When Laura, my best friend, told me she’d recently gotten into birding, I laughed. I never saw myself as someone who would enjoy such a hobby and certainly, I didn’t want to conform to that supposed kind of slow-paced-retiree lifestyle. However, she insisted and convinced me to join her on a three-day birding expedition. Little did I know, I was about to discover how mistaken I was.
Bird watching has traditionally been associated with Gen Xers and boomers, who make up the largest group of enthusiasts. However, it’s becoming increasingly popular among people aged 16 to 64, with a particular interest from those under 35 who are eager to travel and observe our feathered companions.
As someone who thrives on adrenaline, I wouldn’t say that I fell head over heels for birding, but I soon started undeniably captivated by the subculture and was genuinely satisfied to be able to identify a few bird species while engaging in a more active lifestyle. Bird-watching also allowed me to pay attention to my surroundings. You see, observing the world around you isn’t just about appreciating the beauty of nature or noticing quirky details. It’s an exercise that can enhance your life in surprising and meaningful ways.
For all these reasons, when I got the chance to join a group on a winter exotic bird expedition in Belize, I couldn’t resist saying YES!
In case this season you are on for an alternative winter escape, here are the best birding hotspots you shouldn’t miss to recharge your zest for new adventures and for experimenting with the potential of your brand-new binoculars or even your camera.
Why birdwatching in Belize
Belize may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of a winter sun destination, but it has everything you could want in a tropical vacation and offers several affordable accommodation options. From budget-friendly lodges to affordable activities and dining options, you can enjoy a sun winter escape without breaking the bank. This makes it a great choice for couples, and solo travellers alike. It’s also easily accessible from the United States and Canada, with direct flights from major cities like Miami, Houston, and Toronto.
So, if you’re passionate about trekking and birdwatching this is definitely the right place for you. Despite its small size, boasts an impressive range of tropical habitats, resulting in a remarkable array of bird species and exotic hiking trails. With nearly 600 different types of birds residing in its tropical forests, savannahs, cayes, wetlands, and coastal plains, this country really offers a mind-blowing travel experience.
Visitors can easily spot keel-billed toucans, collared aracari, oropendolas, snowy egrets, frigates, blue-crowned motmots, and trogons. Additionally, it is not uncommon to catch a glimpse of rare or uncommon species such as harpy eagles, jabiru storks, king vultures, and the yellow head amazon parrot.
The top birding hotspots in Belize
There should be a reason why veteran bird watchers make pilgrimages to Belize every year. It’s a world-famous paradise and no matter when you decide to visit, you’ll be rewarded. So put on your best trekking boots and start your journey into wild-bird watching.
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize is a top birding spot. Established in 1984 by the Belize Audubon Society, it covers 16,400 acres of diverse habitats like lagoons, creeks, swamps, broadleaf forests, and pine savanna. Here, you can spot magnificent bird species like the Heron, Muscovy duck, and the Jabiru stork, which happens to be the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere.
Half Moon Caye Natural Monument
This small island is home to a national park and a protected bird sanctuary. Here, you get the best of both worlds, all in a tiny island. You can see the beach and the lush greenery all in a very short walk. And without the crowds. At Half Moon Caye Monument, in particular, you can witness a unique colony of red-footed boobies. This is the only breeding ground for these birds in the western Caribbean. Nesting in the orange-flowered Ziricote thicket at the western end of Half Moon Caye, they share the area with frigate birds, creating a cacophony of squawks and screeches. However, the busy parenting birds are so engrossed with their young that they hardly notice human presence. Starting from mid-December, around 4,000 breeding birds call the caye home, with chicks hatching in March. After a few months of growth, they become independent, feeding on fish and exploring the beauty of Belize through flight.
Mayflower Bocawina National Park
It is one of the best choices for leisure and adventurous explorations. The park offers excellent wildlife observation and birding opportunities as well as access to several Mayan sites and beautiful waterfalls via a system of maintained trails through the rainforest. Throughout the Mayflower Bocawina National Park and the Bocawina Rainforest Resort, you can witness and hear numerous species of birds. Notable sightings included the band-tailed barbthroat, northern shoveler, scarlet tanager, and the spectacled owl.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Operated by the Belize Audubon Society, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary holds the distinction of being the world’s first jaguar preserve. It is internationally renowned for its breathtaking waterfalls, nature trails, and diverse array of neotropical birds. This sanctuary provides an ideal setting for a birdwatching adventure, where you may even have the extraordinary opportunity to spot some of Belize’s majestic big cats. Among the bird species you can anticipate seeing here are the emerald toucanet, keel-billed toucan, king vulture, and scarlet macaw.
For an exceptional birdwatching experience in Belize, consider embarking on a guided boat tour along the Sittee River. This location offers a plethora of airborne wildlife, including flycatchers, egrets, kingfishers, toucans, parrots, and herons, which will undoubtedly thrill birdwatchers. The river’s banks and waters are home to both marine and freshwater crocodiles, making sightings quite common. Additionally, you can observe iguanas basking on the branches of trees that hang over the river.
To find deals and make your journey truly spectacular, contact the Belize Tourism Board.
Did you know? The Keel-billed toucan is the National Bird of Belize. He is a very social bird and can often be seen in flocks of six or more birds. They are found throughout Belize's forests and nest in holes in tree trunks. Before you leave - Birdwatching For Beginners - Begin your birdwatching journey by selecting a bird identification book or app. - Familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of bird identification. - Equip yourself with birdwatching binoculars and/or a camera. - Embark on creating a birding life list to track your sightings. - Immerse yourself in the outdoors and engage in birding activities. - Seek inspiration from captivating birdwatching books and movies. - Enhance your learning by joining a birdwatching club.