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BELIZE: Tropical Birding, Short and Sweet

A Boat-billed Herons tending to its newly hatched chick (Photo by guide Peter Burke)
Two wonderful lodges for a rewarding tropical birding experience in this English-speaking country, including some regional specialties. Great as an intro to or continuation of your Neotropical birding.

For those birders who've never before ventured south of the US border, or for those who prefer their tropical experiences to be short and super sweet, the small Central American country of Belize offers an ideal birding destination. With a diversity of species that includes many in families associated with the New World tropics, a rich assortment of habitats in which to search for them, plus minimal time spent traveling -- four nights at one lodge, three at the other, with a short charter flight between the two -- our revamped Belize tour offers a truly engaging tropical experience.

We'll begin the tour at the Lamanai Outpost Lodge, which has a simple, yet elegant, main building and comfortable thatched cabanas perched on the shores of Crab-catcher Lagoon, part of the largest body of fresh water in Belize. The Lodge sits less than a mile from the Mayan ruins of Lamanai, an extensive, largely unexcavated site that sprawls along the western shore of the lagoon; on several days, we'll take a quick boat trip along the lagoon to get to the site. The ruins house a rich assortment of birds typically found in the tropical hardwood forests of western Belize and the Peten region of Guatemala -- Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, Pale-billed, Chestnut-colored, and Golden-olive woodpeckers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Slaty-tailed, Black-headed and Gartered trogons, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Black-cowled Oriole, Blue Bunting and the diminutive Tody Motmot are just a few of the many species we'll seek here.

The village of Indian Church lies just down the road from the lodge. Here, open milpas (agricultural fields) and second-growth scrub are home to an assortment of birds not found in the forest, including the attractive Black-throated (Yucatan) Bobwhite. Interspersed among these other habitats are tracts of savanna with a different set of interesting birds, including seldom-encountered Yellow-headed Parrots, White-tailed Hawk, Buff-bellied and Azure-crowned hummingbirds, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Jay, Gray-throated Chat, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Botteri's and Grasshopper sparrows, and the impressive Jabiru. And, of course, the lagoon and its tributaries are home to another suite of birds, including Limpkin, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Boat-billed and Agami herons, Sungrebe, and Black Catbird.

Our trip takes on a whole new flavor when we transfer to our next base: Hidden Valley Inn on the Mountain Pine Ridge in south-central Belize. Here, dry Caribbean Pine forest dominates, with more humid, tropical vegetation restricted to river courses and draws. The pine forest is home to a group of birds perhaps unexpected in Belize -- Rusty Sparrow, Grace's Warbler, Plain Wren, and Acorn Woodpecker, to name a few. From viewpoints high above the adjacent countryside (including the overlook for the evocatively named Thousand Foot Falls), we'll scan cliffs for King Vulture and the rare Orange-breasted Falcon. The humid valley forests host a high diversity of species, many already mentioned above, but including tinamous, curassows, forest-falcons, trogons, White-whiskered Puffbird, many flycatchers, Black-faced (Mayan) Antthrush, Dusky Antbird, Gray-collared Becard, and more. Hidden Valley Inn is located in a very strategic spot to take advantage of these habitats -- we can see a number of these species right on the grounds, but we can just as easily take a quick ride to nearby sites that will offer us more chances for great birding. The inn itself is quaint and comfortable, and the grounds always seem to have something to see just outside our rooms.

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2018 Departures
Mar 3-10 ($3975)

2019 Departures
Mar 23-30

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Guides for our tours
Megan Edwards Crewe

What to Expect
Good accommodations, easy terrain, warm climate.

Our staff travel agents can assist you with tour information, flight reservations and tour bookings. Contact us at (800) 728-4953
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