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Republic of Guatemala

PinkHead
Pink-headed warbler Cardellina versicolor ©Knut Eisermann Website

Birding Guatemala

Guatemala covers 108,900 sq km ranging in altitude from sea level to 4,200 m (13,800 ft). The country's topography includes steep mountain ranges and volcano chains, weather-protected interior valleys and lowland areas exposed to water-loaded warm air masses from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as coast along the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The rough topography causes a high diversity of habitats, including lowland rainforests, mountain cloud forests, pine-oak forests, high-altitude fir forests, alpine scrub and savannahs, arid thorn scrub, mangroves, extensive interior and coastal wetlands.

A total of 21 Important Bird Areas have been designated by BirdLife International* and approximately a third of the Guatemala's land area is legally protected.

The Guatemalan mountains are part of the highlands ranging from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico to the Lake of Nicaragua. These highlands harbour a number of endemic bird species and have been designated as Endemic Bird Area EBA 018 (Northern Central American Highlands)**.

Guatemala is the core area of distribution for many of these endemics, and some of them, such as Horned Guan, Bearded Screech-Owl, Black-capped Siskin, Pink-headed Warbler, Goldman’s Warbler, and Azure-rumped Tanager occur only in the highlands of Guatemala and the neighbouring Mexican state of Chiapas.

Guatemala is an attractive birding destination with more than 740 bird species formally recorded, a well-maintained road system, a network of comfortable lodges and hotels, private and state nature reserves. In addition, unlike any other Central American countries, Guatemala has a vibrant living Mayan culture combined with an impressive pre-Columbian Mayan history, witnessed by top-notch birding sites such as Tikal with its towering temple pyramids amidst the vast rainforest.

*Eisermann, K. & C. Avendaño (2009) Guatemala. Pp. 235-242 In: C. Devenish, D. F. Diaz Fernández, R. P. Clay, I. Davidson & I. Y. Zabala (eds.) Important Bird Areas Americas, priority sites for biodiversity conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series 16. Birdlife International, Quito, Ecuador.

**Stattersfield, A. J., M. J. Crosby, A. J. Long, & D. C. Wege (1998) Endemic bird areas of the world: priorities for biodiversity conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series No. 7. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Contributor

Knut Eisermann

Co-owner Cayaya Birding

Guatemala Ciudad, Guatemala

ke@cayaya-birding.com

Cayaya Birding

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 762

(As at September 2018)

National Bird: Resplendant Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno

Endemics

The Atitlan Grebe Podilymbus gigas, was endemic but is now extinct.

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

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

Useful Reading

A Birders Checklist of the Birds of Guatemala

by Dave Sargeant | Dave Sargeant | 1995 | Spiralbound | 22 pages, 720+ species |

ISBN: #82597

Buy this book from NHBS.com

A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas

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

Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Guatemala

by Knut Eisermann & Claudia Avendaño | Lynx Edicions | 2007 | Paperback | 175 pages, Tabs, distribution maps, figs |

ISBN: 9788496553408

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

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Birds of Guatemala

(The Quetzal, Trogons and Hummingbirds) | By Milton Martínez G | Milton Martínez G | 2013 | Paperback | 113 pages, colour photos |

ISBN: 9781493503506

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Birds of the West Indies

By Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith & Janis Raffaele | Christopher Helm | 2003 | Paperback | 216 pages, 92 colour plates, 181 colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 0713654198

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Guatemala: Pacific Slope Birds

By Robert Dean & Mark Wainwright | Rainforest Publications | 2011 | Unbound | 14 pages, colour illustrations |

ISBN: 9781888538182

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The Birds of Tikal

(An Annotated Checklist for Tikal National Park) | By R A Beavers | Texas A & M University Press | 1992 | Paperback | 154 pages, 16 b/w photos, 3 maps |

ISBN: 0890965188

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Organisations

Guatemala Birding Club

Facebook Page

Observación de aves y naturaleza en Guatemala, descubriendo destinos,apoyando y desarrollando proyectos orientados a la conservaciòn de los recursos naturales y la educacion ambiental en Guatemala.

Guatemalan Birding Resource Center

Our mission at GBRC is to promote quality birding in Guatemala, making it as affordable, accessible, rewarding and fun as possible for both resident and visiting birdwatchers, while at the same time advancing environmental education and conservation efforts through workshops and donations…

Proeval Raxmu - Bird Monitoring Program

Website

Proeval Raxmu Bird Monitoring Program, based in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, focuses on bird studies in Guatemala, including distribution status of birds, evaluations of local avifaunas, natural history of selected bird species, evaluations of threatened species, and identification of critical areas for conservation. The program has contributed to Guatemalan ornithology in numerous publications since 2002, helps to develop environmental awareness among local people, and provides information for conservation projects.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

BR Maya

Information

Satellite View

The park is home to a large number of species of fauna including Morelet's crocodile and the ocellated turkey.

