We spent 16 days birding in Belize and Guatemala in December 2015. Upon arrival we travelled by bus from Belize City to the Guatemalen border, and onwards to El Remate village/ Tikal National Park where we spent three very enjoyable days. Upon return to Belize City we hired a 4-wheel drive jeep for 10 days, exploring as far north as Tower Hill Bridge (near Orange Walk), south to The Dump and Pueblo Viejo, with our last two nights on the island of Caye Caulker. Things went smoothly logistically but in Belize at several localities, birding was very slow and some sites rather uninspiring. We ate pretty well and stayed mostly in moderately-priced guesthouses/cabins (cabanas); generally but not always, accommodation seemed over-priced. We also rented a little bungalow for a couple of nights at one locality and camped one night in the Belize uplands. The total cost of the trip (including travel insurance) came in at around £1,600 each.
This report includes travel, accommodation and birding details, followed by annotated species lists of birds and mammals seen. Scientific names for species appearing in these lists are not generally included in the main text, exceptions being for clarity, some subspecies.
Flights to and from Belize City
We booked rather late in the day (7 October) United Airlines flights departing 4 December from London Heathrow to Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (Belize City) via Dulles International (Washington, DC; 2h 10min stopover) and George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston, Texas; 8h 48min stopover), returning via Houston (2h 10min stopover) and arriving back in England on 22 December. Cost was £619 each return inc. taxes; if we had booked a week earlier we would have each saved around £100.
Note: there are no direct flights from the UK to Belize. If one flies via the USA travel authorisation is required via filling out an online ‘Electronic System for Travel Authorisation’ permit (ESTA; cost $US14) even if only in transit. These are valid for 2 years and fortunately we both had valid ESTAs from a previous trip.
Outbound: 4 Dec 2015; 16:20 - 19:50 (duration 8h 30min) Heathrow - Dulles (Washington, DC). Depart Dulles 22:00 arrive Houston 5 Dec 00:27 (duration 3h 27min). Depart Houston 08:45 arrive Belize City 11:15 (duration 2h 30min).
Return: 21 Dec 2015; 13:45 - 16:25 (duration 2h 40min) Belize City - Houston. Depart Houston 18:35 arrive Heathrow 22 Dec 09:40 (duration 9h).
The outbound transfers at Dulles (we had to pick up our main baggage here and check it through again) and Houston were remarkably quick and hassle-free. On our return via Houston, the signage in the airport was poor and it was unclear where transit passengers were meant to go (even a security officer sent us towards the wrong passport control). We had to join a very long queue in the ‘Visitors’ section but were fortunate in that a kindly official fast-tracked us (as we were in transit) via a very short queue at a pair of passport control cubicles. Unlike previous poor experience at Atlanta, customs officials at Houston were polite.
We each took the UK sterling equivalent of UK£500 of US dollars (US$) plus visa debit cards for money withdrawl from ATMs (ATMs are fairly widespread in Belize) and to pay for vehicle hire, and a credit card to cover the cost of the vehicle hire deposit. We withdrew money in the towns of Belmopan and Dangrida, the ATM on Caye Caulker was not working. Credit / VISA cards (used once on Caye Caulker) are widely accepted. We changed a small amount of US$ to Guatamelan Quetzales (GTQ; pronounced with a hard ‘Q’ i.e. ‘Ketzales’) at the border (rate GTQ 7.1 to US$ 1). Within Tikal Parque Nacional (National Park) we also changed some dollars at the Jaguar Inn Lodge (good rate of GTQ 7.5 to US$ 1) as one has to pay the Tikal entrance fee in GTQ (with no option to pay in US$ as visitors previously could up to about 2 years ago). The exchange rate in Belize is fixed at Belize dollars (B$) 2 to US$ 1 and everywhere US$ were readily accepted.
We had no health problems other than DAS picking up a mild cold en route and JWM getting it subsequently. After initially buying bottled drinking water, several places (at Big Falls, Cockscomb, Monkey Bay and Mountain Pine Ridge) had a tap with drinking water which we could use to fill up plastic 5 litre bottles that we carried with us in our hire jeep.
Travelers should check with their doctor or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure to see what the current recommendation is regards malaria. It may be low risk in Belize although many cases are reported annually especially in the south (JWM recommended not to take anti-malarials but DAS took chloroquine). Dengue (transmitted by day-flying Aedes mosquitoes) also occurs (especially during/just after the rainy season). Mosquitoes (mostly during the day) were plentiful at some sites (e.g. Blue Hole National Park), so we used maximum-strength ‘Jungle Formula’ which was fairly effective at repelling them. Botflies are said to be a problem in some areas (eggs transferred by chigger or mosquito bites) another good reason to try and reduce the number of mosquito bites, including by wearing long trousers and long-sleeved shirts which we did when birding at most places.
There is Belize-specific medical advice available at several sites online, including: www.mdtravelhealth.com/destinations/mamerica_carib/belize.php
December is the end of the wet season and although we did have a bit of rain it never really hampered our birding but some trails were muddy (especially so at Pueblo Viejo but we washed off in the river so it didn’t matter so much). However, water levels at Crooked Tree were very high and despite being given 50:50 odds by a boatman/guide of seeing an agami heron (we specifically indicated this, sungrebe and fulvous-whistling duck as our target species and not wanting a trip to view common birds) if we went on a boat trip (which we did), it rapidly became apparent that the high water had driven agamis and sungrebes way back into the flooded peripheral lagoon forest so that we actually had no chance of seeing them. Thus it was a waste of a precious morning’s birding (as well as US$100) looking mostly at jacanas, snail kites and common heron species (although, fortuitously, our only jabiru flew over just after we got off the boat). February-April would be a better time to visit Crooked Tree, and also elsewhere as more birds will be singing and transient migrants will be passing through. Unfortunately, other commitments meant that we had to visit in December.
Travelling in Guatemala and Belize
We did a mix of travelling by bus, collectivo (shared minibus taxi), private taxi, hire car (in Belize) and boat to Caye Caulker. Upon arrival in Belize we got a taxi from the airport (US$25; 33km) to the main bus station arriving at 12:45 and caught a 13:00 bus (US$4.50 each) to Benque Viejo (3.25h), the town on the Belizean side of the border with Guatemala. At the bus stop we caught a taxi the remaining 2km to the border (US$5.00), and then a private taxi from the Guatemalen side (Ciudad Melchor de Mencos) to El Remate village (US$35; 70km) situated alongside Lago Petén Itzá (30km south of Tikal). Here we were dropped off at a cheap but good guesthouse at dusk. Next afternoon (6 December) we caught a collective (GTQ20 each) to Tikal. We returned to Belize City (US$40 each) on 9 December, a minibus picking us up from our lodgings at Tikal and taking us to El Cruce (a road junction on main Flores to Belize road) where we were picked up by a tourist bus from Flores that took us the rest of the way to Belize City (dropping us at Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal). Here we got a taxi (B$25) to Crystal Auto Rental (www.crystal-belize.com) situated on the main Northern Highway towards Ladyville and the international airport. We recommend them (friendly and professional) and when our original vehicle developed a fault just north of Crooked Tree, they drove out with a replacement within 40 minutes. Rental of a 4-wheel drive jeep (essential if visiting the Mountain Pine Ridge area where roads are unpaved and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary where parts of the access track are muddy and rutted) was £630 (plus £17 bank fee) for 10 days. We spent about US$190 on petrol. The main highways were pretty good (especially the Southern Highway), though with a few potholes here and there. We were going to drive up the Coastal Highway (approx. 60km in length) but found that it was unpaved and rough so opted not to.
On 19 December we dropped the jeep back at Crystal Auto Rental and were given a lift to the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal in Belize City. We got the 10:30 boat (45 min; B$50 each return) to Caye Caulker, returning on the 08:00 boat on 21 December. We then got a taxi (US$20) to the International Airport for our afternoon flight back to the UK.
Bird books and travel guide
We took the following publications for identification (1, 2), birding site information (3) and general Belize and Tikal information (4):
1) A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America (Howell & Webb 1995). Although bulky and including many species not occurring in Belize, worth taking, containing a wealth of information and excellent illustrations but most North American migrants are not illustrated;
2) Birds of Belize (Gardner & Jones 2004). Illustrations are fairly poor but it covers all species;
3) A Birder’s Guide to Belize (Frenz 2012). Excellent, includes good site maps, details on how to get to main birding localities with bird species lists for each (including Tikal and Lago Petén Itzá in Guatemala), plus mammal, reptile and amphibian species lists for Belize in an appendix;
4) Lonely Planet guide to Belize (Vorhees & Brown 2013). This contains much information but we didn’t use it much, the town maps were useful for orientating oneself to find banks/ATMs.
We used The Rough Guide 1: 5000,000 scale ‘Guatemala and Belize’ plastic map, as well as Frenz (2012), to navigate by. It was quite good (especially for longer drives) but one road junction (at Burrel Boom) was inaccurately mapped and caused us to get lost for a short while.
Birding sites visited
1) El Remate and Lago Petén Itzá (Guatemala), 5-6 December
2) Tikal National Park (Guatemala), 6-9 December
3) Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and Northern Highway savanna, 9-12 December
4) Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, 12-14 December
5) Blue Hole National Park, 15 December
6) Hopkins marsh area, 15-16 December
7) Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, 15-17 December
8) Big Falls/The Dump/Blue Creek area, 16-17 December
9) Pueblo Viejo, 17 December
10) Savanna Forest Reserve (Southern Highway), 18 December
11) Mayflower Bocawina National Park, 18 December
12) Monkey Bay 18-19 December
13) Caye Caulker 19-21 December
1) El Remate and Lago Petén Itzá (Guatemala), 5-6 December
Getting there: Upon arrival at P.S.W. Goldson International Airport (33km NW of Belize City) at 11:15 on 5 December, we took a taxi to Belize City (US$25 standard fare) main bus station (small, only large enough to hold about 10 buses) arriving 12:45. We caught the 13:00 bus (US$4.50 each) to Benque Viejo (3.25h), the town on the Belizean side of the border with Guatemala. At the bus stop we got a taxi the remaining 2 km or so to the border (US$5.00), the driver introducing us to a chap who arranged a taxi to take us from the Guatemalen side (Ciudad Melchor de Mencos) to El Remate (US$35 for the 70 km journey). This is a small quiet village situated on the eastern shore of Lago Petén Itzá (a large freshwater lake) and 30km south of Tikal National Park, and was our destination for the first night. (Note: the ‘e’ at the end of El Remate is pronounced, i.e. Re-ma-teh).
Accommodation: At El Remate our taxi driver dropped us, as dusk was approaching, at ‘Hernan do Poco’, a cheap but very good guesthouse (posada) set about 30 m back on the east side of the small main road (virtually no traffic) that runs through the village northwards to Tikal. The cost was GTQ100 (£10 for both) for an upstairs room with two bunkbeds, wash basin, shower and toilet. We ate in the evening at a little roadside stall with a couple of tables and chairs, 2 mins walk from our accommodation (good tacos and a couple of little bottles of beer each; GTQ30 in total each).
Birding: At first light we wandered across the road and explored the eastern lake edge, which as well as open water has some tall patches of emergent rushes/sedges and water lilies etc. A little to the south (approx. 500m) of the guesthouse there was a good marshy area where there were 2 ruddy crakes calling (1 within a few metres of us) and we had brief flight views of a single least bittern close by. Other more interesting birds included: several pied-billed grebes and tricolored herons, a limpkin, snail kite (5 immatures), laughing gull (12+) and royal terns (both a little unusual this far inland but regularly recorded here), many American purple gallinules, common yellowthroats and a single red-winged blackbird (our only one of the trip). Birds in gardens, scrub and forest around the village and along the road on the north side of the lake included: Canivet’s emerald (a male foraging low down), gartered trogon (male), collard aracari (flock of 5), yellow-throated (1) and white-eyed (10+) vireos, a good selection of migrant North American warblers: magnolia (approx. 20), yellow (4), hooded (male and female), Kentucky (1), black-and-white (2), American redstart (1) and black-throated green (1), plus yellow-winged tanager (2), black-cowled oriole (1) and over 20 Baltimore orioles in flowering trees. There were also two troops of Yucatan black howler monkeys calling at dawn from forest just behind the village, and a couple of Yucatan squirrels.
2) Tikal National Park (Guatemala), 6-9 December
Tikal, in northeast Guatemala, is considered to be one of, if not the, most important Mayan archaeological sites in Central America. Set amidst protected forest extending over more than 200km2, there is a 10km2 complex of monuments (stone pyramids, temples etc.) accessible by an extensive trail system. This is ideal for birding within the broadleaf forest in which the ruins are situated. The site’s strict protection offers good opportunities to see larger-bodied bird species that are difficult elsewhere due to hunting.
