Trip Report: Customized Birding Tour in Guatemala (28 December 2007 - 3 January 2008)

by Robert Orenstein


Claudia Avendaño and Knut Eisermann organized a one week custom tour for Pacific slope bird specialties and the cultural attractions of colonial Antigua and Lake Atitlán. This was my third visit to Guatemala, my first being a four day trip to the Biotopo del Quetzal in 1992 and my second being a short visit to Tikal earlier this year, so I was eager to see the Pacific side of the country. We visited several prime birding locations over a seven day period, with an emphasis on several regional endemics that I had missed on my previous trips to Guatemala and Chiapas.

Hummingbirds were much in evidence throughout, with nineteen species seen; as well as leks of several, including Sparkling-tailed; and a Blue-tailed sunning in the forest at Los Tarrales that looked like it was having a spa treatment! Other highlights were a group of three Azure-rumped Tanagers above Vesubio; and White-bellied Chachalaca, Long-tailed Manakin, three species of parakeet, and swarms of wintering Red-Legged Honeycreepers near the lodge at Los Tarrales. The other highlands visited produced outstanding views of Blue-throated Motmot, Gray Silky-flycatcher, Brown-backed Solitaire, Rufous-collared Robin, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, and Pink-headed Warbler. Classy birds in classy surroundings!

Blue-tailed Hummingbird

Knut was an outstanding guide and personable companion. His knowledge of the birds is encyclopedic, and his sharp eyes and perseverance were greatly appreciated. The country is growing rapidly, but all of the people we encountered were extremely friendly and accommodating. Most of the remaining habitat for birds such as the Azure-rumped Tanager is on privately-owned land, and ecotourism is both good for the local economies and critical to protecting the remaining habitat. Moreover, the private reserves provide quiet and safe places to observe birds and other wildlife – much different than most of the situations I encountered in Chiapas. I am planning to bird other parts of Guatemala with Knut, and to keep returning, as many bird species are locally distributed and/or have seasonal movements that only someone living in the area can be thoroughly familiar with.
201 total species (32 heard only)


Day 1, Dec 28: Cerro Alux (late afternoon), evening in Antigua
Day 2, Dec 29: Finca El Pilar (morning), Cerro Tecpan & Panajachel (afternoon), evening in Panajachel
Day 3, Dec 30: Panajachel (morning), Finca Los Tarrales (afternoon), evening in Los Tarrales lodge
Day 4, Dec 31: Los Tarrales Nature Reserve (early morning), Vesubio to Los Tarrales (morning, afternoon), evening in Los Tarrales lodge
Day 5,  Jan 1: Los Tarrales Nature Reserve (morning), Pachuj Nature Reserve (afternoon), evening in Los Tarrales lodge
Day 6, Jan 2: Los Tarrales Nature Reserve (early morning), Finca El Pilar (afternoon),  evening in Antigua
Day 7, Jan 3: Cerro Alux (morning), evening in Guatemala City


Cerro Alux: A small reserve near Guatemala City that protects a nice patch of mature high elevation (2200 m) pine-oak forest. There are several well-maintained trails through the forest, as well as clearings with restrooms and picnic facilities. Although heavily used on weekends, late afternoon and early morning visits produced excellent views of Band-tailed Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, White-eared Hummingbird, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Blue-throated Motmot, Guatemalan Flicker, Tufted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Hammond’s and Yellowish Flycatchers, Rose-throated Becard, Steller's and Bushy-crested Jays, Band-backed Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Brown-backed Solitaire, Rufous-collared Robin, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, and Black-headed Siskin. There was also a small sampling of wintering vireos and wood-warblers, including several Ovenbirds which were unexpected. A fine stop to begin or end a tour (we did both).

