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THE FOCUS ON NATURE TOUR IN BELIZE
Little Country with a Lot of Nature,
from the Reef to the Rainforest"
A White Hawk
was one of the birds good to see
during the FONT Belize tour in March 2007.
A List of Birds in Belize
Photos of Nature & Culture in Belize from the FONT March 2007 Tour
Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Belize
The following narrative of the FONT Mar '07 Belize Tour was written by Armas Hill, leader of the tour:
Out of 55 FONT birding & Nature tours in Central America since 1991, not many have been in Belize. In fact, in March 2007, we only did our second since 1992.
But that small country is a wonderful destination for nature in general and birds in particular.
Over 200 species of birds were found during our tour, in an assortment of habitats, including an offshore coastal caye (or island), where off its shore there was some fine snorkeling, and onshore: savannas and wetlands, and forests of pines in the hills and tropical broadleaf trees in the lowlands.
Among our favorite birds in March '07 were these:
a Northern Potoo perched ever so still during the day,
a Jabiru at its nest,
a Southern Lapwing seen our first day of the tour,
a Shiny Cowbird, most likely one of the first in the country,
and 2 species of Catbirds seen together, the Gray and the Black (the former a non-breeding visitor on the offshore island where the latter is an uncommon resident, a globally near-threatened species).
Other nature included: West Indian Manatees (called "sea cows" in Belize), Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys (called "baboons" in Belize), a Red Brocket Deer (called "antelope" in Belize), and the Paca (in Belize called the "gibnut"). We didn't see a Jaguar, but we did find large fresh tracks of one in the mud. In the sea, there were a number of colorful tropical fish at the reef, along with rays and a Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
Easy to get to, Belize is a great natural destination that we'll be visiting in the future many more times than we have in the past.
The following, longer narrative of the tour was written by Armas Hill, the tour leader:
1991, there have been 55 FONT birding & nature tours in Central America.
About half of those tours have been in Costa Rica (27).
About half that many have been in Guatemala (14).
There have also been 9 FONT tours in Panama, and 3 in Honduras.
All of the countries just mentioned are wonderful destinations for tours to see birds and other nature. But, there's also another Central American country that's tremendous in that regard. It's BELIZE.
Our March 20-30, 2007 tour in Belize was only the second tour for FONT in that country. The other tour was back in 1992. Fifteen years later, I must say, we were so struck by how very good Belize is for a birding & nature tour, we'll just have to go back -- and soon (certainly sooner than in 15 years) !
There are a few reasons why Belize is a good country for nature.
The bottom line, of course, is that it's there.
Beyond that, even though Belize is a small country, there's good diversity in its habitats. And, throughout the country, on the whole, there are not many people - thus, nature "has a chance".
From a practical perspective, there are a couple other things in Belize's favor. It's not that far, as the plane flies, from the US & Canada, and, generally speaking, English is the language spoken.
Yes, Belize is a small country. It's true that none of the Central American countries are very big. Most are smaller than a number of US states. But, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America, after El Salvador. Its longest distance, north to south, is about 280 kilometers, and from east to west it's over 109 kilometers at its widest point. Note that these distances are kilometers, not miles. A kilometer is just over half a mile.
Even though Belize is small, as many as over 500 species of birds have been recorded within its borders.
In a monograph written in 1964, the number of birds noted as being in the country was 465.
About 20 years later, in 1986, a checklist of the birds in Belize was published with 533 species.
In 2000, another checklist for the country included 549 species of birds.
That number of Belizean Birds has increased since then - at least by one. The Southern Lapwing (pictured above) was not in that list. We saw a Southern Lapwing during our March 2007 Tour. The single individual was at a well-known place for birding in Belize, called Crooked Tree.
And, it was said, that the single bird had been in that area for about a year.
It's interesting, of course, that a rarity like that for the country, and a species that's been a colonizer spreading north in Central America, would appear, and then stay, at one of Belize's foremost birding locations. But that it did.
As can be surmised from the last paragraph, some of the over 500 species of birds in Belize are not plentiful. There are some species with just a handful of records.
But most of the Belizean birds are not rare in the country, either the residents or the migrants. About 370 species of Belizean birds are residents.
Not only are there a good number of birds in Belize.