Getting there and away: We flagged down a mini-bus (collectivo) coming from Flores, these pass through El Remate on their way to Tikal roughly hourly, the journey took 50 minutes (GTQ40). There is a checkpoint along the road south of the Park HQ where one must pay the entrance fee (GTQ150) in Quetzales; fortunately a guard was able to change some of our US dollars as we didn’t have sufficient Quetzales. We arrived at the checkpoint after 15:00 so our tickets were valid for the following day also. At the Park HQ (by the ruins complex) where one purchases tickets if subsequently staying at one of the hotels within the Park, on our second morning we had to wait until 0:6.30 (Park opens at 6am, unless booked on a ‘sunrise trip’ when one can enter at 04:30) to exchange dollars at the Jaguar Lodge (good exchange rate of GTQ7.5 to the US$1) in order to buy our tickets for that day. One could pay the entrance fee in US dollars until about 2 years ago but this is no longer the case. For our return to Belize, we booked seats (US$40 each) for a ‘direct’ bus to Belize City. A mini-bus picked us up at the Lodge at 07:50 and took us to El Cruce road junction. Here we changed to a tourist bus coming from Flores (so not ‘direct’ in fact, but our mini-bus driver waited, made sure we got on and it was only a 15 min wait). After taking care of formalities (no departure tax from Guatemala), we left the border at 11:00, and were dropped at the Water Taxi Terminal in Belize City 2 hours later.
Accommodation and food: There are three hotels within the National Park (Jungle, Tikal and Jaguar Lodges) located close to one another just outside the entrance gate to the ruins. We made a reservation at Jungle Lodge prior to leaving the UK (total US$156 for a small room with 2 single beds, fan and nearby shared toilets and shower block for 3 nights). The room was simple and comfortable but lacked adequate space to hang dry clothes. We had dinner each night at the Lodge’s restaurant, which had a set menu but only one vegetarian choice (vegetable fettuccini, including soup and dessert, GTQ60). Beer was expensive (small bottle of ‘Gallo’, GTQ35/£3.20).
Birding: Tikal was by far the best site for birding that we visited and we could easily have spent another day here. There are major tracks that give access to the archaeological sites with numerous smaller trails through the forest. Birding is worthwhile along all of them, although the most interesting was the trail from Temple IV (TIV) to Grupo Norte (GN). We entered the Park at 06:00 on the first morning and 06:30 on the second along with quite a few other tourists, but many trails were quiet and pretty devoid of people; birding was productive throughout the day. Another area worth birding is the old airstrip just northeast of the Park HQ and lodges, where a trail leads about a kilometre through dense second growth woodland to a small pond (Aguada Dimick/Laguna del Crocodrilo; a Morelet’s crocodile Crocodylus moroleti spot-lighted here one evening). Highlights: an adult crested eagle, flapping and gliding quietly from tree-top to tree-top above the trail between TIV and GN, apparently hunting a troop of monkeys; orange-breasted falcon, a pair at Temple IV (the traditional site) where we saw them perched on top of its northeast corner (through a clearing from the trail approaching from the east), one flying out over the forest after we had climbed up the temple (as high as visitors are allowed); a pair of great curassows on a trail (TIV to GN), the male displaying (wing stretching) to the female; ocellated turkey (remarkably tame, up to 8 seen around the car park/HQ and the Gran Plaza); tody motmot (1 responded to playback near Acrópolis Sur); 6 species of woodcreeper, including a nesting pair of strong-billed in a dead tree at Complex Q (many thanks to Luis Antonio for showing us these) and ruddy woodcreeper (3 singles) around ant swarms; Mayan antthrush (1); thrush-like schiffornis (1) sitting quietly mid-story along TIV to GN trail and russet antshrike (1). Other birds included several sepia-capped flycatchers, tawny-crowned greenlets, black-throated shrike tanagers and a grey-headed tanager, a good selection of migrant North American warblers including golden winged warbler (male; our only one of the trip), amongst many other species. Also at the start of the Airstrip Trail, a Yucatan poorwill was spot-lighted just before dawn (05:15) on the open grass with a nearby paraque, and 2 grey-necked wood-rails were roosting in tree boughs by Aguada Dimick.
3) Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and Northern Highway savanna, 9-12 December
Crooked Tree is the name of both the Wildlife Sanctuary (founded in 1984 by the Belize Audubon Society) and the village. The sanctuary is dominated by the huge Northern Lagoon and associated creeks and swamps. There are numerous trails through the village and into the surrounding pine savanna. Despite many local people being fairly reliant on eco-tourism for an income here, hence some clued up on nature conservation, it was sad to see a caged yellow-headed parrot in one garden.
Getting there: Arriving from Tikal at the Water Taxi Terminal in Belize City, we got a taxi (US$25) to Crystal Car Rental on the Northern Highway and hired a 4WD Jeep (US$985/£630). Payment was made by debit card, although we authorised the necessary BZ$3,000 deposit on a separate credit card. It would have been possible to use a debit card for this but the amount taken would have been greater and the money removed from the account, with reimbursement not likely for several weeks. (Note: some hire companies will only accept a credit card). On arrival at Crooked Tree, an easy 50km or so drive, we paid the entrance fee (BZ$8 each) at the Visitor Centre located at west end of the causeway by the village, which covered us for the entirety of our 3-day stay.
Accommodation and food: There are several accommodation options (including three expensive lodges). We stayed at the mid-range Tillett’s Village Lodge in a nice cabaña with veranda, double and single beds with mosquito nets, fan and bathroom (US$40/night, in high season US$50/night). We stocked up with provisions at Sky City Supermarket on the outskirts of Belize City en route, but found one place open in Crooked Tree, ‘Nora’s’, a 10-minute walk from our Lodge, which served great food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and was good value. Presumably more cafes/restaurants (closed when we were there) are open later in the season.
Birding: There are three main areas where we birded: around the village including the long causeway across the Northern Lagoon and pine savanna/farmland on the outskirts; the Lagoon itself, part-explored by boat (rather pricey US$100 for 2, same price for 1 or 3 people) for 3 hours, arranged through friendly proprietor of our Lodge); and pine savanna north of the Crooked Tree junction along the Northern (Philip Goldson) Highway. Highlights: a jabiru flying low over village just after landing from boat trip; bare-throated tiger-heron (1), lesser yellow-headed vulture (2 east of the causeway and 1 along the Highway); black-collared hawk (2); bat falcon (1 overflying village, 1 by Northern Lagoon, 1 in savanna); grey-necked wood-rail (1 in Lodge garden); Yucatan (yellow-lored) parrot (pairs in pine savanna); azure-crowned hummingbird (1-2 in garden); Yucatan woodpecker (pair at a nest hole in tree alongside Highway); mangrove vireo (3+ in scrub along the causeway; yellow-breasted chat (1); Yucatan jay (3 south of the village); and Grace’s warbler (2) in pines in savanna close to the Highway.
4) Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, 12-14 December
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve (MPR) covers some 300km2 of mostly submontane pine forest, although following outbreaks of southern pine beetle Dendroctonus frontalis much of the area is now dominated by shrubland and young pine regrowth.
Getting there: Leaving the George Price (Western) Highway at Georgeville, the Chiquibul Road south to MPR is unpaved, undulating and rutted in places. It may be impassable in wet weather (and the clayey surface slippery after a shower), thus having a 4WD is a good idea (essential if visiting Las Cuevas). One can also access from the Highway via Santa Elena but recent information suggested that the condition of this road was worse. After about 12km, there is a reserve checkpoint where you sign your names, but there is no entrance fee. It is important to note that there is no fuel available once you leave the Highway, so make sure you have a full tank, especially if you plan to visit Caracol and/or Las Cuevas. The fuel tank of our jeep did not have enough capacity for us to be able to make the return journey to this latter site that we had planned to visit.
Accommodation and food: There are no real settlements in the MPR area hence very few places to stay, especially if one is on any kind of budget. We camped our first night on a grass lawn by the road a couple of km’s northwest of Pine Ridge Lodge (we asked the owners’ permission, this was fine and they didn’t want any money). There are a number of very expensive lodges, the cheapest being Pine Ridge Lodge just south of the Cooma Cairn Road turn. It is owned by an almost retired US lawyer. He was trying to sell up as not making any money out of the venture, which may reduce accommodation options further. We spent our second night here in a simple, overpriced, double cabin (US$119; no hot water for a shower and no electricity with lighting from kerosene lamps) including a disappointing (very small) breakfast although plentiful good coffee. Other than that we took our own food, there was a tap that supplied drinking water. Another even more expensive option is Blancaneaux Lodge, owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola. Although well beyond our budget, we bumped into a young birder called Oscar who is based here, knowledgeable about the local birdlife and who put us onto a couple of things.
Birding: There are a number of tourist attractions recommended as good birding spots (Frenz 2012) although two we visited, Rio Frio Caves and Thousand Foot Falls, were unremarkable. (Note: according to a Belizean bird guide, Caracol is no longer as good a place to see keel-billed motmot as previously as birds may have been driven away by birders using playback here too often). We spent our time driving through the degraded pine forest habitat, stopping when we saw something, or walking at good-looking places. At lower altitude we walked part of the Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET) opposite the Butterfly Centre, where we saw our only long-billed gnatwren of the trip. We spent our last morning (09:30-11:30) at a raptor watch point that Oscar had told us about at the end of the third road to the right after Pine Ridge Lodge; park at the beginning of the trail (N17.06795 W88.96887) and walk about 800m through woodland to a viewpoint (with a ‘stick bench’). As well as king vulture (2), white-collared swifts (tight flock of 25 cruising around) and Vaux’s swifts (approx. 20), we had frustrating observations of several raptors too distant to identify (one in hindsight, a black hawk-eagle). Highlights included: ferruginous pygmy-owl (same individual on two consecutive days within grounds of Blancaneaux Lodge); stygian owl (1 spotlighted on top of a pine tree at Blancaneaux Lodge thanks to the efforts of Oscar); numerous acorn woodpeckers, green jay (2-3/day); rufous-capped warblers (several singing), Grace’s warbler (4 in pines); golden-hooded tanager (6 in roadside scrub); and a rusty sparrow in grassy scrub.
5) Blue Hole National Park, 15 December
Getting there: Blue Hole National Park (N.P.) is easily accessed via Hummingbird Highway. It officially opens at 08:00 but we briefly dropped by the north entrance (where there is a car park, reception building and toilet) at dusk on 14 December. The lady at reception said if we wanted to come at 06:00 the next morning (and pay the US$4 entrance fee later in the morning when reception opened) no problem. So we did that, and birded until about 12:00.
Accommodation: The evening of 14 December we spent at Sunview Inn (B$75 for two rooms; a living room with sofa, wash basin, fridge and microwave, and bedroom with single and double bed, fan, flat-screen TV, plus bathroom). This was a very good little hotel/motel (best value accommodation we stayed in during the trip) on the western outskirts of Belmopan (less than 1km south of the turn into town, on the east side of Hummingbird Highway) and located about 32km (20 miles) NW of Blue Hole. There are a couple of more expensive accommodation options available if you want to stay closer to the N.P. but this is not really worthwhile as one can drive down the almost deserted highway for dawn.
Birding: Said to be one of the top three birding sites in Belize, Blue Hole N.P. was very disappointing with little of note seen (we failed to even hear Northern nightingale wren, our main target) and lots of mosquitoes. Best birds were: blue-diademed motmot (1), black-cheeked woodpecker (3+), chestnut-coloured woodpecker (2), rufous-tailed jacamar (1), plain xenops (1), dusky antbird (4 pairs), dot-winged antwren (6), barred antshrike (2), white breasted wood-wren (4); Wilson’s warbler (3+), worm-eating warbler (3), ovenbird (3), several small flocks of red-crowned and red-throated ant-tanagers, Passerini’s tanger (1) and a green-backed sparrow.
6) Hopkins marsh area, 15-16 December
Getting there: En route south from Blue Hole N.P. to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (W.S.) at about 13:00-14:30, we drove and birded the 27km (17 mile) ‘Sittee River Loop’ as recommended in Frenz (2012). That is, from the Southern Highway east down the newly paved road through a good area of open marshland to Hopkins village by the sea, south through the village and then back west along a very rough unpaved track bordered by much scrub and mangroves running along the north bank of the Sittee River. We also popped down the Hopkins road, both to look at the marsh again and to look for Aplomado falcons in the general area, around 11:00 the next day.
