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April 2003

By Francis Toldi

A Non-Birding Trip to Belize

I just returned from a family vacation in Belize.  Although Belize is a worthy destination for birders, this was not a birding trip.  I was sworn to good behavior, and for the most part fulfilled my promise to be a proper participant in our family activities.  Nevertheless, I did manage to see, or at least hear, quite a few birds.  I accomplished this by daily before-breakfast bird walks, by keeping my binoculars on hand during our daily excursions, and by generally keeping an ear tuned to bird sounds at all times.

There are a number of fine trip reports on Belize available on the web, and I refer you to those for trip logistics and detailed lists of resources and references.  I thought folks might be interested in a report on what a reasonably experienced Neotropical birder might see when you don’t have the luxury of a concerted effort to see birds in this fine country.  If the question is, “Is it worth it for a birdwatcher to go to Belize even if it isn’t a bird trip?” the answer is an unequivocal YES.

On the first part of our trip (April 12 – 16, 2003) we stayed at the Oceanic Society’s research station at Blackbird Cay, on the Turneffe Islands Atoll (Info at  Our primary mission here was snorkeling, and we did that for hours every day.  The undersea world here was truly spectacular.  I have never seen such a richness of coral, and the fish and other critters were a marvel to behold.  It really is like birding underwater, only with a perennial feeding flock of tanagers and honeycreepers all about you.  In addition to the fish we had a long and close look at my lifer SPERM WHALE (Physeter catodon), SPOTTED DOLPHIN (Stenella attenuate) and NURSE SHARK (Ginglymostoma cirratum), and back at the station STRIPED BASILISK (Basiliscus vittatus), BROWN ANOLE (Anolis sagrei) and SPINEY-TAILED IGUANA (Ctenosaura similes).  The fish are too numerous to list, but 4 species of Angelfish, Grouper, Seahorse and Ocean Triggerfish have to top the list.   I particularly enjoyed snorkeling in the mangroves.  I’ve always loved mangroves, and now I know what they look like from underneath.  Our experience there snorkeling within 10 feet of a slumbering AMERICAN CROCODILE (Crocodylus acutus) was, well, interesting.

Not surprisingly, the birdlife was somewhat limited.  Here is a partially annotated list of what I saw and heard around the research station and on our excursions to nearby cays (Latin names only on first mention of the species).  Please excuse the very general references to “common” or “fairly common” and the like.  I make no pretense of having a strict scheme for these terms.  I just use them in the ordinary sense of the words.

--Brown Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchus) – a few flying about here and there; two were roosting on the top of mangroves, not something I’m used to seeing back home!
--Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) – approximately 200, all white phase, nesting at Half Moon Cay, west of Turneffe.  This is a Belize Audubon operated wildlife refuge
--Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
--Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) – always a few, sometimes a large number, hanging about high overhead; 100+ nesting at Half Moon Cay, some with red throat pouches inflated
--Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor) – 1 in a little swamp behind the research station
--Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) – 1 white phase hanging about the research station beach
--Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) – small flocks flying over the research station from time to time
--Green Heron (Butorides virescens) – 1 Poor Joe lurking in the mangroves near Calabash Cay, Turneffe Islands
--Osprey (Pandion Haliaetus) – a few seen here and there perched on mangroves or other taller roosts; a pair roosted almost continuously near the research station; another pair on the nest at the lighthouse at Half Moon Cay
--Rufous-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides axillaries) – one vocalizing the morning of April 15, 2003 from deep in the mangroves near Calabash Cay, Turneffe Islands
--Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) – here and there along the beaches and reefs; I’ve adopted the local Belizian name for this species—Shaky Batty—as my standard name for this bird
--Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) – a small flock of 5 regularly worked the beach at the research station
--Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) – only 1 seen, probably a second winter bird, at the dock in Belize City
--Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla) – common at the dock and immediate coastal area in Belize City; none in the outer islands and reefs
--Royal Tern (Sterna maxima) – a few daily, various locations on the immediate shore and in the outer islands
--Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) – quick look at what I believe were 2 Common Terns, perched on the reef at Lighthouse Reef near the Blue Hole
--White-crowned Pigeon (Columa leucocephala) – 2-3 seen daily roosting in the mangroves at Blackbird Cay near the research station
--Green-breasted Mango (Anthracothorax prevostii) – the common hummingbird at Blackbird Cay
--Cinnamon Hunningbird (Amazilia rutila) – one at the research station
--Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons) – common and conspicuous at the research station; nesting in holes in coconut palms
--Great-crested Flycatcher (Myarchus crinitus) – 1 present at the research station for at least two days, April 13-14, 2003 (I noted a large Myarchus with rufous wing panels sharply contrasting with the white tertial edges, darker crown and cheeks, “very “peaked” head, considerable rufous on tail, gave repeated “wheeet” call)
--Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) – 3 flying by the boat in the blue water between Blackbird Cay and the Blue Hole;  I can’t say for certain that these weren’t Ridgeway’s (S. ridgwayi), if those occur out this far.
--Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) – a few more offshore
--Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus) – 1 at the research station; common in Belize City
--Mangrove Vireo (Vireo pallens) – common in the mangroves at the research station
--Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavovirides) – 1 in the “forest” at Half Moon Cay
--Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) – a few in the Sea Grape trees at the research station; 1 “Mangrove” Warbler in the mangroves behind the lodge adjoining the research station
--Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) – 1 bedraggled “Myrtle” at the research station
--Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) – 1 calling from within the mangroves at the research station
--Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis) – 1 walking around and chipping in the little swamp behind the research station
--Common Yellowthroat (Geothylpis poliocephala) – a few calling from within the mangroves around Blackbird Cay
--Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)
--Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus) – common around the research station
--Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurious) – a few around the research station
--House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – one male at Half Moon Cay may have been a rare (and unwelcome?) bird