Also, about 150 different species of mammals have been recorded in the country. Even after subtracting the bats, there's still a fine assortment of mammals, including: howler and spider monkeys, a couple species of deer, in addition to armadillos, peccaries, agoutis, coatis, opossums, and kinkajous. In coastal waters, there are manatees. The biggest land mammal in Belize is now the national animal of the country. It's the Baird's Tapir.
But, probably the most "well-known" of Belizean animals may really be the "least-known" in the sense that they are secretive and nocturnal. They are the cats, such as the Puma, the Ocelot, and above all, the Jaguar.
Belize, for a small country, has a lot of Jaguars - certainly more, at least for the size of the country, than in other places in Central America.
And that's not including those that are everywhere on postcards!
During our March '07 tour in Belize, we, unfortunately, did not see a Jaguar. But, we did see the large tracks of that big cat in the mud.
Mention will be made, later in this narrative, of the various animals that we did see in Belize.
Offshore, just off the seacoast, beyond the islands known as "cayes", there's yet another world of Belizean nature. Underwater, it's rather like a giant tropical aquarium.
At the barrier reef (the second largest in the world), with its sponges and sea-fans, there's a cast of characters that includes: parrot fish, angel fish, and squirrel fish, many of which are colorful. There are also Nurse Sharks, Marlin, Barracuda, and various rays, spiny lobsters, sea urchins, conches, and sea turtles, including the Hawksbill. Some of our tour participants entered this underwater world and they saw nearly all of the creatures just mentioned.
Earlier, it was said that there's "a good diversity of habitats" in Belize.
The number of native plants in the country supports that statement. In little Belize, there are over 4,000 kinds of plants. There are about 700 species of trees, that are either of two types of forest: one that termed "tropical forest", and other the pine, or savannah, forest.
In the luxuriant tropical "rainforest", some of the notable trees include:
the Mahogany (the national tree of Belize),
the Silk Cotton (the sacred tree of the Mayan people),
the Sapodilla (the source of chicle, used in making chewing-gum),
and the Cohune Palm (a tree from which oil is extracted and the leaves of which are used to thatch Mayan huts).
In the dense tropical vegetation, many trees are entwined with creepers and other epiphytic plants.
There are about 250 varieties of orchids in Belize. The Black Orchid is the country's national flower.
In the pinewoods and savannahs, the Caribbean Pine is the most widespread species of tree in Belize.
Near the seacoast, there are impenetrable areas of mangroves. Also along the coast, there are Coconut Palms, and other types of palm trees.
Nearly 75 per cent of the land in Belize is still dominated by natural vegetation.
It was noted earlier that there are "not many people in Belize". The country has less than 10 inhabitants per square kilometer. That's the lowest population density in Central America. The total population in the country is less than 225,000. And half of those people live in towns, which are mostly near the coast. In Belize City, on the coast, there's a quarter of the population of the country.
In most of the country, the villages are separated by vast expanses of uninhabited land, usually forest. "Vast" is a relative term. To qualify, the expanses are "vast" in terms of Belize.
Anyway, as we drove about the country, on most of the roads, away from Belize City, and excluding the main east-west highway, there was very little traffic. Thus, the birding from the road, and the driving in general, was rather idyllic.
Even though there are not many people in Belize, there's also a "diversity" in Belize in that regard, as there is in its nature.
There are different people called various names: the Creoles, the Mestizos, the Garifunas, and the Maya, in addition to more-recent immigrants including the Mennonites, Chinese, Indians (from India). some British who did not return home after colonial days, and some Americans (from the US & Canada) who came to make a new home.
Here's a bit more about the groups of people and cultures in Belize:
The Creoles descended from African slaves and Europeans. At about 30 per cent of the Belizean population, they are now the second largest ethnic group in the country, after the Mestizos. For a long time they have been the primary social group in the country, notably in and near Belize City. Their language, a colorful mixture of English and African languages, is spoken throughout Belize.
The Mestizos, now about 45 per cent of Belize's population, are the result of intermarriage between the indigenous peoples and Europeans.
The Garifunas originated on thee island of St. Vincent in the 17th Century from intermarriage between shipwrecked Africans and Kalinagos (indigenous Caribbean people). In Belize, they live mostly along the southern coast, and make up less than 10 per cent of the country's total population.
At about 10 per cent of the indigenous population of Belize today are the Maya. They all but disappeared after the colonization of the country. Prior to that (during what's called the "Classic Period"), there were many.