Birding: Even though our visits were not the best time of the day, we saw lots of birds at the marsh including: magnificent frigatebird (15+ overflying); western osprey (2); wood stork (approx. 30); roseate spoonbill (10); glossy (10) and white (4) ibises, blue-winged teal (approx. 40), northern shoveler (2 females); black-necked stilt (approx. 30), greater yellowlegs (15), semipalmated plover (5+), a few distant peeps, and palm warbler (2). The track along the Sittee River was pretty unproductive, common black hawk and squirrel cuckoo the best birds, though admittedly we did not try at all hard here as not a good time of the day to be birding this scrub/mangrove habitat.
Our endeavours to seek Aplomado falcon were rewarded with 1 flying rapidly north, low along the west side of the Southern Highway by the Cockscomb Basin W. S. entrance track/road (i.e. approx. 13 km SW of the Hopkins turn off the Southern Highway). It gained height quickly, soaring high over a citrus plantation (but some pine savanna habitat nearby); a sleek long-tailed falcon, increasingly uncommon and one of our main target birds.
7) Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, 15-16 December
Getting there: Access is via a muddy and rutted entrance track, leading 6km (4 miles) from the Southern Highway westward to the HQ, accommodation buildings and campsite. One can pay the US$5 entrance fee at the Maya Center (north side of track where one turns in from the Southern Highway) but we wanted to check that there was accommodation available first and thus paid the entrance fee at the HQ.
Accommodation: Situated just behind the HQ, we stayed in a very small basic room with two single beds (US$20/night) with a toilet block, showers and a dining room/kitchen (with cookers and a fridge where one can store food) nearby. Our room windows were meshed to keep out mosquitoes but these and other insects could easily get under the eaves so a mosquito net might be advisable (not provided). We didn’t use a net and had no problems. There are several, more expensive, accommodation options available here (see: www.belizeaudubon.org/?page_id=3607). If you want to camp this is US$10/night/person (one person was camping but it must have been uncomfortable as rather hot and humid).
Birding: There are many trails, most radiating out from the HQ. We walked the River Path/Curassow Trail and the west section of Victoria Peak Trail, and leading off from this Wari Loop and River Outlook Trail. We also had a night stroll on our first evening for a couple of miles along the main access track but neither heard or saw any birds (one of those ‘silent nights’, perhaps the moon was too full), a little dark red snake was the highlight. Staff said that there was a barn owl Tyto alba about the HQ area but we did not see it. Overall, we saw a reasonable selection of birds but nothing particularly special other than a little tinamou walking across the River Trail. Our visit coincided with a Belizean team doing the ‘Audubon Christmas Bird Count’, they kindly invited us to join them but we declined as wanting to explore; they recorded pretty much the same birds as us (plus a few additional species). Birds we observed included: crested guan (in tree by HQ), long-billed hermit (2+), white-bellied emerald (1); purple-crowned fairy (1), several keel-billed toucans, collard aracari, tawny-winged, ivory-billed and northern barred woodcreepers, white-collard manakin (male and female), numerous wood thrushes, Swainson’s thrush (1), ovenbird (2), white-breasted wood-wren (2), bright-rumped attila (2), northern schiffornis (1), sulphur-rumped flycatcher (1), grey-headed tanager (2), several small flocks of red-crowned and red-throated ant-tanagers, and a Passerini’s tanager. We left Cockscomb at 09:30 (16 December) and a bonus as we drove slowly along the access road back to the Southern Highway was excellent views of a stunning little red brocket deer foraging on the verge for a couple of minutes before tiptoeing into the forest.
8) Big Falls/The Dump/Blue Creek area, 16-17 December
Getting there: After leaving Cockscomb Basin and having a look up the road at Hopkins marsh and seeing an Aplomado falcon (see: 6) Hopkins marsh area, above), we continued down the Southern Highway to Big Falls.
Accommodation: We stopped and had an excellent ‘eat-all-u want’ lunch buffet at Coleman’s located on the west side of the road about 500m north of the turn to ‘The Lodge at Big Falls’. This was fortuitous as Coleman’s is run by an (Asian) Indian called Tom and his wife, and they had a little bungalow (with 2 beds, kitchen, shower, toilet and washing machine) that they offered for rent, so we stayed here for two nights (US$50/night for both) as it was the perfect place to be based down south to explore three birding areas i.e. The Dump, Blue Creek Village and Cave, and Pueblo Viejo.
Birding: The Dump area comprises large expanses of wet, dense, tall grassland either side of the main road with no open water visible, and adjacent scrub/second growth: Best birds here and in the general area were: ruddy crake (4+ calling unseen, plus other rallid-type calls from the dense grassland), hook-billed kite (1), laughing falcon (2), American kestrel (1), grey-chested dove (Lodge at Big Falls), a selection of North American warblers (species seen previously) and blue grosbeak (2).
We visited the Blue Creek village and Cave area in the late afternoon (16 December), best birds were: a striped cuckoo (perched on a fence raising and lowering its central crown feathers) and a yellow-breasted chat, both upon approach to the village adjacent to cultivated areas. On the way back at dusk we counted 15 paraques sat/bobbing/flying up from the unpaved road as we drove back to the main road at San Antonio.
At 20:30 on 17 December we went on a ‘night walk’ at The Lodge at Big Falls, arranged the day before through the English owner (cost B$67.50 for 2; told it would be B$60 but annoyingly and unwarrantedly charged on the night an additional B$7.50 ‘tax’), owls being our target. Black-and-white owl seemed very likely (resident pair plus a single in the area), and striped and mottled owls, and lesser nighthawk also purportedly possible. We went with Steve, an amiable and keen local Belizean birder. The walk comprised wandering around the lodge grounds hopefully spotlighting trees (especially one by the swimming pool, a favourite black-and-white owl perch) as no owls were calling. We did this for 2 hours and had a brief (very unsatisfactory) silhouette overflight view of a single black-and-white owl and nothing else.
9) Pueblo Viejo, 17 December
Getting there: We drove from our base at Coleman’s leaving at 05:00 (The Dump area is good for striped owl, DAS wanted to leave at 04:00 to look but JWM didn’t) driving slowly to the village of Pueblo Viejo (about 11 km west of the Guatemalen border) arriving at 06:00 just after dawn. We parked on the south side of the road opposite the little police station and walked south down the grassy track 300 m to the attractive river and Pueblo Viejo Falls (as described in Frenz 2010). We paddled across the river and continued down a muddy track through forest (mostly secondary regrowth) and scrub, a very large clearings (some old overgrown cultivated fields and a few bananas) to a forest-covered limestone outcrop (about 3km from the river; it looked good for keel-billed motmot but we had no luck).
Birding: Despite the mud it was an interesting walk, birds included: black hawk-eagle (1 adult soaring over), frustrating flight glimpse in dense secondary woodland of probably bicoloured hawk or barred forest-falcon, long-billed and stripe throated hermits, white-necked jacobin (3 making forays out along the river bank, presumably fly-catching), white-bellied emerald (3+), one each of blue-diademed motmot, rufous-tailed jacamar, Mayan antthrush, ivory-billed woodcreeper, northern bentbill, royal flycatcher, sulphur-rumped flycatcher and a male white-collard manakin, red-capped manakin (male and 2 females), Northern nightingale wren (1 singing its warpy, human-like whistling song from dense undergrowth covering a small limestone hillock), Louisiana and northern waterthrushes, one each of blue-winged, Kentucky and chestnut-sided warblers, Wilson’s warbler (approx. 8), Crimson-collard tanager (2), a couple of small flocks of Passerini’s tanager, green honeycreeper (1), thick-billed seedfinch (2+), black-faced grosbeak (6) and a few Baltimore and black-cowled orioles.
10) Savannah Forest Reserve (Southern Highway), 18 December
Getting there: We left Big Falls before light at 04:30 (18 December), driving back up the Southern Highway in order to do some dawn birding in the Savannah Forest Reserve (either side of the road about 70km NE of Big Falls) that we had driven through fairly rapidly on the way down south. It comprises much pine-palm savanna habitat which we reckoned looked good for yellow-headed parrots, that we still hadn’t seen. Belize is probably the best place to see this globally ‘Endangered’ parrot (population size estimated at 4,700 adults in 1994; BirdLife International 2016).
Birding: We struck lucky with, just as the sun was rising, a distant pair of yellow-headed parrots perched in a dead tree as we were entering the savanna area (with 2 ruddy crakes calling from a wet roadside ditch nearby). Subsequently a little further north we found a real hotspot with about 11 pairs and a single seen well in flight (most passing low over the main road), and a pair walking sedately around on a pine tree in the savanna, all within about 500 m of a rubbish dump (clearly sign-posted ‘The Dump’ from the main road, but not to be confused with ‘The Dump’ birding locality down south). The subspecies of yellow-headed parrot here is Amazona oratrix belizensis, most adults having a yellow face and forehead with little or no yellow on the nape. We also saw several small flocks of red-lored parrot within roadside citrus groves where yellow-headed parrots were absent. A morning walk in the savanna yielded quite a few birds including: ladder-backed woodpecker (male and female), yellow-bellied sapsucker (1), Yucatan woodpecker (1), blue-winged warbler (1) and a flock of over 50 chipping sparrows.
11) Mayflower Bocawina National Park, 18 December
Getting there: Mayflower Bocawina National Park is situated just to the west of the northern end of the Southern Highway, as we were passing en route to Monkey Bay, we popped in to have a look. Access is via an unpaved but easily drivable road, 3 km down to the entrance and HQ/admin building (with toilets). The entrance fee was US$5/person, the site includes hiking trails and Mayan ruins. After paying we drove a further 1 km or so and parked in the car park at Mama Noots Eco Resort (one can stay here but cheapest rooms are US$99/night).
Birding: From Mama Noots we walked up the Bocawina Hill Trail, a nice broad track through forest leading to some waterfalls. A good selection of birds included: a soaring adult white hawk (only one of the trip), bat falcon (1), squirrel cuckoo (1), dusky antbird (pair), dotted antwren (3+), white-collared manakin (2), tawny-crowned greenlet (1), white-whiskered puffbird (only one of the trip), a good selection of North American warblers and a couple of olive-backed euphonias. We also had, along a sunny section of the trail around a pair of trees with many long-stamened pink flowers (fallen blooms forming a pink carpet under each), an abundance of hummingbirds buzzing around just above our heads, nectar-feeding including violet sabrewing (male and female), white-necked jacobin (3, including a rather bizarre looking boldly ‘scalloped’ female), white-bellied emerald (20+) and rufous-tailed hummingbird (10+).
12) Monkey Bay 18-19 December
Getting there: Monkey Bay, a wildlife sanctuary and educational centre, is situated just off George Price (Western) Highway, 50km southwest of Belize City. It is located on the south side of the highway (entrance well signed) and the short unpaved access road to the HQ and accommodation buildings continues for a further 1.5km down to the Sibun River.
Accommodation and food: We stayed in a dormitory with three bunkbeds (no one else was there so we had it to ourselves) with adjoining toilets and showers (US$21.80 each/night). We had our own food (one could eat at nearby ‘Amigo’s’ or ‘Cheers’, both within easy walking distance by the highway) and there are taps that supply drinking water.
Birding: Our visit was little more than an overnight stopover with a little birding late in the afternoon upon arrival and the next morning before leaving at 07:30. Habitats include savanna, some dense areas of bamboo close to the Sibun River and riverine forest. In the afternoon we walked down the track (one could drive) to the river (45 min) but it did not produce much. Blue seedeaters are sometimes seen in the bamboo thickets just before the river but although we saw some seedeater-type birds they could well have been grassquits, but dusk was approaching and it was too dark to see. Next morning we briefly explored the edge of some nice looking pine savanna below the accommodation buildings. Highlights: yellow-headed parrot (1 perched in tree next to visitor centre, 3 overflying); common tody-flycatcher (1); scarlet tanager (1 winter male/female); and Eastern meadowlark (2 in savanna).
