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.
Click 'Get Birds Seen' to see a map with map pins on locations of the latest recorded sightings of rare or unusual birds.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 764
National Bird: Resplendant Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno
Number of endemics: 1
Well there used to be one, the Atitlan Grebe Podilymbus gigas, which is now extinct.
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
A Birders Checklist of the Birds of Guatemala
by Dave Sargeant 22 pages, 720+ species. 1995
ISBN: 82597Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas
by Ernest Preston Edwards, Edward Murrell Butler (Illustrator) Hardcover - 288 pages (July 1998) University of Texas Press
ISBN: 0292720920Buy this book from NHBS.com
Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Guatemala
by Knut Eisermann & Claudia Avendaño Lynx 2007
ISBN: 849655340XBuy this book from NHBS.com
Helm Identification Guides: Birds of the West Indies
Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith, Janis Raffaele, Tracy Pedersen (Illustrator); Kristin Williams (Illustrator) Hardcover - 511 pages (29 May, 1998) Christopher Helm
ISBN: 0713649054Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Birds of Tikal - An Annotated Checklist for Tikal National Park
R A Beavers 154 pages, 16 b/w photos, 3 maps. Texas A & M University Press 1992 ISBN: 0890965250
ISBN: 0890965250Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Bird Watching Guatemala
There are more than 700 species in Guatemala, thirty five a regional endemics and 40 others only occur in Central America…
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….
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
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.
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…
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.
2006 [03 March] - Dan Leach
In November, 2005, myself and two friends, seasoned traveling companions Doug Allen and Steve Dunbar, committed to a long-awaited eleven-day birding trip to Belize. Steve and I had already made a couple of short trips to Yucatan, but Doug was our resident veteran; he’s made several visits to Mexico, the Yucatan and Belize, and it was at his urging that we added a couple of days to the itinerary, in order to visit fabled Tikal, in northeastern Guatemala’s Peten rainforest. In spite of a brief but severe illness during our stay, the three of us enjoyed a fantastic introduction to the creatures, environments, and people of this diverse area, as this trip report hopes to adequately describe…
2006 [12 December] - Knut Eisermann - Tikal Bird Count
The first Christmas Bird Count in Tikal was conducted on 14 December 2006, organized by Cayaya Birding, in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society Guatemala, Tikal National Park, and CONAP (National Council of Protected Areas), and supported by Hotel Jaguar Inn Tikal, PROEVAL RAXMU Bird Monitoring Program, Ornithological Society of Guatemala, and independent birding guides…
2007 [05 May] - Alan Van Norman
In 2005, my wife and I went to Guatemala on holiday for a week in November. During that trip, we arranged a 3 day birding trip with Cayaya Birding to look for the Horned Guan. We had a very successful (albeit very strenuous) hike up the side of Volcano Atitlan, the highlight of which was prolonged looks at two Horned Guans looking back at us…
2013 [02 February] - Paul Buckley - Belize and North Eastern Guatemala
…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
…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
…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
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.
2013 [04 April] - Dave Sergeant
…Everything worked extremely well and Cayaya can be highly recommended. The trip was extremely successful, with some highlights including Horned Guan, Pink-headed Warbler, Bearded Screech Owl and Wine-throated Hummingbird to name a few….
2015 [03 March] - Tim Mitzen
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
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
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
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 realized 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
...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....
Places to Stay
Chelemhá Lodge and cloud forest reserve is located at an altitude of 2000 m (6560 ft) in the Guatemalan highlands. Numerous regional endemic bird species can be seen from the observation balconies, including Blue-throated Motmot, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, and Green-throated Mountain-gem. Hummingbird feeders attract eight species, including Garnet-throated and Amethyst-throated hummingbirds, as well as Green-throated Mountain-gem. Numerous cloud forest birds can be seen along the trails through primary forest, such as Resplendent Quetzal and Highland Guan.
El Sombrero Ecolodge - Yaxhá Lagoon, Peten
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
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
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.
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…
Guatemala Birding Club
spacio dedicado a disfrutar de la observación de aves en Guatemala. Compartimos información, experiencias y el placer de ver aves…
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
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.
Museo Nacional de Historia Natural
Colectar, estudiar, preservar y exhibir muestras representativas de la biodiversidad y de otros recursos naturales de Guatemala…
Los Tarrales Reserve
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…
Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve
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.
Tikal National Park
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…
Wetlands of International Importance
Guatemala currently has seven sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 628,592 hectares.
Checklist - Birds of Guatemala
Golden-cheeked Warbler Conservation
This Defensores de la Naturaleza project was designed after the First Symposium on the conservation of golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) in the subtropics, which designated Sierra de las Minas in Guatemala as a launching site for starting conservation projects, since this is the only protected area for the golden-cheeked warbler while it is a resident migrant…
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…