The Mayan people now in Belize are of 3 groups:
the Yucatec Maya (refugees from the War of the Castes),
the Mopan (from the El Peten region of Guatemala - the area of the ruins of Tikal),
and the Kekchi (from the Coban region of Guatemala - where during FONT tours in that country, we see the Resplendent Quetzal). The last 2 of these groups, those from Guatemala, fled that country in the 19th Century and settled in Belize in the Cayo District and the Toledo District respectively.
Our contact with these Mayan people during our March '07 tour was most interesting for us, on a couple occasions:
In the Cayo District, when we had a flat tire, along a road in the "middle of nowhere", the Mayans helped us - taking the bad tire to their settlement, fixing it, and then coming back and getting us "ready to go".
In the Toledo District, we actually stayed "with the Mayans", overnight, near the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Some of our best birding was there, by the cabins where we spent the night. But, that's not all. Some of the best food we ate during the tour was there too. One of our tour participants celebrated a birthday, that day there. Not to give his age, but he's in his eighties. The birthday cake that we had that evening, seemingly made miraculously (on very short notice), was one of the best birthday cakes ever made - anywhere.
(A side-note: The Mayan people in that area formerly lived on the land that's now the wildlife sanctuary just-mentioned, Cockscomb - a great sanctuary, best known as one for the jaguar, but also, as we experienced, it is a wonderful place for birding. The Mayan settlement, where we stayed overnight, and ate (the cake and otherwise), was where the people had to move, just outside the sanctuary.)
We actually birded, during our Belize tour, in areas with all of the cultures just mentioned.
We also visited a ranch in central Belize, where some Americans settled, to farm, years ago.
And, we spent a night at the hotel on the very tip of a peninsula (where water was on 3 sides of the building). It was near a large coastal zone of mangroves, where offshore Manatees were in the water.
Also at the hotel, when we were there, there was a crew of people, who were there to census, and tag, the Manatees; along with them, there was another crew at the hotel to do a film about those doing the tagging and those (the Manatees that is) being tagged.
We took a boat-ride in the afternoon, during which we, ourselves, had looks at the sluggish Manatees.
It was near that hotel, at night, where the Jaguar track, referred to earlier, was first seen. The next day, we all saw it (that big track).
Later, we spent a couple nights, further east, on one of the offshore barrier islands. On that island, we saw the most tourists during our time in Belize. But that was OK. We also saw some very nice birds.
There are no cars or trucks on that island. Our birding was either on foot, or as we traveled about on a golf cart on the unpaved roads on the island.
Birds that we saw, there and elsewhere, during the tour will be noted here soon.
Now, reference is being made to the "diversity" that we experienced, at the various places we visited, during our 10 days in Belize.
We also stayed at a lodge in western Belize, overlooking a valley, that of the Macal River.
A number of "lodges", fine for birding and other nature, have recently sprouted up in that part of the country, the Cayo District.
In a town in that region, we had lunch one day at a hotel restaurant where Queen Elizabeth II stayed and ate when she visited Belize a few years previously.
Even when we were there at mid-day, we saw some nice birds (Yellow-throated Euphonias) from the deck of that restaurant. I wonder if the queen happened to notice any nice birds when she was there on that balcony.
After lunch, that day, at a botanical garden, a few miles away, we saw a bird that spends mid-day doing nothing, other than sleeping. It was a Northern Potoo, motionless, blending in on the branch of a big tree.
A few miles to the north, in that Cayo District of western Belize, are the agricultural lands of the Mennonites.
They are one of the groups, mentioned here earlier, in the overview given of the people in Belize.
Relative newcomers, they settled in Belize in the 1950s, having come from Europe by way of Canada. Mennonites are members of an Anabaptist sect that was founded in Switzerland back in 1536. They're readily noticed as they adhere to their own way of dress (the women with long skirts & headscarves; the men with "cowboy hats" & dungarees), and they prefer a modest life, living unto themselves in their communities, which usually are related to farming. That they have blue eyes, blond hair, and a dialect reminiscent of their Swiss and Dutch origins, also sets them apart from the other people of Belize.
The area of Mennonite farms in the Cayo District is not part of 75 per cent of Belizean land, referred to earlier, as "dominated by natural vegetation". Even so, that region is still a good area for a number of birds.