On April 16 we headed back to the mainland, and drove west to near San Ignacio in the Cayo district (not far from the Guatemalan border).  We spent the next 5 nights at Crystal Paradise, a very nice family-run lodge in open country a few kilometers outside of San Ignacio (contact info:  It is situated near the Macal River.  The grounds are nicely planted with various ornamentals and native plants.  There is some decent forest nearby—smaller second growth not far from the entrance road, and some more established forest along the river.  A particular favorite trail of mine was the area just across the river from the lodge.

I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the birds around the lodge.  Even on the grounds themselves there were far more than just the usual open country and edge species.  As you can see from the list below, even tanagers, euphonias and toucans made their way into the lodge area.   One of the lodge owners, Jeronie Tut (son of the founder, don Victor) is a very fine birder.  He can do everything from organize and lead a complete birding tour of Belize, to taking you on birding outings in the areas or even just on the grounds, to offering tips and answering questions.  Since I wasn’t on a birding trip, I opted for the latter.  Jeronie was very generous with his knowledge about the birds in the area.  He keeps a list of what he and his guests have seen in the area, and has a good library available with various field guides and other references to birds, mammals, plants, etc.

The lodge itself was clean and comfortable.  I also enjoyed speaking with the other guests at the family style meals.  You can arrange various outings to nearby areas.  Caves, Mayan ruins, rivers—it’s enough to make you want to do something besides just look at birds (perish the thought!).

Here is the list of what I saw and heard on the Crystal Paradise grounds or within the immediate vicinity, during the period April 16 – 21, 2003.

