With over 587 different, colorful species of birds in the country, Belize is a must for the professional or amateur bird-watcher and those into eco tourism. In the Orange Walk District alone, over 400 species of birds have been recorded. Of these, approximately 20 percent are migrants from North America. Almost every year new species are reported. Eight new records were confirmed in 2007, including the Crested Caracara, Canada Goose, and Spot-breasted Oriole.
The Blue-crowned motmot, (Motmotus motmota), can be seen throughout the country. Its habitat is in the rainforests below the canopy, or top, of the rainforest. The length of the Blue-crowned motmot is between 11 and 18 inches (28-45 cm). This length includes the tail.
The one feature that most distinguishes almost all motmots is their long tails. Close to the tip of the tail, the barbs are missing for about one inch or more. This gives the appearance not unlike that of a tennis racket. The only explanation for the feathers being like this is that they are used for display
More so than anywhere else in the country, the Orange Walk District is the country’s leader as a birder’s paradise. With its unusually diverse habitats, the famous Maya Ruin area of Lamanai is a must for professional ornithologists or casual bird watchers. 366 bird species have been recorded at Lamanai, and this figure is expected to reach 409 shortly
The uncommon nocturnal Yucatan nightjars, as well as the long-tailed hermit hummingbird, have been spotted at the Lamanai Outpost Lodge. Cruising the New River by boat to the Lamanai ruins is also a birder’s paradise. The waterway teems with bird life. Rare birds abound, like the roseate spoonbills, sun grebes and long-necked anhinga. Near the mouth of the lagoon is a large ceiba tree with a huge nest, home to a five-foot jabiru stork, the largest bird in the country which has a wingspan of approximately eight feet.
Chaa Creek lodge, Cahal Pech and other jungle resorts offer delights to birders. Colors abound: the blue-crowned motmot, the brightly colored flocks of ocellated turkeys or the emerald toucanet are only some of the birds visitors will see.
The Collared Toucan, also known as the Collared Aracari, Pteroglossus torquatus, is almost as flamboyant as its cousin the Keel Billed Toucan which is the national bird of Belize. This bird is all over Belize and can be easily spotted as they tend to flock.
The Collared Toucan can also be found in Mexico,and South America. They roost socially, usually in groups of about six, and nest in tree holes or abandoned woodpecker nests. They are primarily fruit eaters but will take prey such as insects and small lizards.
Programme for Belize , with over 400 recorded species, also offers world class birding. The nonprofit organization with offices in both Belize and the United States , manages the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area in the northern district.
It is a reserve that covers 280,000 acres. It is a tropical forest area that is home to all of the Belizean cats and numerous other animals, including king vultures, and over 80 species of bats.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Belize” by Jones and Gardner will help visitors familiarize themselves with many of the species to be seen. The Gallon Jug Conservation Society, the Belize Audubon Society, the Lamanai Field Research Center or any of the lodges in the area here also appreciate field notes from visitors who record rare, unexpected sightings.
The Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) can be seen all over the country including home gardens and in urban centers. This little fellow is a resident of the City of Belmopan. The Great Kiskadee is aggressive especially in looking for a meal.
“I found a lizard in my hall one morning and opened my door to shoo him out. The lizard ran outside. I then heard a flapping noise and the lizard ran back inside. Annoyed I shooed it out again and went outside my entrance to make sure it was really gone. Another flapping noise and now a flash of yellow. A Great Kiskadee swooped in and retrieved his meal right between my feet. I stood on my Welcome mat too surprised to do anything. That was the last I saw of the lizard.” – Manolo Romero – Belize.com editor.
Bird Ownership In Belize
Hidden in the underbelly of an otherwise tropical paradise lifestyle that is promoted to immigrants and retirees, are a slew of oft draconian laws and regulations than can make life miserable for the unwary. Amongst these are the Belizean laws relating to bird ownership which falls under the remit of the Forestry Department. Owning any indigenous animal or bird species in Belize requires a license. Thousands of Belizeans have traditionally kept animals such as parrots, iguanas, monkeys and so on as pets, for decades without any bother. But in 2014, as part of an exercise to raise revenue, the government and crusading animal rights groups began raiding the homes of private citizens in search of unlicensed birds.
Next: Birds of Central Belize
Related Article: Tracking The Great Belize Potoo – yes that is a rare bird.