Birding Belize

Birding Belize … Why We Love It!

At Naturalist Journeys we are thrilled to offer a grand array of Neotropical birding tours. Our expert guides vie for the chance to lead groups in Belize. For many reasons, we love birding Belize! Find out ….

Deciding where to bird in the Neotropics, which includes both Central and South America, can seem like a daunting task, and rightfully so. There are many lodges to choose from, and each country has its own draw. We suggest a stair-step approach in which you gain skills and knowledge with each visit, making the most of your time and budget.

Birding Belize
Violaceous Trogon by Peg Abbott

Where to begin?

There are well over three thousand species in the Neotropics region, more than any other ecoregion in the world. In addition to colorful macaws, shimmering hummingbirds, and clown-like toucans, this astonishing diversity includes a less familiar menagerie of cryptic potoos, iridescent jacamars, pheasant-like curassows, toy-like motmots, and vibrant tanagers. Although all spectacular, it may be intimidating to the uninitiated to see so many species in just over a week. It can seem like a blur.

Birding Belize
Blue-crowned Motmot by Peg Abbott
Birding Belize
Great Curassow Pair by Sandy Sorkin

Rest assured, there are several locations in the Neotropics that offer very rewarding birding at a relaxing and manageable pace. Two places stand out to us as the best places to begin your Neotropical birding and to learn the Neotropical families without being overwhelmed. We recommend visiting Trinidad (Caligo Ventures’ specialty) first and then birding Belize, the perfect next step after Trinidad. Using Birdlife International’s tally, Trinidad hosts 413 species and Belize 548. Compare this to other popular destinations like Costa Rica (857) and Panama (885), Ecuador (1619), Peru (1855) or Colombia (1877), and you can quickly see how smart it is to start small! (For a thorough step-by-step guide on birding the Neotropics, read this blog post.)

Veteran birders like Belize enough to return again and again — the quality of viewing is high.

Birding Belize
Passerini’s Tanager by Sandy Sorkin

Veteran birders like birding Belize enough to return again and again — the quality of viewing is high. This small, yet culturally diverse Central American country is also attractive to those seeking a quick birding retreat, time for intensive photography, and those with mixed interests wanting a little archaeology mixed into their vacation. Belize has something for everyone.

Birding Belize
Summer Tanager by Peg Abbott

The avifauna of Belize offers an ideal mix of northern migrants and tropical resident species. Those familiar with birding in the United States will quickly recognize many of the species found wintering here, including warblers, buntings, tanagers, orioles, and vireos. However, feeding flocks moving through the forest have a tropical flair — tanagers with glowing colors, oropendolas with otherworldly bugles and tropical hummingbirds with names such as fairy, emerald, and jacobin. What about those radiant little forest dancers seen in nature documentaries? Yes, the manakins dance in Belize, too! Motmots, toucans, trogons, and parrots are all present in this tiny country, as well. What about those more difficult families? There are only four species of antbird, about a dozen woodcreepers and two tyrannulets to worry about — an excellent number to dip one’s toes before continuing on to more challenging destinations.

Birding Belize
Red-capped and White-collared Manakins by Peg Abbott
Birding Belize
Keel-billed Toucan by Peg Abbott

There is no need to “rough it” on a tour to this country …

Furthermore, Belize has a fantastic infrastructure to handle ecotourism. There is no need to “rough it” when you’re birding Belize with fantastic lodgings like Lamanai and Chan Chich. Lamanai Outpost Lodge (Mayan for “submerged crocodile”) sits on the edge of a spring-fed lagoon with rainforest, Mayan ruins, pine savannahs, and freshwater marshes are all within walking distance. Open-air dining with carefully prepared local cuisine, relaxing (optional) canoe excursions, and easy to see birds typify Lamanai. Chan Chich Lodge, set in an ancient Mayan Plaza, is the ultimate jungle getaway. It finds itself within the largest accessible tract of Central American rainforest left, providing sufficient habitat for larger species such as Jaguar and frequently hunted gamebirds like guans and curassows. Because of its remoteness, it is most easily reached by plane. The ancient Mayan ruins present at both of these lodges mesh seamlessly into the overall experience. In fact, mounds formed over unexcavated ruins provide nest sites for Blue-crowned Motmot, and Ocellated Turkey often strut through the central plaza! Relatively reliable (and difficult elsewhere) species such as Orange-breasted Falcon and Tody Motmot further add to the attractiveness of Belize as a birding destination.

Chan Chich Lodge, courtesy

Visit Belize in 2018

Our tours in 2018 feature Lamanai and Chan Chich and add a third, Pook’s Hill Lodge, situated at the edge of Belize’s mountain pine forest region, letting us find even more species. For those that want to return to Belize and see more of this fantastic country, we launch a NEW combination of lodges in the southern region, the Lodge at Big Falls and Hidden Valley Inn, the latter of which is also in the mountain pine region. Want a true vacation? We pair Chan Chich with a similar upscale lodge in Honduras, Pico Bonito, for perhaps one of the most relaxing and satisfying bird trips possible.

Birding Belize
Pico Bonito’s Veranda by James Adams

In conclusion, if you are researching options for your first birding trip to the Neotropics or just want a no fuss birding getaway to escape the cold and snow of winter, birding Belize is an excellent option. Consider joining us for a carefully-crafted Guided Group Tour each winter, or ask about an Independent Birding Venture and set your own pace and dates in Belize.

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