--Little Tinamou (Crypturellis soui) – one heard calling in the forest across the river
--Thicket Tinamou (Crypturellis cinnamomeus) – heard every morning from the lodge grounds and in adjacent forests
--Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
--Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
--Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga) – one soaring overhead, seen one morning while waiting for our guide to pick us up for an excursion.  It always pays to have the binoculars handy!
--Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris) – a few along the highway near San Ignacio
--Collared Forest Falcon (Micrastur semitorquatus) – one bird heard calling most mornings from the lodge grounds; reportedly seen one morning on the grounds themselves when I was elsewhere (it figures!)
--Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula) – three on the grounds, more in the forest beyond the river
--Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides cajanea) – 1 seen in the early morning along the banks of the Macal River
--Rock Dove (Columba livia)
--Ruddy Ground Dove (Columbina talpacoi)
--White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi) – heard frequently, a few seen down near the river and on the trail across the river
--Olive-throated Parakeet (Aratinga nana) – a small flock screamed by the lodge most days at dawn and dusk
--White-crowned Parrot (Pionus senilis) – one bird on two different days on the lodge grounds
--White-fronted Parrot (Amaona albifrons) – the most common parrot on the lodge grounds
--Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis) – a small flock came to roost every evening on the lodge grounds
--Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris) – a few on the lodge grounds
--Vermiculated (Guatemalan) Screech Owl (Otus guatemalae) – At first I thought they were common, but then I realized that frogs made a very similar call; I am fairly certain that some of what I heard was this species, but I can’t estimate the numbers properly
--Central American Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium griseiceps) – heard calling one night at lodge
--White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris) – over lodge one morning
--Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi) – over lodge one morning
--Wedge-tailed Sabrewing (Campylopterus curvipennis) – a lot harder to see than I thought it would be.  Apparently, some seasons it is all over the lodge grounds.  I finally tracked one down in a flowering tree over the ruined house across the river
--Green-breasted Mango – a few seen on the lodge grounds
--White-bellied Emerald (Amazilia candida) – one in the Sabrewing tree
--Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) – as expected, the most common hummingbird; 99% of the hummers seen were this species
--Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus) – seen regularly on lodge grounds
--Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus) – seen and frequently heard on lodge grounds
--Blue-crowned Motmot (Motmotus momota) – heard down by the river
--Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus) – seen regularly on the trail across the river; once seen on the lodge grounds
--Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) – seen in the clearing around the ruined house on the trail across the river; heard in forest nearby lodge area
--Golden-fronted Woodpecker – These confused me at first.  I believe they are of the subspecies griseus (no “golden front” at all, more red on crown and red on belly)
--Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus)
--Ivory-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster) – heard frequently in morning, but never seen, along the trail across the river and woodland adjoining the lodge
--Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) – heard near the river and the trail across
--Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyranina) – heard near the river and the trail across
--Yellow-bellied Elaenia (Elaenia flavogaster) – common around the lodge grounds and elsewhere
--Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) – seen a few times around the lodge grounds
--Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris) – one studied for a while in the ruined house clearing on the trail across the river; I noted an empidonax with strong light yellowish eyering, yellow-green underparts with little throat contrast, bill larger than the dainty little bill of a Least
--Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) – one along a road near the lodge entrance
--Bright-rumped Atilla (Atilla spadeceus) – heard every morning at the lodge, but as is typical, never seen
--Rufous Mourner (Rhytipterna holerythra) – one heard along the trail across the river
--Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)
--Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarhynchus pitangua) – at least one on the lodge grounds, others elsewhere
--Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similes) – another great local name:  katy-yu-baby-di-cry
--Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculates) – one positively identified along the trail across the river; there may have been others, but I didn’t study all of the Myiodynastes I saw
--Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris) – a few around the lodge daily
--Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius) – heard but not seen daily around the lodge
--Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) – or was it a Couch’s?
--Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae) – a pair in the ruined house clearing along the trail across the river
--Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata) – can’t miss at the lodge
--White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei) – one heard vocalizing and wing-snapping in what was probably a lek behind the ruined house on the trail across the river.  Limited time and a disinclination to crawl through the bushes left this as “heard only” at the lodge.
--Yellow-green Vireo – Did I REALLY examine each to make sure it wasn’t a Red-eyed Vireo?  Nope.
--Brown Jay (Cyanocorax morio)
--Northern Rough-winged Swallow
--Barn Swallow
--Band-backed Wren (Campylorhynchus zonatus) – heard regularly along the trail across the river; hard to see, but one pair seen fairly well.
--Spot-breasted Wren (Thryrothorus maculipectus) – heard daily around the lodge, but only seen well in the thick undergrowth along the river
--House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) – common around the lodge buildings
--White-bellied Wren (Uropsila leucogastra) – heard and briefly glimpsed along the trail across the river
--Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi)
--Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
--Yellow Warbler
--Magnolia Warbler (Dendoica Magnolia)
--Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
--American Redstart (Stophaga ruticilla)
--Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) – one in the hedge alongside the lodge; not on the most recent edition of the lodge checklist
--Northern Waterthrush – fairly common along the river, one on a small pond on the main lodge grounds; not on lodge checklist
--Red-crowned Ant-Tanager (Habia rubica) – a pair seen along the trail across the river
--Scarlet Tanager (Habia olivacea) – one basic male carefully studied on the lodge grounds (noted yellowish underparts with contasting olive green back and head, no wingbars on strikingly dark wings); apparently rare in Belize, generally
--Crimson-collared Tanager (Ramphocelus sanguinolentis) – These beauties were fairly common around the main lodge grounds
--Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus)
--Yellow-winged Tanager (Thraupis abbas) – seen daily on the main lodge grounds
--Scrub Euponia (Euphonia affinis) – Seen almost daily on the main lodge grounds
--Yellow-throated Euphonia (Euphonia hirundinacea) – somewhat more common than Scrub Euphonia on the main lodge grounds
--Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) – how could it take me a couple of days to start noticing these little jewels on the main lodge grounds, or did they just drop in later?
--Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina) – common along the weedy edges of the roads approaching the lodge
--White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola)
--Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivacea) – one seen every morning on the lodge grounds; not on the current lodge checklist and noted as “rare” for this area on the Belize checklist
--Green-backed Sparrow (Arremonops chloronotus) – one or two seen daily sneaking around in the weeds near the river.
--Grayish Saltator (Saltator coerulescens) – fairly common on the lodge grounds
--Black-headed Saltator (Saltator atriceps) – common on the lodge grounds
--Blue Bunting (Cyanocompsa parellina) – one along a road near the lodge entrance
--Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) - one along a road near the lodge entrance
--Melodious Blackbird (Dives dives) – a.k.a. the “wake-up bird”
--Great-tailed Grackle
--Giant Cowbird (Scaphidura oryzivora) – one stopped briefly on the main lodge grounds one day
--Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus dominicensis) – a small flock visited a tree near the dining palapa every afternoon at around 3 p.m., often in the company of Orchard and Baltimore Orioles and Red-legged Honeycreeper—a fine show!
--Orchard Oriole
--Yellow-backed Oriole (ICterus chrysater) – one seen along the road near the lodge entrance
--Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
--Yellow-billed Cacique (Amblycercus holosericeus) – one in the small secondary forest along the road near the lodge entrance
--Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius Montezuma) – one flew by the lodge grounds on one day, but I suspect they were more common than that

