Republic of Nicaragua

Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa ©Katja Schulz (Creative Commons) Website
Birding Nicaragua

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua is a representative democratic republic. It is the largest state in Central America with an area of 130,000 km2. Nicaragua is the least densely populated country in Central America (42/km2) with 5,600,000 people. The country is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west of the country, the Caribbean Sea to the east. Falling within the tropics, Nicaragua sits 11 degrees north of the Equator, in the Northern Hemisphere.The origin of the name ‘Nicaragua’ is unclear; one theory is that it was coined by Spanish colonists based upon the name of the local chief at that time, Nicarao; another is that it may have meant ‘surrounded by water’ in an indigenous language (this could either be a reference to its two large freshwater lakes, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua, or to the fact that it bounded on the east and the west by oceans.

Nicaragua occupies a landmass of 129,494 km² – roughly the size of Greece or the state of New York and 1.5 times larger than Portugal. Close to 20% of the country’s territory is designated as protected areas such as national parks, nature reserves and biological reserves. The country is bordered by Costa Rica on the south and Honduras on the north, with the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific Lowlands, the North-Central Highlands or highlands and the Atlantic Lowlands.

Pacific LowlandsLocated in the west of the country, these lowlands consist of a broad, hot, fertile plain. Punctuating this plain are several large volcanoes of the Marrabios mountain range, including Mombacho just outside Granada, and Momotombo near León. The lowland area runs from the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua’s Pacific border with Costa Rica south of Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater lake in Central America (20th largest in the world), and is home to the world’s only freshwater sharks (Nicaraguan shark). The Pacific lowlands region is the most populous, with over half of the nation’s population. The capital city of Managua is the most populous and it is the only city with over 1.5 million inhabitants.In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific Lowlands is also the repository for much of Nicaragua’s Spanish colonial heritage. Cities such as León and Granada abound in colonial architecture and artifacts; Granada, founded in 1524, is the oldest colonial city in the Americas.

North-Central HighlandsThis is an upland region away from the Pacific coast, with a cooler climate than the Pacific Lowlands. About a quarter of the country’s agriculture takes place in this region, with coffee grown on the higher slopes. Oaks, pines, moss, ferns and orchids are abundant in the cloud forests of the region.

Bird life in the forests of the central region includes Resplendent Quetzal, goldfinches, hummingbirds, jays and toucanets.

Atlantic LowlandsThis large rainforest region, irrigated by several large rivers and very sparsely populated. The Rio Coco is the largest river in Central America, it forms the border with Honduras. The Caribbean coastline is much more sinuous than its generally straight Pacific counterpart; lagoons and deltas make it very irregular.Nicaragua’s Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is located in the Atlantic lowlands, it protects 1.8 million acres (7,300 km²) of Mosquitia forest – almost seven percent of the country’s area – making it the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil.Nicaragua’s tropical east coast is very different from the rest of the country. The climate is predominantly tropical, with high temperature and high humidity. Around the area’s principal city of Bluefields, English is widely spoken along with the official Spanish. The population more closely resembles that found in many typical Caribbean ports than the rest of Nicaragua.A great variety of birds can be observed including eagles, turkeys, toucans, parakeets and macaws. Animal life in the area includes different species of monkeys, ant-eaters, white-tailed deer and tapirs.

Wildlife and BiodiversityRainforest in Nicaragua covers more than 2,000,000 ha, particularly on the Atlantic lowlands. As well as the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve (in the north) there is the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve (in the south), which protects 2,500km² of the Atlantic Rainforest. These two areas are very rich in biodiversity. There are 5 species of cats, including jaguar and cougar; 3 species of primates, spider monkey, howler monkey and capuchin monkey; 1 species of tapir, called Danto for the Nicaraguans; 3 species of anteaters and many more.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 781

    National Bird: Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa

    Of the 781 bird species, 54 are rare or accidental and four have been introduced by humans. None are endemic.

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

  • A Guide to the Birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras

    | By R S Ridgely & J A Gwynne | Princeton University Press | 1992 | Paperback | 534 pages, 48 colour plates, 53 line illustrations | ISBN: 9780691025124 Buy this book from
  • 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
  • Birds of Nicaragua: A Field Guide

    | By Liliana Chavarría-Duriaux, Robert Dean & David C Hille | Comstock Publishing Associates | 2018 | Paperback | 480 pages, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781501701580 Buy this book from
  • Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua

    | By Juan Martínez-Sánchez, Liliana Chavarría-Duriaux & Francisco José Muñoz | VerlagsKG Wolf | 2014 | Paperback | 250 pages, 97 plates with colour illustrations; 2 b/w maps | ISBN: 9783866171183 Buy this book from
  • Nicaragua: Pacific Slope Birds

    | By Robert Dean | Rainforest Publications | 2011 | Unbound | 13 pages, colour illustrations, colour map | ISBN: 9780984010707 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in Nicaragua

    | By Bill Volkert | Puffbird Endeavors | 2014 | Spiralbound | 251 pages, colour photos, b/w maps | ISBN: 9781886284852 Buy this book from
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Nicaragua

    WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

Abbreviations Key

  • CFR El Jaguar

    Facebook PageSatellite View
    El Jaguar is a sanctuary for a large number of birds, migratory and residents. In April 2002 a research team from the COCIBOLCA Foundation as part of the National Important Bird Areas Program from BirdLife International, financed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) rediscovered in El Jaguar, for the first time in Nicaragua since 1891, the Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia). At the same time, the research team detected the presence of the resident Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus); both species are threatened worldwide.
  • CFR Mombacho

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    On top of the inactive Mombacho Volcano you will find the 2,500-acre Mombacho Cloud Forest Reserve where stunning cloud forest flora can be observed. The reserve is southwest of Managua near Lake Cocibolca - also known as Lake Nicaragua - and is surrounded by small farms and coffee plantations
  • CFR Selva Negra

    InformationSatellite View
    This is a privately owned reserve with a difference. The reserve forest is part of an organic shade coffee operation and hotel project. This coffee hacienda is praiseworthy as it is 100% ecologically sustainable. Everything here is carefully recycled. The forest is a great place to go hiking and you are likely to see howler monkey as well as plenty of birds along the way.
  • NR Chocoyero-El Brujo

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    Chocoyero-El Brujo is one of 78 protected areas in Nicaragua, and at just 455 acres this tropical forest is one of the smallest in size. The large amount of biodiversity is obvious, with bird species estimated at 113 species, some of which include toucans, hummingbirds, and green Pacific parakeets
  • NR Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve

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    The Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve, named after the Indio and Maiz rivers, has an area of 2500 Km2. The Reserve is the refuge for wild species such as turtles, primates, jaguars, birds, reptiles and fish…
  • NR Isla Juan Venado

    InformationSatellite View
    The stunning Juan Venado Island is situated near the fascinating city of León to the south of the beaches of Las Peñitas and Poneloya. Bird watching enthusiasts will find the island a real treat as it is home to 106 bird species.
  • National Parks in Nicaragua

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    Nicaragua has some 78 nature reserves, parks and wildlife sanctuaries filled with amazing diversity. Many of Nicaragua’s National Parks provide nearby lodging to limit wilderness camping and further damage to the environment.
  • PWR Domitila

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    2018 Update: this reserve has been closed permanently to the public
  • WR Los Guatuzos

    InformationSatellite View
    Los Guatuzos is a protected area consisting of tropical wetlands, rainforest, and wildlife refuge, it is the only internationally registered tropical wetland area in Nicaragua. The number of recorded species of birds living in the wildlife refuge is recorded at over 389, which doesn't include the thousands of migratory birds that frequently visit the refuge.
  • Wetlands of International Importance

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Nicaragua currently has nine sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 406,852 hectares.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Merlin Birding & Nature Tours

    Tour Operator
    Visiting Nicaragua is reminiscent of what Costa Rica was like 30 years ago, minus the long drives. At times, you'll truly get the sense that you stepped back in time in this charming country.
  • Tours in Nicaragua

    Tour Operator
    In Nicaragua’s 78 precious nature parks nature is king. Mankind is just a footnote. This natural history tour visits two of Nicaragua’s most important rain forest reserves.
Trip Reports
  • 2018 [02 February] - Robert Gallardo

    PDF Report
    ...We saw Spot-breasted Oriole, Russet-naped Wren, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and Orange-fronted Parakeet. Pablo showed up and we embarked on a two-hour city tour of Managua to learn about its recent historical and political past...
  • 2018 [02 February] - Robert Gallardo

    PDF Report
    Annotated List
Places to Stay
  • La Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel

    Over the seven years that we have been open, the Mariposa has made strenuous efforts to conserve, protect and increase the bird and general wildlife on our tiny piece of land.
  • Montecristo Riverside Lodge

    Montecristo is a riverside lodge in the tropical rainforest, within the Private Montecristo Wildland Reserve
  • Nicaragua Guesthouse - Managua

    Stay at our family owned and run Guest House in an elegant suburb of Managua, amid a picturesque tree-lined setting just 10 minutes away from the international airport and bus terminals! Managua, our capital city, has a vibrant nightlife!
  • Selva Negra

    Willkommen to the Black Forest of
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Dan Cesar - Birds of Nicaragua


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