It may be geographically small; however, Guatemala boasts immense natural and cultural diversity. From picturesque beaches to towering volcanoes, and from arid dry forests to lush tropical jungles, the country encompasses a wide range of ecosystems. Within these diverse environments, the country is home to over 700 bird species, at least 40 of which are unique to the region, making it an excellent bird watching destination. It is also a Megadiverse country, meaning that it has rich natural wealth in all areas – environmental cultural and historical. With its diverse environments, fusion of cultures and languages and incredible historical heritage, Guatemala really is a special destination. 

Resplendent Quetzal 

Spotting the elusive Resplendent Quetzal is a highlight in Guatemala, given its status as the national bird. This iconic avian species, distinguished by its shimmering green head and wings, distinctive green crest, vibrant red breast, and flamboyant twin tail plumes, resembles a dancer in a carnival parade. However, the quetzal’s allure extends beyond its striking appearance. For over 1,500 years, it has been deeply intertwined with Guatemala’s history and religious beliefs. 

Guatemala presents seven main ecosystems which are considered unique to the country. These are defined by factors such as altitude, temperature and precipitation, as well as dominant plant composition and they each host a vast number of different bird species. 

Tropical Humid Forest  

This ecosystem typifies the northern and eastern regions of Peten, characterized by flat terrain, karstic landscapes, lush forests, and significant diversity and richness of species. The climate is hot and humid and here you will fine the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. Bird species inhabiting this area include the Keel-bellied Toucan, Yucatan Flycatcher, Red-Lored Parrot, Brown Hooded Parrot, Ocellated Turkey, and Black Catbird. 

The Mayan Biosphere Reserve

Ocellated Turkey

Tropical Rainforests  

Somewhat similar to the tropical humid forest, but with much higher levels of rainfall and atmospheric humidity, this ecosystem ranges from sea level to 1,300 m in altitude. It is the wettest part of the country, and holds several ecosystems, such as swamps, floodable forests, wetland estuaries, Caribbean marine coastlands, tall evergreen forests, savannahs and grasslands. Species found here include Black-throated Shrike-tanager, Plain Xenops, Green Shrike-Vireo, King Vulture, Black and white Hawk Eagle, Red-Capped Manakin, Lesson’s Motmot, royal Flycatcher. 

Black-throated Shrike-Tanager 

Cloud Forest  

With an altitude between 1000 and 2900m above sea level, the cloud forests are characterised by their perpetually misty and humid conditions, providing moisture to the exuberant vegetation typical of mixed forest. Species found here include the Azure-hooded Jay, Blue throated motmot, Highland Guan, Fulvous Owl, Guatemalan Pygmy Owl, Resplendent Quetzal, Slate-coloured Solitaire. 

Guatemalan Pygmy Owl

Montane Forest  

With altitude ranging from 2000 to 4200m above sea level this region has an abundance of coniferous trees, birch and oak. Changes in the seasons are readily apparent in the forest foliage, transitioning distinctly from the dry to the wet season. This region in characterised by its volcanic landscape and is of course most famous for beautiful Lake Atitlan. Bird species to look out for here include the Horned Guan, Dusky- capped Flycatcher, Northern Emerald- Toucanet, Rufous Sabrewing, Belted Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Pink headed Warbler, and the Ocellated Quail. 

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Horned Guan

Dry Scrub  

With the rain shadow effect of the Sierra De Las Minas mountains this ecosystem has the lowest rainfall and highest temperatures and is considered to be the driest in all of Central America. As with all dry areas, its lack of rainfall brings fauna adapted to the conditions-there’s an abundance of cactus and acacias. It is also one of the most unique ecosystems of Guatemala. Bird species found here include the Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Whitelored Gnatcatcher, Russet-crowned Motmot, White-throated Magpie-jay, Plain-capped Starthroat, and the Lesser Roadrunner. 

Lesser Roadrunner 

Lesser Ground Cuckoo

Russet-crowned Motmot

Sub-tropical Humid Forest  

Located along the transition zone between the Highlands and the Pacific Coast, along the volcanic chain southern slope, the Sub Tropical Humid Forest ecosystem ranges between 800 and 1200 meters above sea level. It is showered by abundant rainfall and broadleaf vegetation dominates the area. This is a very interesting birdwatching region because it presents an ecozone between the highlands and lowlands. Species to observe here include the Long-tailed Manakin, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Orange-chinned Parakeet, and the Blue-tailed Hummingbird. 

Cinnamon Hummingbird

Orange-fronted Parakeet

Tropical Humid Savannah  

Due to the fertile soils of the Tropical Humid savannah ecosystem, what was once mostly tropical rainforest has been turned into agricultural fields, where sugarcane dominates, as well as rubber, macadamia, and African Palm plantations. Although a lot of the natural ecosystem has been lost, remnants of original vegetation to this region maintain the local biodiversity in evergreen tropical forests along watersheds, savannahs and mangrove forests. Species to look out for here include, White bellied Chachalaca, Rufous-naped Wren, Pacific Parakeet, Yellow-naped Parrot, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow-winged Cacique. 

Yellow-winged Cacique

Rufous-naped Wren

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Luxury travel to Guatemala provides access to private reserves, remote habitats, and lesser-known birding spots that are teeming with avian diversity. These locations offer a serene and undisturbed environment for observing rare and endemic bird species. 

Experienced and knowledgeable birding guides accompany you on luxury tours, providing valuable insights into the local birdlife, habitats, and behaviours. They know the best times and places to spot elusive species, enhancing the birdwatching experience. Get in touch to talk about a tailor-made trip to Guatemala.