13) Caye Caulker, 19-21 December
Getting there: Caye Caulker (about 8km long by less than 1km wide) lies 34km (21 miles) NE of Belize City and is readily accessible by boat (or light aircraft) as it is a popular somewhat ‘hippified’ tourist destination. At Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal in Belize City (boats to San Pedro also go from here), we purchased boat tickets (B$50 each return) at 09:15 on the morning of our departure, catching the 10:30 boat. We had breakfast at the terminal (coffee, rice, beans and fish) whilst we were waiting at a little café (good value) by the seafront. A boat goes about once an hour (between 08:00 to 17:30h) with return boats from Caye Caulker 06:30 to 17:00, they seem to carry about 70 people. If you have a big bag, an attendant will tag it and give you a receipt (keep this as you need to show it to retrieve your bag upon arrival), put it on a trolley with other bags and load onto the boat just before departure (there is no charge for this). The crossing takes about 45 mins; we asked if we could sit on one of the six seats available outside on the ‘upper deck’ behind the skipper, and were allowed to.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Tropical Paradise Hotel towards the south end of the island (B$75/night, room with a double and single bed, fan, bathroom and a balcony). There is cheaper accommodation available (50 or so guesthouses in various guises) mostly to the north up the main drag but they may be a bit noisy at night. Tropical Paradise is quiet, only a 5 min walk from the ferry jetty and well situated for birding, the prime areas being around the Caye Caulker Branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (CBBTIA) mini-reserve, airfield and mangroves all situated at the south end of the island. It is unfortunate that plots in the mangroves and other remnant patches of native vegetation (including a substantial area of wet tall tussock grassland marked out for, presumably, a building development) are still being lost to small-scale housing development and one wonders if black catbird and clapper rails will persist for much longer here.
Birding: We saw a Cabot’s tern Thalasseus (Sterna) acuflavida (American counterpart of Sandwich tern T. sandvicensis with slightly thicker and shorter bill, still often treated as a subspecies of it i.e. T. s. acuflavida) in Belize City harbour, plus a few brown pelicans, 100’s of Neoptropic cormorants, a double-crested cormorant, many laughing gulls and several royal terns en route but the best bird was a single brown booby.
Caye Caulker holds several speciality birds easier to see here than on mainland and we saw 11 species on the island (excluding waders/seabirds) that we did not see elsewhere on the trip: rufous-necked wood-rail (3), clapper rail 1 seen plus 2 heard), sora (1), collared dove (4-5 individuals; a recent colonist), white-crowned pigeon (2), cinnamon hummingbird (5/day), black catbird (3-4/day), Yucatan vireo (5-6/day), Cape May warbler (2), rose-breasted grosbeak (4) and indigo bunting (8), plus a few mangrove warblers (D. (Setophaga) p. ‘bryanti’ group), a distinctive red-headed resident subspecies of yellow warbler.
There are several areas on the island worth a look at that could all feasibly be covered in a day:
CBBTIA mini-reserve: A tiny remnant patch of native littoral woodland (10 min walk south of Tropical Paradise, located at the NE corner of the airstrip) worth a brief visit (it is so small i.e. 2 acres/0.8 hectares i.e. < 100 x 100 m, that a visit is inevitably brief) plus leaning over the odd fence to look into other small patches of scrub/woodland as one walks past on the way to the mangroves. Here we saw a few North American migrant warblers (including an ovenbird), Yucatan vireos (2+) and a black catbird.
Mangroves: The south end of the island, dominated by mangroves with some drier scrub and grassland, is accessible via a trail (muddy, short sections submerged under shallow water at time of our visit) that mostly skirts the southern shore. If one has walked from the east and back northwards along the SW shore, one cuts back east along a path approximately parallel to the northern edge of the airstrip. The bird most birders want to see is rufous-necked wood-rail. On our first afternoon on the island at about 13:00, 1 popped out from behind a palm tree a few metres from us (close to a house and adjacent mangroves at the southeast corner of the island), foraging on sand and amongst leaf debris; another was seen about an hour later in the mangroves proper, observed with Dorothy Beveridge (a birder, now 71 years of age) who lives on the island. The next morning at 07:00 one was observed on a path through the mangroves. (Note: Dorothy’s husband is now in residential care on the mainland and she no longer feed the rails, as indicated in Frenz 2012). The bird DAS wanted to see was clapper rail (ssp. belizensis) and Dorothy kindly gave some tips on where best to look. At one of these locations at 07:30 the next morning, a clapper rail was seen calling with another calling a few metres away (and a third responding approx. 200-300m to the northwest). The individual seen was about 5m to the north of the north side and towards the western end of the airstrip, calling from within an approximately 8m-wide strip of short (approx. 30cm tall) mangrove vegetation with an open water channel alongside. Another good spot to see them is within mangroves around the small wooden bridge along the trail at the SW of the island.
Other birds included: yellow-crowned night-heron (common), green heron (several), common black hawk (1), sora (1 confiding adult at dusk on track north of airstrip), Hudsonian whimbrel (2), white-crowned pigeon (2 overflying), cinnamon hummingbird (2-3), belted kingfisher (1+), Velasque’s woodpecker (1), yellow-bellied sapsucker (1), Yucatan vireo (several), a selection of North American migrant warblers (2’s and 3’s each of black-and-white, hooded, magnolia and yellow warblers, common yellowthroat, American redstart, northern parula and northern waterthrush), bananaquit ssp. C. f. caboti (6+/day; we only saw 1 bananaquit on the mainland). Mangrove yellow warblers were interesting with several rusty red-headed adults seen plus two presumed immatures both with smudgy chestnut throat patch (on one extensive extending to upper breast, the other confined to the upper throat) with lightly streaked chestnut-brown flanks and grey crown (Dorothy Beveridge pers. comm. 2015 has noted great plumage variation exhibited in immatures).
Shore & mudflats: There are small strips of sandy shore around the south of the island (human-infested beaches to the north) and an open mudflat area to the north of the western end of the airstrip. Birds included a few great blue, little blue and tricoloured herons, great and snowy egrets, white ibis (2), and small numbers of waders (Hudsonian whimbrel (1), short-billed dowitcher (9), grey plover (3-4), black-necked stilt (approx. 10), lesser yellowlegs (1), least sandpipers (12), western sandpipers (2), turnstone, semipalmated plover (6), willet (5+) and spotted sandpiper (5+).
The numerous rickety wooden jetties on the island are worth checking, more interesting observations including: brown pelican (up to 10), royal tern (maximum count 10), Cabot’s tern (maximum count 15), laughing gull (maximum count 160); American herring gull (1 adult) and a sanderling (1).
Around town: It is worth a look in the gardens and patches of weedy waste ground around the built up areas of the island as they can be fairly productive. The northern most part of the main island though has little to offer and was very busy with people. Best birds were: cinnamon hummingbird (several); barn swallow (2), Cape May warbler (2 females), several American redstarts and palm (dull winter plumage ssp. palmarum), yellow-throated and black-and-white warblers, a few bananaquits, indigo bunting (7 on rough grassy lawn plus 1 also by the airstrip), rose-breasted grosbeak (4 females/immatures) and hooded oriole (a few including a flock of 6 in a flowering tree).
JWM went on a boat and snorkelling trip (morning of 20 December) and saw a few nurse sharks, rays and somewhat degraded coral reef.
On 21 December we caught the 08:00 boat from Caye Caulker and upon arrival at Belize City Water Taxi Terminal saw 2 scissor-tailed flycatchers overflying. We caught a taxi to the international airport ($US20) and saw 3 more scissor-tails sat on the fence along the airport entrance road and a single eastern meadowlark on the grass alongside the runway. We had an excellent rice, beans, fish, salad and melon juice (US$5 each) at a stall across the car park from the airport terminal building to set us on our way for our 13:45 departure to Heathrow via Houston.
dos Anjos L. (2009) Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas). In: del Hoyo J., Elliott A., Sargatal J., Christie D.A. & de Juana E. (eds.) (2014) Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com/node/60723 Downloaded: 19/03/15
BirdLife International (2012) Microcerculus marginatus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Amazona oratrix. www.birdlife.org Downloaded: 05/01/2016.
Collar N. (2001) Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus). In: del Hoyo J., Elliott A., Sargatal J., Christie D.A. & de Juana E. (eds.) (2014) Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com/node/55701 Downloaded: 18/03/15
Dunn J.L. & Alderfer J. (2011) Field Guide to the Birds of North America (6th edition). National Geographic Society, USA.
Jones H.L. & Gardener D. (2004) Birds of Belize. Helm Field Guides.
Gill F. & Donsker D. (Eds.) (2014) IOC World Bird List (v 4.4). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.4.4. www.worldbirdnames.org/
Howell S.N.G. & Webb S.W. (1995) A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press.
del Hoyo J., Collar N. & Kirwan G.M. (2014) Blue-diademed Motmot (Momotus lessonii). In: del Hoyo J., Elliott A., Sargatal J., Christie D.A. & de Juana E. (eds.) (2014) Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com/node/467380 Downloaded: 15/03/15
Taylor B. & van Perlo B. (1998) Rails: a Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World. Pica Press, Sussex.
Kroodsma D.E. & Brewer D. (2005) Troglodytidae. pp. 356-447 in: del Hoyo J., Elliott A. & Christie D.A. (2005) Handbook of Birds of the World, Vol. 10. Cuckoo-shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
McGowan K. (1999) Dr. Language Person's Guide to Bird Name Pronunciations. www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/birdname.htm
Nyári Á. S. (2007) Phylogeographic patterns, molecular and vocal differentiation, and species limits in Schiffornis turdina (Aves). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 44, 154-164.
Vorhees M. & Brown J. S. (2013) Belize. Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd.
Walther B. & de Juana E. (2004) Bright-rumped Attila (Attila spadiceus). In: del Hoyo J., Elliott A., Sargatal J., Christie D.A. & de Juana E. (eds.)
(2014) Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com/node/57527 Downloaded: 15/03/15
Winkler H., Christie D.A. & Kirwan G.M. (2013) Yucatan Woodpecker (Melanerpes pygmaeus). In: del Hoyo J., Elliott A., Sargatal J., Christie D.A. & de Juana E. (eds.) (2013). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. www.hbw.com/node/56169 Downloaded: 18/03/15
During the trip we recorded (and identified) a total of 288 bird species (283 seen plus great tinamou, mottled owl, ruddy crake, northern nightingale wren and rufous-browed peppershrike heard only). An additional 4 species were tentatively identified and one, Muscovy duck, we considered our observations to all be of non-wild birds. Species order follows Howell and Webb, 1995. Contemporary, widely accepted vernacular and scientific names are used, mostly following the IOC World Bird List (Gill & Donsker (Eds.) 2014). Where these are notably different from Howell and Webb, the names used in the latter are indicated in parentheses or mentioned as a note in the species text. Many recent taxonomic changes/species splits are highlighted but this is not an exhaustive synthesis of such changes.
Blue Hole = Blue Hole National Park; CC = Caye Caulker; Cockscomb = Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary; CT = Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary; Hopkins = marsh west of Hopkins village; Lago Petén Itzá = east end of lake close to El Remate village; Mayflower = Mayflower Bocawina National Park; Monkey Bay = Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary; MPR = Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve
[ ] = heard only; ? = identity uncertain
[Great tinamou Tinamus major] – Tikal, Cockscomb and Mayflower: several hollow quavering calls heard, mostly at dawn/dusk.
Little tinamou Crypturellus soui – Cockscomb: 1 crossing River Trail and 1 calling nearby (perhaps the same bird) at dusk.
Least grebe Tachybaptus dominicus – CT: 1 in well-vegetated pond in village.
Pied-billed grebe Podilymbus podiceps – CT: numerous observations (up to 12 daily) on Northern Lagoon; Lago Petén Itzá: 8+.
Brown booby Sula leucogaster – CC: 1 from boat en route to island.
Brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis – Belize City: 2 in harbour by water taxi terminal and 1 along river towards Ladyville; CC: 10+ each day (max. count of 10 perched on one jetty).
Double-crested cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus – CC: adult perched in mangroves on a small island near Caye Caulker (with many Neoptropic cormorants in vicinity); CT: 1 from causeway. Possibly a few others elsewhere but none identified with certainty (we didn’t look very hard at cormorants).
Neotropic cormorant P. brasilianus – CC: very common with several large flocks (150+ individuals) around smaller mangrove-covered cays; CT – common (100+ Northern Lagoon); Hopkins: a few; Lago Petén Itzá: 15+.
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga – CT: up to 3 daily, Northern Lagoon; Lago Petén Itzá: 1; New River: 1 along river by Tower Hill Bridge.
Magnificent frigatebird Fregata magnificens – numerous observations of small numbers soaring around at coastal localities, e.g. Belize City, Hopkins and CC (10+ daily).
Least bittern Ixobrychus exilis – Lago Petén Itzá: a 2-second, close fly-past from tall emergent rushy vegetation at SE corner of lake.
Bare-throated tiger-heron Tigrisoma mexicanum – CT: 1 near village.
Great blue heron Ardea herodias – CT: approx. 5 daily around Northern Lagoon; Hopkins: 2; 1’s and 2’s elsewhere at larger wetlands, also on CC: 2.
Great egret Egretta alba – small numbers at larger wetland sites (CT, Hopkins and Lago Petén Itzá etc.) and on CC: approx. 6.
Snowy egret E. thula – small numbers at wetlands throughout Belize, including a few on CC: approx. 5/day; also Tikal: 2.