Our local guide (from the lodge where we stayed above the river valley, the "Crystal Paradise") arranged for us to enter the Mennonite farmland on dirt roads, going beyond where we otherwise could have, as he had a key for a gate.
Beyond that gate, was a pond, and near it, in a grove of tall trees, there was a big Jabiru nest, where we were fortunate to see the birds. The big adult Jabiru stood there for a while, and then it flew.
That open country of farmland was good for other birds too, notably those loosely called "field birds". And, for us, it was a good area for raptors.
In every FONT tour narrative, there's a lot said about birds. But before the summary of birds (and animals), this time, during our March 2007 Belize tour, here again is a quick reference to the "diversity" of Belizean natural habitats. Those that we visited, and in which we birded, in Belize included:
lowland broadleaf forest, submontane pine woodland, lowland pine woodland and savanna, seasonally wet meadows, marshes and lagoons, mangrove and littoral forests, islands along the seacoast, and various man-altered habitats (such as the Mennonite farmland just described).
The first place that we went, after we arrived in Belize, was the area of marshes and lagoons called Crooked Tree. As noted earlier, that area is one of the renowned birding locales of Belize. And that it is with good reason. There are many birds.
This is a raptor readily seen in Belize,
although not so in Guatemala & Costa Rica.
It's a common bird in parts of South America,
nearly always by water.
village of Crooked
itself, could be described as a rather sleepy place. It's known, for of all
things, cashews. For birders, it's a wonderful place to begin a tour in
Belize as we did.
The waterbirds at Crooked Tree included, for us, an assortment of egrets & herons, and terns & gulls.
There were also Limpkins, Northern Jacanas, Purple Gallinules, and numerous Neotropic Cormorants. Wood Storks flew overhead, and Glossy Ibis were along the shore of the lake.
Crossing a lightly-traveled road, ahead of us, was the Gray-necked Wood Rail.
Raptors that were sprinkled throughout the area included Black-collared Hawks, Snail Kites, and Great Black Hawk, in addition to Osprey, Roadside Hawk, and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture.
At the pleasant little hotel where we stayed, by the shore of the lake, Gray-breasted Martins were also setting up house.
On the nearby pasture, there was the lone Southern Lapwing referred to earlier. The next morning, that Lapwing was on the ground right outside our windows. Noisy that bird was. In fact, it was our wake-up call.
Not as raucous, but also loud enough, that morning, were the Red-lored Amazon Parrots, calling as they flew. Flycatchers in the area, aside from the Kiskadee, were generally quiet.
But the Vermilion and Fork-tailed Flycatchers were, as always, great to see, flying about as they were catching insects for their breakfast.
As we ate our breakfast on the porch (where the typical Belizean food was wonderful), we had another treat, with the company of a Yellow-throated Warbler that actively cavorted on tables, ceiling lamps, and the balcony edge. Warblers, on the whole, are wonderful, and this little Yellow-throated was especially so.
The "most famous" of Crooked Tree birds, the Jabiru, was not seen during our time there. Maybe that time was just too short. (We liked the place so much, that was how we felt anyway.) In the area, the Jabiru is pictured on sign after sign, but even looking as much as we did, the actual bird was not to be seen.
We were to see it, however, a couple days later, in western Belize, as was noted a couple paragraphs ago, by a pond in Mennonite farmland.
A few miles east of Crooked Tree, there's a Mayan archeological site called Altun Ha. It was a flourishing city in the "Classical period" about 600 BC.
In that area, we did well, about 2500 years later, looking at birds, including: the Aztec Parakeets, both Black-headed and Violaceous Trogons, the Collared Aracari, and its larger cousin, the national bird of current-day Belize, the Keel-billed Toucan.
Two of the birds just mentioned have recently had name changes. The Aztec Parakeet was previously known as the Olive-throated Parakeet, and the population of the Violaceous Trogon in Central America is now called the Gartered Trogon. It still goes by the name "Violaceous Trogon" in most of South America.
Some local guides took us on a new track recently cut into a nearby tropical forest. The vegetation there was dense - amazingly so. The area really was "wild".