Finca El Pilar: A small coffee plantation near Antigua with hummingbird feeders and a new trail cut into the side of a steep ravine. We spent a morning near the feeders and an afternoon on the trail, which produced an impressive list of mid-elevation (1500-1800 m) species. The trail is about 1 km long, but gains about 300 meters in elevation and has numerous stairs and boardwalks which are at eye level to the treetops in places, allowing unparalled opportunities to observe foraging flocks. We took a circular route on our second visit, walking up a well maintained road to the upper trail access, which produced several Brown-backed Solitaires, Hammond’s Flycatchers and a large flock of Gray Silky-flycatchers for our effort. Several large mixed flocks of various species of wood-warblers, vireos, flycatchers, thrushes, wrens, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, and hummingbirds were seen on the trail itself, and at least two Highland Guans were calling and wing-rattling very close to the lower part of the trail, but unfortunately never seen.

Cerro Tecpan: A high elevation (2500+ m) pine-oak forest east of Lake Atitlán which is easily accessed near a roadside restaurant. Although the forest is partially logged and used by the local people, during a mid-afternoon visit we readily observed Blue-throated Motmot, White-eared and Amethyst-throated Hummingbirds, and three lovely Pink-headed Warblers accompanied by Spot-crowned Woodcreepers, Slate-throated Redstarts, and Crescent-chested, Red-faced and Golden-browed Warblers. Mountain Trogon called briefly but was not seen.

Panajachel: A coffee plantation and riparian area near Panajachel. The habitat is primarily dry scrub. A late afternoon visit produced White-throated Swift, Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, a calling Great Horned Owl, and a leucistic Band-backed Wren that looked very funny as it foraged in plain view; but the main attraction was a lek of at least five male Sparkling-tailed Hummingbirds that Knut discovered only two months earlier. These hummingbirds breed in winter and are very elusive at other times of the year, so this was definitely the bird of the trip for me. We returned the following morning and found Rusty and Lincoln’s Sparrows, but the hummingbirds once again stole the show! Wow!!!

Los Tarrales Nature Reserve: A large ornamental plant and coffee plantation on the southern slope of the Atitlán volcano. This is one of the prime ecotourism destinations in the region, with very comfortable accommodations in several newly renovated buildings and excellent trails though forest ranging in elevation from 760-2500 m. Some of the lower trails have interpretive signs that identify the plant species, and are home to a wide variety of lowland and mid-elevation birds; including regional endemics such as White-bellied Chachalaca, Pacific Parakeet, and Long-tailed Manakin. Another memorable sight were the 500+ wintering Red-Legged Honeycreepers on one trail near the lodge. However, the star attractions are found on the upper trails, above the small settlement of Vesubio, as both Horned Guan and Azure-rumped Tanager are resident. The guan requires an early morning hike to about 2400 m which we did not attempt, as I had seen this bird previously. We walked up to about 1800 m one morning and were rewarded with lekking Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, a very confiding Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, and scope views of three feeding Azure-rumped Tanagers spotted by Knut.

Pachuj Nature Reserve: A large coffee plantation near Los Tarrales that is being considered for ecotourism but has not yet been developed as such. There is extensive bamboo at about 1500 m elevation, and we spent one afternoon searching fruitlessly for Slaty Finch (Knut had seen a female there about one month earlier). A pair of Bar-winged Orioles in a flock of eight Baltimore Orioles and other assorted frugivores saved the day!