Little blue heron E. caerula – small numbers at wetland sites, CT: up to 10/day; Hopkins: 2; Lago Petén Itzá: 2; etc., including on CC: 2+/day.
Tricolored heron E. tricolor – CC: 2; CT: 1+; Hopkins: 2; Lago Petén Itzá: several.
Western cattle egret Bubulcus ibis – occasional small flocks in cattle/horse-grazed fields and around agricultural areas throughout the mainland.
Green heron Butoroides virescens – widespread, CC: 10+ in mangroves; CT: 3+; Hopkins: 2+; Lago Petén Itzá: 8; 1’s and 2’s elsewhere.
Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax – CT: 2 sub-adults.
Yellow-crowned night heron N. violaceus – CC: common in mangroves 12+/day; Hopkins; 3+.
White ibis Eudocimus albus – CC: flock of 10 plus 2; CT: 4-10/day: Hopkins: 4.
Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus – CT: 7; Hopkins: 10.
Roseate spoonbill Platalea ajaja – Hopkins: 10.
Jabiru Jabiru mycteria – CT: 1 adult flying low over village (11 December).
Wood stork Mycteria americana – Hopkins: approx. 30.
Black-bellied whistling-duck Dendrocygna autumnalis – CT: a few small flocks of 4-5 birds; Hopkins: a few.
Muscovy duck Cairina moschata – several in human-associated wetlands, all assumed ‘domestic’ and not wild birds.
Blue-winged teal Anas discors – Hopkins: maximum count of approx. 40.
Northern shoveler A. clypeata – Hopkins: 2 females.
Lesser scaup Aythya affinis – CT: 4 males and 1 female Northern Lagoon.
Black vulture Coragyps atratus – common and widespread.
Turkey vulture Cathartes aura – common and widespread.
Lesser yellow-headed vulture C. burrovianus – CT: at least 2 adults and 1 imm. close to village at the E end of causeway and along nearby Northern Highway. Subsequently we did not look at vultures closely thus probably overlooked this species elsewhere. We viewed 2 flying close and low thus their distinctive head colouration and bright white primary feather shafts on upper wing clearly visible (the latter also apparent on a brown immature bird).
King vulture Sarcoramphus papa – Benque Viejo: 1; MPR: 2 from raptor watch point near 1000 Foot Falls; Tikal 1.
Western osprey Pandion haliaetus – CC: pair with nest next to airstrip; CT: 2-3/day; Hopkins: 2; Monkey Bay: 1.
?Grey-headed kite Leptodon cayensis – MPR: 1 possible soaring up from valley at raptor watch point near 1000 Foot Falls, but too distant to identify with certainty.
Swallow-tailed kite Elanoides forficatus – San Ignacio: 1 (9 December) just west of the town. (Note: this species is a passage migrant that winters further south, thus an unexpected observation).
Snail kite Rosthamus sociabilis – Lago Petén Itzá: 5 immatures; CT: common (15+) around Northern Lagoon; The Dump: 1.
Sharp-shinned hawk Accipiter striatus – MPR: 1.
?Double-toothed kite Harpagus bidentatus – MPR: an Accipiter-like raptor soaring up from the valley at watch point near 1000 Foot Falls one morning was initially thought to be a Cooper’s hawk A. cooperi (a rarely reported winter migrant in the region). Subsequently upon reading the literature, it was probably a double-toothed kite as puffy white undertail coverts were visible (even from the considerable distance that we observed it) which is characteristic of this species.
Black-collard hawk Busarellus nigricollis – CT: 1 over Northern Lagoon viewed from boat (only bird of real note observed during morning boat trip); 1 subsequently in flight by village along lagoon edge carrying a scavenged fish.
White hawk Leucopternis albicollis – Mayflower: 1 adult in flight.
Common black hawk Buteogallus anthracinus – Belize City: 1 perched on telegraph pole by Belize River along Northern Highway to Ladyville; CC: 1; Hopkins: 1 in mangroves by Sittee River.
Grey hawk Buteo nitidus – numerous sightings of individuals, mostly in lowlands perched by roadsides, they seemed more frequent along the Southern Highway than roadside hawk; also MPR: 1.
Roadside hawk B. magnirostris – common and widespread, numerous sightings mostly of birds perched by roadside (often on telegraph poles) e.g. CT: 5 adults along 25km stretch of Northern Highway N of CT; MPR: 4+; plus at Tikal: 1 adult perched within forest sub-canopy overlooking ant swarm.
Short-tailed hawk B. brachyurus – CT: 1 adult (dark morph) by Northern Highway soaring and performing long steep stoop.
Red-tailed hawk B. jamaicensis – a brown-headed, pale morph with mid-brown tail soaring with black and turkey vultures a few kilometres E of Pueblo Viejo.
Crested eagle Morphnus guianensis – Tikal: 1 adult (7 December) working its way in short flights through the forest canopy, eventually all features seen including fine rufous barring on flanks. A minute or so after it had made a long glide through the canopy and disappeared from view, several monkeys (unseen) previously silent began alarm calling; best bird of the trip.
Black hawk-eagle Spizaetus tyrannus - MPR – 1 distant from raptor watch point near 1000 Foot Falls (identified in retrospect after seeing one later in trip); Pueblo Viejo: 1 adult soaring over.
Laughing falcon Herpetotheres cachinnans – widespread, about 12 individuals observed, mostly perched conspicuously near roadsides including CT 2; The Dump: 2; MPR: 1-2/day; Tikal: 2;
American kestrel Falco sparverius – Big Falls: 1; Northern Highway: 2 perched E of highway in agricultural land about 25km north of Crooked Tree.
Merlin F. columbarius – CT: 1 male flying low over Northern Lagoon.
Aplomado falcon F. femoralis – Southern Highway: 1 flying N low along Southern Highway by Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary main entrance track, gained height quickly soaring high over citrus plantation (albeit pine savanna habitat nearby).
Bat falcon F. rufigularis – Belice River (nr. Community Baboon Sanctuary): 1 perched by river; CT: 1 overflying village at dusk and 1 perched by Northern Lagoon; Mayflower: 1.
Orange-breasted falcon F. deiroleucus – Tikal: a pair of this rare raptor perched on Temple IV, the usual reliable site (7 December), one being obviously larger (presumed female). We climbed the temple as far as visitors are allowed but the birds were perched on the temple top (NE corner) just out of view; patience rewarded with one making two short sorties out over the forest and back, wings audibly whirring as it sped over the canopy. Also one on Temple IV the next day.
Plain chachalaca Ortalis vetula – CT: 3 (inc. 2 in scrub in garden in village) and 2 in undergrowth in savanna along the Northern Highway; Monkey Bay 2; Pueblo Viejo: several calling; Tikal: 4.
Crested guan Penelope purpurascens – Cockscomb: 1 in tree near HQ; Tikal; 2 perched high in tree.
Great curassow Crax rubra – Tikal: a superb pair on ‘North Zone’ path (few people along this track during our visit) between Temple IV and Grupo Norte (Calzada Maudslay), lit up by shafts of sunlight.
Ocellated turkey Meleagris ocellata – Tikal: several confiding flocks of up to eight birds daily; probably the best place in the world to see this species.
[Ruddy crake Laterallus ruber] – not seen but evidently common and widespread as heard at numerous locations; The Dump: 4 calling; Lago Petén Itzá: 1 calling tantalizingly close plus 1 other nearby, SE corner of lake; Monkey Bay: 1-2 calling from wet flush alongside track to Sibun River; occasionally heard calling from small roadside wetlands elsewhere. Unlike on Cozumel (Mexico) where several were easily seen, birds were not coming out into the open.
Clapper rail Rallus longirostris – CC: at 07:30, 1 seen calling, another calling a few metres away (and a third responding approx. 200-300m to the NW) about 5m to N of the N side and western end of the airstrip from within a strip of short (approx. 30 cm tall) mangrove vegetation with an open water channel alongside; also heard calling at dusk. (Note: subspecies here is R. l. belizensis (Taylor & van Perlo 1998), given recent species elevation of some races, others may be candidates for ‘splitting’ in the future).
Grey-necked wood-rail Aramides cajanea – CT: 1 on lawn outside our cabin at Tillet’s Village Lodge one morning during a rain shower; Tikal: 2 spotlighted roosting approx. 4m above ground on tree boughs close to the pond (Aguada Dimick/Laguna del Cocodrilo) at E end of the old airstrip trail.
Rufous-necked wood-rail A. axillaris – CC: on our first afternoon at about 13:00, 1 a few metres from us close to a house and adjacent to mangroves, SE corner of the island; another an hour later in mangroves proper; 1 next morning (07:00) on a path through the mangroves. Note: Dorothy Beveridge no longer feed the rails (as indicated in Frenz 2012). From experience here and in Mexico, rufous-necked wood-rails are fairly easy to observe (when one is in the right habitat) and are not ‘secretive and difficult to see’ as suggested in Taylor and van Perlo (1998).
Sora Porzana carolina – CC: 1 confiding adult at dusk on track close to mangroves just N of airstrip.
(American) Purple gallinule Porphyrula martinica – Lago Petén Itzá: common, approx. 20 adults and 1 immature.
Common gallinule (American moorhen) Gallinula galeata – Lago Petén Itzá: 2; a few at wetland sites. (Note: a fairly recent split from Eurasian moorhen G. chloropus).
American coot Fulica americana – Lago Petén Itzá: 8; CT: 1; a few on larger roadside pools/wetlands.
Limpkin Aramus guarauna – CT: 2; Hopkins: 1; Lago Petén Itzá: 1.
Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola – CC: 3-4/day.
Semipalmated plover C. semipalmatus – CC: up to 6/day; Hopkins: several.
Black-necked stilt Himatopus mexicanus – CC: approx. 10/day; Hopkins: approx. 30.
Northern jacana Jacana spinosa – CT: abundant; Hopkins: 5+; Lago Petén Itzá: common (40+); elsewhere in smaller numbers on well-vegetated wetlands and ponds.
Greater yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca – CT: 1; Hopkins: 15.
Lesser yellowlegs T. flavipes – CC: 1.
Willet T. semipalmata (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) – CC: 5-8/day; Hopkins: several. (Note: now placed in the genus Tringa; the two subspecies Eastern willet T. e. semipalmata and Western willet T. e. inornata) are sometimes afforded species status).
Spotted sandpiper Actitis macularia – small numbers seen at most wetland sites, including along rivers and on Caye Caulker.
Hudsonian whimbrel Numenius (phaeopus) hudsonius – CC: 2 on mud around mangroves and 1 in open marsh N of airstrip. (Note: spilt from Eurasian whimbrel N. phaeopus).
Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres – CC: 1-5/day.
Sanderling Calidris alba – CC: 1 sat on wooden jetty towards N end (E coast) of island, probably wanted to be on the beach that was occupied by people.
Western sandpiper C. mauri – CC: 2 on shoreline SE corner of island with least sandpipers.
Least sandpiper C. minutilla – CC: 12; CT: 1 on Northern Lagoon shoreline; Hopkins: several distant peeps probably this species.
Short-billed dowitcher Limnodromus griseus – CC: 8.
Laughing gull Larus atricilla – Belize City: 80+ in harbour at Water Taxi Terminal; CC: common (max. count of 160); Lago Petén Itzá: 12.
American herring gull L. smithsonianus – CC: 1 adult perched on jetty with laughing gulls, SE corner of island. (Note: split from L. argentatus, ‘European herring gull’).
Royal tern Thalasseus (Sterna) maxima – CC: approx. 10 during boat trip, 3-10 daily around coast; Lago Petén Itzá: 2.
Cabot’s tern Thalasseus (Sterna) acuflavidus – Belize City: 1 in harbour; CC: maximum count of 15. (Note: split by some authorities from Sandwich tern T. sandvicensis but often still considered a subspecies of it by others T. s. acuflavidus).
Feral pigeon Columba livia – uncommon, small numbers in towns on Belize mainland; CC: up to approx. 15 around houses.
Pale-vented pigeon Patagioenas (Columba) cayennensis – 1’s and 2’s at numerous mainland sites, often in the vicinity of villages (e.g. El Remate: 2+; CT: a few).
White-crowned pigeon P. (Columba) leucocephala – CC: 2 flying over mangroves.
?Red-billed pigeon P. (Columba) flavirostris – Monkey Bay: probably several. (Note: we were rather lax in looking at pigeons, partly as the only columbid DAS needed was blue ground-dove Claravis pretiosa and JWM this and scaled pigeon P. speciosa (neither species seen or knowingly heard) thus concentrating on other birds.
