Either because of his royal robes or imperious demeanor or both – ordinary vultures do in fact defer and make way for the King Vulture at feeding time. Some believe that the bird’s name has its origins from an old Mayan legend in which this vulture was a “king” or “lord” that carried messages between humans and the Gods.
Almost midway between Belize City and Orange Walk Town is the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to many species of bird life. This includes the snowy egret, great egret, snail kite, black bellied whistling and Muscovy duck, kingfisher, osprey, black-collared hawk, white ibis, American coot, northern jacana, green-backed heron, green-winged teal, roseate spoonbills, olivaceous cormorants, and Yucatan jay. The sanctuary is also a nesting place for the extremely rare Jabiru stork. The Jabiru stork, one of the largest flying birds of the Americas , stands nearly five feet tall with a wingspan of approximately eight feet. It has all white wing and body feathers atop of which sits a bare black head and neck. Completing its distinctive look is a wide red collar band. These storks tend to congregate at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary at the end of their nesting season, which is from December to March.
Another birding paradise is The Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, located off the Western Highway a mile and a half past the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center turnoff. This privately owned 1,070 acre reserve has ecosystems that include pine and palm savanna, tropical forest, freshwater wetlands and lagoons; it is a haven for bird-watchers. Over 250 species of birds have been sighted, including toucans, parrots, storks and the redstart warbler.
The western districts of the country are also a birder’s haven. The Cayo District, which has become a major tourist center, offers excellent bird-watching opportunities at resorts located in or near the Chiquibul Reserve. The spotting of an extremely rare harpy eagle during a tour near the Caracol Ruins in the Chiquibul Forest recently created much excitement for a small group of tourists and their local guide. Chaa Creek Cottages , the first such resort built in the Cayo district, has won international awards for its 300-acre nature reserve and gourmet restaurant; you can get endless hours of bird watching delight right off the luncheon balcony plus much more along its trails. Chaa Creek also runs a campsite near the Macal River , and many areas along this river offer spectacular birding experiences.
Near the nation’s capital of Belmopan , is Guanacaste Park , officially dedicated on Earth Day, April 22, 1990 . Guanacaste is a 56-acre nature reserve which is named after a 100-foot guanacaste tree growing near the southwestern edge of the reserve. In addition to being a home to a large variety of flowers, orchids and bromeliads, Guanacaste Park is home to many birds. The park and visitors center are maintained by the Belize Audubon Society.
The Jabiru Stork ( Jabiru mycteria ) is also known locally in Belize as a “turk” or “fillymingo”. They live in wetlands and feed on frogs, snails, fish, and have been known to eat snakes. They nest at the top of very tall trees with both male and females taking turns incubating the eggs.
The Belize Audubon Society (BAS), a membership organization founded in 1969 is very active here. It is a leading agency in bird watching and counting activities, as the name “Audubon” suggests, but it is also much more. BAS is interested in all aspects of the country’s natural heritage and is dedicated to the preservation of the wildlife and natural resources of Belize . Since 1984, BAS has also been involved with the management of protected areas and today manages six protected areas. More than one-fifth of Belize ‘ total land mass is dedicated to nature reserves. Today there exists PACT, the Protected Areas Conservation Trust, as well as BAS and various government departments which combine efforts to ensure proper management. The conservation fee paid when departing Belize helps to support the year round effort to manage and protect Belize ‘s wildlife areas.
Birds In Southern Belize
Seen all over Belize. Length about 20 cm. It has a gray head, white throat, brown wings, a yellow belly and a powerful bill. It has a orange spot on its head but that is mostly unobservable. This flycatcher is found in open country with trees. There you see it sitting without moving to fly up to catch insects in a typical flycatcher way. It is as aggressive against intruders like the great kiskadee and will chase after big birds like the yellow-headed caracara.
Punta Gorda in the south offers the Agua Caliente Nature Reserve near Laguna Village – it is a bird watching sanctuary. In Placencia, the Bladden River Reserve contains a great variety of birds, and a boat tour through mangroves and then five miles upriver to jungle trails will usually guarantee you the sight of a great variety of birds. Indeed, the entire Placencia Lagoon with its mangrove swamps, flora and fauna, also has many exotic birds.
Also in the southern the Sittee River Tour offers the spectacular sight of tropical birds. Or, if you’d like, view flocks of the famous scarlet macaw in Red Bank Village, located about 30 minutes from a southern Maya village of Maya Center, and in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Many cayes, small islands, are also a bird watcher’s dream. Bird Caye Bird Sanctuary, north of Gales Point will offer up choice bird watching of ibises, herons, egrets and other Northern Lagoon delights. The island of Caye Caulker has a small reserve dedicated to the black catbird. Man of War Caye is a haven for pelicans, frigate birds and brown booby birds. And, about 50 miles southeast of Belize City , in the region of the famous Blue Hole, a scuba diving delight, is Half Moon Caye. It is home to the region’s only population of the red-footed booby bird.
Just about any area of this country offers bird life. Whether it’s a talkative parrot in the jungles, or the evening twitter of blackbirds in Belize City , and the flocks of pigeons in downtown Battlefield Park , Belize is truly made for the bird lover. Indeed, over 120 species are found just in and around Belize City – for example, the nearby Maya ruin of Altun Ha, 31 miles north of Belize City, covers approximately 25 square miles, is a good place for birdwatchers, who can venture onto several jungle trails branching out from main plaza
Exotic birds like the jabiru stork, scarlet macaw and keel-billed toucan are protected species. Other threatened or endangered species include the crested eagle, black catbird, chestnut bellied heron, muscovy duck, solitary eagle and ocellated turkey. Whether you have an hour, a day or a week in this bird watchers paradise, you’re bound to spot numerous species without even trying