Birding in Belize – Six of the Best Spots
After the nice response we had to a recent blog on the bats of Belize, we thought we’d give some airtime (pardon the pun) to that other aerial attraction, the birds of Belize.
Belize sits within the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, which stretches from Mexico through Central America and is home to a diverse range of birds and wildlife, helping to make the little country a birders’ paradise, with some 618 resident species and visiting migrants sharing the rich biodiversity of Belize. At Chaa Creek alone, the Birds without Borders project, conducted in conjunction with the Zoological Society of Milwaukee and Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, recorded 308 different species within the eco-resort’s 365-acre private nature reserve.
Since that ambitious project, Chaa Creek has supported naturalist guides who are interested in broadening their knowledge of birds, so that there are now dedicated birding guides to share their experience and lead birdwatching expeditions. We’re finding that, in addition to the people who come here specifically to enjoy this richly rewarding pastime, some guests have developed a passion for birding after getting their first taste of it at Chaa Creek.
And, like most things in Belize, birding here is a unique experience. All the top birding spots happen to be near top attractions, such as ancient Maya temples, Belize’s spectacular Caribbean Cayes, pristine rainforests and other great places that enhance the birding experience.
And while Chaa Creek is one of the best places in Belize for birdwatching (small wonder it was picked for the Birds without Borders project), there are other renowned spots north, southeast and west where our feathered friends congregate. Here are five more guaranteed to whet any birder’s appetite.
In addition to this ancient metropolis being one of the most interesting, and certainly largest Maya archaeological sites anywhere, the Mountain Pine Ridge and areas surrounding Caracol provide some of the best birding around, filled with neotropical forest species such as Keel-billed Motmots, Violaceous Trogons, Ocellated Turkeys, Crested Guans, Great Curassows, and, for the lucky, the rare and humongous Harpy Eagle. Imagine such great birding within the grounds of a stunning ancient Maya city.
2. Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve
While better known for its jaguar preserve, the Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve in Southern Belize also boasts an impressive forest bird population. In addition to numerous other species, this is probably the best place to catch the magnificent Scarlet Macaw in the wild, as well as the striking King Vulture. And while you need to be lucky to spot one of the elusive jaguars, you never know…
3. Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
The northern Belize wetlands are famous among bird watchers, and with good reason. In addition to hundreds of local species, the wetlands draw a variety of migratory visitors. It’s a great place to see wetlands species such as herons, kingfishers and the impressive giant Jabiru Stork, as well as various parrots and the distinctive Yucatán Jay.
4. New River Lagoon
Another place to combine Maya archaeological exploration with birding in Northern Belize is the New River Lagoon, reached by way of the meandering New River. With its network of canals, streams, and marshlands, the lagoon is home to a wide variety of bird species including the Northern Jacana, Purple Gallinule and Black-collared Hawk.
5. Half Moon Caye National Monument and Man o War Caye
And let’s not forget Belize’s beautiful Caribbean Coast, where birding can be combined with any number of aquatic sports such as the world’s best diving and snorkelling, as well as sea kayaking and delightful swimming. Both cayes are government-protected sanctuaries, and provide excellent opportunities to watch seabirds and other species. Half Moon Caye is an important nesting spot and home to some 4,000 Red-footed Boobies, an impressive sight that makes this one of the most remarkable birding experiences to be found anywhere.
6. Man-O-War Caye
in Southern Belizean waters, is a nesting refuge for, you guessed it, the Magnificent Frigate Bird, aka the Man-O-War bird, those striking large seabirds often seen wheeling around the skies above this tiny caye and sharing it with a community of Brown Boobies as well as many other species seen along Belize’s Great Barrier Reef and cayes.
These are just a few of the many great birding spots in Belize. In a country with such a low population density combined with so much-protected wilderness, you’ll see birds wherever you go.
And if you want to make it easy on yourself while enjoying great birding with a touch of casual luxury, check out Chaa Creek’s all-inclusive Bird Watching vacation packages. You’ll become familiar with the birds of Belize while enjoying a Belize vacation complete with tours of ancient Maya temples and archaeological sites, canoe trips and all the amenities of a Chaa Creek vacation package, including the flexibility to choose additions such as excursions to the Caribbean coast and Belize Great Barrier Reef, (now just a short hop away from the nearby Maya Flats airstrip). There are, of course, more local adventures such as the La Capitana floating tour of the remote Vaca Lake. After a big day of birding you can stretch out with a swim in the infinity pool or opt to relax with a professional massage at the Hilltop Spa where you’ll be surrounded by, yes, the melodic songs of birds.
No wonder Chaa Creek attracts so many dedicated birders while introducing many other people to the joys of this healthy pastime.
But don’t take our word for it… come down and try it for yourself (but be warned – before you know it, you just may become hooked on birding).