Eurasian collared dove Streptopelia decaocto – CC: a recent colonist of the island (pers. comm. Dorothy Beveridge 2015), a maximum of 5 observed on one day at the S end of ‘town’. (Note: this species is not mentioned in Howell & Webb 1995).
White-winged dove Zenaida (Columba) asiatica – several observations of 1’s and 2’s often around villages perched on wires, fairly common on CC: 6-10/day.
Ruddy ground-dove Columbina talpacoti – very common widespread, often in pairs, mostly around villages and agricultural areas.
White-tipped dove Leptotila verreauxi – CT: 1+; MPR: 3+; probably overlooked elsewhere (we didn’t look that hard at the trio of ‘white tail-tipped’ doves i.e. white-tipped, gray-headed and gray-chested).
Gray-headed dove L. plumbeiceps – Cockscomb: several (Note: Formerly known as gray-fronted dove L. rufaxilla).
Gray-chested dove L. cassinii – Big Falls: 1 at The Lodge at Big Falls; Blue Hole: 6; Cockscomb: 1-2.
Aztec (Olive-throated) parakeet Aratinga astec – El Remate: 40+; Tikal: 5+/day; elsewhere on mainland widespread and fairly common and conspicuous, usually seen in rapid flight in small noisy flocks.
?Brown-hooded parrot Pionospitta haematosis – Pueblo Viejo: probably a pair briefly observed in flight.
White-crowned parrot Pionus senilis - Tikal: 2-8/day; a few elsewhere.
White-fronted parrot Amazona albifrons – CT: small numbers in pairs and small noisy flocks up to 12 daily usually in flight over savanna; El Remate: 8. (Note: we often did not identify more distant parrots, thus parrots generally under recorded).
Yucatan (Yellow-lored) parrot A. xantholora – CT: pair overflying farmland/savanna S of village, pair observed perched in tree in savanna alongside Northern Highway about 15 km N of Crooked Tree. Undoubtedly others observed (in northern Belize) but often not separated from e.g. very similar white-fronted parrot.
Red-lored parrot A. autumnalis – common and widespread, including in agricultural areas, Monkey Bay: 8+; MPR: 4+; Savannah Forest Reserve/Southern Highway: several pairs and small flocks, some in citrus orchards; Tikal: 2+.
Mealy parrot A. farinosa – Tikal: noisy pair seen well, plus several pairs in flight each day; probably overlooked elsewhere.
Yellow-headed parrot A. oratrix – only seen in pine-palmetto savanna habitat at two localities, Monkey Bay: at least 3 overflying; Savannah Forest Reserve/Southern Highway: pair perched at dawn in a dead tree and subsequently about 11 pairs and a single in flight and a pair in a pine tree, all close to the highway. (Note: Belize is a very good place to see this ‘Vulnerable’ species, the subspecies here is A. o. belizensis adults of which have a yellow face and forehead, the yellow not extending onto the nape except perhaps for a few feathers. Their call is deeper and less raucous than other Amazona species in the region).
Squirrel cuckoo Piaya cayana – Blue Hole: 1; Hopkins: 1 in mangroves by Sittee River; Mayflower: 1.
Striped cuckoo Tapera naevia – Blue Creek Cave: 1 perches on wire fence, raising central crown feathers up and down.
Groove-billed ani Crotophaga sulcirostris – numerous small flocks on mainland, mostly in farmland areas with patches of tall grass.
Vermiculated screech-owl Otus guatemalae – Tikal: 2 heard and very poor views of 1 spotlighted (brief eye shine through tangle of branches) towards E end of old airstrip trail.
Ferruginous pygmy-owl Glaucidium brasilianum – CT: 2 calling (19:15-20:00) fairly close to Tillet’s Village Lodge; MPR: assumed to be the same individual (mostly dull brown above but with rich rufous and chestnut barred tail) observed on two consecutive days on the edge of woodland in the grounds of Blancaneaux Lodge.
[Mottled owl Strix virgata] – MPR: 1 heard at night (21:20) near Blancaneaux Lodge, approaching it when got call that stygian was in view, so abandoned the search.
Black-and-white owl S. nigrolineata - The Lodge at Big Falls: 3-second view of silhouette of 1 overflying; Tikal: 1 distant calling near old airstrip.
Stygian owl Asio stygius – MPR: 1 at 21:30 perched on top of a tall pine tree in the grounds of Blancaneaux Lodge, thanks to the efforts of Oscar, a keen young Belizean birder based at the lodge. It also called twice briefly about 20 min prior to this from a tree next to the lodge entrance track.
Paraque Nyctidromus aibicollis – Common and widespread, numerous seen mostly at dusk (e.g. in CT village: 3; along unpaved road to Blue Creek village 15) and a few at dawn (e.g. Tikal: 2-3 along old airstrip; Pueblo Viejo: by roadside en route).
Yucatan poorwill Nyctiphrynus yucatanicus – Tikal: 1 spotlighted before dawn (approx. 05:00) at start of old airstrip trail.
White-collared swift Streptoprocne zonaria – MPR: tight flock of approx. 25 cruising around at high speed at raptor watch point close to 1000 Foot Falls.
Vaux’s swift Chaetura vauxi – small numbers at several sites, mostly MPR area: e.g. approx. 20 over raptor watch point near 1000 Foot Falls; Tikal: 2; all assumed this species as chimney swift C. pelagica is a transient migrant to the region not present in winter. (Note: William Sansom Vaux, who died 1882 and whom after the swift was named in honour, pronounced his surname with a hard ‘x’ so the correct pronunciation should therefore be ‘vauks’ and not ‘vo’, as might be the French pronunciation; see tongue-in-cheek article: McGowan 1999).
Lesser swallow-tailed swift Panyptila cayennensis – Tikal: 3-4.
Long-billed hermit Phaethornis longirostris – several sightings, mostly feeding on Heliconia flowers, e.g. Cockscomb: 2; Mayflower: 2+; Pueblo Viejo: approx. 5. (Note: previously known as Long-tailed hermit P. superciliosus).
Stripe-throated hermit P. striigularis – Mayflower: 5; MPR: 1 at Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET) entrance opposite Butterfly Ranch; Pueblo Viejo: approx. 5. (Note: previously known as little hermit Pygmornis longuemareus).
Violet sabrewing Campylopterus hemileucurus – Mayflower: male and female nectar-feeding at flowering tree.
White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora – Mayflower: 2+ nectar-feeding at flowering tree; Pueblo Viejo: 2-3 making sorties back and forth from mid-canopy (approx. 4-5m above ground) from trees along river bank, presumably insect catching.
Green-breasted mango Anthracothorax prevostii – El Remate: male and female; Tikal: 2+.
Canivet’s emerald Chlorostilbon caniveti – El Remate: male foraging low close to lake shore: MPR: 2 females.
White-bellied emerald Amazilia candida – fairly common and widespread, e.g. Cockscomb: 1; CT: 2; Mayflower: probably well over 20 individuals nectar-feeding at two pink-flowering trees at beginning of Bocawina Hill Trail; Pueblo Viejo: 3+.
Azure-crowned hummingbird A. cyanocephala - CT: 2-3, one of which was often perched in a medium-sized mahogany tree opposite our cabin veranda at Tillet’s Village Lodge; MPR: 1-2 in Pine Ridge Lodge garden.
Rufous-tailed hummingbird A. tzacatl – the most common and widespread hummingbird on the mainland, several encountered daily, often in the vicinity of villages and in gardens; at Mayflower 10+ nectar-feeding at two pink-flowering trees at beginning of Bocawina Hill Trail.
Cinnamon hummingbird A. rutila – CC: several (3-5) observed daily, mostly in mangroves and gardens, also from our balcony at Tropical Paradise Hotel.
Purple-crowned fairy Heliothryx barroti – Cockscomb: 1; Tikal: 1 in clearing flying mid-canopy height.
Black-headed trogon Trogon melanocephalus – Mayflower: 2; MPR: 2; Tikal: 3;
Gartered trogon T. caligatus – El Remate: 1; MPR: 1; Tikal: 1 (Note: formerly treated as a subspecies of violaceous trogon T. violaceus, retained as such in HBW; Collar 2001).
Slaty-tailed trogon T. massena – MPR: 1; Tikal: 1.
Tody motmot Hylomanes momotula – Tikal: 1 calling near Jungle Lodge (6 December); 1 seen and another calling near South Acropolis (8 December).
Blue-diademed motmot Momotus lessonii – Blue Hole: 1; Pueblo Viejo: 1; Rio Frio: 1; Tikal: 1; typically perched 1.5-3m above ground (Note: formerly considered conspecific with blue-crowned motmot M. momota; del Hoyo et al. 2014).
Rufous-tailed jacamar Galbula ruficauda – Blue Hole: 1; Pueblo Viejo: 1.
White-whiskered puffbird Malacoptila panamensis – Mayflower: 1 perched 1-2 m above the ground in forest understorey next to Bocawina Hill Trail.
Collard aracari Pteroglossus torquatus – Blue Hole: 1; Cockscomb: 1; El Remate: flock of 5; Tikal: several small flocks of 3-6, up to 12 birds/day. (Note: for anyone interested, strictly speaking ‘Aracari’ is pronounced ‘ara-sa-ri’ (and not with a hard ‘c’, i.e. ‘ara-ka-ri’), i.e. all the vowels have open sounds (pers. comm. João L. Guilherme 2015) and originally written, in Brazilian Portuguese, as ‘Araçari’ (i.e. with a cedilha under the ‘c’).
Keel-billed toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus – Cockscomb: 2 seen, others calling; MPR: entrance gate 2+ calling; Pueblo Viejo: 2+ heard; Tikal: up to 12 a day; several seen perched in forest canopy from Temple IV making curious frog-like croaking call/song.
Ringed kingfisher Megaceryle torquata – fairly common and widespread; CT: 10 (Note: genus previously Ceryle).
Belted kingfisher M. alcyon – a widespread winter visitor to the region. Several perched on roadside wires and snags in vicinity of wet areas along George Price (Western) Highway; CC: at least 1; CT: 1 or 2; undoubtedly more seen but not looked at closely enough to distinguish from ringed kingfisher.
Green kingfisher Chloroceryle americana - Cockscomb: 3; CT: several; Lago Petén Itzá: 4+.
Acorn woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorous – CT: 8+ (some feeding on acorns of evergreen oaks Quercus spp.); MPR: 4-6+/day in wooded areas with some evergreen oaks.
Black-cheeked woodpecker M. (Ceturus) pucherani – Blue Hole: 3.
Yucatan woodpecker M. (Ceturus) pygmaeus – CT: 2 in village and a vocal pair on dead trees (one with a nest hole) alongside the Northern Highway about 10 km N of Crooked Tree; Mayflower: 1. (Note: forms a superspecies with M. rubricapillus, sometimes treated as conspecific but geographical isolation and minor morphological differences supports allospecies treatment; Winkler et al. 2013).
Velasque’s woodpecker Melanerpes (Centurus) santacruzi – common and widespread with many observations on the mainland (e.g. El Remate: 8 observed in one morning), also on CC: 1 in mangroves. The ssp. dubius is present in Belize and NE Guatemala (and Yucatán Peninsula). (Note: formerly considered conspecific with golden-fronted woodpecker Melanerpes (Centurus) aurifrons; amongst other subtle plumage differences, Velasque’s has red-orange nasal tufts, not yellow).
Yellow-bellied sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius – a winter visitor to the region, 1’s’ and 2’s at many localities e.g. CC: 1 in mangroves; CT: 1; MPR: 1 at Blancaneux Lodge.
Ladder-backed woodpecker Picoides scalaris – 2 in savanna.
Golden-olive woodpecker Piculus rubiginosus – El Remate: 1 in roadside tree east of the village; Tikal: 1.
Chestnut-coloured woodpecker Celeus castaneus – widespread, several observations, Blue Hole: 2; MPR: 1 Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET); Pueblo Viejo: 1; Tikal: 3.
Lineated woodpecker Drycopus lineatus – uncommon; CT: 1 with head sticking out of nest cavity in telegraph pole in village, 2 heard; MPR: 1.
Pale-billed woodpecker Campephilus guatemalensis – fairly common (Tikal: up to 6/day), regularly encountered at most mainland sites, presence often made apparent by their distinctive, loud, hollow double-hit on a tree trunk.
Plain xenops Xenops minutus – Blue Hole: 1; MPR: 1-2/day Tikal: 2/day.
Tawny-winged woodcreeper Dendrocincla anabatina – Cockscomb: 1; Tikal: 1-3/day.
Ruddy woodcreeper D. homochroa – Tikal: 1-3/day, all low down on trunks close to ant swarms/lines of ants.
Olivaceous woodcreeper Sittasomus griseicapillus – the most frequently observed woodcreeper; e.g. MPR: 3; Tikal: up to 8/day, creeping up tree trunks.