Other critter about the grounds included a multitude of MARINE TOAD (Bufo marinus) at night down by the river, YCATAN SQUIRREL (Sciurus yucatanensis), some kind of gecko chirping at night in the rooms (never saw one) and what I think was a tiny little baby YUCATAN BANDED GECKO (Coleonyx elegans).

We also took a few excursions to nearby areas.  Here are the highlights of the birds and other wildlife on those excursions.

Tikal, Guatemala.  This was a one day trip (April 17, 2003), which meant that our time at Tikal was in the middle of the day—no problem for viewing the spectacular ruins, but not so good for birds.  As we walked through the ruins and learned more about the fascinating culture that once built and occupied them, I managed to hear and see a few species.

--Little Tinamou (heard)
--Black and Turkey Vulture
--Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis) – one calling and flying about the temple compounds
--Short-billed Pigeon (Columba nigrirostris) – heard throughout the forest
--Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
--Collared Aracari
--Golden-fronted Woodpecker
--Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis)
--Social Flycatcher
--Couch’s Kingbird
--Masked TItyra
--Northern Rough-winged Swallow (nesting in the temples)
--Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea)
--Brown Jay
--Clay-colored Robin
--Yellow-green Vireo
--Lesser Greenlet (Hylophilus decurtatus)
--Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapella) – apparently very uncommon here, but I did see one quite well in the trees around the main temple plaza
--Yellow-winged Tanager
--Melodious Blackbird
--Great-tailed Grackle
--Giant Cowbird
--Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psaracolius Montezuma)

We also saw a few mammals, including YUCATAN BLACK HOWLER MONKEY (Alouatta pigra) (5 in two groups including one baby), CENTRAL AMERICAN SPIDER MONKEY (Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) (3 in one group) and WHITE-NOSED COATI (Nasua narica) (1 snuffling around some ruins).

The ruins of Xunantunich are close to Crystal Paradise and make an excellent stop for more archaeology.  Again, we were there too late in the day (April 18, 2003) for the birds, although the surrounding forest has potential.  It would make a nice early morning stop.  On the drive there we saw a single CENTRAL AMERICAN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta puntata) grazing in a field near a small thicket.  Along with sleepy GREEN IGUANA (Iguana iguana) and CENTRAL AMERICAN RIVER TURTLE (Dermatemys mawi), at the river crossing were:
--Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasillanus)
--Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus)

Among the more interesting species at the ruins themselves were:
--Brown Jay
--Aztec Parakeet
--Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer)
--Indigo Bunting
--Lesser Greenlet

We took another excursion in the late afternoon to Barton Creek Cave.  On the way we stopped at the Green Hills Butterfly Farm.  In addition to the gorgeous butterflies and the very interesting tour of their butterfly breeding operation, I wandered the grounds for a few minutes and found the usual mix of common garden birds, including Blue Bunting, Magnolia Warbler, Lesser Greenlet, Olive-backed Sparrow and a new bird for the trip, Summer Tanager (Pirangra rubra)

We had to wait a while before we were able to enter the Barton Creek Cave, which was fine with me.  Some tall flowering trees at the entrance harbored many buzzing Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, along with White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga Mellivora) and Yellow-tailed Oriole (Icterus mesomelas).  In the surrounding fields were Cattle Egret and a single Great Egret (Ardea alba).  A Short-tailed Hawk (Buteo brachyurus) soared over at one point.  The caves themselves were splendid.  Canoeing into the calm waters and deep into the cave was an unforgettable experience.  There were bat sp. in the cave, but I don’t know the species.

