Guatemala Birding tips
Best Observation Seasons
Guatemala is a subtropical country. There are three basic climatic seasons.
From May to October there is a rainy season. June is the month with the higher average pluvial precipitation peaks. July and August have each one a dogday week, which are ideal moments for traveling because the rain stops but the bird biology and behavior remains in the winter moment.
From November to February the weather is dry and very cold. These months have the lower peaks of temperature in January, and low average ranges in pluvial precipitation.
From March to April the weather is hot and dry. The higher temperature peaks are in April and also the lower precipitation averages.
There are two important seasons to be considered depending on your specific interest on birds:
Neatropical migratory season:
A Neotropical migratory bird breeds in Canada and the United States during the northern summer and spends the northern winter in Mexico, Central America, South America or the Caribbean islands.
Basically the migratory season goes from October to April. The climate is dry, fresh, and ideal for travels. Most birds from the Neartic region are moving towards warmer places. The biodiversity of birds has their higher peaks and the activity of birds searching for food is an amazing spectacle.
The composition of multi-specific flocks is different depending of the place and the feeding behaviors and interactions are interesting phenomena to observe. Maybe the best months for visiting the country are November (when all the migrant birds are already in the country) and March (when most of the migrant birds are moving from the neotropical region to the north).
There are about 200 species of Neotropical migratory birds. The majority are songbirds (such as warblers, thrushes, tanagers, and vireos), but there are also many shorebirds (such as sandpipers, plovers, and terns), some raptors (such as hawks, kites and vultures), and a few types of waterfowl (such as teal).
Local breeding season:
The months of June and July the climate is wet and cold in most of the highlands. The migrant birds are gone, but the local resident birds are starting the breeding, so most of the birds can be seen in couples. Their nest, eggs, reproductive behavior is accessible, and is the best moment for great and very emotive pictures.
The most exciting behavior in the neotropics during the migratory season is the multispecific flock integration. The warblers coming from the north in the migratory season search for food with many other local species taking advantage of the group as a way to increase the successful in the hunting.
In the highlands, a Greater Pewee or a similar flycatcher moves and announces the presence of a flock. Immediately behind in the canopy the Wilson, Towsends and Red-faced Warblers. The Slate-throated and Painted Redstarts always flying and displaying around.The Worm-eating Warbler always in leaves at tips of the branches and the Pink-headed Warbler in the understory.
In the lowlands the show is different. The Caerulean Warbler and other neotropical in the canopy, the Towsend and Wilson warbler and many others in the intermediate stratum. The Black-and White Warbler always in the trunks. And the flycatchers flying in the understory. The ant-tanagers surrounding the flock and always some woodcreeper coming with the flock.
The birds are organisms very sensitive to air temperature. In the lowlands, the bird activity starts earlier because the temperature becomes comfortable for birds at sunrise.
In the highlands the activity of birds starts one or two hours before the dawn, because of the low temperatures. The dawn comes at the same hour in the whole country but the clouds did not allow the heat from the sun to get into the forest at the highlands.
In this dynamic, the activity in the lowlands stops earlier because one hour before noon the heat is very high. In highlands the activity extends toward noon because the birds take advantage on any possible sun ray.
In Guatemala, the winter solstice is December 21st, (year longest day) and the sun rise at 5:30 am (average). This way, in the migratory season this should be the standard hour for planning the start of a day in a trip in the neotropical migratory season.
Bird guides and companies
Just few companies provide specialized personal for planning birdwatching travels in Guatemala. Most companies offer bidwatching tours, but just a couple can provide guides who have been working in bird conservation projects for international non-profit organizations as field workers or biologists.
The more important value in our tour is the information provided by our guides, who will make your trip an experience in life. These guides produced the field checklists provided to our clients and this guarantees they will show you the birds you request, because they know the specific places the birds inhabit.
Most birdwatchers love to start the journey with the best available cup of coffee. Guatemala has a great variety of coffee for those who really appreciate the value of a good coffee. The birdwatching in Guatemala will be also a sensorial experience for flavors and smells, starting with the coffee.
Nobody who ever have been in the country, can leave without a good coffee pound. The altitude Guatemalan coffee is very appreciated in the world, and the national produced coffee is used to give the flavor and smell to most of the international commercial coffee in the world.
There are five important zones of coffee production: Antigua (>1500 masl), Atitlan (1200 to 1800 masl), Fraijanes (1200 to 1500), Huehuetenango (1500 to 2000 masl) and Coban. These regions are
Wherever you go, you will find important production of coffee. The policulture coffee shade (different native trees used as shade) are also the second more important habitat for birds in the country after the natural forest. There are many studies about the contribution of coffee shade to bird conservation in different aspects.
Guatemalan handicraft can be recognized everywhere around the world. Complementary to the nature observation, the visitor can buy an incredible handicraft variety as souvenirs.
There are dramatic statistics of violence in Guatemala. All of them are parameters for the mayor urban cities. The quantities of violence events in the field are just few. Our company has a perfect safety record in tour development.
To minimize any possible negative event we use mostly natural private reserves, which as private properties provide an excellent safety level for the visitor.
Birding Day Tours
El Pilar Birding Tour
A private birding day trip from Antigua Guatemala or Guatemala city visiting El Pilar Reserve, a destination with a high degree of regional endemism located within the North Central American Highlands Zone.
Our Pink-headed Warbler one day birding trip is operated in this small region located in the mountain forest biome of Tecpan, a very attractive and effortless destination for birders looking for the highlands specialties.
El Mirador del Rey Tepepul
This reserve is found on the western slopes of the Atitlán volcano, with montane and subtropical humid forest areas inhabited by exciting bird species. The main target of this day tour is The Resplendent Quetzal.
Tikal Birding Tour
Tikal is one of the best places for birding in Guatemala; More than 400 species of birds have been recorded within Tikal National Park, including 30 birds of prey and 60 migratory bird species.
The Cerro or Paquisis volcano (“Paquisis hill”) encloses a micro-watershed at the top, where the observation of Horned Guan and other guans (Crested Guan, Highland Guan) is feasible.
Los Tarrales Nature Reserve
Tarrales is a Natural Private Reserve situated in the southeast area of the Volcano of Atitlan, from 615 to 2.600 meters above sea level. This condition allows having a great variety of species in the same place.
Tecpan & Antigua
Tecpan & Antigua Guatemala One – day birding trip is one of the best options for a day birding tour in the Guatemalan highlands, combining two effortless destinations located nearby Antigua.