If you have ever looked up and seen a bird, or conversely, looked up and wondered, “Why don’t I see a bird?” then you are bird watching. The adventure opens a rewarding lifetime of study and excitement and takes little to get started.
Belize is a birder’s paradise with hundreds of local and seasonal migratory species. When you go, some basic ornithology will help you identify some exciting natural beauties, one of the great things to do in Belize, in addition to exploring mystical Maya temples or reveling in secluded walks on relaxing beaches.
This pastime, which got a lift from The Big Year, a movie based on bird watching, is a hit among all kinds of people who share a unique interest—sighting a rare avian through binoculars.
Birders need only simple equipment and must “be prepared to wake up early,” said local Belize tour and Belize birding guide Lascelle Tillett. He’s a lifetime birder who joined the Belize Audubon Society in 1979.
“After certain times in the morning, birds tend to take their rest,” Tillet said. “So, you have a better chance of seeing them early in the morning.” The Belize Audubon Society can provide more information about Belize birding. Belize resorts and tour operators in Belize offer birding excursions that provide an intimate adventure.
Birding hot spots
Casual watchers and full-blown “twitchers,” as some birders are called, can find great value in Belize bird watching. Aside from being home to hundreds of bird types, Belize is relatively small and easy to travel, offering many prime birding environments. Spotting migrant and resident water birds at Crooked Tree or Seashores of Belize easily leads watchers to other trips, like touring inland birds along the Hummingbird Highway and in Cockscomb and San Ignacio.
Exotic finds, local conservation
In 1928, the Half Moon Caye habitat of Red-Footed Boobies became a protected area, significantly helping Belize attract more than 500 different bird species between year-round natives and seasonal migrators. Many can be seen from the roads and jungle-adjacent resorts throughout the mainland.
The most cherished sighting is the national bird of Belize, the keel-billed toucan. Tillett, the Belize birding guide, said of toucans, “Different species have a different shaped bill or beak. That tells you that they feed from a different food source. That’s the reason why you should not underbrush the forest, it should be left intact. Within that same area, several different species feed on different foods so they don’t compete for the same food.”
Belize conservation groups closely monitor human impact in the rainforest. A large part of the Belize Audubon Society’s mission is to manage the balance between people and the environment. Bird watching is, by nature, linked to the conservation of species and, in turn, their natural environments. Tillett said the sport of bird watching is harmless and offers great insight to local deforestation and its causes.
Birding: What you will need
Walking shoes. Bring comfortable, durable shoes/hiking boots. Birding is as much about being outdoors as classifying the 47 local breeds of new world warbler. Rare birds live in rare locations, so hiking might be necessary.
Bug repellant. Belize is home to many bugs, making a great food source for native birds. Swatting mosquitoes will take focus off your mission to experience the birds of Belize.
Local Field Guide. Peterson’s, Clement’s, National Geographic, and any number of local Belize birding guidebooks will work. These act as tools for identifying and recording your sightings. First-timers should find a Belize tour guide, as knowing what to look for comes with experience. Set goals and look for birds that reside in locations you will enjoy.