Near the toucans in bare treetops, there was a pair of Bat Falcons. Close to the ground, White-breasted Wood Wrens beautifully sang. It seemed as if the most common bird in the area was the Montezuma Oropendola. Those crow-sized, yellow-tailed birds were fine to see as they flew one after the other. But, they were even finer to hear, when we heard a chorus of their gurgling calls.
in the afternoon, we headed west, on the main Belizean east-west road, toward
Guatemala. We weren't going quite that far, but into the Cayo
Just after dark, with about a half-hour to go to our destination, we had a marvelous experience, even along that main road. On fenceposts by the side of the road, we saw Barn Owls - a half-dozen or so, on as many posts, all within about a mile of each other.
In the Cayo District, where we stayed a couple days, we saw many birds, about 120 species.
By the lodge, along with others, there were these notables:
Blue-crowned Motmot, Green Jay, Rose-throated Becard, White-necked Jacobin, other hummingbirds, and a number of Flycatchers including the vocal Piratic.
And there was the also-vocal Barred Antshrike, in addition to the Masked Tityra, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Golden-olive Woodpecker, and Yellow-green Vireo.
Also visiting, just as we were, from North America, were Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird, and various warblers.
One day we went a few miles north to the Mennonite farmlands, primarily as already noted for the Jabiru. There we saw another cast of avian characters - those of the open country.
There were the raptors, such as the White-tailed Kite and the White-tailed Hawk, the Gray Hawk, and the Laughing Falcon.
Throughout the tour, incidentally, we were to find Laughing Falcons to be surprisingly common - we saw the species nearly every day (except when we were an offshore barrier island).
A surprise, during the day when we were in the Mennonite farm country, was an encounter with about 3 dozen Blue Ground Doves, along a shrubby edge of a field. Throughout the tropics, we don't normally find that species in a such a large number.
Birds of the open country, that we saw in that area, included:
the local race of the Eastern Meadowlark,
its smaller cousin the Indigo Bunting,
2 species of seedeaters (the White-collared and the black race of the Variable),
and 2 species of grassquits, in addition to Vermilion Flycatchers and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, neither of which did we mind seeing again and again.
Not far from the already-mentioned Jabiru nest, there was a colony of bird nests, also interesting, but in a large dirt bank. Somewhat like a colony of Bank Swallows, but they were not. What they were was a local breeding population of Rough-winged Swallows, said to be a distinct species from the widespread Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
The Northern Rough-winged Swallow breeds further north, mostly in North America.
The nesting colony, that we saw, was of birds called the Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow. Their nests appeared to be active when we were there in the month of March.
At the nearby pond's edge, there were both Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers (that would later go north to nest) and a Bare-throated Tiger Heron (that would stay in the area).
In a small patch of adjacent woods, there was a pocket of warblers, all of which would later go north. Notable among them was a bright Prothonotary Warbler. That species is not common inland in Central America. Its favors the coast, especially areas in and near mangroves.
As we traveled around that afternoon, some of the roads went through wooded areas, where we had looks at Squirrel Cuckoo, Lineated Woodpecker, the common and noisy Brown Jay, Red-throated Ant Tanagers, and other Tanagers such as the Yellow-winged and Golden-hooded.
During the course of our ride that afternoon, in mixed habitats, we heard 4 species of Tinamous: the Great, Little, Thicket, and Slaty-breasted.
The presence of tinamous can be said to be a good barometer of a Neotropical environment. As mentioned earlier, along the back roads in Belize, away from the towns and villages, there's more nature and less people than usually along such roads elsewhere in Central America.
In yet another note pertaining to the Cayo District, mention is now made, again, of the Northern Potoo that we saw sitting completely still on a big tree branch in the middle of the afternoon. It may have moved a closed eyelid, once, but it never moved another muscle as we walked about below it.
The Northern Potoo is a species with races in northern Central America, and on the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Hispaniola. It's not, now, the same species as the Common Potoo, that's in South America and Central America, on the Caribbean side, north to Nicaragua.
We were not able to see the Northern Potoo later in the evening, or after dark, when it would be active. At that time, we were elsewhere, but at dusk that day, two other species active after sunset were seen, the Yucatan Poorwill and the Pauraque. They were both in the vicinity of our lodge. The Pauraque has a widespread range, from Texas to Argentina. The Yucatan Poorwill does not. It's restricted to its namesake, the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and adjacent Guatemala and Belize.
During another day, we went into the high hills in central Belize, covered with mile after mile of pine trees.
The Pine Warbler has never been recorded as far south as Belize, but in those trees, there were Grace's Warblers - a species that's said never to occur outside of a pine.
