If you are a birder, Belize is definitely a country you will want to put on your must-see list. This tiny country in northern Central America is a mecca for birds and birdnerds!
Do you know how many birds species there are in North America? 914. Do you know how many birds species there are in Belize? 587! In a country 1/10 the size of the state of Oregon, they have more than half as many birds as we have in our whole country! And only about 20% of those are North American migrants, so if you are traveling there from North America you are likely to see many new species of birds.
On our recent trip to Belize we went particularly to two areas to see birds. Our first stop was up near the Orange Walk region at the fabulous Crooked Tree Lodge, where we stayed on the edge of the lake and watched birds nonstop for three days. The first bird we saw when we got to crooked tree was a Snail Kite, which we had just seen for the first time when we were in Florida the week before. Snail Kites are quite easily identifiable, and it was exciting to be able to say, “Hey, look, it’s a Snail Kite!” No surprise the Snail Kites were on the edge of this lake, as giant snails, or mostly giant snail shells, were all over the shore.
We also saw Tropical Mockingbirds, Black-cowled Orioles, (the mis-named) Melodious Blackbirds, White-collared Seedeaters, saltators, Chachalacas, Whistling Ducks, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, vireos, and many more. The one bird we would have loved to see there but were not there in the correct season is the Jabiru stork, one of the world’s largest birds. Maybe on our next trip!
Our next stop was at duPlooys Jungle Lodge in the Cayo region. This lodge is on the banks of the Macal River and is home to the Belize Botanic Gardens as well. These areas make their property particularly inviting to the birds. They’ve also set up a feeding station right on the deck where you can enjoy breakfast and watch the Aracaris in the morning.
At duPlooy’s, professional birding guides are available to take you around and point out birds that you would probably not otherwise be able to identify. We highly recommend hiring a professional guide when birding in an unfamiliar location. We have found it to be highly valuable for spotting birds and identifying them in places where we don’t recognize them readily on our own. If you are just a casual birder then it’s probably not necessary, but if you are a true bird nerd who wants to be able to make some checkmarks on your life list, this is a good investment. The guides are usually not very expensive, and every guide we have hired has been super knowledgeable about their local birds and eager to share with us.
At duPlooys, in addition to seeing the Collared Aracaris, we were so lucky to see a Keel-billed Toucan the morning we went out with our guide. We also saw parrots, saberwings, hummingbirds, and flycatchers. At the end of the week we’d seen 28 NEW species of birds, bringing our life list to 553. We’re so excited to be over the 500 mark! Have you started a birding life list yet? Let us know in the comments, and enjoy your week or your weekend.