It's no secret: Belize is one of the world's premier destinations for wildlife viewing. Here at Ka'ana, in the country's western jungles, guests have prime access to some of Belize's nearly 600 species of birds. For birders, that's sheer paradise. And the winged creatures are so beautiful, that even visitors who haven't thought much about birds often leave Belize with a newfound passion (especially if they've joined us for our birding adventure).
One of our most beloved birds is the toucan. It's everywhere in Belize, and not just eating the plentiful fruits of the rainforest. As the national bird, it's on the logo for Belize Tourism Board. It's even on the dollar bills! We prefer to see it in the wild, though, and revel in each sighting as it flits from tree to tree.
Another Belize favorite is the endemic yellow-head parrot, a sub-species found nowhere else. With a lime-green body and sunshiney head, it has extraordinary mimicking skills, making it a treat to listen to in the wild. Birders from around the world come here in hopes of spotting this rare bird, whose populations have plummeted in recent decades.
The scarlet macaw is also a must-see for birders. The archetypal red parrot, it has a ruby-red body and bright flashes of yellow and blue on its wings. It's also the largest parrot in the world. The scarlet macaw's numbers have diminished in Central America, although the species is still plentiful in South America. Thankfully, guests at Ka'ana can see large flocks of up to 16 macaws between the months of November and February on our morning bird tour. Our favorite fun fact about this magnificent flyer? It's a true lovebird: always living in pairs.
While the scarlet macaw is the biggest parrot, it pales in size to the jabiru stork. It's the tallest flying bird in Latin America, standing up to a mighty 1.5 meters (5 feet), and stretching its wings up to 2.8 meters (9 feet) across. From November through June, the behemoth is a regular sight in the nearby Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the healthiest breeding population of jabirus in Central America. They're hard to miss, not just for their size but also their contrasting colors. The birds have a white body and a long black neck with a red band.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are hummingbirds, teeny flyers that zip their way around the jungles. We have nearly 30 species of the little birds in Belize. Their long, thin beaks are perfect for dipping into our tropical flowers for nectar. These miraculous birds spend their winters here, having traveled thousands of miles from the northern reaches of North America.
Another favorite sight among birders is the roseate spoonbill. And it's one that we bet a lot of guests will soon spot, seeing that it's featured on the mural of sister property Itz'ana's Rum Room. In the wild, large flocks of these pink wading birds are a feast for the eyes as they dabble in Belize's marshlands. Swaying its wide beak side to side through underwater as it walks, the spoonbill sifts through mud for crustaceans, frogs, newts, and small fish.
The red-footed booby is another seabird that makes landfall in Belize. Feeding in the ocean, it nests on the Lighthouse Reef Atoll as well as in Half Moon Caye National Monument. The reserve, founded in 1928 with the express purpose of acting as a sanctuary for the boobies, is Belize's oldest wildlife preserve. Around 4,000 of the red-footed birds nest at the caye, making their homes and raising their chicks in orange-flowered Ziricote thickets.
And while observation decks provide easy viewpoints for the red-footed boobies, birders have to be more ambitious if they want to see the rare orange-breasted falcon. Only 40 pairs of the predator exist in Central America, scattered in a few areas of Belize and Guatemala, as well as Panama (but not, oddly, anywhere in between). Our birding adventure takes guests to one of only 13 locations in Central America where the endangered falcon lives.
There are hundreds more beautiful, unique and fascinating birds in Belize. Which tops your wish list?