By no means do I consider myself a bird expert. Not even an avid birdwatcher. But when in Belize, it’s impossible not to appreciate the incredible birdlife that exists there. To make the most of your visit to Belize and fully appreciate the diversity of its birdlife, arm yourself with some background knowledge. You could arrive completely in the dark and still be impressed by the beautiful colours and calls. But all the better going in knowing what to look for. Here are a few tips for effective Belize birdwatching.
Birds Back Home
Note what birds you see back home. This will give you a baseline for observing the differences and similarities between our birds and theirs. If you’re from Ontario, most likely you’re used to seeing Canadian geese, mallard ducks, robins, loons, and perhaps some woodpeckers, hummingbirds or osprey. Canadian wildlife is nothing to scoff at, but consider this: while we have five varieties of hummingbirds here in Canada, Belize boasts more than 20 different species of hummingbirds! Sure, we have magnificent bald eagles on the west coast, but they are dwarfed in size by Belize’s rare and massive Harpy Eagle. You don’t know variety until you’ve been to Belize. With this kind of knowledge, start to observe each bird more closely and appreciate how many different species you encounter.
Get a bird book!
Another great preparatory strategy to maximize your Belize birdwatching is go get a bird book. Look for one specific to Belize, with good pictures and simple descriptions. This helps you identify and keep track of the birds you see throughout your trip. It even helps you differentiate between males and females or determine the age of the birds. With a bird book and a pair of binoculars, bus ride become a treasure hunt. On one of my trips, a teacher kept a running list in the front of her bird book of all the birds we saw. The group set a goal to get as many on the list as possible; by the end we created a pretty impressive list! Spot a bird that’s not in your book? New birds are still being discovered every year in Belize! So you may even spot a brand new species! Feel free to name it after me.
Visit the Belize Zoo. I know, zoos are often sad places, but not the Belize Zoo. Only animals native to Belize are housed in the zoo. All were either rescued, confiscated from people illegally keeping them as pets, or born right there in the zoo. Animals are housed in their natural habitat. Walking through the zoo feels like walking through the Belizean forest. See some of the rarer birds that would be very difficult to see in the wild, such as the harpy eagle, jabiru stork and the beautiful scarlet macaw. If you visit the zoo after dark, you’ll also see several species of owls. Seeing these incredible birds at the zoo might just be the inspiration you need to get out there and start training your eyes and ears to find them in the wild.
Remember, Belize birdwatching is world renowned – people travel to Belize for the sole purpose of birdwatching. Therefore, don’t let the opportunity pass you by – experience some of the best birdwatching in the world!