Welcome to Birdquest

HONDURAS

Sunday 5th March - Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Robert Gallardo

Wine-throated Hummingbird (Angie Cederlund)

Wine-throated Hummingbird (Angie Cederlund)

This year BirdQuest launched its groundbreaking tour to Honduras and it turned out to be an outstanding trip. This little known country, located in northern Central American, is visited by very few bird watchers. In fact, so few birders visit, that the tour leader has never crossed paths with another birding group while afield in 17 years! One can imagine how delightful it really is to bird watch there, often having an entire reserve to oneself, and not bumping into hordes of tourists. Across a wide array of landscapes we would record a total of 426 species; 54% of the country’s total.

As late as 1968, very little was known about the avifauna of Honduras with most information being derived from a literary monograph (Monroe 1968). By 1993 the country list stood at a meager 701 species. In 2009 more attention was given to its birds and to date there are now 786 species confirmed with another forty to be expected. Species such as the Ocellated Quail, Keel-billed Motmot and Lovely Cotinga were once considered a rare find anywhere, when in fact each are locally common throughout much of Honduras in their appropriate habitats. At one point the Honduran Emerald was listed as ‘critically endangered,’ but we now know that it is spread out across various habitats in different regions.

Likewise, bird watching (as an industry) has started to gain a foothold as a permanent and integral part of the tourism sector. It has even drawn the attention of government ministers and the Honduran President himself. Previously, any bird watcher had to tote three different field guides from neighboring countries in order to identify all its birds. Now there is now an authoritative, in-depth guide that covers 770 species. Numerous formal bird guide training courses have also been implemented in order to give nationals basic knowledge of the avifauna and how to prepare and operate bird watching tours. Indeed, the country has come a long ways in so little time. The country’s geopolitical boundaries place it on a major biogeographical divide (featured by the Honduran Depression), rendering its avifaunal composition similar to that of the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. Allopatric species such as the Black-faced and Mayan Antthrushes, as well as the Green-throated and Green-breasted Mountaingems, are but two examples of species that converge in the country. No less than 100 species have their typical northern and southern range limits in Honduras. The vast lowland forests of the east, known as “La Mosquitia,” are home to at least fifty species which range no further north. Furthermore, its vast pine-oak highlands (which terminate in northern Nicaragua) provide ample refuge for an immeasurable quantity of migratory wood-warblers, especially those from western North America.

Honduras has one of the most varied conglomerations of ecosystems in Central America, and together with its extensive forest cover (the highest in the region), lends itself the predisposition of having a unique and diverse assemblage of bird species. In some places lowland rainforest gives way to montane forest or rainshadow valleys within a very short distance of each other. In one day it is fairly easy to visit three major habitats and possibly observe nearly 200 hundred species. Climate change affects the entire planet, including the tropics. This years’ typical “summer” weather proved to be cool and at times we experienced a bit of rain. Although the odd weather did slow down the birding a bit at various sites and we had to work harder than normal, we were keen on finding and seeing the majority of the regional endemics and specialties.

Ornate Hawk Eagle (Angie Cederlund)

Ornate Hawk Eagle (Angie Cederlund)