Strong-billed woodcreeper Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus - Tikal: a fine pair nesting in dead tree (entrance to nest cavity at broken off trunk approx. 7m above ground level) a few metres from main path leading through Mayan ruins at ‘Complex R’ (shown to us by Luis Antonio).
Northern barred woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes certhia – Cockscomb: 1; Tikal: 1.
Ivory-billed woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigaster – Cockscomb: 3; MPR: 1 Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET); Pueblo Viejo: 1; Tikal: up to 3/day.
Barred antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus – Blue Hole: 2 in scrub/forest edge in N.P. and 1 in roadside scrub CT: 1 singing male in scrub in savanna along Northern Highway; Pueblo Viejo: 2.
Russet antshrike Thamnistes anabatinus: Tikal: 1 perched in mid-canopy, loosely associated with mixed flock including plain antvireos and northern bentbill.
Plain antvireo Dysithamnus mentalis – Tikal: 2 pairs in undergrowth.
Dot-winged antwren Microrhopias quixensis – Blue Hole: at least 3 pairs in dense forest edge scrub; Pueblo Viejo: 1+ pairs.
Dusky antbird Cercomacra tyrannina – Blue Hole: 4 pairs in forest edge scrub.
Mayan (Mexican) antthrush Formicarius moniliger– Tikal: 1; Pueblo Viejo: 1; a much sought bird, both individuals observed walking quietly along the forest floor in rail-like fashion.
Paltry tyrannulet Zimmerius vilissimus – Tikal: 1 seen (and calling), in low/mid-canopy.
Greenish elaenia Myiopagis viridicata – usually perched in low canopy, CT: 1; MPR: 1.
Yellow-bellied elaenia Eleania flavogaster – MPR: 2 in open scrub-woodland.
Ochre-bellied flycatcher Mionectes oleaginus – numerous observations in sub-canopy in forested areas, Blue Hole: 1; MPR: 1 Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET); Mayflower: 2; Pueblo Viejo: several; Tikal: 2+/day. (Note: very quick to respond to (flying in to investigate) imitated calls of pygmy-owl).
Sepia-capped flycatcher Leptopogon amaurocephalus – Tikal: 2+/day in low- to mid-canopy.
Northern bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare – Pueblo Viejo: 1; Tikal: 1 low in canopy in mixed flock.
Common tody-flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum – CT: 1; Monkey Bay: 1 in tree by HQ.
Eye-ringed flatbill Rhynchocyclus brevirostris – Tikal: 4+/day in low canopy.
Yellow-olive flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens – El Remate: 1 in mixed flock.
Stub-tailed spadebill Platyrinchus cancrominus – heard very frequently at well-forested sites, sings from about 1.5-2m above the ground often from more open (territorial?) patches with saplings; MPR: lower elevations 4; Mayflower: 1 seen 5+ singing; Tikal: 3 seen, many heard calling/singing.
Royal flycatcher Onychorhynchus coronatus – Pueblo Viejo: 1 in second growth woodland.
Ruddy-tailed flycatcher Terenotriccus erythrurus – Tikal: 2.
Sulphur-rumped flycatcher Myiobius sulphureipygius – Cockscomb: 1; Pueblo Viejo: 1; Tikal 6-7/day.
?Yellow-bellied flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris – Pueblo Viejo: perched briefly in forest edge sub-canopy, almost without doubt this species.
Least flycatcher E. minimus – 1’s and 2’s at most mainland sites.
Vermillion flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus – numerous observations (including pristine pink males) in agricultural areas, open scrubland etc., CT: up to 10/day, several in village.
Bright-rumped attila Attila spadiceus – Cockscomb: 2; CT: 2 singles in village (up to 3/day); MPR: 2; Tikal: 2. (Note: A. s. flammulatus of SE Mexico (including the Yucatán Peninsula), Guatemala, Belize and N central Honduras (Walther & de Juana 2004), is sometimes afforded species status ‘flammulated attila A. flammulatus’).
Rufous mourner Rhytipterna holerythra - Tikal: 1.
Dusky-capped flycatcher Myiachus tuberculifer – numerous observations of this the commonest Myiachus observed on the mainland. We checked many Myiachus as JWM needed Yucatan flycatcher M. yucatanensis but we failed to see any.
Brown-crested flycatcher M. tyrannulus – El Remate: 3.
Great kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus – numerous observations of 1‘s and 2’s throughout mainland in more open habitats and around villages, often by roadsides and clearings.
Social flycatcher Myiozetetes similis – very common on the mainland, noisy and conspicuous. At Augustine/Douglas Da Silva we witnessed the interesting sight of a ‘social group’ of 8 sat close to each other (<1m apart) on a bare earth track but they weren’t doing much, just sitting.
Tropical kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus – common throughout, often perched conspicuously on roadside telegraph/power lines and dead branches.
Couch’s kingbird T. couchii – only identified with certainty (on call) in pine savanna alongside the Northern Highway N of Crooked Tree, presumably present elsewhere but not distinguished from Tropical kingbird.
Scissor-tailed flycatcher T. forficatus – Belize City: 2 at Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal and 3 perched on fence along access road to the international airport. The lack of any observations of fork-tailed flycatchers T. savana during the whole trip (indicated as a common resident of pasture and pine savanna habitats in Belize, Frenz 2012) was a mystery.
Northern schiffornis Schiffornis verapacis – Tikal: 1 popped out of the forest and perched on a branch by the shady edge of a trail just above head height a few metres from us for several seconds, then flew back into the forest (a plain brown, odd bulbous-headed passerine that does not look much like a thrush; see below 'thrush-like'); Cockscomb: 1 seen briefly in flight called (long, thin high-pitched whistle), thus allowing identification. (Note: formerly known as thrush-like mourner Schiffornis turdinus ‘thrush-like schiffornis’ is a species complex (family Tityridae) that is usually now split into 5 species; Nyári 2007).
Cinnamon becard Pachyramphus cinnamomeus - Tikal: 1 perched in upper canopy.
Rose-throated becard P. algaiae – Tikal: 1-2; Northern Highway: 2 females in roadside scrub 26km N of CT turn (1km S of Carmelita village).
Masked tityra Tityra semifasciata – El Remate: pair; MPR: 1; Pueblo Viejo: 1; Tikal: 4-6 each day.
White-collard manakin Manachus candei – Cockscomb; male and female; MPR: female Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET): Mayflower: 2; Pueblo Viejo: male.
Red-capped manakin Pipra mentalis – Pueblo Viejo: male, 2 females; Tikal: 1-3/day.
Tree swallow Tachycineta bicolor – CT: 100++ having drink/’flight bath’ in pond S of village.
Mangrove swallow T. albilinea – El Remate: 15; a few elsewhere (undoubtedly overlooked).
Northern rough-winged swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis – CT: 100’s; El Remate/Lago Petén Itzá: 50+; Tikal: 30+ daily; several large flocks (500++ birds) observed in Belize over wet pine-palm savanna habitat along the George Price (Western) Highway. There may have been some Ridgway’s rough-winged swallows S. ridgwayi amongst these but never seen well enough. (Note: S. ridgwayi is often considered conspecific with S. serripennis, e.g. Gill & Donsker 2014).
Barn swallow Hirundo rustica – CC: 2.
Green jay Cyanocorax yncas – MPR: 2/day. (Note: green jay races fall into two groups, the Central American ‘luxuosus group’ and the South American Andes ‘nominate group’ (dos Anjos 2009). They are sometimes afforded species status, with Central American ‘green jay’ becoming C. luxuosus and the more southerly known as ‘Inca jay’ C. yncas).
Brown jay C. morio – common and widespread on mainland, usually in noisy gangs, several of which encountered each day.
Yucatan jay C. yucatanicus – CT: flock of 3 in savanna/wooded farmland just S of village.
Spot-breasted wren Thryothorus maculipectus – Blue Hole: 5; Cockscomb: present; Pueblo Viejo: 2; Tikal: 1-3/day; fairly common at most forested sites, often heard scolding from undergrowth and in tangles in the low canopy but difficult to see well (as all wrens were).
Carolina (white-browed) wren T. ludovicianus – Tikal: 2-3/day in dense patches of undergrowth. (Note: some authorities consider the resident subspecies present in the region ‘white-browed wren T. l. albinucha’ a valid species; Frenz 2012).
White-bellied wren Uropsila leucogastra – Tikal: 2-3, skulky in undergrowth.
(Southern) House wren Troglodytes aedon – El Remate: 2; (Note: ‘house wren’ is now usually divided into three distinct subspecies groups plus one or several island endemic subspecies (some or all considered separate species), one being the ‘Southern house wren T. musculus’ of southern Mexico, Central and South America; Kroodsma & Brewer 2005).
White-breasted wood-wren Henicorhina leucosticta – skulky, Blue Hole: 4; Cockscomb: 2; MPR: 1 along Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET); Tikal: 1.
[Nightingale wren Microcerculus philomela] – Pueblo Viejo: 1 singing human-like lazy whistle from dense undergrowth on limestone hillock; we had tried earlier at Blue Hole but heard none. (Note: often called ‘Northern nightingale wren’ to distinguish it from ‘Southern (or scaly-breasted) nightingale wren M. marginatus’, BirdLife 2012).
Long-billed gnatwren Ramphocaenus melanurus – MPR: 1 in understorey along Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET).
Blue-grey gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea – small numbers at most sites; we may have overlooked tropical gnatcatcher P. plumbea e.g. at Cockscomb.
Swainson’s thrush Catharus ustulatus – Cockscomb: 1; Tikal: 1 very pale individual with more-or-less unspotted breast (possibly a late migrating veery C. fuscescens?);
Wood thrush C. mustelinus – common at forested sites with many observed (e.g. Blue Hole: 5; Cockscomb: several; Pueblo Viejo: 2; Tikal: 10-20/day), mostly foraging along shaded trails/track edges and on the forest floor.
Clay-coloured thrush (robin) Turdus grayi – widespread, several observed on most days.
Grey catbird Dumetella carolinensis – 1 and 2’s observed at most sites including CC: 3-4 daily.
Black catbird Melanoptila (Dumetella) glabirostris – CC: several, relatively easy to see in remnant patches of native vegetation and garden thickets at the S end of the island; we did not encounter them on the mainland. (Note: endemic to the Yucatán Peninsula).
Tropical mockingbird Mimus gilvus – common, conspicuous and widespread, including on CC.
White-eyed vireo Vireo griseus – common and widespread; El Remate: approx. 10 during one morning, and small numbers elsewhere at almost all sites including on CC.
Mangrove vireo V. pallens – CT: 4+, 2 of which singing from bushes along the causeway; a few singles observed in scrub elsewhere e.g. Savanna Forest Reserve, but never actually seen in mangroves.
Yellow-throated vireo V. flavifrons – El Remate: 1.
Yucatan vireo V. magister – CC: 4-5 daily around mangroves and remnant areas of other native scrub-woodland vegetation; confiding often approaching to within 2-3 m.
Tawny-crowned greenlet Hylophilus ochraceiceps – Cockscomb: 1+; Mayflower: 1; Tikal: 2-5/day.
Lesser greenlet Hylophilus decurtatus – fairly common and widespread, small numbers observed in sub-canopy at most forested sites; common at Tikal: 15+/day.
[Rufous-browed peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis] – Crooked Tree: 1 singing from tree by lagoon edge and probably heard elsewhere.
Blue-winged warbler Vermivora pinus – Pueblo Viejo: 1; Savannah Forest Reserve: 1; Tikal: 1 adult male in the mid-canopy.
Golden-winged warbler V. chrysoptera – Tikal: 1 adult male.
Northern parula Parula (Setophaga) americana – CC: 2, CT: 1; MPR: 1-3 each day.
Yellow warbler Dendroica (Setophaga) petechia ‘aestiva’ group – fairly common winter migrant, 1’s and 2’s at most sites, including on CC: 3-5+/day.
‘Mangrove warbler’ D. (Setophaga) p. ‘bryanti’ group – CC: several rusty red-headed adults in mangroves; 2 observations of presumed immatures both with smudgy chestnut throat patch (on one extensive extending to upper breast, on the other confined to the upper throat) with lightly streaked chestnut-brown flanks and grey crown; there is great plumage variation in immature birds.
Chestnut-sided warbler D. (Setophaga) pensylvanica – widespread, a few winter plumage/immature birds (i.e. almost all showing no chestnut on flanks and pale-faced) on mainland, in low to mid canopy at forest edge/in second growth.
