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Republic of El Salvador

Pacific Parakeet Aratinga strenua ©Gábor Orbán Website

Birding El Salvador

With an area of only 21,000 km2, El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. However, its population density of around 300 persons per km2 is the highest in all of the Americas. This has led to the loss of more than 95% of the original forest. Nonetheless, there are still some excellent areas remaining, most of which are now protected and well managed. To the south of the country lies the Pacific Ocean. From the hot lowlands near the coast the country generally rises to higher altitudes along the border with Honduras in the North. Some of the very highest areas still have a covering of cloud forest, and magnificent birds such as the Resplendent Quetzal can still be found fairly easily at a few places such as Montecristo National Park, along with many regional specialties such as Fulvous Owl and Blue-throated Motmot.

Much of the land bordering Honduras is pine forest, where regional endemics such as the White-breasted Hawk can be found in good numbers. The predominant habitat of the country was originally tropical dry forest. This habitat has suffered most from deforestation, but a few areas still exist, giving birders the chance to look for some of the dry forest specialists, such as the Fan-tailed Warbler and Orange-fronted Parakeet. The original forest has mostly been replaced by coffee farms, which can be surprisingly good for birding, with species such as Buffy-crowned Wood-partridge, Bar-winged Oriole and White-bellied Chachalaca.

Another major feature of the country is its many volcanoes; some of these span several habitat zones and are capped with isolated pockets of cloud forest. This isolation has led to the evolution of some unique forms, including the Rufous Sabrewing, which has only a tiny world distribution. This combination of habitats, along with some excellent, mangrove, wetland and island locations, have given the country a species total of over 600, which is very high for a country of this size with so few birders.

There have been several major studies over the past 80 years or so that have helped to chronicle the change in birdlife as the country's environment has changed. This makes it an interesting case study for future ornithologists as the nation enters a relatively new era of conservation awareness. There is a growing number of local ornithologists starting to study the nation's birds and there is still a great deal left for them to discover. The National Parks are well equipped, safe, and open to foreign researchers. El Salvador would be a great location for a birder wanting to conduct some original research into a little known species. The most important publication to get hold of is Lista de Aves de El Salvador by Oliver Komar and Juan Pablo Domínguez, which gives a full list and the status of every species seen in the country [details below]. There is also information on 27 birding sites. It is all in Spanish, but the list is easily used without any knowledge of the language. Information on buying a copy can be obtained from Oliver's website, [see other links] which is in English and has a lot of other useful information as well. Another useful website is mayanbirding.com which is also in English and gives detailed information on 16 birding sites.

El Salvador is not on the main tourist routes, with good reason. It is quite a bit more expensive than its neighbours, there are none of the major Mayan historical sites in the country, there is little tourist infrastructure and there is, unfortunately, a fair amount of crime. Visitors should be on their guard, as in any underdeveloped country, and not take unnecessary risks. However, the national parks are well protected and very safe. For a general birding vacation, El Salvador is probably not the best choice, considering what the neighbouring countries have to offer, but there is still some great birding to be had.

Top Sites

El Imposible National Park

Satellite View

This is El Salvador's largest protected area. There are several habitats, but the main one is tropical dry forest. A recent book edited by Oliver Komar and Juan Marco Alvarez, has sections on birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, butterflies, and flora found in the park, each written by the expert in the field. The bird section by Oliver Komar includes a list of 282 species and photos of 60 of them. Good birds to look out for include: King Vulture, Black Hawk-Eagle, Long-tailed Manakin and Blue Seedeater. Recently, a lodge opened up just outside the park entrance offering good quality accommodation at a reasonable price (Hostal El Imposible, managed by SalvaNATURA). To enter the park, you need to obtain permission in advance from Salva Natura [See organisations below] Tel 279 1515, fax 279 0220), but if you are staying at the lodge they can arrange this for you when you arrive. There are also three camping areas within the park.

Los Volcanes National Park (Cerro Verde, Izalco and Santa Ana volcanoes)

Satellite View

Cerro Verde is one of the best known birding sites in the country. It is mostly cloud forest, with such regional specialties as Green-throated Mountain-gem, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Rufous-browed Wren, Bushy-crested Jay and White-faced Quail-Dove. You can drive all the way to the top of Cerro Verde, where the views over the crater lake on one side and the newly dormant, volcano on the other, are quite breathtaking. Tourist police will escort visitors up the neighbouring volcanoes, which should not be climbed without a guard. Foreigners can enter without prior permission, as long as they have a passport with them, though locals need to get permission in advance from ISTU (Tel 222 8000, fax 222 8455). More information is also available at SalvaNATURA's website. [see Organisations below] This organization is working on conservation of the national park.

Montecristo National Park

Satellite View

El Trifinio, the highest point in the park, marks the meeting point of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. All three countries have declared their respective sides of the frontier a national park, but the best access is from the Salvadorean side, which has cabins and camping areas just outside the main cloud forest zone. The highest area is good quality cloud forest, below which lies pine and pine-oak forest. The lower slopes also have some tropical dry forest. There are many regional specialties here, such as Black-capped Swallow, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Highland Guan, Rufous-browed Wren and Rufous-collared Thrush. To enter the park, permission needs to be obtained from the Ministry of the Environment about a week in advance. Information in Spanish is on their website, http://www.marn.gob.sv

Contributor

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 606

(As at September 2018)

National Bird: Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa (aka Torogoz)

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas

(Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador) | By Ernest Preston Edwards & Edward Murrell Butler | University of Texas Press | 1998 | Paperback | 209 pages, 51 colour plates, 1 map |

ISBN: 0292720912

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Central America

(Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama) | By Andrew Vallely & Dale Dyer | Princeton University Press | 2018 | Paperback | 560 pages, 260 plates with colour illustrations; 1190+ colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9780691138022

