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Field Guides Tour Report
Belize 2015
Mar 28, 2015 to Apr 5, 2015
Peter Burke

We had particularly fine views of Boat-billed Herons on this tour! (Photo by guide Peter Burke)

This tour marked our first year of Field Guides visiting southern Belize, and it was a great pleasure to accompany you to this great part of the Neotropics. As popular as Belize is for birders and naturalists alike, most folks confine themselves to the northern and western portions of Cayo and Orange Walk with their well-established birding lodges. With this itinerary change, southern Belize offers the country's most accessible pristine broad-leafed forests, savanna, and near-shore cayes. We decided to try a new twist and explore the south, and the rewards are easily seen in the checklist.

With its huge lagoon that attracts scores of waterbirds and a contingent of Yucatan bird specialties, Crooked Tree is a wonderful place to start any Belize birding tour. During our quick visit, we enjoyed a morning boating trip onto the North Lagoon where we soaked up the wonderful diversity of species that makes this a super birding venue. After that, we were headed south, and our arrival in Punta Gorda was shortly after lunch that same day.

During our week in the south of Belize we covered a relatively small area but sampled a great variety of habitats and lodging. With an unusual string of damp weather to start the week, we endured some wet mornings and afternoons (with the accompanying humidity) but our persistence paid off. Unforgettable views of Great Tinamou, Black-throated Bobwhite, Agami and Boat-billed herons, King Vulture, Gray-headed and Plumbeous kites, Black-and-white Owl, White-necked Jacobin, White-whiskered Puffbird, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Chestnut-colored and Yucatan woodpeckers, Barred Antshrike, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Northern Schiffornis, White-collared Manakin, Yucatan Vireo, more than 20 species of wood-warblers (4 Prothontarys at once!), Golden-hooded Tanager, Gray-throated Chat, Painted and Indigo buntings and Spot-breasted Oriole made for a good week's birding!

After a couple of nights at the cozy Lodge at Big Falls, we transferred to the isolated BFREE research station. Although the lodgings were basic (a direct effect of being so isolated in true, undisturbed broad-leafed tropical forest!), the experience was unique and I was very pleased that we were able to work this into this year's tour. Of course, after a couple of nights 'roughing it' a bit, the luxury of Belcampo was that much more heightened and appreciated to finish off the week.

We were also very privileged to have some wonderful local guides accompany us in the field during the trip. I am always in awe of these folks' abilities to find wildlife -- Belize is a country very much aware of its natural wealth.

Our triplist that follows is a great review of the many encounters we had (many of them multiple, super looks) with a large percentage of the bird species found on the Caribbean-slope lowlands of northern Central America. Some of these are local in their distribution, some are widespread, and there was also a large number of North American migrants, but they all combined to make for memorable birding. This is what I love most about this tour -- maximizing the best hours of the day for birding and being able to get to some rarely visited locations that have untouched avifauna. While it doesn't have the diversity of an Amazonian or Andean bird community, it's an area of the highest percentage of forest cover in all of northern Central America. At the same time, we're able to sample a nice variety of birding habitats, including the unforgettable Caribbean seacoast with its mangroves coasts and cayes.

I hope you enjoyed this reincarnation of our Belize tour as much as I did. It was a pleasure to have the week birding with you and I hope we get to see each other on the birding trail soon.

Best in birding,


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Tinamidae (Tinamous)
GREAT TINAMOU (Tinamus major) – George called us over to an exceptionally trusting individual near the Boat-billed Heron colony at BFREE.
LITTLE TINAMOU (Crypturellus soui) – Heard on a number of days; affectionately dubbed 'the Roger Whittaker of Tinamous'. Pass the Guinness.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis) – A few flocks during our boat trip at Crooked Tree.
FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna bicolor) – We flushed a few pairs during the Crooked Tree trip.
MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata) – A hulking male was flushed during our boat trip at Crooked Tree.

The very aptly named Thick-billed Seed-Finch (Photo by participant George Sims)

