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(and Tikal, Guatamala)

10 - 20 November 1996

by Roy and Jill Jones


Flying Continental airlines from Phoenix to Houston to Belize city cost $676.95 ea.  left Phx.  6:45am arrived 2:34pm.  Rented car from Budget, was cheaper than I was led but still a major expense.  We got a Suzuki Samari in good condition for just under $60.00 a day.  This included mandatory $15.00 a day insurance and 15% tax.  We got only a tetanus booster for shots and so far have had no problems.


Belize is a nice country to get an introduction to birding in C.A. as they speak English and there is some good habitat for birds.  The people were nice everywhere we went.  At no time did I feel uncomfortable or unsafe although like anywhere you must take advice from local people, that you trust, and be careful.  Several times I had taken advice from travel books and asked some rather embarrassing questions that somewhat offended a local person about safety concerns so I would say take what you read in those books worth a grain of salt.

Traveling around the country was OK the western hwy.  was paved all the way to the border as was the northern hwy. at least as far as we went to Crooked Tree.  All other roads were at best only partially paved, we had a lot of rain and that made for some large potholes.  With the rain and some bad conditions we missed some of the better birding areas like the Pine Ridge.

Now to the insects at most places Cutters repellent worked fine but every now and again they would be so bad you couldn't get them away from your face but we could always leave the area and find another trail to hike.

Everything was expensive gas $5.00 a gallon, food was very costly about twice what we pay in America.  Lodging varied you could spend a lot ($120.00 a night) or you could get reasonable accommodations for a fair price ($65.00) or you could go budget and pay ($10.00).

The birds:

What can I say I love birding in Tropical America I just wish I could afford to do it more.  We had 226 species I got 67 life birds my wife got 111.  It seemed to me that every place we went we could expect to see Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, Brown Jay and Roadside Hawk.  I found it nice to view our eastern warblers in their basic plumage.  Birds of the trip were Jabiru Stork eating a large eel, or male Red-capped Manakin was a beautiful bird.  First life bird was Black-cowled Oriole and last was Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet.

10 November

Arrive at Belize airport 2:30pm takes 45 min.  to go through customs and get car.  I thought it was simple and quick we had no visa just our passport.  Leaving airport we head south on the northern hwy.  towards Belize city stopped along road to bird.  The Belize river was on the right and homes on the left.  Some flowering bushes gave us Black-cowled Oriole, Tropical Mockingbird, kiskadee, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.  Stayed north of town at the Biltmore $65.00 can't miss it on the road.  This hotel proved to be our main stay as you will see.  Birds found on the grounds of the place were White-collared Seedeater, and Yellow-throated Warbler.

11 November

Wake early leave for Cockscomb.  Stopped at Brodies (grocery store) near hotel to get food and water.  Got turned around in the city but found the western hwy.  My advice would be to avoid this city.  Directions to the hwy. are actually easy.  When heading into town on the northern hwy.  turn right at the first intersection, you cross a bridge, go to the first stop sign and go right again.  Soon you see a cemetery you are on the western hwy.  Just passed the Belize Zoo we turn left on the Coastal hwy.  towards Dangriga.  This rd.  isn't passable in bad conditions but on this day it was dry.  We passed through some nice Savannah and woods habitat.  Along this rd. we got Yellow-backed Oriole, the only one of the trip.  Arrived at Cockscomb, entrance easy to find at Maya Centre.  Road to sanctuary was beautiful had imm.  King Vulture.  At Cockscomb we camped 2 nights price $2.50 a night $1.00 to use their butane stove.  Camp grounds were nice and gave us some of our best birds.  Sanctuary is awesome many trails and great birding.  This was our favorite place.  At dusk we owled without success but did have Great Tinamous and Pauraques in the camp grounds.  That night at 11pm it started to rain, it didn't stop for three days at times it was very hard but with no wind the birds stayed active.

12 November

Hiked trails all day it was muddy but with rubber boats and ponchos we had no probleMs. Birds, birds and more birds every bird seen seemed to be a new species.  Yellow-winged, Scarlet-rumped, Golden-hooded and Crimson-collared Tanagers were all seen well multiple times.  Crested Guan, Keel-billed Toucan and Bat Falcon were also seen.