BR Sierra de las Minas

Information

Satellite View

One of the truly wild places in Guatemala is the east-western mountain range that runs through the country’s southeast highlands. The mountains encompass part of the Baja Verapaz and Izabal departments at the eastern part of Guatemala City.

BR Trifinio

Information

Satellite View

The Montecristo massif is an area where the borders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador meet, and its protection was a joint initiative of these three countries. The Trifinio biosphere reserve is located where El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras meet their border, thus the prefix tri in its name. It covers an area of 221 km2 and was created in 1987 to protect the Montecristo's cloud forest and its rare flora and fauna.

BR Visis Cabá

Information

Satellite View

The Visis Cabá biosphere reserve is a 450 km2 (170 sq mi) protected area in the department of El Quiché

NP El Rosario

Information

Satellite View

he park is named after laguna El Rosario, a small lake within its boundaries, and was formerly a state owned finca managed by the National Forestry Institute (INAB).

NP Lachuá Lake

Information

Satellite View

The park and adjacent buffer zone is noted for its high biodiversity. With 120 species of mammals (50% of mammal species found in Guatemala), 30-40 species of reptiles, 177 bird species (40% of bird species in Guatemala), and 36 fish species it is a sanctuary for a varied fauna population.

NP Laguna del Tigre

Information

Satellite View

Laguna del Tigre National Park is located in northern Guatemala, in the municipality of San Andrés, department of Petén. Covering an area of 337,899 ha, makes it the largest Core Zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) and the largest National Park in Guatemala and the largest protected wetlands in Central America.

NP Laguna El Pino

Information

Satellite View

In 1955 the lake, and a minor part of the lake shores, were designated a national park. The park, including the lake, covers an area of 0.73 km² and is managed by the National Forestry Institute (INAB) in conjunction with representatives of the local population. Species of waterfowl breeding in the lake area include Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Waterhen (Gallinula galeata), American Coot (Fulica americana) and Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa).

NP Las Victorias

Information

Satellite View

Las Victorias National Park is located in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, on the north-western outskirts of the city of Cobán.

NP Naciones Unidas

Information

Satellite View

Naciones Unidas National Park is a forested park area of 4.91 km2, located 21 km south of Guatemala City.

NP Pacaya

Information

Satellite View

Pacaya is an active complex volcano in Guatemala, which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish invasion of Guatemala.

NP San José la Colonia

Information

Satellite View

Formerly a nationalized finca, San José la Colonia was designated a national park in 1976. The park covers an area of 54 ha, and is managed by the National Forestry Institute (INAB)

NP Sipacate-Naranjo

Information

Satellite View

The park includes mangrove forests, lagoons and sandy beaches and covers an area of 20 km long and 1 km wide, stretching between the coastal towns of Sipacate and Naranjo. Over 90 bird species -both migratory and resident- have been reported.

NP Tikal

Website

Satellite View

The avifauna comprises 333 species, representing 63 of the 74 families in Guatemala, and includes ocellated turkey Agriocharis ocellata, Sarcorhamphus papa, Crax rubra, Penelope purpurascens, red macaw Ara macao, jaribu stork Jaribu mycteria and many others, including crested eagle Spizaetus ornatus…

NR IBA Los Tarrales Reserve

Website

Satellite View

The spanish word tarral means amount of bamboo stands. Los Tarrales Reserve was named after the abundant bamboos, which occur in various species in this area. Los Tarrales was declared protected area by the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) in 2000. Bird Watching Los Tarrales reserve ranges from the lowlands at 750 m elevation to the top of the volcano at 3500 m, providing different bird habitats. More than 350 bird species have been recorded in Los Tarrales. The preserve is part of the Atitlán Important Bird Area (IBA GT015), designated by BirdLife International.

Wetlands of International Importance

Webpage

Guatemala currently has seven sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 628,592 hectares.

WR Punta de Manabique

Information

Satellite View

The peninsula was declared a wildlife reserve in 1999. The reserve is covered with tropical rain forests and mangrove forests. Many species of seabirds are found in the reserve, from the orders of Charadriiformes), Pelecaniformes, Ciconiiformes.

Guides & Tour Operators

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

Bird Watching Guatemala

Tour Company

There are more than 700 species in Guatemala, thirty five a regional endemics and 40 others only occur in Central America…

Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

Guatemala is blessed with some amazing habitats for birds, from the steaming volcanoes of the highlands of southern Guatemala to the hot jungles of the Mayan empire. Birding in Guatemala is an unforgettable experience….