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors) – Numerous at Crooked Tree; a flock on the open Caribbean was surprising during our Cayes trip.
Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)
PLAIN CHACHALACA (Ortalis vetula) – Vocal and abundant; we saw them on a regular basis.
Odontophoridae (New World Quail)
BLACK-THROATED BOBWHITE (Colinus nigrogularis) – Whoa! A stunning quail, we had superb views of a pair along the Bladen reserve road; we also flushed a number of pairs here off the road.
Ciconiidae (Storks)
JABIRU (Jabiru mycteria) – Michael found us a splendid adult hiding in the wetlands of the North Lagoon
WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana) – Good numbers spread about in the wetlands of Crooked Tree.
Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens) – Quite a few soaring overhead along the coastline at Punta Gorda; however the nesting colony in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve offered us truly spectacular views of sitting and flying birds.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) – Large numbers in the Crooked Tree wetlands were attracted to numbers of gamefish.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus) – A singleton with the Frigatebirds was an uncommon sighting.
Anhingidae (Anhingas)
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) – We enjoyed numbers of this wetland bird at Crooked Tree Reserve.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis) – Small numbers were seen along the coast at Punta Gorda. Apparently a small nesting colony is at the mouth of the Rio Grande.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma mexicanum) – A flashy, bulky heron; we had a number of close sightings at Crooked Tree and around Punta Gorda. [I]
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) – several at Crooked Tree
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – Widespread in open areas.
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula) – Widespread.
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea) – Numbers at Crooked Tree and along the PG coastline.
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor) – Small numbers at Crooked Tree.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis) – Widespread.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens) – Exceptionally common at Crooked Tree.
AGAMI HERON (Agamia agami) – This stunning heron made two appearance during this tour; we flushed one at Crooked Tree and another posed patiently for us at the Boat-billed Heron colony at BFREE.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax) – A small number at Crooked Tree.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea) – Splendid views of an adult up the Rio Grande and several immatures, including an odd swimming individual at West Snake Caye.
BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius) – This is a great trip for this odd looking heron; we saw a roosting group at Crooked Tree, then followed it up with point blank, open viewing of a nesting colony at BFREE. Those crazy head plumes are unforgettable!
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus) – Some large groups at Crooked Tree, and a flypast along the Rio Grande.
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus) – Small numbers at Crooked Tree.
ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja) – Several splashy adults and young birds amongst the throngs of wading birds at Crooked Tree.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus) – Widespread and common.
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura) – Widespread.
LESSER YELLOW-HEADED VULTURE (Cathartes burrovianus) – Super looks at this flashy vulture at Crooked Tree; we saw it sitting and flying with views that helped to separate from similar Turkey Vultures.
KING VULTURE (Sarcoramphus papa) – Colin spotted our first pair, an adult and young bird at a roadside carcass. From then on, we saw them daily, often soaring overhead during the later morning hours.
Pandionidae (Osprey)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) – Numerous sightings included the resident Caribbean subspecies ridgwayi on the Snake Cayes and an odd individual at Crooked Tree. Otherwise, they were wintering birds from north of Belize.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

Big and flashy: Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (photo by participant George Sims)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus) – A single beside the highway en route to Big Falls our first day in southern Belize.
GRAY-HEADED KITE (Leptodon cayanensis) – Two sightings of adults around Punta Gorda; this boldly patterned raptor is always a treat to see.
SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus) – We enjoyed numerous observations on the road into BFREE in the pine savannah.
ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE (Spizaetus ornatus) – A calling bird that was soaring at BFREE was hidden by overhead foliage.
BLACK-COLLARED HAWK (Busarellus nigricollis) – We enjoyed at least 6 different birds at Crooked Tree during our boat trip.
SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis) – Several of these Apple Snail specialists were seen along the shoreline at Crooked Tree.
PLUMBEOUS KITE (Ictinia plumbea) – We encountered a nesting pair along the road into BFREE; this allowed us to watch the female incubating on the nest in a tall Caribbean Pine. Several others around Punta Gorda.
COMMON BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus anthracinus) – Scattered sighitngs of adults around Punta Gorda.
GREAT BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus urubitinga) – A perched immature at Crooked Tree during our boat trip gave us decent views of this large raptor.
ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris) – Predictably we saw this bird along several roadside sites during our week in the south.
GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus) – Just as likely along a roadside as the former species, we saw a couple these, including an immature along ex-Serviceman Rd.
SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus) – We spotted a few soaring birds at a couple of locations in the south, both light and dark morph adults.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
RUDDY CRAKE (Laterallus ruber) – This species played cat and mouse with us several times during the trip, only allowing a few glimpses of various body parts. Argh!!
GRAY-BREASTED CRAKE (Laterallus exilis) – Wow! A tough species to find, this secretive rail perked up to some playback along the ex-Serviceman Rd.. Although it approached within 5 m, it stayed out of sight and taunted us from further back for a long period of time.
GRAY-NECKED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides cajaneus) – Several good looks at this huge rail at Crooked Tree and at Big Falls.
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) – We pushed a small group along in front of the boat at Crooked Tree.
Heliornithidae (Finfoots)
SUNGREBE (Heliornis fulica) – Super looks at this odd bird at Crooked Tree; we also heard their sharp barking call!
Aramidae (Limpkin)
LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna) – Many of these Apple Snail specialists at Crooked Tree; including an incredibly cute pair of chicks with an adult at Birds Eye View Lodge.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) – Small groups of stilts were found in the Crooked Tree wetlands during the boat trip. We also saw a couple along the Rio Grande in the south.
Jacanidae (Jacanas)
NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa) – Common and conspicous waders in the Crooked Tree wetlands. How about those lime colored wings?!!!
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – Singles at Crooked Tree and along the Rio Bladen at BFREE.
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria) – Singles at Crooked Tree and our last morning at the Belize International Airport
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca) – A single along the Rio Bladen at BFREE.
UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda) – Super sighting!! A single migrant resting on the open grass at the Big Falls Rice Mill on April 2 was a surprise for us and our local guide Steve Choco, who had never seen one! This species is returning to North America after spending the winter in the pampas of south eastern South America. New evidence from Chile is showing that this species may be migrating along a route we never suspected in the past.
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) – A couple of birds at Birds Eye View Lodge, foraging along the water's edge.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica) – Several foraging birds at Crooked Tree.
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia) – A few individuals foraging over the lagoon at Crooked Tree. This is close their southern range limit.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – We noted these in Punta Gorda.
PALE-VENTED PIGEON (Patagioenas cayennensis) – A common large pigeon of the Savannah and northern wetlands.
SHORT-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas nigrirostris) – The distinctive call was heard commonly in the south and we saw it well at BFREE and the Ex-Serviceman rd.
PLAIN-BREASTED GROUND-DOVE (Columbina minuta) – Seen well along the ex-Serviceman road, but also in the Bladen Reserve road.
RUDDY GROUND-DOVE (Columbina talpacoti) – A common ground-dove around towns and villages, also very small.
BLUE GROUND-DOVE (Claravis pretiosa) – A pretty ground-dove, we saw it well along the ex-serviceman road but also along the Bladen Reserve road.