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America

(Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) | By Jesse Fagan, Oliver Komar, Robert Dean & Peter Burke | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 2016 | Paperback | 438 pages, 189 plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9780544373266

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

BirdLife

SalvaNatura is the BirdLife Affiliate: SalvaNATURA, Finca Vista Alegre Km 3 ½, Planes de Randeros, San Salvador, SV info@salvanatura.org

Organisations

Asociacion Audubon de El Salvador

Milagro Harrouch, PO Box 2166, Centro de Gobierno Planta, Local No. 2, Calle Poniente, Condominio Montemaria, Edificio A, San Salvador, El Salvador Telephone: (503)298-0811/ Fax: (503)274-9180 E-mail: harrouch@es.com.sv

SalvaNATURA (BirdLife Affiliate)

Website

Our mission is to contribute to the recovery and conservation of the environment and natural resources, in order to achieve sustainable development, and improve the quality of life in El Salvador and the Mesoamerican region.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

BR WII Jiquilisco Bay

Information

Satellite View

Jiquilisco Bay's mangrove-lined inlets host the largest abundance of coastal-marine birds in the El Salvador, many of which are threatened or endangered. Over 80 species of migratory birds visit the area to feed on the bay's fish.

NP El Boqueron Park

Information

Satellite View

El Boqueron Park, is located on top of the San Salvador Volcano at 5,905 feet (1800 meters) the park's main attraction is a crater five kilometers in diameter and 558 meters deep. In addition, there is a small crater within the crater named “Boqueroncito” (little Boquerón). El Boquerón has a cool temperate climate year round. The park is home to many plant species identified as ornamentals such as “cartuchos”, hydrangeas, begonias and wild “sultanas”. There is wildlife such as armadillos, raccoons, deer, foxes, among others

NP El Imposible

Information

Satellite View

El Imposible National ParkBecause of it size and biological diversity, El Imposible National Park is considered the most important natural area of El Salvador. The park is home to more than 400 species of trees and 500 species of birds. It is the only habitat in the country for some mammals, and furthermore, it has five rivers with the country's most crystalline water.

NP Los Volcanes

Information

Satellite View

Parque Nacional Los Volcanes, also known as Cerro Verde National Park, is a large national park in El Salvador. The park includes three volcanoes: Cerro Verde, Izalco, and Santa Ana. About 200 species recorded, although the best birds are in the least diverse habitat: cloud forest. The tourist park at Cerro Verde is the most easily accessed cloud forest in El Salvador, although it is just a small patch. It may be the easiest place to observe Eye-ringed Flatbill, and other specialties include Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Emerald Toucanet…

NP Montecristo

Information

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Twenty-six species of birds are known in El Salvador only from this park, and 21 occur in the cloud forest…

NP Walter Thilo Deininger

Webpage

Satellite View

Birds include Gray-headed Kite, Gray Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Blue-throated Goldentail, Violaceous and Elegant Trogons, Collared Aracari, Black Phoebe, Rose-throated Becard, and Red-throated Ant-Tanager.

WII Cerrón Grande Lake

Information

Satellite View

The Cerrón Grande reservoir is the largest body of fresh water in El Salvador covering approximately 470 km2 (180 square miles) of adjacent area is listed as a "Wetland of International Importance" under the Ramsar Convention. The area provides a habitat for large numbers of waterbird, duck and fish species.

WII Lake Olomega

Information

Satellite View

This wetland, which measures 7,557 hectares, serves as the resting and feeding ground for many migratory birds. A report of the Ramsar Convention details show that the lagoon is home to several endangered species, such as the royal duck & dark ibis.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Green Trips El Salvador

Tour Operator

Sustainable Tourism - Trips To National Parks and Protected Areas - smo en Parque Nacionales y Areas Naturales Protegidas en El Salvador

Gringo Tours

Tour Operator

Gringo Tours has been offering Birding tours in El Salvador since 2012. We can make all your arrangements whether you are traveling alone or with a group of friends. We work with local guides and in communities to make your birding in El Salvador the best.

Julio Acosta - Birding Guide

Twitter Website

Welcome to El Salvador! I am Julio Acosta. My passion for wildlife led me into this fascinating world of birding and I am here to show you our beautiful birds.

Salvadorean Tours

Tour Operator

Birding tour in San Salvador is a good chance to introduce you into El Salvador local species; looking some of them missing for check on your list? Or probably just for appreciate the nature and fauna, this is the opportunity to do it in company with our professional guides.

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Perkin Lenca

Accommodation

Fresh air, clean rivers, orchids, singing birds, forests, coffee farms, butterflies, waterfalls, caves, history, peace and quiet…. the largest natural area in El Salvador, and PERKIN LENCA, Hotel de Montaña right in the middle of it.

Museums

Parque Zoologico Nacional El Salvador

Facebook Page

Zoo Nacional in San Salvador is almost due south of the city centre…

Other Links

Biodiversity & Tropical Forest in El Salvador

PDF Report

Preliminary inventories of the country indicate there is an overwhelming biological diversity: over 500 species of birds, almost 1,000 species of butterflies, over 400 species of orchids, over 800 species of trees, and over 800 species of marine fish…

Mayan Birding

Website

Mesoamerica is a big destination for foreign birdwatchers. It forms the bridge between the largely temperate species of North America and the tropical species of South America. It is home to a large number of endemics, many of which are much sought after by the bird watching connoisseur, such as the Resplendent Quetzal and the Horned Guan. However, the majority of birders visiting Mesoamerica confine their birding to Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and Panama, leaving Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua as relative birding backwaters. This is a terrible shame as there is some fantastic birding to be had. Throughout the 1980s three of these countries suffered from civil wars which put off many visitors, but now the countries have stabilized it is time for birders to return and find out what they have been missing.