Cayaya Birding

Tour Operator

We offer tailored (including target bird trips) and scheduled birding tours in Guatemala since 2003, as well as assistance for independent birding travellers. We are passionate birders and guides, live and study birds in Guatemala and have published numerous contributions to Guatemalan ornithology, including an Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Guatemala.

Maya Expeditions

Tour Company

Paul Scharf has been an avid birder for more than 36 years. He is a member of the American Birding Association (ABA) and since his retirement from the U.S. Armed Forces Paul has dedicated more time to his passion…

Trip Reports

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

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.

2013 [02 February] - Paul Buckley - Belize and North Eastern Guatemala

Report

…As with all such trips we missed some birds which were supposed to be very common (Variable seedeater!) but also saw a few species that we never really expected to (Pheasant cuckoo, Spotted Wood quail, Marbled godwit, Strong-billed wood creeper)…

2013 [03 March] - Jesse Fagan

Report

…Birding highlights included that responsive Pheasant Cuckoo at Tikal (a lifer look even for the guide!). We could have seen that one from the pool sipping a margarita with a small umbrella! Also, the Fulvous Owl at Las Nubes, our Orange-breasted Falcon on Temple IV, and the male Resplendent Quetzal with its long streamers in flight; they all shared top honors…

2013 [03 March] - Mike Nelson

Report

…our first regional endemic the Bushy-crested Jay no further than 50 feet from the parking lot. Some nice trails go through here and within a short time we’d found a group of noisy Band-backed Wrens along with several Great-tailed Grackles. Further along the trails we picked up Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Blue-and-White Mockingbird, Clay-colored Thrush, White-eared Hummingbird and in an open area we found a female Painted Bunting and circling above us several Vaux’s Swifts. On the journey back we found a Buff-browed Wood Partridge feeding in a willow down slope from us. Several Townsend’s Warbler…

2013 [03 March] - Mike Nelson & Eduardo Orameche

Report

For some time the lure of Horned Guan had drawn me to Guatemala. Having looked through a few itineraries in the past and having done some research into the many unique species in the region, it was with a keen sense of expectation that I looked forward to visiting the region and scouting some of the fantastic birding spots this country has to offer.

2015 [03 March] - Tim Mitzen

PDF Report

I made a quick week-long trip down to Guatemala in search of the Northern Central American Highlands endemic bird species. I have previously birded Mexico as far south as Chiapas before but never made it into the highlands there, so there were loads of new birds for me to look for.

2015 [12 December] - David A Showler - Belize and Tikal area, Guatemala

Report

We spent 16 days birding in Belize and Guatemala in December 2015. Upon arrival we travelled by bus from Belize City to the Guatemalen border, and onwards to El Remate village/ Tikal National Park where we spent three very enjoyable days. Upon return to Belize City we hired a 4-wheel drive jeep for 10 days, exploring as far north as Tower Hill Bridge (near Orange Walk), south to The Dump and Pueblo Viejo, with our last two nights on the island of Caye Caulker...

2016 [01 January] - Adam Walleyn

PDF Report

A highlight here was scoping up several Turquoise-browed Motmot and we also saw a number of widespread Central American lowland species such as Keel-billed Toucan, Montezuma Oropendola and Laughing Falcon, alongside an impressive list of North American migrants that included Hooded Warbler, Ovenbird and Chestnut-sided Warbler...

2016 [02 February] - Geoff Upton - Guatemala & Belize

PDF Report

Following enjoyable trips to Costa Rica and the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, we wanted to see some more of Central America and particularly to experience the birds and Mayan temples at Tikal. As we researched Guatemala we realised the country has a great deal more to offer besides Tikal, so we decided to start there and finish up on the Caribbean coast of Belize...

2016 [02 February] - Jesse Fagan

Report

...There were lots of favorites, including Resplendent Quetzal (Sid especially liked this one), King Vulture (Bonnie's favorite), Fulvous Owl (wow!), the oh-so-cute Wine-throated Hummingbird singing his little heart out (Judy just melted), Pheasant Cuckoo (I will have to agree with David on this one; amazing experience!), Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Mary Lou's favorite), and what about Rick? Do you remember the Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo? Hard not to. However, it was pretty unanimous within the group: the "frosty-headed" Pink-headed Warbler won by a landslide....

2017 [01 January] - Dušan Brinkhuizen

PDF Report

...A few stops en route produced nice sightings of White-fronted Amazon, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Velasquez's Woodpecker and a perched Laughing Falcon. Targets, including White-lored Gnatcatcher, Nutting’s Flycatcher and Plain-capped Starthroat, were fairly easily found. Karen spotted a superb Russet-crowned Motmot that we saw really well...