Birding the pine savanna (Photo by guide Peter Burke)

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi) – Mainly heard giving its mournful song in the thickets at Crooked Tree. A couple of birds flushed in front of us, dropping into the forest out of sight.
GRAY-CHESTED DOVE (Leptotila cassinii) – We saw this species walking on the trails at BFREE and a single at the Blue Creek Caves trail with Steven.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana) – A few individuals, including a wonderful singing bird at Blue Creek trail.
STRIPED CUCKOO (Tapera naevia) – We had to settle for a couple of singing birds at Crooked Tree and near PG.
GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris) – Common around human habitation, this gregarious cuckoo was seen regularly.
Strigidae (Owls)
MOTTLED OWL (Ciccaba virgata) – We tried to bring in a couple birds we heard at Big Falls and BFREE, but came up empty.
BLACK-AND-WHITE OWL (Ciccaba nigrolineata) – Super views of a pair at Big Falls where Steven has had a pair on territory for a number of years, right on the grounds. We also heard one at BFREE.
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis) – A common bird of open areas, heard at Crooked Tree, Big Falls and BFREE. We saw it well in the flashlights on a couple of occasions.
Apodidae (Swifts)
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris) – This big swift made an appearance at Big Falls one evening.
VAUX'S SWIFT (RICHMOND'S) (Chaetura vauxi richmondi) – The small swifts we occasionallly encountered through the trip.
LESSER SWALLOW-TAILED SWIFT (Panyptila cayennensis) – A couple of flyovers at Belcampo and the ex-Serviceman road.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN (Florisuga mellivora) – We saw a few flashy males at BFREE and Belcampo.
LONG-BILLED HERMIT (Phaethornis longirostris) – A conspicuous hummer by size alone, we saw them at BFREE and Belcampo using the hummer feeders.
STRIPE-THROATED HERMIT (Phaethornis striigularis) – A forest hummer that we saw well at BFREE, foraging along roadsides, usually traplining along at its favorite flowers.
GREEN-BREASTED MANGO (Anthracothorax prevostii) – A couple of birds at Big Falls and in Punta Gorda our last morning.
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris) – Mostly females were spotted during the trip, but Phoebe had a lovely male one day at BFREE.
SCALY-BREASTED HUMMINGBIRD (Phaeochroa cuvierii) – Several noisy males at a scattered lek along the trail into Blue Creek caves offered fine views of a subtley marked species.
WHITE-BELLIED EMERALD (Amazilia candida) – The common small hummer with white underparts in the broad-leafed forests of the south.
AZURE-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia cyanocephala) – We saw one along the edge of the Crooked Tree lagoon and in the savannah going into BFREE. This is an open country hummer that avoids dense forests and looks quite alot like the duller White-bellied Emerald.
RUFOUS-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia tzacatl) – The common hummer of the trip; we saw some with grayish bellies and others with dark rufous underparts.
Trogonidae (Trogons)
SLATY-TAILED TROGON (Trogon massena) – This is the largest of Belize's trogons; and the only red one without white on it. We saw it well at BFREE and along the ex Serviceman road.
BLACK-HEADED TROGON (Trogon melanocephalus) – Common and ubiquitous, but beautiful none-the-less.
GARTERED TROGON (Trogon caligatus) – A calling bird along the trail into the Blue Creek caves was our only good look at this species.
Momotidae (Motmots)
BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOT (LESSON'S) (Momotus coeruliceps exiguus) – Although there were as many as five heard at once at BFREE, it took a bit of searching to find this bird. This motmot has recently been split into a number of species throughout its range. This form is the most northerly of the superspecies.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata) – A large, gaudy Kingfisher, seen irregularly through the trip, but in great numbers at Crooked Tree.
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) – A few at Crooked Tree and on the Rio Grande.
AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona) – A nice pair of birds showed up regularly for those who swam at BFREE in the afternoons.
GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana) – A number of birds at Crooked Tree and BFREE, as well as the Rio Grande.
AMERICAN PYGMY KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle aenea) – Always a challenge to spot, we saw this species well at Crooked Tree thanks to Michael's keen eyes, and another bird along the road into BFREE, fishing in a small borrow pit pond.
Bucconidae (Puffbirds)
WHITE-NECKED PUFFBIRD (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) – Not a terribly easy bird to find in Belize, we saw it well along the ex-Serviceman road.
WHITE-WHISKERED PUFFBIRD (Malacoptila panamensis) – A cute little puffbird, we saw it well at Blue Creek trail and BFREE.
Galbulidae (Jacamars)
RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR (Galbula ruficauda) – Heard more often than seen, we saw this species well at BFREE after a few attempts with flighty individuals.
Ramphastidae (Toucans)
COLLARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus torquatus) – A few encounters with this small toucan that prefers to move about in flocks.