On April 20, 2003, we took an all day excursion to another cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal.  This is a very strenuous and sometimes intimidating trip through an amazing cave with spectacular formations and Mayan artifacts.  It is worth a special trip to Belize just to see it, birds or no birds.  It is one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen, in a lifetime of travel.  It also happens to be located in the Tapir Mountain Refuge, another area protected by the Belize Audubon Society.  This is an incredible place for birds.  I would have loved to have spent a few days just birding in that beautiful, rich, forest.  Just a simple two kilometer walk to the cave entrance produced an impressive bird list.  It was a bit frustrating to have to walk right by so many potential birds.  Here is what I saw and heard:
--Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum)
--Turkey Vulture
--Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus) – watched for a full five minutes from about 50 feet away, in full view and perfect light
--Spotted Sandpiper
--Blue Ground Dove (Claravis pretiosa)
--Ruddy Ground Dove
--Short-billed Pigeon
--Groove-billed Ani
--Vaux’s Swift
--Violaceous Trogon – heard
--Blue-crowned Motmot – heard
--Ringed Kingfisher (Ceryle torquata)
--Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle Americana)
--American Pygmy-Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea)
--Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda) – heard
--Collared Aracari
--Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana) - heard
--Ivory-billed Woodcreeper – heard and seen
--Tawny-winged Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla mexicanus) – heard and seen
--Dusky Antbird – heard
--Yellow-bellied Elaenia
--Boat-billed Flycatcher
--White-collared Manakin – on the lek
--Brown Jay
--Northern Rough-winged Swallow
--Spot-breasted Wren
--Black-and-white Warbler
--Red-throated Ant Tanager (Habia fuscicauda)
--Scrub Euphonia
--Melodious Blackbird
--Great-tailed Grackle

On April 21, 2003, we took a canoe ride down the river.  We were driven upstream a ways, then paddled down the river a few kilometers back to Crystal Paradise.  We stopped from time to time along the way.  Our first stop was just after we put in, at de Plooy’s resort.  We walked through their lovely grounds, their excellent botanical garden, and admired the interesting architecture.  There were some big, mature trees on the property that brought in good birds.  At the hour of 10:00 a.m. it was already heating up.  In addition to the friendly Aracari hanging around the fruit feeder near the bar, there were other interesting birds on the grounds:
--Least Grebe – in the pond at the botanical garden
--Ruddy Crake (Laterallus rubber) – one called from the marshy area adjoining the pond
--Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa) – same location
--Common Tody Flycatcher (Todirostrum cinereum) – building a nest in the orchid greenhouse house
--Black-headed Trogon
--Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus) – in the botanical garden
--Tropical Pewee (Contopus cinereus) – seen--and heard, thank goodness
--Olivaceous Woodcreeper (Sittasomus griseicapillus) – seen well near the boat dock

On the river proper we saw a few other nice birds, including:
--Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)
--Green Heron
--Little Blue Heron
--Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona)
--Mangrove Swallow

On our last day we drove back to the airport via the Belize Zoo.  In the coastal plain I caught a quick but adequate view of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savanna).  The Belize Zoo is a nicely laid out refuge for orphaned and injured local wildlife.  They do a fine job there educating and entertaining the public.  The birds were the usual kiskadees and such, but I did also find an Olive Sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus).  My final Belizian bird was a nice sendoff:  standing in a pond in the middle of the afternoon just outside of Belize City was a lone Limpkin (Aramus guarauna).

My trip totals were nothing like what you could expect on a dedicated birding trip, but weren’t bad for a regular family vacation:  Something like 150 species in Belize and 30 in Guatemala (mostly overlapping), of which 9 were lifers.   Having a fair amount of prior experience with most of these birds helped me to find them under less than ideal circumstances, and certainly helped me to zero in on the new ones, but even someone entirely new to the Neotropics could expect to find a large number of wonderful birds.  This trip also gave me a taste for how great a birding destination Belize could be.  Birders with families take note:  Belize is a fantastic destination for a family trip.  You will be happy with the birds you get, and your family will be grateful and happy that you didn’t drag them off to the local sewage ponds.

Francis Toldi
Burlingame, CA

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