Guatemala is the northernmost country in Central America. The country is limited by Yucatan Peninsula to the North; with Belize, Caribbean Sea, Honduras and El Salvador to the East; with Chiapas to the West, and the Pacific Ocean to the South.
The territory has an extension of 108,889 km2 and can be divided into three regions, the Petén lowlands in the northern part of the country; this is a flat land barely higher than sea level formed by limestone substrate. In the middle of the country, there is a system of mountains and volcanoes with peaks up to 4,220 meters above sea level; the land in the coastal plains in southern Guatemala are lowlands with volcanic soil.
There are 748 bird species recorded in the Guatemala with at least 35 of them with a geographic restriction from southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and part of El Salvador. These species are related to critical regions that have been declared Endemic Bird Areas: The North Central American Pacific Slope and the North Central American Highlands.
Birds in Guatemala are represented by five species considered near endemic of the country, which means that are only found in Guatemala and the Mexican state of Chiapas. In the North Central American Pacific Slope, the representative bird is Azure-rumped Tanager. Birds related to the North Central American Highlands are Horned Guan, Belted Flycatcher, Pink-headed Warbler and Black-capped Siskin.
There are some bird subspecies that some ornithologists recognize as species, from those we can separate them into two groups. The first group is compound of birds widely extended in the Neotropics, but they can’t breed with the groups separated by long distances.
Some examples of these birds are:
- Northern Flicker (Guatemalan Flicker)
- Norther Pygmy-Owl (Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl)
- Hairy Woodpecker (Guatemalan Hairy Woodpecker)
- Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Velasquez’s Woodpecker)
- Yellow Grosbeak (Golden Grosbeak)
- Pine Siskin (Chiapas Pine Siskin)
A second group is formed by migratory bird species that find a reproductive resident population in Guatemala; these birds can’t breed with the individuals that are wintering, so the genetic drift goes in different directions and characteristics become so different that you are in trouble trying to compare with the original species.
Two bird species in this situation are:
- Goldman’s Warbler from Yellow-rumped Warbler
- White-breasted Hawk from Sharp-shinned Hawk
There’s a research work from 2006 with mitochondrial DNA that shows that Goldman’s Warbler is not a subspecies from Yellow-rumped Warbler but a species.
So, we have a candidate for a Guatemalan endemic bird in the future.
How many birds are in Guatemala?
There’s a lot of work to do in the ornithological field in Guatemala, a very simple question has been difficult to answer: how many birds are in Guatemala?
There is more question to respond: how many of them are resident? How many are migratory? Do we have extinct birds?
With the main purpose to have a solid answer to these questions Bird watching Guatemala team have reviewed historical records, traveled around the country and did research with modern tools like eBird to have a reliable and updated document about the list of birds of Guatemala.
We found 748 bird species properly recorded in 406 genera, these birds are classified in these categories:
- Resident birds 501
- Migratory birds 141
- Transient birds 38
- Pelagic birds 20
- Accidental birds 34
- Introduced birds 6
- Summer resident birds 4
- Extirpated birds 3
- Extinct birds 1
Resident: Bird known to breed and stay all year around in the country.
Migratory: Bird is known to remain in the country during winter time.Transient: Bird is known to occur regularly in the country for a short period, during migration journey from breeding to non-breeding territories.
Transient: Bird is known to occur regularly in the country for a short period, during migration journey from breeding to non-breeding territories.
Pelagic: Bird is known to occur in open sea.
Accidental: Bird with a few records in the country.
Summer resident: Bird known to breed in summer months in country.
Extirpated: Bird that is no longer exist in a territory, though it still exists elsewhere.
Extinct: Bird that disappeared completely from nature.