A jabiru stork, the tallest bird in the Americas, stands reflected in a pool of water.
Photo by Xavi Talleda

The verb is “to bird,” and the enthusiast is “a birder.”

This fall, you can become a birder as you search for the exotic birds of the Central American country Belize. The search for birds through the tropical jungles and the pine forests of Belize is a journey that offers everyone—from the experienced birder to the curious amateur—an escape from the beaten path.

A Day in the Life of a Birder in Belize

Birders rise early, usually around 5:00 am, walk long distances, and stand for hours waiting for birds to come into view. But birders will tell you that the journey is worth all of the effort.

Lisa Boice, an international birder who recently returned from Belize, calls herself an “accidental birder.” She had always been a traveler, but she discovered birding only after she fell in love with and married an avid birder. Now, she says birding has given a whole new meaning to her travel. “It’s like choosing something to seek after,” Boice explains. “I’ve found that when I’m traveling and I’m looking for something, it makes things different.”

Following the birds in Belize leads travelers across the small country’s stunning and varied environments. If you want to give it a try, a lodge like the Crystal Paradise Resort offers an authentic cultural experience and an opportunity to connect with other birders. Guests stay in hand-thatched cabanas and begin and end their days gathered together for family-style meals. While staying at Crystal Paradise, you can join birding groups and hire local guides to lead you on birding tours. Getting to know your local guides is one of the best ways to discover more about Belize. Ask questions about why they enjoy birding or about what life is like in Belize. Ask them about places to see while you are in the country. On every birding outing, look around and take in the environment around you, and as you travel, your search for birds will lead you to more than you expected to find.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Crooked Tree, a low-lying network of savannas, marshes, and lagoons, offers birders in Belize exceptional views of long-legged wader birds, like herons and storks. The sanctuary is a destination for birders in search of the Jabiru Stork, a very rare wader that spends the fall and winter months in Belize. At five-feet tall and with an eight-foot wingspan, the Jabiru is believed to be the largest bird in the Americas. Birders at Crooked Tree can find this enormous stork pacing the lagoons in its natural habitat.

El Pilar Nature Reserve

El Pilar, a Mayan nature reserve located on the Belize-Guatemala border, offers a promising system of trails through the jungle. Travelers should be aware that frequent robberies make El Pilar one of the more dangerous pockets of the Belizean jungle. But in the safety of a group and with a trusted guide, birders can hope to see a variety of tropical birds, such as woodpeckers, flycatchers, toucans, and parrots.

Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve

At Mountain Pine Ridge, birders can escape the humidity of the jungle and visit the pine forests in the mountaintops of Belize. Visitors enjoy cooler temperatures, picturesque forest walks, and views of 1000-foot waterfalls. Here birders can hope to see the orange-breasted falcon, one of the rarest breeds of falcon in the world.

Regardless of the birds you find, your search will be a new experience—an escape from the typical vacation. As Boice says, “Birding takes you to areas you never thought you would go to. My traveling experience is not redundant.”

—Sarah Syphus