A common roadside bird in open areas: White-collared Seedeater (Photo by participant George Sims)

KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Ramphastos sulfuratus) – Widespread and commonly seen most days; a stunning toucan!
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus) – We brought in a couple of birds in the Bladen Reserve along the road we walked.
BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pucherani) – The garden at BFREE was the usual haunts for this decoratively plumaged woodpecker.
YUCATAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pygmaeus) – Our last stop leaving Crooked Tree brought out a very cooperative bird that provided some wonderful viewing.
GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER (EAST MEXICO) (Melanerpes aurifrons dubius) – A common woodpecker associated with human habitations.
SMOKY-BROWN WOODPECKER (Picoides fumigatus) – Our morning along the ex-Serviceman road offered us a chance to see this small forest woodpecker quite well.
GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus) – A couple of birds at Big Falls and at Blue Creek- a handsome but small woodpecker.
CHESTNUT-COLORED WOODPECKER (Celeus castaneus) – We enjoyed a superb pair of birds along the trail to the Boat-billed Heron colony at BFREE. Those are crazy hair-dos!
LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus) – A single at Big Falls was our best look at this species.
PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER (Campephilus guatemalensis) – We spent some time with a trio of this species at Belcampo one afternoon. It was heard a few other occasions.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
COLLARED FOREST-FALCON (Micrastur semitorquatus) – A calling bird at dusk our second day at BFREE was our only observation of this forest raptor.
LAUGHING FALCON (Herpetotheres cachinnans) – We found a perched bird out in the savannah along the Bladen Reserve road. It offered super viewing.
BAT FALCON (Falco rufigularis) – A perched female at the Big Falls rice mill gave us some very nice scope views. Another chasing Vaux's Swifts at Belcampo was considerably more distant.
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
BROWN-HOODED PARROT (Pyrilia haematotis) – We could only manage a couple of fly-bys at Nim Li Punit and Belcampo.
WHITE-CROWNED PARROT (Pionus senilis) – This is the small parrot with the high pitched yelps that we commonly saw most days. It tends to travel in small flocks.
RED-LORED PARROT (Amazona autumnalis) – A noisy species, we saw them well at most of our stops, usually in pairs.
YELLOW-HEADED PARROT (Amazona oratrix) – We were treated to a pair at the Ranger Station along the Bladen Reserve road in the savannah. They appeared to be inspecting nest holes in the vicinity.
WHITE-FRONTED PARROT (Amazona albifrons) – Our only sightings were around Crooked Tree where we saw a good number of them, often in small groups. They are conspicuously absent from the south of Belize.
OLIVE-THROATED PARAKEET (AZTEC) (Eupsittula nana astec) – Regularly seen throughout the trip in small numbers - the only parakeet in Belize.
Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)
BARRED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus doliatus) – This smart-looking antshrike was best observed at Big Falls where pair was brought in for close looks.
BLACK-CROWNED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus atrinucha) – A singing male along the Bladen River at BFREE is about as far north as this species is known to occur. We heard a couple more along the ex-Serviceman road.
DOT-WINGED ANTWREN (Microrhopias quixensis) – Several pairs were found at BFREE during our walks; the rich chestnut of the females may have outshone the all black males!
DUSKY ANTBIRD (Cercomacra tyrannina) – Our first night at BFREE we brought in a singing male; otherwise we heard a few more of these rather furtive antbirds in the area.
Formicariidae (Antthrushes)
BLACK-FACED ANTTHRUSH (MAYAN) (Formicarius analis moniliger) – Arrg!! Despite a number of tries, we failed to encounter a cooperative bird that provided viewing opportunities of this rather shy ground-dwelling bird.
Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)
TAWNY-WINGED WOODCREEPER (Dendrocincla anabatina) – A bold individual came in well to playback at Belcampo. Otherwise we had fleeting glimpse at Nim Li Punit.
WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Glyphorynchus spirurus) – Colin spotted our first at Blue Creek trail- we ended up seeing another along the ex-Serviceman road.
NORTHERN BARRED-WOODCREEPER (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae) – A pair of these large woodcreepers toyed with us as they circled the group at BFREE.
IVORY-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster) – A beautiful and typical voice of the Belizean broad-leafed forest, we saw a few of these birds at BFREE, Blue Creek and ex-Serviceman road. Very similar to the following species in appearance.
STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii) – A pair made quite fuss in front of us in the transition forest along the road into BFREE. Very similar to Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, we heard its distinctive flat trill, and smaller size and less streaked back.
PLAIN XENOPS (Xenops minutus) – Some good views at BFREE of this Chickadee-wanna-be. Another came out for us along the ex-Serviceman road.