Magnolia warbler D. (Setophaga) magnolia – common on mainland (e.g. El Remate: 20 in one morning; Tikal: approx. 10/day); CC: 1-2.
Cape May warbler D. (Setophaga) tigerina – CC: 2 females perched in small tree in a garden at the southern end of ‘town’. Slightly drooping bill, green rump and fairly broad white median covert bar amongst features that identify birds of this sex, which could easily be overlooked.
Yellow-rumped warbler D. (Setophaga) coronata – CT: 1 in savanna along Northern Highway N of village; MPR: one day approx. 20 (including loose flock of about 12 birds in open pine woodland-grassland), 5 the following day.
Black-throated green warbler D. (Setophaga) virens – uncommon but small numbers throughout, usually in sub-canopy, most frequently observed at MPR: up to 4/day.
Yellow-throated warbler D. (Setophaga) dominica – widespread, numerous observations of 1-4 birds most days foraging in undergrowth-low canopy.
Grace’s warbler D. (Setophaga) graciae – CT: 2 in pines in savanna alongside Northern Highway approx. 10km N of Crooked Tree; MPR: 4 in pines.
Palm warbler D. (Setophaga) discolour – CC: several (including from balcony at Tropical Paradise Hotel; Hopkins: 2 along edge of marsh alongside road. (Note: a winter visitor, all observations were of dull birds lacking rufous crown, i.e. presumably non-breeding/immature western ssp. palmarum).
Black-and-white warbler Mniotilta varia – fairly common and widespread, small numbers throughout including on CC (2+), typically creeping around on tree trunks and branches.
American redstart Setophaga ruticilla – common and widespread, in scrub and gardens, forest edge etc., including on CC.
Worm-eating warbler Helmitheros vermivorum – Tikal: 1; Blue Hole: 3; often forages just above ground level amongst hanging dead leaves (making noisy rustling) and pulls up loose bark on branches.
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus – several observations throughout (including one on Caye Caulker), most often seen foraging along the edge of shaded trails/tracks, walking on the forest floor with tail cocked, most obvious at first light; Blue Hole: 3; Cockscomb: 2/day; Tikal: up to 5/day.
Northern waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis – widespread, e.g. Big Falls area: several including by our bungalow at Coleman’s; CC: several seen and heard in mangroves; CT: several; Pueblo Viejo: 3+.
Louisiana waterthrush S. motacilla – MPR: 1; Pueblo Viejo: 2-3: Tikal: 1-2.
Kentucky warbler Oporonis formosus - numerous observations of 1’s and 2’s within forest and woodland, foraging close to ground in open understorey; Tikal: up to 3/day.
Common yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas – common and widespread on the mainland but fairly skulky, often on or close to round in tall dense grassy and/or herbaceous vegetation, overgrown verges etc. Common around Lago Petén Itzá with many seen/heard in dense marshy vegetation around lake edge, also on CC: 3+.
Hooded warbler Wilsonia citrina – fairly common in forested areas (including around villages) forages just above the woodland floor, often fanning tail; several (mostly males) almost every day, including on CC.
Wilson’s warblerW.pusilla – Blue Hole: 3+; Pueblo Viejo: 8. (most observed at forest/secondary regrowth edge in low-mid canopy).
Golden-crowned warbler Basileuterus culicivorus: Tikal: 1; Rio Frio Caves: 1. (Note: in low-mid canopy, golden central crown stipe not always easy to see).
Rufous-capped warbler B. rufifrons – MPR: fairly common in tussocky grassland with scrub in open woodland, several birds singing.
Yellow-breasted chat Icteria virens – Blue Creek village: 1; CT: 1 from our veranda at Tillet’s Village Lodge; Southern Highway – 1 in wet scrub.
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola – CC: common (7+ daily) around mangroves and occasionally in gardens (ssp. C. f. caboti); MPR: 1 (C. f. mexicana), our only mainland observation.
Golden-hooded tanager Tangara larvata – Mayflower: 6; MPR: up to 4-6/day;
Green honeycreeper Chlorophanes guatemalensis – MPR: 1; Pueblo Viejo: 1.
Red-legged honeycreeper Cyanerpes carneipes – Blue Hole: 1; CT: 1; MPR: approx. 12 over 3 days; Tikal: 1.
Scrub euphonia Euphonia affinis – fairly common and widespread in forest and forest edge.
Yellow-throated euphonia E. hirundinacea – fairly common and widespread in forest and forest edge.
Olive-backed euphonia E. gouldi – Tikal: 1-3/day including a male by a pendulous nest; 1’s and 2’s elsewhere.
Blue-grey tanager Thraupis episcopus – small numbers at many localities, including around villages e.g. Cockscomb: 2; CT: approx. 5-6/day; El Remate: 5; Pueblo Viejo: 3; Tikal: 4-5;
Yellow-winged tanager T. abbas – near Blue Hole: 1; El Remate: 2; Pueblo Viejo: 1.
Grey-headed tanager Eucometis pencillata – Cockscomb: 2; Mayflower: 2 together; Tikal: 1 seen each day.
Black-throated shrike-tanager Lanio aurantius – Tikal: male and 2 females perched mid-canopy one day, pair and male the next.
Red-crowned ant-tanager Habia rubica – common in forest understorey usually in small flocks of 4-7 birds, Blue Hole: approx. 10; Cockscomb: several small flocks; Rio Frio Caves: flock of 6; Mayflower: flock of 4+; Tikal: 4 flocks of 4-6 or so/day;
Red-throated ant-tanager H. fuscicauda – common in forest understorey, as red-crowned usually in flocks of 4-7 birds, Blue Hole: approx. 10; Cockscomb: several small flocks; CT: flock of approx. 5 savanna along Northern Highway; Tikal: 3-4 flocks of 4-6 or so/day; MPR: flocks of approx. 6 near 1000 Foot Falls and along Mountain Equestrian Trail (MET);
Hepatic tanager Piranga flava - MPR: up to 4 pairs a few singles daily in open pine woodland.
Summer tanager P. rubra – widespread, occasional singles throughout e.g. El Remate: 1+; Mayflower 1; Pueblo Viejo: 1; Tikal: 2.
Scarlet tanager P. olivacea – Monkey Bay: 1 winter adult male/1st autumn male in tree close to HQ.
Crimson-collared tanager Phlogothraupis sanguinolenta – Pueblo Viejo: 2 singles.
Passerini’s tanager Ramphocelus passerinii – Blue Hole: 1; Cockscomb: 1; Pueblo Viejo: approx. 3 flocks of 4-6 birds.
Greyish saltator Saltator coerulescens – El Remate: 3 in shrubs by garden.
Buff-throated saltator S. maximus – Cockscomb: 1; El Remate: 3.
Black-headed saltator S. atriceps – occasional in scrubby forest edge, CT: 1; El Remate: 1; MPR: 1 by Blancaneaux Lodge; Pueblo Viejo: 2.
Northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis – CT: at least 4 in savanna areas alongside the Northern Highway north of Crooked Tree.
Black-faced grosbeak Caryothraustes poliogaster: Mayflower: 1; Pueblo Viejo: approx. 6.
Rose-breasted grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus – CC: 1 and 3 females/1st winter males in gardens at the south end of ‘town’.
Blue-black grosbeak Cyanocompsa cyanoides – Pueblo Viejo: 1 in secondary regrowth/scrub.
Blue bunting C. parellina – Tikal: immature male in scrub on Mayan ruin.
Blue grosbeak Passerina caerulea – The Dump: 2 males in roadside scrub.
Indigo bunting Passerina cyanea – CC: flock of 7 foraging on rough grass lawn and 1 in grassland along the edge of the airstrip.
Olive-sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus – several observations in woodland and forest throughout, has a habit of foraging inconspicuously on the forest floor but often confiding when seen; once tuned into thin ‘tic’ call, evidently fairly common, seen at CT: 1; El Remate: 1; Tikal 2.
Green-backed sparrow A. chloronatus – Blue Hole: a least 1 (rich olive-green back compared to duller-backed olive sparrow A. rufivirgatus; often tricky to separate) our only definite observation.
Blue-black grassquit Volatinia jacarina – fairly common and widespread, numerous males (often performing jump-up display) and a few females observed, primarily in agricultural areas with tall grass.
White-collared seedeater Sporophila torqueola – very common and widespread throughout in open farmed habitats/disturbed weedy areas, around villages etc.
Thick-billed seedfinch Oryzoborous funereus – a few scattered observations in grassy scrub, second growth and forest edge e.g. Pueblo Viejo: 3.
Yellow-faced grassquit Tiaris olivacea – MPR: several in tall grass along roadside embankments.
Rusty sparrow Aimophila rufescens – MPR: one seen moderately well in tussocky grassland with scattered shrubs and poor views of 2 others (presumably much easier to see in spring when singing).
Chipping sparrow Spizella passerina – several flocks in grassy pine-palm savanna including CT: 3+; Savannah Forest Reserve: flock of over 50.
Red-winged blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus – Lago Petén Itzá: 1 male in tall emergent vegetation NE corner of the lake close to El Remate.
Eastern meadowlark Sturnella magna – Monkey Bay: 1 singing from tree stump and 1 in savanna grassland nearby; Belize City: 1 in grass alongside runway at the international airport.
Melodious blackbird Dives dives – numerous observations on mainland, often in pairs and small flocks around villages (e.g. Crooked Tree: 30+) and farmland.
Great-tailed grackle Quiscalus mexicanus – very common, noisy and conspicuous, especially around villages and towns, present on CC: 10+.
Black-cowled oriole Icterus dominicensis – numerous widespread observations of 1’s and 2’s e.g. CT: 2; El Remate: 1, Mayflower 1.
Orchard oriole I. spurius – CT: 1; the odd single elsewhere.
Hooded oriole I. cucullatus – small numbers observed, widespread including flock of 6 in flowering tree on CC.
Baltimore oriole I. galbula – numerous widespread observations on mainland, usually in small flocks often in flowering trees, e.g. Blue Hole: 1; El Remate: 20+; Pueblo Viejo: 5; Tikal: 2+.
Yellow-billed cacique Amblycercus holosericeus – Tikal: 2 foraging in understorey palm close to Jungle Lodge.
Montezuma oropendola Psarocolius montezuma – El Remate: 1; Tikal: common, including a flock of 40+ birds roosting by the park entrance gate; Cockscomb: 1 overflying (probably this species but possibly chestnut-headed oropendola P.wagleri); Mayflower: 1.
Frenz (2012) lists 128 land mammal species that have been recorded in Belize, the majority being bats (70 spp.), with an additional five marine mammals (West Indian manatee Trichechus manatus and four cetaceans). Manatees can be seen during boat trips off Caye Caulker but we opted not to go on one as fairly expensive (US$60/person). Our mammal observations are listed below, names and species order follows that in Frenz (2012).
Common opossum Dideldelphis marsupialis – Tikal: 1 spot-lighted in tree overhanging old airstrip trail one evening; 1-2 road kills in Belize.
bats – numerous bats seen throughout trip but none identified.
Yucatan black howler Alouatta pigra – El Remate: 2 troops calling behind village; Tikal: several calling each day and one troop observed.
Central American spider monkey Ateles geoffroyi – Tikal: fairly common.
Yucatan squirrel Scirus yucatanensis – small numbers observed at various localities (e.g. El Remate, Tikal, Crooked Tree, Pueblo Viejo); mostly grizzled mid-grey in colour, several darker individuals at Pueblo Viejo.
Deppe’s squirrel Scirus deppei - Tikal: 1, rufous with grey legs and tail.
Central American agouti Dasyprocta punctata – singles observed at Tikal, Mountain Pine Ridge and Cockscomb Basin.
Grey fox Urocyon cinereoargentatus – 6 singles observed (a dainty small fox, sometimes quite confiding) at several localities, i.e. Tikal (2), savanna near Crooked Tree, Mountain Pine Ridge (2), and 1 crossing road near Big Falls.
White-nosed coati Nasua narica – Tikal: 4-5; Cockscomb Basin: 4.
Stripe hog-nosed skunk Conepatus semistriatus – 1 road kill along Southern Highway; 2-3 additional road kill skunks not identified.
Jaguarundi Felis yagouaroundi – Crooked Tree: 1 probable (only hind quarters and long broad tail briefly observed as it disappeared into vegetation at the side of the road) crossing Northern Highway north of Crooked Tree junction; 1 crossing Southern Highway.
Red brocket deer Mazama americana – Cockscomb Basin: 1 by main access track, a small deer with rich red-brown body pelage, grey head and bare pink skin around large eyes.
Atlantic spotted dolphin Stenella frontalis or Bottle-nosed dolphin Tursiops truncatus – Caye Caulker: 2 inshore swimming northwards along east coast.