Overhead, in the sky, we watched soaring Swallow-tailed and Plumbeous Kites. One can not help but watch soaring kites.
At the edge of the high pine-clad plateau, we ventured to the top of a high waterfall, called Thousand Foot Falls (that's how high it is).
The vantage point there can be a good place to see Orange-breasted Falcon. It wasn't when we were there. We looked - and looked.
The Black Vultures, that were present, however, in numbers, were extremely acrobatic, in the updrafts.
Other birds that we saw in the area included: Hepatic Tanager, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Rusty Sparrow, and Black-headed Siskin.
In just about the middle of the country, another place where we saw birds in March '07 was one that we had visited during a FONT tour back in 1992. It's called Banana Bank. It wasn't, in some ways, the same as it had been 15 years earlier, but in other ways, it was. It's a working ranch, with horses and fields. The buildings are by Belize's largest river. The size of the property is vast. Dirt roads go throughout. Here, we saw our first King Vulture during the tour. It was big, yes (bigger than the Black or the Turkey Vultures), but it was black also - all black. It was a juvenile.
Banana Bank was also a good place for us for becards. We saw two species there that are not seen all that often, the Gray-collared and the Cinnamon Becards.
The Gray-collared Becard was seen in a large tree, as we were sitting on reclining chairs by the swimming pool. It was there until it was displaced by a flock of Collared Aracaris.
Also on the property of Banana Bank, we saw our only Merlin, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and Hooded Warbler during the tour.
we traveled south along the Hummingbird
we didn't take notice of any (hummingbirds that is), but we did see 3
species of Orioles together: the Hooded, the Yellow-tailed,
and the Baltimore.
Along the southern seacoast of Belize, near and in Placenica, what we saw was "development", with the most construction that we saw in the country. New condominiums were in the making. Others were made. At marinas, there were yachts. Those who were sailing them would stop by for a while in the town, before continuing on.
One of the birds that we saw in Placencia was one that's arrived recently in Belize (but probably not on a yacht). We saw it on a wire, in town, It was a Shiny Cowbird. That species, common in South America, has recently spread north in the Caribbean on West Indian islands, and even further north into the southern US.
In the book, "The Birds of Belize" by H. Lee Jones, published in 2003, the Shiny Cowbird is included.
But it's written that the species "is not yet recorded in Belize, although likely to reach the country in the near future".
As just stated, the bird has only recently spread north in the Caribbean.
The common cowbird in Central America is the Bronzed Cowbird, occurring south to Panama.
Near Placencia, we saw our only Common Black Hawk during the tour, not on a utility wire, but atop a utility pole, close to us, along the road just outside of town.
One of the best of places for birding that we visited during the '07 Belize tour was the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. It's well known as a reserve for the Jaguar. But, of course, there's so much more there! And, during our visit, we had the good fortune to see quite a bit.
In contrast with the Black Hawk, seen earlier by Placencia, we saw, from along the road in Cockscomb, the White Hawk. What a magnificent bird it is! We observed it perched against the green canopy of the trees along the road ahead of us.
There were a number of truly wonderful birds for us along that road. To name a few:
On the ground, the Ruddy Quail-Dove walked.
Overhead, Red-lored Amazon Parrots flew.
On a branch, and still for a while, there was the Slaty-tailed Trogon.
In a small tree, there was the small Smoky-brown Woodpecker.
In larger trees, a pair of larger Pale-billed Woodpeckers were great to see. That species is in the same genus as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a North American species that would be great to see.
At about eye-level coming out and then going back in the foliage, the Dusky Antbird appeared and disappeared.
Also in the low foliage, at a lek, White-collared Manakins nicely performed.
Another bird, nearby in that foliage, used to be called a "manakin". Now, it's the Thrush-like Schiffornis - its call was heard, then the bird was seen.
In the distance, the calls of both Great and Little Tinamous were heard.
Very close to us, some small birds with yellow foreheads and chestnut bellies ate fruit. Those features notwithstanding, the birds are instead named after the color of their backs. They're called Olive-backed Euphonias.
With some bright red coloration, there were Tanagers: the Crimson-collared, the Passerini's (that used to be called the Scarlet-rumped), and a male Summer Tanager.
With bright red legs, the Red-legged Honeycreeper is aptly named. Otherwise, the bird is a brilliant blue.