Boat-billed Heron showing us the full "do"! (Photo by participant George Sims)

BUFF-THROATED FOLIAGE-GLEANER (Automolus ochrolaemus) – A pair at BFREE was not entirely cooperative- darting back and forth over the trail, offering distant views through the foliage.
RUFOUS-BREASTED SPINETAIL (Synallaxis erythrothorax) – Some great views at Crooked Tree at this handsome spinetail, Belize's only species.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
YELLOW-BELLIED TYRANNULET (Ornithion semiflavum) – A tiny treetop flycatcher, we were able to bring one down partway along the Bladen Reserve road. Some of us also had one at Big Falls.
GREENISH ELAENIA (Myiopagis viridicata) – We had nice close looks at one by the pool at Big Falls. Otherwise it was heard daily at most locations.
YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster) – Quite a common bird of open areas and around human dwellings. We even found completed nest with a bird incubating at the gate into Bladen Reserve.
OCHRE-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes oleagineus) – A common but difficult understory bird to see in broad leafed forest. We pulled out a couple at BFREE.
NORTHERN BENTBILL (Oncostoma cinereigulare) – Another small rather inconspicuous understory flycatcher that we eventually saw quite well. Its odd bill shape makes it quite unique.
COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum) – Although it is widespread and common, it took most of the week to see it! We finally caught up to a vocalizing bird along the ex-Serviceman road.
YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) – This is a canopy flycatcher, again rather inconspicuous except by its thin, distinctive song. One came in quite well near Blue Creek for a good look.
ROYAL FLYCATCHER (NORTHERN) (Onychorhynchus coronatus mexicanus) – A few of these hammer-headed flycatchers along the Bladen Reserve road in the forest.
SULPHUR-RUMPED FLYCATCHER (Myiobius sulphureipygius sulphureipygius) – We picked up a single at BFREE along the edge of the cacao plantation.
EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens) – Just a single, probably a migrant, both heard and seen along the ex-Serviceman road.
TROPICAL PEWEE (Contopus cinereus) – One at the entrance gate to the Bladen Reserve sat conspicuously out in the open.
YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris) – Scattered sightings of a few (including a tailless bird!) during the week. They had yet to perform most of the pre-alternate molt that would intensify the greens and yellows of their breeding plumage.
ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens) – Two sightings of birds- one at BFREE and the other on West Snake Caye, were scrutinized by the group, eliminating Yellow-bellied and Least Flycatchers.
LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus) – A couple of singles.
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus) – Mainly a bird of the northern savannah habitats, we also saw them right at the international airport. Conspicuous at Birds Eye View Lodge.
BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA (Attila spadiceus) – Although it is a frequently heard bird at dawn and dusk, we only caught up to one or two birds at Big Falls and Blue Creek trail.
RUFOUS MOURNER (Rhytipterna holerythra) – A pair foraging around the cacao plantation at BFREE.
DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer) – Seen most days; a small dark headed Myarchis flycatcher.
BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus) – Also seen and heard most days; a larger, paler version of a Dusky-capped Flycather with less rufous in the wings.
GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus) – Common and gloriously abundant.
BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua) – A couple of opportunities to study the differences with Great Kiskadee on the trip.
SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis) – Another beautiful bird that was common, especially around people.
SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes luteiventris) – Newly arrived back from Amazonian wintering grounds, these birds were seen well at many places, including Big Falls.
PIRATIC FLYCATCHER (Legatus leucophaius) – Another migrant that crosses the equator to winter, these noisy, parasitic flycatchers were back in force. Kind of a small version of Sulphur-bellieds without the rufous tail.
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus) – Widespread.

Guide Peter Burke on the lookout for another great birding at its best! (Photo by participant George Sims)

