Guatemala: Experiences in Birdwatching

Photo by Bob MacInnes and used under a Creative Commons license

Birdwatching is gaining popularity in Guatemala and is attracting many visitors from around the world. These birdwatchers are usually very excited to find a variety of birds located in beautiful sceneries. The number of species of birds located in the Guatemalan avifauna is more than 700. Many of these enthusiasts have started to write about their experiences through the use of blogs.

The blog Birdwatching Guatemala explains why Guatemala is so attractive to nature lovers :

Biological diversity has enabled Guatemala to stand among the 25 countries with the most variety of natural resources in the world. Millions of species living in its varied ecosystems, more than 700 species of birds, mammals like the jaguar, tapir and a variety of reptiles and insects.

Jeff Bouton of the Leica Birding Blog was pleased with his discoveries and with his time spent in Guatemala during a birdwatching expedition in the department of Petén

We spent a glorious morning birding the Cerro Cahuí reserve in Peten, Guatemala. It was a wonderful place and we enjoyed views of tropical specialties like Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, Gray-headed Tanagers, Royal Flycatchers, Sepia-capped Flycatchers, and Golden-crowned Warblers, occurring side-by-side with more familiar neotropical migrants like Magnolia, Worm-eating, & Kentucky Warblers, and Yellow-bellied & Great Crested Flycatchers. At one point we ran into an amazing feeding flock and we were picking out new birds left and right.

Rob Fergus, also known as “The Birdchaser” tells the story of Santiago, a small village located near Lake Atitlán, where he was able to see and learn about area birds:

The Tz'utujil Mayan town of Santiago Atitlan on the shores of Lake Atitlan is known in Tz'utujil as the “House of Birds.” We asked a lot of folks why it has that name, and were told that birds used to be abundant there, nesting in the rooftops of thatched houses. Most of the people we were able to talk to there are not as closely tied to the forest or fields as their predecessors, so we weren't able to get as many bird names or stories as we did in the Mopan or Q'eqchi’ areas, but we still collected some interesting accounts of using hummingbirds as cures for epilepsy and as love potions!

Another birdwatcher, Bill Thompson, III writes in his blog called Bill of the Birds about how he spent his birthday in Guatemala and about the present he received from Mother Nature, when he was able to see one of the most rarest birds:

One of the highlights from early 2008 was my birthday bat falcon in Flores, Guatemala. The bat falcon is a fairly common raptor in the tropics. In fact it was something of a sore point for me that I had not seen one after more than half a dozen trips to its range in Central America. I'd gotten amazing looks at a larger (and much rarer) relative, the orange-breasted falcon on two different trips to Tikal, but the bat falcon had eluded me.

Birdwatching is not only a hobby, but also a crucial activity to preserve the species, as explained by Dear Kitty :

Invited by the Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies (FARES), a Guatemalan archaeological research organization, the Cornell ornithologists recorded 184 bird species. The reserve holds one of the largest intact tropical forests in Central America as well as key Mayan archaeological sites at El Mirador and Tintal , where the Cornell researchers focused their surveys. The bird count may help with long-term biodiversity conservation plans at the reserve.

Photo by Arturo Godoy and used under a Creative Commons license

In addition, forest fires and narcoactivity are destroying the habitat where such lovely birds live. Many people, including some bloggers like Arturo Godoy are trying to raise awareness about the fragile habitat. He is spreading the word about a campaign from the National Park El Mirador – Río Azul, which is trying to spread wordabout its cause through its Facebook profile.

we're killing the forests of Petén. This year major forest fires are expected during the dry season. We need volunteers, real warriors in this fight for conservation and for life. We need their help in cleaning 44 kilometers of breach and also to spread this information to organizations which may help with equipment and provisions. Please get in touch with Ing. Francisco Asturias: or to the phone numbers 5480-4875 and 5837-0637. You are also welcome to become friends of Mirador un Parque Fantásticoon Facebook

Campaigns like these are helping to ensure that there are habitats for the birds that many birdwatching visitors from abroad to enjoy for generations to come.

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