13 November

Rain persisted all night.  Spent morning birding, birds seen were Red-crowned Ant-Tanager Red-capped and White-collared Manakin, Collared Forest-Falcon, Gray-collared Becard and Smoky-brown Woodpecker.  By noon we were worn down by the rain and decided to get out while we could and it was lucky we did as they closed the road when we arrived to the town and told them of the conditions on our way out.  The road was quite slippery.  Driving north on the southern hwy.  we found conditions of this road to be much worse and again I think we left at the right time.  Finally reaching the Hummingbird hwy.  we were glad to see it paved, at least half the way to Belmopan.  Upon reaching San ignacio we wanted to try one of the first class lodges because they are reported to have good birding right at the lodge so we sought out Chaa Creek or Duploy's which are both west of the town.  Again I got turned around in an area that I thought would be easy to negotiate.  After you leave San ignacio you cross a bridge right after the bridge is a square with what seemed like 10 outlets so we took the wrong one.

The way to go is to take the far left road once you see it you can tell its the right one.  This is also the road to the border with Guatemala.  Once we arrived at Chaa creek we new why people liked it as it is very nice, private cabanas right in the forest.  I must be honest though and tell you that it is not worth the money $115.00 a night $22.00 a person for an average dinner.  We found more reasonable lodging the next day.  We did however find a few birds hear that we had no other place.  Plain Wren, Rose-throated Becard were a couple.

14 November

Hiked around Chaa Creek for a few hours and saw more birds Collared Aracari, Montezuma Oropendula, Boat-billed Flycatcher and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift were a few.  After this we left to find more reasonable lodging and found it at Windy hills resort everything there was comparable to Chaa Creek but no forest and no outrages prices $65.00 a night with $15.00 dinner.  Windy Hills is also the largest operator of tours in the area.  We spent the afternoon at Xunantunich ruins which are right on the border.  Nice ruins and nice birds we got Green Jays and Pale-billed Woodpecker here.

15 November

We were planning to camp 1 night at Tikal ruins but with the rain still continuing off and on we decided that we would just jump on one of Windy Hills day trips cost $75.00 ea. and go more for the ruins than the birds.  Tikal was everything I had heard the ruins are great and eerie as so many human sacrifices took place.  We looked for Orange-breasted Falcon at temple 1 and 2 but had no luck but we did see White-necked Puffbird, King Vulture, and our only White-collared Swifts of the trip.  Spent 1 more night at windy Hills.

16 November

By this time word had it that the roads to the Pine Ridge and 1000 ft. falls were very bad and so we decided to move on east.  We stopped at a small park run by the Audobon society called Guanacaste park we ran into a multi-species flock here that was something you always hear about but never seem to see.  Some of the birds on this short trail were Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Royal Flycatcher, Blue-crowned Motmot, Rufous Mourner, Green-backed Sparrow and White-breasted Wood-Wren building a nest.  This is a small place but worth a stop if you are on the road and looking for a place to bird.  The park is at the intersection of the Hummingbird and Western hwy..

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Belize Zoo.  As both my wife and I work at the Phoenix Zoo this stop was a must.  We had heard a lot about the place it is nice but is still a zoo.  The birds were not bad we had Grace's Warbler and Acorn Woodpecker it was strange, we are so used to seeing these bird at home in AZ.  so to seem them in this setting was quite different.  On the road back to the city we got our first Fork-tailed Flycatcher whoa!  what a bird.  Spent the night back at the Biltmore.

17 November

Woke early for a trip to the Baboon sanctuary.  The turn off is just 9 kilometers north of Ladyville.  Books you might read say that its a well marked road but it isn't.  Keep going west on this road to Bermudian Landing, many stops are needed on this road as there are lots of birds to see.  We had Black-throated Bobwhite, Laughing Falcon, White-necked Puffbirds, Black-collared Hawk and more Fork-tailed Flycatchers.