(H) - heard only

  1. Great Egret Ardea alba
  2. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
  3. Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
  4. Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
  5. Gray Hawk Asturina nitida
  6. Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus
  7. Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
  8. Ornate Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus ornatus
  9. Collared Forest-Falcon Micrastur semitorquatus (H)
  10. Laughing Falcon Herpetotheres cachinnans (H)
  11. American Kestrel Falco sparverius
  12. White-bellied Chachalaca Ortalis leucogastra
  13. Crested Guan Penelope purpurascens
  14. Highland Guan Penelopina nigra (H)
  15. Singing Quail Dactylortyx thoracicus (H)
  16. Spotted Sandpiper Tringa macularia
  17. Rock Pigeon Columba livia
  18. Band-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas fasciata
  19. Red-billed Pigeon Patagioenas flavirostris
  20. White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
  21. Inca Dove Columbina inca
  22. Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina
  23. White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi
  24. White-faced Quail-Dove Geotrygon albifacies
  25. Pacific Parakeet Aratinga strenua
  26. Orange-fronted Parakeet Aratinga canicularis
  27. Orange-chinned Parakeet Brotogeris jugularis
  28. Yellow-naped Parrot Amazona auropalliata
  29. Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana
  30. Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus (H)
  31. Mottled Owl Ciccaba virgata (H)
  32. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium brasilianum (H)
  33. Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis
  34. Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis
  35. Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila
  36. White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris
  37. Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi
  38. White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis
  39. Rufous Sabrewing Campylopterus rufus
  40. Violet Sabrewing Campylopterus hemileucurus
  41. White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora
  42. Green-breasted Mango Anthracothorax prevostii
  43. Emerald-chinned Hummingbird Abeillia abeillei
  44. Blue-throated Goldentail Hylocharis eliciae
  45. White-eared Hummingbird Hylocharis leucotis
  46. White-bellied Emerald Amazilia candida
  47. Azure-crowned Hummingbird Amazilia cyanocephala
  48. Blue-tailed Hummingbird Amazilia a cyanura
  49. Berylline Hummingbird Amazilia beryllina
  50. Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila
  51. Amethyst-throated Hummingbird Lampornis amethystinus
  52. Green-throated Mountain-gem Lampornis viridipallens
  53. Magnificent Hummingbird Eugenes fulgens
  54. Long-billed Starthroat Heliomaster longirostris
  55. Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird Tilmatura dupontii
  56. Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris
  57. Mountain Trogon Trogon mexicanus (H)
  58. Collared Trogon Trogon collaris
  59. Tody Motmot Hylomanes momotula (H)
  60. Blue-throated Motmot Aspatha gularis
  61. Blue-crowned Motmot Momotus momota
  62. Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana
  63. Emerald Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus
  64. Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
  65. Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons
  66. Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus (H)
  67. Golden-olive Woodpecker Piculus rubiginosus
  68. Guatemalan (Northern) Flicker Colaptes auratus
  69. Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus
  70. Pale-billed Woodpecker Campephilus guatemalensis
  71. Rufous-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis erythrothorax
  72. Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner Anabacerthia variegaticeps
  73. Ruddy Foliage-gleaner Automolus rubiginosus (H)
  74. Tawny-throated Leaftosser Sclerurus mexicanus (H)
  75. Ivory-billed Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigaster
  76. Spotted Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus erythropygius
  77. Spot-crowned Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes affinis
  78. Barred Antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus (H)
  79. Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet Camptostoma imberbe
  80. Greenish Elaenia Myiopagis viridicata
  81. Yellow-bellied Elaenia Elaenia flavogaster
  82. Paltry Tyrannulet Zimmerius vilissimus
  83. Northern Bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare (H)
  84. Common Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum (H)
  85. Eye-ringed Flatbill Rhynchocyclus brevirostris (H)
  86. Yellow-olive Flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens (H)
  87. Tufted Flycatcher Mitrephanes phaeocercus
  88. Greater Pewee Contopus pertinax
  89. Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus
  90. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris (H)
  91. Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus
  92. Hammond’s Flycatcher Empidonax hammondi
  93. Yellowish Flycatcher Empidonax flavescens
  94. Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
  95. Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus
  96. Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus (H)
  97. Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua
  98. Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis
  99. Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus
  100. Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis
  101. Rose-throated Becard Pachyramphus aglaiae
  102. Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata
  103. Long-tailed Manakin Chiroxiphia linearis
  104. Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons
  105. Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius
  106. Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni
  107. Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
  108. Brown-capped Vireo Vireo leucophrys
  109. Lesser Greenlet Hylophilus decurtatus
  110. Green Shrike-Vireo Vireolanius pulchellus (H)
  111. Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis (H)
  112. Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri
  113. White-throated Magpie-Jay Calocitta formosa
  114. Bushy-crested Jay Cyanocorax melanocyaneus
  115. Gray-breasted Martin Progne chalybea
  116. Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina
  117. Black-capped Swallow Notiochelidon pileata
  118. Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis
  119. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
  120. Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
  121. Brown Creeper Certhia americana
  122. Band-backed Wren Campylorhynchus zonatus
  123. Rufous-naped Wren Campylorhynchus rufinucha
  124. Spot-breasted Wren Thryothorus maculipectus (H)
  125. Rufous-and-white Wren Thryothorus rufalbus (H)
  126. Plain Wren Thryothorus modestus
  127. (Southern) House Wren Troglodytes aedon
  128. Rufous-browed Wren Troglodytes rufociliatus
  129. Gray-breasted Wood-Wren Henicorhina leucophrys (H)
  130. Long-billed Gnat-Wren Ramphocaenus melanurus (H)
  131. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
  132. Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
  133. Brown-backed Solitaire Myadestes occidentalis
  134. Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush Catharus aurantiirostris
  135. Swainson's Thrush Catharus ustulatus
  136. Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus (H)
  137. Clay-colored Robin Turdus grayi
  138. White-throated Thrush Turdus assimilis
  139. Rufous-collared Robin Turdus rufitorques
  140. Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus
  141. Blue-and-white Mockingbird Melanotis hypoleucus
  142. Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinereus
  143. Olive Warbler Peucedramus taeniatus (H)
  144. Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora pinus
  145. Tennessee Warbler Vermivora peregrina
  146. Nashville Warbler Vermivora ruficapilla
  147. Crescent-chested Warbler Parula superciliosa
  148. Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
  149. Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia
  150. Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens
  151. Townsend's Warbler Dendroica townsendi
  152. Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
  153. Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla
  154. Louisiana Waterthrush Seiurus motacilla
  155. MacGillivray’s Warbler Oporornis tolmiei
  156. Wilson’s Warbler Wilsonia pusilla
  157. Red-faced Warbler Cardellina rubifrons
  158. Pink-headed Warbler Ergaticus versicolor
  159. Slate-throated Redstart Myioborus miniatus
  160. Golden-crowned Warbler Basileuterus culicivorus
  161. Rufous-capped Warbler Basileuterus rufifrons
  162. Golden-browed Warbler Basileuterus belli
  163. Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens
  164. Common Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus ophthalmicus (H)
  165. Red-crowned Ant-Tanager Habia rubica (H)
  166. Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
  167. Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
  168. Flame-colored Tanager Piranga bidentata
  169. White-winged Tanager Piranga leucoptera
  170. Blue-gray Tanager Thraupis episcopus
  171. Yellow-winged Tanager Thraupis abbas
  172. Azure-rumped Tanager Tangara cabanisi
  173. Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus
  174. White-collared Seedeater Sporophila torqueola
  175. Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch Buarremon brunneinucha (H)
  176. Prevost's Ground-Sparrow Melozone biarcuatum
  177. White-eared Ground-Sparrow Melozone leucotis
  178. Rusty Sparrow Aimophila rufescens
  179. Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii
  180. Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis
  181. Grayish Saltator Saltator coerulescens
  182. Black-headed Saltator Saltator atriceps
  183. Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus
  184. Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea
  185. Painted Bunting Passerina ciris
  186. Melodious Blackbird Dives dives
  187. Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
  188. Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus
  189. Black-vented Oriole Icterus wagleri
  190. Bar-winged Oriole Icterus maculialatus
  191. Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius
  192. Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis
  193. Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
  194. Yellow-billed Cacique Amblycercus holosericeus (H)
  195. Scrub Euphonia Euphonia affinis
  196. Yellow-throated Euphonia Euphonia hirundinacea
  197. Elegant Euphonia Euphonia elegantissima
  198. Blue-crowned Chlorophonia Chlorophonia occipitalis (H)
  199. Black-headed Siskin Carduelis notata
  200. Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
  201. House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Robert Orenstein, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird
Male Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird.

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