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  • Photograph of Keel-billed Toucan

    Keel-billed Toucan in Belize by Marie-France Grenouillet.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in
  • BELIZE

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Belize

    Photograph of White Hawk

    White Hawk by Jon Hornbuckle.

    Birds

    Specialities
    Great Curassow, Ocellated Turkey, Orange-breasted Falcon, Yellow-lored Parrot, Yucatan Nightjar, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Jay and Black Catbird, as well as some of the 100 or so Northern Central American endemics including Rose-throated and Yellow-winged Tanagers, and Black-throated Shrike Tanager. Also a chance of Yucatan Bobwhite and Yucatan Vireo.

    Others
    Crested Guan, Magnificent Frigatebird, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Jabiru, Northern Jacana, Double-toothed, Plumbeous, Snail and Swallow-tailed Kites, King and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Great Black, Short-tailed and White Hawks, Bat and Laughing Falcons, Russet-naped (Grey-necked) Wood Rail, Sungrebe, White-fronted Parrot, Mangrove Cuckoo, Vermiculated Screech Owl, Mottled and Spectacled Owls, Northern Potoo, Long-billed and Stripe-throated (Little) Hermits, Green-breasted Mango, Purple-crowned Fairy, Azure-crowned and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Black-headed, Collared, Gartered (Violaceous) and Slaty-tailed Trogons, Lesson's (Blue-crowned) and Tody Motmots, American Pygmy Kingfisher, White-necked and White-whiskered Puffbirds, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Emerald Toucanet, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked, Chestnut-coloured and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Dot-winged Antwren, (Mayan) Black-faced Antthrush, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Northern Barred, Ruddy and Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Red-capped and White-collared Manakins, Green Shrike Vireo, Band-backed and White-bellied Wrens, warblers including Grey-crowned Yellowthroat and Grey-throated Chat, Crimson-collared and Golden-hooded Tanagers, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Botteri’s Sparrow, Montezuma Oropendola and orioles. Also a chance of Spotted Wood Quail, Agami Heron, Crane Hawk, Orate Hawk Eagle, Barred and Collared Forest Falcons, Rufous-necked Wood Rail (Caye Caulker) and Lovely Cotinga, as well as Red-footed Booby (there is a colony of these birds and Magnificent Frigatebirds on Half Moon Caye on Lighthouse Reef Atoll (mid-December to August with chicks usually from March).

    Mammals
    Bottlenose Dolphin, Yucatan (Black) Howler and Black-handed (Geoffroy's) Spider Monkeys, White-nosed Coati and 'Fish-eating' Bat. Also a chance of West Indian Manatee (on boat trips out of Belize City, to places such as Swallow Caye), Kinkajou and Tayra, and an outside chance of Jaguar (here at its highest density in Central America) and Ocelot.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    500 fish species including Whale Shark (Apr-May, usually during full moons when they feed on the annual snapper spawning), Spotted Eagle Ray, Mirrowing Flying Fish and numerous coral reef fish on the 300 km (185 mile) long barrier reef. Also Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead Turtles (all of which nest on offshore islands May to November), Striped Basilisk Lizard, and a chance of American and Morelet's Crocodiles, and Red-eyed Tree Frog (especially Jun-Jul).

    Invertebrates
    Numerous spectacular butterflies including Common Morpho, swallowtails, heliconians and owls.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Belize

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Belize

    Any time during the dry season, which usually lasts from December-January to May, is a good time to visit Belize, with March, when many resident species nest, being the peak month to look for birds, and April-May the best time for Whale Shark. During the wet season most of the rain falls in the south of the country.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Belize

    Birds of Central America by A C Vallely and D Dyer. PUP, 2018.

    Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Northern Central America by J Fagan and O Komar. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

    Birds of Belize by H Lee Jones. Helm, 2004.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America by S Howell and S Webb. OUP, 1995.

    ABA Birdfinding Guide: A Birder's Guide to Belize by B Frenz. ABA, 2013.

    Diving and Snorkeling Guide: Belize by T Rock. Lonely Planet, 2007 (Fourth Edition).

    National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes by C L Smith. Alfred A Knopf, 1997.

    A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico by F A Reid. OUP, 2009 (Second Edition).

    A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America by J Glassberg. Sunstreak Books, 2007.

    Where to watch birds in Central America & the Caribbean by N Wheatley and D Brewer. Helm, 2001.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Central America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author and David Brewer. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Belize

    Many trip reports, some for Belize, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Belize. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Belize' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Belize

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Belize

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Belize

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Belize include the following.