COUCH'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus couchii) – We picked up a calling bird in PG en route to the airport.
EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus) – A couple of small groups in the savannah leading into Bladen Reserve were returning north from wintering grounds in Bolivia.
SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus forficatus) – A high flyover at Birds Eye View Lodge our first afternoon, also a migrant.
FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus savana) – The savannah leading into the Bladen Reserve was an excellent place to see many of these spectacular birds.
Pipridae (Manakins)
WHITE-COLLARED MANAKIN (Manacus candei) – Seen and heard on a few occasions, but we saw a lovely male well at BFREE. It seemed that the leks were not in full swing.
RED-CAPPED MANAKIN (Ceratopipra mentalis) – The garden at BFREE gave us a wonderful opportunity to watch a male and a couple of females feeding at a fruiting tree.
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)
MASKED TITYRA (Tityra semifasciata) – Seen regularly throughout the trip.
NORTHERN SCHIFFORNIS (Schiffornis veraepacis) – We brought in a very cooperative singing male along the ex-Serviceman road. Formerly known as Thrush-like Manakin, then Thrush-like Schiffornis, this bird has been split, with the South American Brown-winged Schiffornis, and this one now known as Northern Schiffornis.
WHITE-WINGED BECARD (Pachyramphus polychopterus) – A vocal bird along the road into Bladen Reserve would not show itself.
ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae) – Some lovely pairs building new nests at Blue Creek trail.
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus) – We heard this songster at Crooked Tree and Blue Creek trail, as well as BFREE. It came out for some views at Crooked Tree on our boat trip.
MANGROVE VIREO (Vireo pallens) – One of our first birds of the trip at Crooked Tree, we saw it also along the Rio Grande in the south. It was frequently heard in many other locations.
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons) – A couple of birds at Big Falls.
PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus) – Also seen a couple of times in the south, this boreal migrant was in the company of a few other migrants.
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus) – Also migrating north at this time, we picked out a few in small groups, foraging quietly as their sister species, the Yelllow-green Vireo, defended newly established territories.
YELLOW-GREEN VIREO (Vireo flavoviridis) – Another migrant that had recently arrived back on territory in Belize. We saw and especially heard them throughout the trip.
YUCATAN VIREO (Vireo magister) – Yes! This is a strictly coastal bird of the mangroves that we found at a couple of the cayes in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve as well as the mouth of the Rio Grande. A big, hulking vireo!
TAWNY-CROWNED GREENLET (Hylophilus ochraceiceps) – This species is part of the canopy mixed species foraging flocks, and a bit of a sentinel for them. We caught up with them a couple of times at BFREE and the ex-Serviceman road.
LESSER GREENLET (Hylophilus decurtatus) – Another unassuming canopy singing species, that we brought in for a closer look. It looks a fair bit like a Tennessee Warbler with an eye-ring and big pinkish bill.
GREEN SHRIKE-VIREO (Vireolanius pulchellus) – I heard a distant bird along the ex-Serviceman road that just wouldn't come in to some playback.
RUFOUS-BROWED PEPPERSHRIKE (Cyclarhis gujanensis) – Really nice views of this clear songster along the lagoon edge at Crooked Tree. We also heard another along the Bladen Reserve road.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio) – Conspicuous and noisy.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) – A common swallow of forested streams and rivers, we saw them well at BFREE and along the Bladen Reserve road. These are the locally breeding populations, that appear quite cold grey compared to more northernly breeding birds.
GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea) – A common, human-habitation loving Marten.
MANGROVE SWALLOW (Tachycineta albilinea) – We encountered this swallow most commonly along the lagoon edges at Crooked Tree.

Rusty Sparrow (Photo by participant George Sims)

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica) – Small groups were passing northwards in migration during our stay at Crooked Tree; we also saw a few over the savannah along the Bladen Reserve road.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
HOUSE WREN (SOUTHERN) (Troglodytes aedon musculus) – A common breeding resident.
SPOT-BREASTED WREN (Pheugopedius maculipectus) – Super views of this sharp-looking wren at Big Falls. Perhaps one of the most conspicuous birds by ear, they can be tough to draw out in the open to see.
WHITE-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucosticta) – A cooperative bird at the Blue Creek trail and a pair at BFREE. Heard most days.
Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)
LONG-BILLED GNATWREN (Ramphocaenus melanurus) – After an initial brief view, we saw a pair well at BFREE and also along the ex-Serviceman road.
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea) – The resident population of the savnannahs of Belize sound rather odd to my northern ear...they are a lovely sky blue above with clean eye-rings.
TROPICAL GNATCATCHER (Polioptila plumbea) – We drew in a bird along the Bladen Reserve road into the treetops.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus) – Janie and Kevin pointed out a single at Blue Creek trail. Another migrant headed for North America.
WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina) – A couple of birds were seen, including at BFREE and on West Snake Caye. Researchers at BFREE said that most had left already!
CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (Turdus grayi) – A rather widespread and common Thrush.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis) – A few wintering birds were seen at most locations.
TROPICAL MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus gilvus) – Common at Crooked Tree, but this species gets sparse in the south of Belize. So a couple at the Bladen checkpoint were of note.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla) – One crossed the path at Big Falls for a few of us.
WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum) – We encountered a few of these snappy little warblers that love to inspect hanging dead leaves.
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla) – Nice views of a bird at Blue Creek. This species is faithful to running water on the wintering grounds.
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) – Widespread and seen most days.
BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera) – A couple of birds seen in the south.
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera) – A very sharp warbler; George had one at Big Falls and the rest of us caught up with a male at BFREE.
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia) – Widespread and a few seen most days.
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea) – We had a real treat in that we saw a movement of 'Protons' during our boat trip at Crooked Tree with over 10 different birds, including 4 together. These birds were headed north from wintering grounds, most likely in Costa Rica.
TENNESSEE WARBLER (Oreothlypis peregrina) – A few males were seen in alternate plumage, usually in the treetops.
GRAY-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis poliocephala) – Seen well along the Bladen Reserve road and along the ex-Serviceman road.
KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa) – A very cooperative male along the Blue Creek trail.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) – Seen most days, almost all males.
HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina) – Some very fancy males at our accomodations at Big Falls and at BFREE.
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) – Seen in small numbers most days.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana) – A single at BFREE was our only bird.
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia) – One of the most common wintering warblers of Belize. They were beginning to molt into alternate plumage.
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) – Common at Crooked Tree.
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica) – A few birds seen in the south, starting to molt into alternate plumage.
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica) – A couple of lovely birds at Crooked Tree and at our lunch stop in PG the first afternoon.
GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae) – A pine/savannah specialist of Belize, we saw it well along the Bladen Reserve road.
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens) – A few birds; seen on most days.
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (Icteria virens) – Our morning coffee in the rain at the BFREE kitchen was brightened by a lovely male.
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
GRAY-HEADED TANAGER (Eucometis penicillata) – A single bird came into a fruiting tree at the garden in BFREE.