The sanctuary itself is tuff because it would be easy to get lost on the maze of trails that zig-zag back and forth.  Plus this was the place that we had a real bad time with mesquitos, a million of the things.  So we stuck to birding the road and had a great time.  More birds were Rufous-breasted Spinetail and Rufous-browed Peppershrike.  We moved on to Crooked Tree, when we stopped at the ranger station to pay our entrance fee ($4.00 ea.) we were told we could get Black Catbird right in the back area.  Sure enough we walked outside and had 3 birds in the trees behind the station.  Very tough id.  but the bill shape and call are much different than Melodious Blackbird.  Other birds were Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and Gray-necked Wood-Rail and Snail Kite is a very common bird here.  We also met Sam Tillett a local tour guide which turned out to be nice as later in the evening he raced all over the village looking for us to come see the Jabiru Stork he had just located.  What was funny was he found us at his place, we decided to stay there as it is about the cheapest place, ($30.00) a night, this gave us what was probably the bird of the trip and was greatly appreciated by us.

18 November

Took boat ride with Sam ($60.00 1 to 4 persons) it lasted 4 hours and gave us many great birds.  Boat-billed Heron, Gray-headed Kite, Mangrove Vireo, and Great Black Hawk are just a few for this, must do trip at Crooked Tree.  I would highly recommend Sam and his place, he seems knowledgeable about the local birds and clearly goes birding on his own even when not being paid to do it.

Headed back towards the city for the night at the biltmore, along the road we found our only Bare-throated Tiger-Heron of the trip.

19 November

By this time we had exhausted all of the places that I had planned for the trip but with one day left we decided to back track a little and headed back west of the city for another try at Guanacaste park and boy it was like night and day not only did it have much fewer birds the water level was up between 15 to 20 ft.  The trail was under water it was amazing that so much could happen in a couple of days.

So upon seeing this we headed for Monkey Bay sanctuary.  I am now glad we stopped because I would say that this should be on everyone's itinerary for a birding trip to Belize.  The habitat is so diverse here that many birds can be seen.  We hiked as much as we could because the water was very high here also, even birding along the road gave us a treat.  Hepatic Tanager, White-collared Manakin, and Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet were seen.  Returned to the city and stayed at the Biltmore.  Along the Western hwy.  this day was Jabiru Stork and King Vulture.

20 November

Returned home.


These are the locations we visited and codes for the list.

Cockscomb "Jaguar sanctuary" CC
Belize City BC
Northern Hwy. NH
Western Hwy. WH
Coastal Hwy. CH
Chaa Creek Lodge CHC
Tikal Mayan ruins TK
Xunantunich ruins XU
Guanacaste Park GU
Belize Zoo BZ
Road to Babboon sanctuary BS
Crooked Tree CT
Monkey Bay MB

We had 226 species including a trip to Guatemala and Tikal for a day.
If the bird doesn't have a code it was common or seen at most places.

