I recently returned from participating in the 5th International Bird Watching “Encounter” in Antigua, Guatemala.  The encounters have been developed by the Guatemalan National Bird Watching Roundtable (Mesa Nacional de Aviturismo) with the assistance of INGUAT, the Guatemalan Tourism Institute.

Based on this visit, I am convinced that Guatemala is ready to go as a major destination for birding/avitourism/ecotourism (however you want to describe it). The country has everything you might want in a destination: well over 700 species of birds (more on this below), great infrastructure for tourism, knowledgeable guides, a rich and very much living culture, and a past without parallel. How can you not go there?

For birders, Guatemala offers a delectable mix of resident and migrant birds (the latter only if you go in the “winter” months). Many of the resident birds are spectacular, rare and eagerly sought after by birders — birds such as the Resplendant Quetzal, Horned Guan, and Pink-headed Warbler.

Even the migrants, though most North Americans are likely to have seen them before, occur in different mixes and habitats. For example, where else are you going to see flocks of Townsend’s and Tennessee Warblers hanging out with Crescent-chested Warblers? Even the songs seem to be a bit more magical there — for example, that of the Brown-backed Solitaire.

Guatemala’s archaeological sites are world-famous, and justly so. For example, Tikal National Park is without peer in many ways. However, if you are like me, when you go to places like this, it is hard to decide whether to look at the spectacular ruins or the wildlife — both catch your eyes, although in different ways.

Tikal is part of the larger Maya Forest region, where The Nature Conservancy has worked for many years, userbin, both in Guatemala and in adjacent Belize and Mexico. This area has much to offer the ecotourist, whether birder or archaeologist. Check it out!

(Image: Logo of the 5th International Birdwatching Encounter, courtesy http://www.birds-guatemala.org/en/.)

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. The birding in Guatemala is excellent. Here is a poem I wrote about my experience there several years ago:

    Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

    For fear of losing sight, no one
    wants to take eyes off the bird
    perched in a tree on the volcano
    face, to look it up in
    “The Birds of Central America.”

    He is fixed in our field glasses,
    yet invisible to our knowledge.

    Finally, the brave among us
    asks our guide,
    “What kind of bird is that?”

    “It’s a bird,” he answers.

    We laughed; we could see that,
    asking again.

    “It’s a little bird.”

    (Two villagers skirt past,
    carrying 30 pounds or more
    of wood sticks, harvest
    for the home fires–)

    More laughter, then pressing.

    “It’s a little brown bird.”

    (Someone notices the men
    with the wooden “backpacks”
    are wearing drugstore
    flip-flops, even on such
    a steep grade–)

    Thus far, our guide hadn’t told us
    anything we didn’t know.

    “Yes, but…?”

    To which he sighed, giving in,
    giving us all we needed to know:

    “It’s a little brown bird–
    from here.”

    –Scott Edward Anderson

    c) 2005 Scott Edward Anderson

  2. I went to Guatemala in 2006 and I agree wit heverything except the infrastructure that are not enough for developing tourism. Without mentioning the security problem. Such a shame that such a beautiful country cannot develop itself to its full potential!!

  3. Thank you very much. For all of us who are working in develop Guatemala as a birding destination, we appreciate your comments on your blog which take us to improved our efforts to it.

  4. i am confused is ecotourtism good or bad?

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