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Central American birding with a difference

Honduras Birding Tours: Our Honduras bird watching holiday explores a splendid, underpopulated Central American country that still has large tracts of original forest and other natural habitat surviving, things that are but memories in most of the surrounding countries. Our Honduras birding tour offers great birding, with a series of specialities, including the endemic Honduran Emerald. Near-endemics and regional specialities include the superb Ocellated Quail, Red-throated Parakeet, Fulvous Owl, Green-breasted and Green-throated Mountain-gems, Blue-tailed Hummingbird, the extraordinary little Wine-throated Hummingbird, Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, Keel-billed Motmot, Lovely Cotinga, Bushy-crested Jay and Prevost's Ground-Sparrow. Honduras now has its own high quality field guide, written by our guide Robert Gallardo.

Friday 8th March — Friday 22nd March 2019
(15 days)

Ocellated Quail Extension: Tuesday 5th March — Friday 8th March (4 days)

Leader: Robert Gallardo

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations

The beautiful Ocellated Quail is a mega-speciality of Honduras. Just one of a good number of special birds in this little-birded country. (Robert Gallardo)

The beautiful Ocellated Quail is a mega-speciality of Honduras. Just one of a good number of special birds in this little-birded country. (Robert Gallardo)

Honduras is a largely undiscovered birding gem that straddles northern Central America, stretching from the Pacific to the Caribbean. With a low population of just eight million, it still has extensive areas of natural habitat. People often think of Costa Rica as being the exemplar of the percentage of land put aside as reserves in Central America, but it is Honduras that is the true shining star, with the highest percentage of protected lands in the region and the greatest area of remaining wilderness in Central America in its far northeast.

Honduras has only one strictly endemic species, the endangered Honduran Emerald, but is one of the richest parts of the Northern Central American (NCA) endemic bird area, holding the majority of these regional endemics. Indeed, several are virtually endemic to Honduras, including Red-throated Parakeet, Green-breasted Mountaingem and Bushy-crested Jay. One of the most poorly-known and least often observed NCA endemics is the beautiful Ocellated Quail, and Honduras is surely the place to see this special bird. Other NCA specialities include Fulvous Owl, Green-throated Mountaingem, Blue-tailed Hummingbird, the stunning Wine-throated Hummingbird, the spectacular Sparkling-tailed Woodstar and Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow. There are also some species with a slightly wider distribution that are key specialities, more easily seen here than anywhere else, including the stunning Lovely Cotinga and the once near-mythical Keel-billed Motmot.

This tour is specially crafted to include as many of the NCA endemics as possible and is more comprehensive than any other birding tour to Honduras, in most cases by a very long way!

Honduras was discovered by Europeans in 1502 during Christopher Columbus’s final voyage, when landings were made on the both the Bay Islands and the north coast. The conquest of Honduras was led by Hernan Cortes in 1524, who brought down both European and Amerindian troops from Mexico, and lasted decades owing to fierce local resistance. The remote far northeast of the country was never conquered. The Spanish eventually ruled there for almost three centuries, incorporating the territory into the Kingdom of Guatemala, before Honduras became independent in 1821.

Honduras is a safe and friendly country for visiting birders, with a reasonably good infrastructure. Roads are often good and hotels and lodges range from high quality to at least simple but clean and adequate.

We start our Honduran journey at the capital city, Tegucigalpa, ringed by the mountains that comprise so much of Honduras, from where we head south to the Pacific coastal region.

Based at Choluteca, near Honduras’s short stretch of Pacific coastline, we will explore areas of monsoon forest in search of such NCA endemics and restricted-range specialities as White-bellied Chachalaca, Orange-fronted Parakeet, the uncommon Yellow-naped Amazon, Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Hoffman’s and Velasquez’s Woodpeckers, the stunning Long-tailed Manakin, the spectacular White-throated Magpie-Jay, Banded Wren and Streak-backed Oriole.

From the Pacific coast we return to the Tegucigalpa region for an exploration of La Tigra National Park, which protects the cloudforest on which much of the city’s water supply depends. The magnificent, moss-bedecked forests of La Tigra are home to the fabulous Resplendent Quetzal, the form found here having the longest ‘tail streamers’ of all, making the males even more spectacular. There are a host of NCA endemics and near-endemics likely here, including Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, the extraordinary, almost bumblebee-sized Wine-throated Hummingbird, Azure-crowned and Garnet-throated Hummingbirds, Green-breasted Mountaingem, Emerald Toucanet, Bushy-crested Jay, Rufous-browed Wren, Slate-colored Solitaire, Black Thrush and the smart Blue-and-white Mockingbird. Restricted-range specialities include Singing Quail, White-faced Quail-Dove, Mountain Trogon, Yellowish Flycatcher, Plain Wren, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Crescent-chested Warbler and the unusual Olive Warbler (the sole member of its family).