Magnificent Frigatebirds float on the breeze above an offshore caye. (Photo by guide Peter Burke)

CRIMSON-COLLARED TANAGER (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus) – Some lovely birds came into the garden at Big Falls. We also saw a couple along the Bladen River at BFREE.
PASSERINI'S TANAGER (Ramphocelus passerinii) – A pair of birds at Big Falls as well as along the river at BFREE.
BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus) – A number of observations in the south, usually near human development, of this splashy bird.
YELLOW-WINGED TANAGER (Thraupis abbas) – Another tanager of human inhabited areas, we also saw them along the road into Bladen Reserve in the transition forest.
GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER (Tangara larvata) – Some super views of this super tanager at Big Falls and along the ex-Serviceman road.
RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER (Cyanerpes cyaneus) – Seen well a few times in the south; the gaudy males easily outshone the green females.
BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT (Volatinia jacarina) – Common along roadsides; we also saw a few males giving their 'Johnny-jump-up' displays.
THICK-BILLED SEED-FINCH (Sporophila funerea) – We had several encounters with this grostequely huge billed finch along some roadside birding routes. The females were a warm, deep rufous.
VARIABLE SEEDEATER (BLACK) (Sporophila corvina corvina) – Often mixed into the flocks of White-collared Seedeaters and similar Blue-black Grassquits. We were able to see their smaller, curved culmen and small white wing handkerchief.
WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER (WHITE-COLLARED) (Sporophila torqueola morelleti) – Very common roadside birds, the males are attractively patterned black and white. Steve pointed out two different nest to us; very fragile looking structures. They can breed year round in Belize, unlike most bird species there.
BUFF-THROATED SALTATOR (Saltator maximus) – A rather modest Saltator, there was a small group that came in for fruit at the Big Falls feeders. Otherwise, they were heard giving their simple songs at most locations.
BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR (Saltator atriceps) – Big and noisy Saltators, we encountered a few noisy groups during the week, usually in forests.
GRAYISH SALTATOR (Saltator coerulescens) – Probably the last new bird for the trip, Kevin spotted a bird outside the airport was we walked along the main road.
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
ORANGE-BILLED SPARROW (Arremon aurantiirostris) – This is shy ground-loving sparrow of forests and second growth. We had a couple at Big Falls and heard a few more around BFREE.
GREEN-BACKED SPARROW (Arremonops chloronotus) – A couple of confiding birds offered fine views in the garden at BFREE.
RUSTY SPARROW (Aimophila rufescens) – We enjoyed this large handsome sparrow in the savannah on our way into the Bladen Reserve.
BOTTERI'S SPARROW (Peucaea botterii) – A special trip into the pine savannah near Crooked Tree produced some great looks at this modestly plumaged sparrow. This is a somewhat isolated population of a species that ranges through Mexico into the southwestern USA. Its songs are appreciably distinct from the US birds to my ear...
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina) – A singing bird at the Bladen entrance gate wouldn't show itself for the group. This represents the southern end of the species breeding range, somewhat isolated from the rest of the population.
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum) – A pair played cat and mouse with us at the entrance to the Bladen Reserve road. They were well hidden in the hot afternoon amoungst the grass and bushes of the savannah.
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava) – We had decent looks at a pair at the Bladen Reserve entrance gate. They are pine specialists and are sparsely distributed in the savannah and highland pine forests of Belize. This species ranges north into the southwestern USA and south into Argentina, perhaps involving several cryptic species.
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) – Regularly seen through the week.
RED-THROATED ANT-TANAGER (Habia fuscicauda) – Noisy, understory tanagers that were usually in the darkest parts of the forest. We ran across a few groups at BFREE, Blue Creek and the ex-Serviceman road.
BLACK-FACED GROSBEAK (Caryothraustes poliogaster) – Our only sighting was along the Blue Creek trail when a group came through the canopy high as we watched a Gartered Trogon.
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis) – Reaching its southern range limits in northern Belize, we saw and heard them during the boat trip at Crooked Tree.

