birdwatching in belize

Best Bird Watching in Belize

Where to Find the Best Bird Watching in Belize

If you were under the impression that BBB stood for the Better Business Bureau, it’s time to rethink the acronym. In Belize, those letters stand for Belize’s Best Birds, and if you’ve an interest in the aviary scene, find beauty and grace in every species within one of the most hospitable places on the planet. With around 618 species soaring in the heavens above Belize, perching in treetops and nesting on isolated atolls, you might wonder, “How did so many species come to call Belize home?” The answer, of course, is “We just got lucky!” From north to south, visit seven great habitats and you’ll agree.

1. The New River Lagoon. Talk about a long and winding body of water; the New River Lagoon connects a network of marshland, streams and canals, creating a watershed offering an unlimited amount of drinking and bathing water for this area’s frequent visitors. Check your guidebook to match photos and descriptions for three species represented most heavily in this part of North Belize: the Purple Gallinule, Black-Collared Hawk and Northern Jacana.

2. The Shipstern Nature Reserve is also a vast playground for migrating birds for obvious reasons. Be cautious walking into this 22,000 acre sanctuary; it’s best to hire a flat-bottom boat or pilot a canoe, then cruise slowly around to take in all of bird species before your eyes. According to Belize bird experts, more than 250 birds coexist nicely in this refuge. If we listed them all here, you wouldn’t have any surprises waiting for you when you visit!

3. Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is the top-rated destination for birders in all of Belize because species diversity is spectacular. Stand in awe of giant, rare Jabiru Storks if you’re lucking enough to spot them. If you visit Belize during the dry season, your chances of seeing them increase, but in case you don’t glimpse any storks, you’ll still have plenty to brag about when you encounter Heron, Kingfishers, Yucatan Jays and Yellow-lored Parrots frequenting this popular gathering spot.

4. Spread your birdwatching wings to Belize’s Half Moon Caye National Monument and feast your eyes on variety and diversity. It’s difficult to navigate this area because environmentalists don’t encourage visitors: It’s a “major nesting site for the red-footed booby,” according to Frommer’s travel guide. Other migratory birds are plentiful, but when thousands of boobys congregate at once, there’s no arguing about who owns the territory!

5. Birders with limited time in Belize highly recommend Caracol in Western Belize where vast jungles and sacred, ancient Mayan ruins form a wonderland of perching and nesting places for birds requiring tropical forests to survive and thrive. If you’ve only seen Ocellated Turkeys, Crested Guans, Great Curassows, Vilaceous Trogons and Keel-Billed Motmots on the pages of birding books, this single spot can give you the thrill of a lifetime.

6. Visit Man-O-War Caye in Southern Belize if you’d like to see how a government-monitored sanctuary functions. Start your education by boating around the caye at a leisurely pace to witness hundreds of birds, known either as the Frigate or the Man-O-War, gather together on this tiny piece of real estate. These large seabirds are content to share their tiny space with large communities of Brown Boobies. If only humans got along this nicely!

7. Saving the best for last is a wise move if you’re eager to visit a place that has no equal: The Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve in Southern Belize is home to the world’s largest jaguar sanctuary yet these huge cats live in harmony with a universe of birds that is as impressive as anywhere else in Belize. Thanks to dense jungle, even the most vivid birds—Toucans, Scarlet Macaws and King Vultures—rule treetops and the sky, leaving you just one conclusion: wherever you go for your birdwatching fix, you’ll find more than you dreamed of in Belize.

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