2017 [02 February] - Jesse Fagan

Report

...Guatemala is a super birdy country, and this year was no exception. With 364 bird taxa we had an awesome total! There were a bunch of highlights, including Highland Guans (do you all remember the sound of their wing rattle?!), Ornate Hawk-Eagle (soaring over us at Las Guacamayas), Fulvous Owl (that cackling pair at Finca Las Nubes), Black-and-white Owl (two different sites), the tiny Wine-throated Hummingbird, Resplendent Quetzal (new for Simone!), wild Scarlet Macaws, and Pink-headed Warbler (really "Frosty-headed" Warbler).....

2017 [02 February] - Peter Herrera - Belize & Tikal

Report

2017 [03 March] - George Lin

PDF Report

While we waited for the guan to show up, we also saw and heard several species like the Mexican Violetear, Greenthroated Mountain-gem, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Rufous Sabrewing, Black-throated Jay, and Hammond’s Flycatcher. The beautiful melodious calls of a Brown-backed Solitaire echoed in the gully all morning. It was a very good start to this Guatemala trip...

2017 [04 April] - Jacob Drucker

PDF Report

This report serves as an overview for anyone interested in traveling through the Guatemalan Highlands in search of regionally endemic bird species without the use of a rental car or private tour. As of March 2017, the only independent trip reports on cloudbirders from the region utilized these more costly resources. From the last few days of March into the first few of April, my partner Lila Fried and I embarked on a 9-day adventure in search the several specialties, entering, traveling within, and leaving the country almost entirely by public transit.

2017 [04 April] - Jacob Drucker - Guatemalan Highlands

PDF Report

...my eyes connected with something raspberry-colored and hover gleaning. It landed, and at the same time I processed the frosted-iridescent pink head and deep burgundy mantle of my lifer PINKHEADED WARBLER, I heard my first-ever Brown-backed Solitaire. My brain short-circuited and deep-fried itself in adrenaline at the sight and sound of these sensory novelties. Going apeshit, I followed the warbler some 20 meters up the birding trail, where it and its mate foraged at eye-level within 10 meters for about 20 minutes, saucily skirting along branches in the under-midstory,....

2017 [11 November] - Byron Palacios

Report

Most of us had a very quiet but irregular night due to the jetlag, but we were still full of energy to hit the trail right from the top and started our birding with Black-capped Swallows, Black-headed Siskin, Bushy-crested Jays, Townsend’s Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Great-tailed Grackles and Black and Turkey Vultures, amongst others. The track itself produced a few interesting species such as Squirrel Cuckoo, Slate-throated Whitestart, Band-backed Wren, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Tennessee Warbler and Acorn Woodpecker; down at the finca’s swimming pools, the hummingbird feeders offered fantastic views of a good number of species of these colourful and fast, feathered gems, such as Beryline Hummingbird, Greenthroated Mountain-gem, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Green Violetear, Violet Sabrewing, Magnificent Hummingbird, Rufous Sabrewing, and White-eared Hummingbird.

2018 [02 February] - Peter Herrera - Belize & Tikal

PDF Report

The group was in flight to Belize City, via an overnight stay in Miami...

Places to Stay

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

El Sombrero Ecolodge - Yaxhá Lagoon, Peten

Eco-Lodge

The rainforest around the lagoon will enable you to enjoy different types of vegetation and appreciate a wide variety of birds, butterflies and mammals…

Hacienda Tijax - Fronteras, Rio Dulce

Accommodation

Flowers, ferns, orchids, bromeliads, butterflies and other insects are easy to see. We have over 70 species of trees and 330 documented bird species: falcons, kites, owls and hummingbirds being most common in our area…

Los Tarrales Reserve - Atitlán Volcano

Eco-Lodge

Birdwatching on the Guatemalan Pacific slope and Atitlán volcano - Horned Guan, Highland Guan, Rufous Sabrewing, Long-tailed Manakin and much more. Los Tarrales can keep you busy for some days! In order to enjoy to the full the different activities in our reserve and to get to know Los Tarrales from the tropical lowland up to the top of Atitlan volcano, we invite you to stay in our eco-lodge or if you like it more adventurous there is our camping site. We also serve excellent nutricious meals prepared with ingredients from our own organic garden and of course Los Tarrales coffee.

Ni'tun Ecolodge

Eco-Lodge

The sounds of water… the songs of birds… and the choirs of nature by night give you an intimate sense of communion with yourself and the world around you…

Museums

Museo Nacional de Historia Natural

Information

Colectar, estudiar, preservar y exhibir muestras representativas de la biodiversidad y de otros recursos naturales de Guatemala…

Other Links

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…