At the edge of the forest, there was a hummingbird called the White-bellied Emerald.
At flowers, there was another member of that family, the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.
Also favoring the gardens, not far from the forest, by the cabins where we stayed, there was the dapper Common Tody-Flycatcher. In that wonderful area of the Cockscomb Sanctaury, nice birds seemed to be everywhere.
A day or so later, we took a boat-ride, for about an hour, to a place called Bird Island.
Located east of the mainland, in an area of sheltered bays, coves, and numerous little islands, that one particular island is quite a place.
It's been noted that there can be only very few people along some of the roads in Belize. But there are less yet along the route we took in the boat to Bird Island. Oh, we saw a few fishermen in small boats, with nets, catching fish. But not many. It was quiet, and an extremely nice late afternoon as went across the water.
Osprey were in the sky. We had just seen another all-dark immature King Vulture. On a snag, on an island a short distance away, we saw two Peregrine Falcons.
Then we saw Bird Island, with many birds indeed. Like bright ornaments in the sunlight, late that afternoon, they were in the trees.
Most were American White Ibis. But there were Egrets and Herons as well.
The Egrets were: Great and Snowy (but no Cattle).
The Herons were: Great Blue, Little Blue, and Tricolored.
Many of these birds had just come in to the island.
The Black-crowned Night Herons were coming out from it.
When we got closer, we observed another member of the tribe, as there were Boat-billed Herons standing on the branches in the tangles.
The last place that we visited in Belize was another island, an enjoyable one on which to stay.
Further north and miles offshore, it was the barrier island called Caye Caulker.
That island is small, only 7 kilometers long and less than a kilometer wide.
Just east of the caye (pronounced "key"), there's part of the coral reef for which Belize is so well known.
Until recently, most of the residents of Caye Caulker were fisherman, of conch or lobster. Now, there's more tourism, but, due to its smaller size, the island doesn't have as much hustle and bustle as Ambergris Caye to the north. During our 1992 FONT tour in Belize, we stayed on Ambergris Caye.
During the couple days of our 2007 Belize tour, on Caye Caulker, we certainly had a fine finale to our birding.
On that small island, we found nearly 50 species of birds. The best included the Black Catbird, Yucatan Vireo, White-crowned Pigeon, Scrub Euphonia (a rarity there on the island), and the Mangrove Warbler. As to the last of these, we had a great look or two at the attractive and colorful male.
At a small nature reserve (a patch of natural vegetation) on Caye Caulker, both of the New World's catbirds were present.
The Black Catbird is an uncommon resident of the area, with a restricted range. (It's classified as a globally threatened species).
The Gray Catbird, that was also there, is, of course, a migrant, that goes to North America to breed.
We saw two species of hummingbirds on Caye Caulker: the Green-breasted Mango and the Cinnamon Hummingbird. Both were fun to watch.
But maybe the bird on Caye Caulker that was most fun to watch was the Magnificent Frigatebird.
In the late afternoon, especially, when the fishermen were preparing their day's catch on the piers, the frigatebirds would come in so closely.
The birds, though large, have such a light weight that their buoyant antics in the air make them very much a sight to see - by the sea.
Actually, as a runner-up in that category, the Brown Pelicans, also coming in close to the fisherman, are rather "watchable" as well.
In all, throughout our 10-day tour in Belize, we saw a number of birds that were, to use that term, "watchable" for sure!
And we saw some mammals too. In addition to the West Indian Manatee, mentioned earlier, we saw: White-nosed Coati, Red Brocket Deer, Paca, and Yucatan Squirrel.
The Yucatan Black Howler Monkey was heard. It was hard not to hear it. The loud calling of the male certainly carries, as far away as a mile.
Many of the animals have interesting Belizean names.
The Yucatan Black Howler Monkey is called the "Baboon".
The Red Brocket Deer is called the "Antelope".
The White-nosed Coati is called the "Quash".
The Manatee, the "Sea Cow".
And maybe with the nicest name of all, the Paca is called the "Gibnut". That animal is like an Agouti with spots.
Some of the other wildlife during the tour were: large Tarpon fish near the Manatees, Iguanas, Leaf-cutter and other Ants, and a wonderful assortment of butterflies.
During our March 2007 Belize tour, there was so much to observe, and enjoy: the birds (of course!), the other nature, the people, and the country itself!
Belize really is a great "natural destination".
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