Great Tinamou CC 2 nights calling
Pied-billed Grebe CT
Brown Pelican BC
Neotropic Cormorant TK and CT, BC
Anhinga CT
Magnificent Frigatebird BC, CT
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron NH
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron CT
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron BC, NH
Boat-billed Heron CT
White Ibis BC, CT
Roseate Spoonbill BS, CT
Jabiru CT, WH
Wood Stork XU, TK, CT
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck CT
Muscovy Duck CT
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture CT, MB
King Vulture CC, WH, TK
Osprey CT, BC
Gray-headed Kite CT
White-tailed Kite BS, WH
Snail Kite BC, CT trash bird
Sharp-shinned Hawk CT
Common Black-Hawk
Great Black Hawk CT
Black-collared Hawk CT, BS
Gray Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Swainson's Hawk CC
Laughing Falcon BS, NH
Collared Forest-Falcon CC
American Kestrel
Bat Falcon CC, WH, BS
Peregrine Falcon CT
Plain Chachalaca
Crested Guan 5 birds at CC
Ocellated Turkey TK
Black-throated Bobwhite BS
Ruddy Crake BC near Biltmore
Gray-necked Wood-Rail CHC, CT
Purple Gallinule CT
American Coot CT
Limpkin BS, CT
Semipalmated Plover BS
Black-necked Stilt BC
Northern Jacana
Greater Yellowlegs WH
Solitary Sandpiper CT
Spotted Sandpiper
Whimbrel BC
Western Sandpiper BS
Least Sandpiper
Laughing Gull BC
Forster's Tern BC
Pale-vented Pigeon
Red-billed Pigeon CHC, TK
Short-billed Pigeon CC
Ruddy Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
Aztec Parakeet
Brown-hooded Parrot TK
White-crowned Parrot TK
Red-lored Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Groove-billed Ani
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl CHC
Pauraque CC
White-collared Swift TK
Vaux's Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift CHC
Long-tailed Hermit CC
Little Hermit CC
White-bellied Emerald
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Cinnamon Hummingbird BC at Biltmore
Black-headed Trogon CC
Slaty-tailed Trogon CC
Blue-crowned Motmot GU, CT
Ringed Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher CC, CT, TK
Green Kingfisher
White-necked Puffbird TK 2 birds, BS 3 birds
Rufous-tailed Jacamar GU
Collared Aracari CHC, TK
Keel-billed Toucan
Acorn Woodpecker BZ, MB
Black-cheeked Woodpecker CC
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker CT
Smoky-brown Woodpecker CC
Golden-olive Woodpecker TK
Lineated Woodpecker BS, WH
Pale-billed Woodpecker XU
Rufous-breasted Spinetail BS, CT
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner CC
Plain Xenops CC, CHC
Ruddy Woodcreeper CC
Strong-billed Woodcreeper CC
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
Barred Antshrike
Dot-winged Antwren CC, GU
Dusky Antbird CC, GU, CT
Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet MB
Yellow-bellied Elaenia CC, BS
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher CC
Northern Bentbill
Common Tody-flycatcher CC, BS
Yellow-olive Flycatcher CC, MB
Stub-tailed Spadebill
Royal Flycatcher GU
Tropical Pewee CC
Acadian Flycatcher CC
Least Flycatcher CC
Vermilion Flycatcher BS, CT
Rufous Mourner GU
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher MB
Brown-crested Flycatcher MB, TK, CT
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher CHC, TK
Social Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Couch's Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher WH, BS
Gray-collared Becard CC
Rose-throated Becard CHC
Masked Tityra CHC, TK, GU, CT
White-collared Manakin CC, MB, CHC
Red-capped Manakin CC
Tree Swallow
Mangrove Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Green Jay XU
Brown Jay
Band-backed Wren CHC, GU
Spot-breasted Wren
Plain Wren CHC
House Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren GU
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Clay-colored Robin
Gray Catbird
Black Catbird CT
Tropical Mockingbird BC, WH, NH, CT, BS
White-eyed Vireo
Mangrove Vireo CT
Yellow-throated Vireo MB
Warbling Vireo TK
Red-eyed Vireo CC
Yellow-green Vireo CHC
Tawny-crowned Greenlet CC
Lesser Greenlet
Rufous-browed Peppershrike BS, MB
Blue-winged Warbler CHC, GU
Golden-winged Warbler CHC
Northern Parula CT
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-rumped WarblerMB
Black-throated Green Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Grace's Warbler BZ, MB
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Worm-eating Warbler GU
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush GU
Kentucky Warbler CC, GU
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler CC
Yellow-breasted Chat CC
Golden-masked Tanager CC, CHC
Shining Honeycreeper pair at CC
Red-legged Honeycreeper CC
Yellow-throated Euphonia CC
Olive-backed Euphonia CC
Blue-gray Tanager
Yellow-winged Tanager Common at CC
Gray-headed Tanager 1 bird at CC
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager 1 pair at CC
Red-throated Ant-Tanager CC, GU
Hepatic Tanager MB
Summer Tanager
Crimson-collared Tanager CC
Scarlet-rumped Tanager CC, CHC
Grayish Saltator BS, CT
Buff-throated Saltator CC
Black-headed Saltator
Blue-black Grosbeak CC
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting Female at CT
Orange-billed Sparrow CC
Green-backed Sparrow GU, CT
Blue-black Grassquit
Variable Seedeater
White-collared Seedeater
Thick-billed Seed-Finch Pair at MB
Red-winged Blackbird CT
Eastern Meadowlark WH
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Shiny Cowbird 1 bird rd. to CHC
Black-cowled Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Hooded Oriole
Yellow-backed Oriole CH
Yellow-tailed Oriole CC, CHC, GU
Baltimore Oriole
Yellow-billed Cacique
Montezuma Oropendula CC, CHC, TK


Roy Jones
Tempe, AZ

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