| Exciting is a word
rarely associated with "bird watching" or its recent evolution to
"birding." Yet the richness of the bird life in Belize is so surprising at
times, that as you strive to hear an exotic melody, focus on that flash of brilliant color
in the trees or see egrets riding horseback, the fascination builds and it truly becomes
an exciting adventure.
their excitement, when Israel Canto, tour guide with Cayo Adventure Tours spotted an
extremely rare Harpy Eagle and his small group of birders from the U.S. videotaped it
soaring near the Caracol ruins in the Chuiqibul Forest Reserve. The Harpy is the world's
largest eagle, standing over 3 feet high, with an impressive wing span of nearly 7 feet.
Through a joint effort with Panama, a release program has added 3 more Harpies into the
Chuiqibul Reserve. It is not known how many Harpy Eagles might still be in existence
worldwide, but fewer than 30 nesting sites are documented within their entire range within
the tropical lowlands of Central and South America. It is thought that the increase in
monkey populations near Caracol are providing a better food supply for the Harpy, and that
Belize's efforts at protecting her environment will help insure the survival of this
incredible, nearly extinct giant of the skies.
Other exciting and endangered bird species also
find Belize habitat to their liking. There are six documented nesting sites of rare,
Orange Breasted Falcons (one here), the tropical equivalent of the northern Peregrine
Falcon. These falcons nest high on the cliffs overlooking the Macal River, on high rock
outcroppings in the Mountain Pine Ridge, and on the steep walls of sink holes.
Scarlet Macaws have found a protected
breeding area along the Upper Macal River. Several other threatened or endangered species
include the Crested Eagle, Solitary Eagle, Ocellated Turkey, Chestnut Bellied Heron,
Muscovy Duck and Black Catbird, all thrilling to see in the wild. The Black Catbird has a
small reserve dedicated to it on the island of Caye Caulker. Public awareness of the
diminished numbers and possibility of extinction of these species has sparked a growing
appreciation not only for them, but others as well, and reinforced the strong national
commitment to their protection. With 40% of Belize territory holding "protected"
reserve status, it is hoped these small, threatened bird populations over time will be
able to seed larger, healthy populations throughout Central America -- a very exciting
Our common Brown Jays, while not so exciting on
their own, will point out everything else of interest taking place in the jungle, from a
fruiting tree with lots of feeding activity, to the dying struggle of a gibnut in the iron
grip of a boa constrictor. Jays also signal warnings of any predator in the area, and are
especially quick to join Toucans and other birds in harassing owls and hawks, whether
sleeping or hunting. When you hear a flock of noisy Jays, it's impossible to resist
following it to see what might be creating all the excitement!
While most birders choose clothing to blend
with the natural surroundings, the neophytes or uninitiated have a surprise in store when
they wear their brightly colored tropical T-shirts and hats. Hummingbirds are attracted to
the bright colors, and can't resist the possibility of such a huge flower and supply of
sweet nectar. It's sometimes hard to tell which is more surprised, the bird or the birder.
Watching these tiniest of birds is always exciting, seeing them "standing" in
midair, on invisible wings that hurtle them about yet can stop in an instant. More than 20
species of hummingbirds are residents, with at least three species found in each of the
seven distinct distribution areas of Belize.
Here at Ek' Tun, there are exciting birds and birding
opportunities for every level of birder. It's possible to spot well over a hundred species
in just a few days. Birding can also be integrated with other activities such as visiting
ruins, canoeing, hiking and horseback riding. Serious birders will appreciate the
opportunities to add several rare and endangered species to their "life list."
For them, Belize is a destination that may be worthy of several visits. And it's certain
that regardless of your past birding experience, the longer you stay, the further you
travel and the more you see, the more exciting the birding in Belize becomes!
Pauraque hatchlings-Nictidomus albicollis
Ornate Hawk-Eagle-Spizaetus ornatus,at
Orange-breasted Falcon- Falco deiroleucus, by
Russell Thorstrom of the Peregrine Fund
Ocellated Turkey - Meleagris ocellata at Tikal Park
White-bellied Emerald Hummingbird
hatchlings Amazilia candida