King Vulture was a daily feature on the tour. (Photo by participant George Sims)

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus) – This bird is a member of quick-moving foraging flocks. We saw them mostly at Big Falls, some in fine spring dress, while others seemed to still be holding onto their splotchy winter plumage. We saw a few more through the rest of the week.
GRAY-THROATED CHAT (Granatellus sallaei) – Yes!! A fine plumaged bird, we saw it very well at Crooked Tree and then again along the road into the Bladen Reserve in southern Belize where it is far less commonly seen.
BLUE-BLACK GROSBEAK (Cyanocompsa cyanoides) – A big dark Grosbeak of the forest interior. We saw them usually in pairs while we were at BFREE.
BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea) – A wintering species from North America. It was seen most days in gardens, crop fields and roadside edges.
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea) – Also wintering from North America, we saw them mixed into the seedeaters, grassquits and Blue Grosbeaks.
PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris) – Our cooks at BFREE put us onto the presence of a couple birds outside the kitchen during a rainy morning break. Janie had another on the road as we walked into BFREE.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus) – Singing males in the wetlands of Crooked Tree during our boat trip. This is close to the southern limit for this species. The males have deep buff edges to the epaulettes and a shrill song; known as A. p. richmondii which ranges south into Costa Rica.
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna) – Aside from a couple we flushed off the runway at PG, Janie spotted a teed-up bird along the ex-Serviceman road. This is a form of Eastern Meadowlark that is small, dark and sings a short, rich song. This is S. m. mexicana of southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.
MELODIOUS BLACKBIRD (Dives dives) – A common garden icterid. Pairs give amusing duets as they pump up and down on a branch while singing.
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus) – Perhaps Belize's most common bird...
BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus) – An entertaining flock of birds at the Big Falls rice mill.
GIANT COWBIRD (Molothrus oryzivorus) – We had great looks at a male on the grounds of Belcampo-hard to believe it is a cowbird!
BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE (Icterus prosthemelas) – Several opportunities to see this yellow and black icterid, but best seen at Big Falls.
ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius) – A numerous migrant in mixed species flocks, especially near the coast.
HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus) – A couple of splendid males around Crooked Tree, as well as a nest right at the airport our last day.
YELLOW-TAILED ORIOLE (Icterus mesomelas) – During the boat trip at Crooked Tree, we had a nice assemblage of 4-5 of these birds come by and perch up nicely in riverside vegetation.
SPOT-BREASTED ORIOLE (Icterus pectoralis) – A smart-looking oriole that has recently 'invaded' from Guatemala into southern Belize. We saw three different males around Punta Gorda, including crippling views of a handsome male.
BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula) – Commonly found in mixed species foraging flocks throughout the week.
YELLOW-BILLED CACIQUE (Amblycercus holosericeus) – Rather secretive but we had good looks at a bird along the shoreline during our Crooked Tree boat trip. Otherwise, only a couple more made quick road crossings in front of us. Heard much more often than seen.
MONTEZUMA OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius montezuma) – Widespread in the south, we saw them at BFREE, around Belcampo and along the ex-Serviceman road.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
SCRUB EUPHONIA (Euphonia affinis) – Several good looks at this species along the road going into the Bladen Reserve as they fed on fruit along the roadside.

A mangrove specialist and regional endemic: Yucatan Vireo (Photo by participant George Sims)

YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia hirundinacea) – We saw this species best along the Blue Creek trail and also at Big Falls.
OLIVE-BACKED EUPHONIA (Euphonia gouldi) – A forest Euphonia, we had them along the Blue Creek trail and also on the road into the Bladen Reserve, in direct comparison to Scrub Euphonia.

COMMON OPOSSUM (Didelphis marsupialis) – A road-killed individual in PG.
GREATER WHITE-LINED BAT (Saccopteryx bilineata) – George and Joan had some outside their cabin at Big Falls.
YUCATAN HOWLER MONKEY (Alouatta pigra) – Pretty much every stop had their local Howlers to keep us entertained! Some great looks at Belcampo.
CENTRAL AMERICAN SPIDER MONKEY (Ateles geoffroyi) – Hurray! Not an easy primate to find in Belize, we saw a wonderful troupe along the Bladen Reserve road. They rewarded us with tremendous leaps across the road through the treetops.
DEPPE'S SQUIRREL (Sciurus deppei) – Commonly seen at BFREE.
CENTRAL AMERICAN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta punctata) – Well seen at several locations, including Nim Li Punit. The 'Royal Rat'.
WEST INDIAN MANATEE (Trichechus manatus) – Dan spotted a surfacing individual along the Rio Grande that only a few of us got onto.
GREEN IGUANA (Iguana iguana) – Common and widespread. We saw some big males lounging around in trees or crossing roads. March is the time of female nesting along riverbank.
STRIPED BASILISK (Basiliscus vittatus) – A few of us saw these odd crested lizards at Crooked Tree.
MORELET'S CROCODILE (Crocodylus moreleti) – A couple of good sized individuals- also known as Mexican Crocodile.
CANE TOAD (Bufo marinus) – A few of these big toads.


Totals for the tour: 265 bird taxa and 7 mammal taxa