonomic comments are included where significant.

Three hundred and eight species, some definitely, others presumably, nest in British Honduras. Transients and winter visitants that do not breed in British Honduras total 126 species. The largest element in the avifauna is neotropical in origin and occurs in the tall forests. The composition of this group varies little from the southern to the northern portion of British Honduras, although the precipitation declines by twothirds from south to north. Only four species have named races endemic to British Honduras; one of these races is of doubtful validity and the other three are confined to the pinelands. The pinelands contain 24 species not also found in other habitats in British Honduras, most of which are characteristic of highlands in Guatemala and Honduras.

The islands, although numerous, are small and support only a depauperate fauna, consisting of waterdependent birds and species also found in coastal regions of the mainland.

Pour of the seven species endemic to the Yucatan Peninsula range into northern British Honduras. Two other species occurring in British Honduras are present elsewhere only in the northeastern sector of the Yucatan Peninsula and in the West Indies.

Only four species resident on the upper slopes of the highest mountains (elevation 3700 feet) are not also widely distributed at lower elevations in British Honduras.

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