From La Tigra we head westwards to the high mountains close to the border with El Salvador. Here, based at the small town of Marcala, we will explore pine-oak habitat where the NCA-endemic Red-throated Parakeet can be seen, as can such restricted-range species as Spot-bellied Bobwhite, Great Swallow-tailed Swift, the gorgeous Painted Whitestart, Rusty Sparrow and Spot-breasted and Black-vented Orioles. Higher up, in the cloudforest of Opatoro-Guajiquiro, we will be looking for such NCA-endemics as White-breasted Hawk, the impressive Fulvous Owl, Green-throated Mountaingem, Blue-throated Motmot, Black-capped Swallow, Black-throated Jay, Rufous-collared Thrush and, with luck, Highland Guan, as well as the restricted-range Brown-backed Solitaire, Mountain Thrush, Golden-browed Warbler and Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer. We also have a chance here for the tiny, restricted-range Sparkling-tailed Woodstar.

Now we head northwards to one of Honduras’s great scenic attractions, Lago Yojoa (known to Hondurans simply as ‘El Lago’, ‘The Lake’). This hauntingly beautiful body of water, surrounded by high, forested mountains, is the haunt of many waterbirds, but we will be paying more attention to the specialities of forest and thicket, and in particular the NCA-endemic Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow, and the restricted-range White-fronted Amazon, White-bellied Emerald, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Northern Bentbill, Rufous-backed Wren, Crimson-collared, Passerini’s and Yellow-winged Tanagers, Green-backed Sparrow, and also, with a bit of luck, the miniscule but wonderful Black-crested Coquette and the stunning Blue-crowned Chlorophonia. We will have our first chance here for a bird which was once rarely seen but which is nowadays generally easy to see in Honduras; the attractive, restricted-range Keel-billed Motmot.

A major highlight of our visit to ‘The Lake’ will be a visit to an area where the endemic Honduran Emerald can easily be found. This endangered species is known only from scattered dry forest locations in the northern half of the country, a habitat which is rapidly being cleared for ranching. Other good birds here with restricted distributions include Lesser Roadrunner and the secretive Lesser Ground-Cuckoo (not easy to find).

Next we reach the Caribbean coast at Tela. Where an overnight stop will allow us a first sampling of lowland Caribbean birds at the splendid and extensive Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, including the restricted-range Black-headed Trogon and Chestnut-colored Woodpecker.

Our final destination, and undoubtedly a highlight of our adventure, will be a stay at the famous Lodge at Pico Bonito, in the foothills of the towering Pico Bonito range near La Ceiba. Here, as well as enjoying the superb accommodation and gloriously scenic setting, we will be on the lookout for the wonderful Lovely Cotinga and, with luck, Tody Motmot and the handsome Black-throated Shrike-Tanager. Another good bird here is the bizarre Northern Royal Flycatcher.

During the optional extension we will explore the Olancho in northeastern Honduras, one of the least populated parts of the country, with the aim of seeing the little-known, NCA-endemic Ocellated Quail, one of the most wanted ‘grailbirds’ of Central America. If we can find the quail reasonably quickly in its hilly pine-oak habitat we will also have time to explore an area of cloudforest.

All in all, Honduras offers great birding and a series of specialities that are hard or impossible to see anywhere else. Join us for some frontier birding in a splendid little country that is sure to become much better known to the birding community now that Robert Gallardo’s new field guide to Honduras is available.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges range from very good at Pico Bonito to simple but clean and comfortable at La Union during the extension. Road transport is by small coach or minibus and roads are mostly good, although there are stretches that are badly pot-holed and a few short but bumpy dirt sections.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but sometimes moderate. During the extension the searching for Ocellated Quail can be fairly demanding at times.

Climate: Generally warm or hot, dry and sunny at lower altitudes, but cool to warm in upland areas. Whilst overcast weather is quite regular, rain is infrequent at this season. It will be rather humid in the lowlands.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £3090, €3430, $4050 Tegucigalpa/La Ceiba. Single Room Supplement: £448, €497, $587. Deposit: £400, €440, $520.

Ocellated Quail Extension: £650, €720, $850 Tegucigalpa/Tegucigalpa. Single Room Supplement: £54, €60, $71. Deposit: £100, €110, $130.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.180.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The remarkable Keel-billed Toucan is always popular (Rainer Ertel)

The remarkable Keel-billed Toucan is always popular (Rainer Ertel)

The poorly-known and, in most of its range, rarely observed Keel-billed Motmot. Honduras is THE place to see this uncommon species. (Mark Beaman)

The poorly-known and, in most of its range, rarely observed Keel-billed Motmot. Honduras is THE place to see this uncommon species. (Mark Beaman)

The Keel-billed Motmot gets its name from the keel-like ridge on its upper mandible, the bill being broad and boat-like in shape. (Mark Beaman)

The Keel-billed Motmot gets its name from the keel-like ridge on its upper mandible, the bill being broad and boat-like in shape. (Mark Beaman)

The colourful Turquoise-browed Motmot (Pete Morris)

The colourful Turquoise-browed Motmot (Pete Morris)

The stunning Black-and-white Owl (Pete Morris)

The stunning Black-and-white Owl (Pete Morris)

The tiny Blue-crowned Chlorophonia positively glows in the forest. (Robert Gallardo)

The tiny Blue-crowned Chlorophonia positively glows in the forest. (Robert Gallardo)

We have a fairly good chance of coming across the stunning little Black-crested Coquette. (Robert Gallardo)

We have a fairly good chance of coming across the stunning little Black-crested Coquette. (Robert Gallardo)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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