Published on September 27, 2017

Birding Belize: The Rio Bravo Reserve

Crimson-collared Tanager, Gray-necked Wood-rail, Yucatan Vireo, White-collared Manakin (Photos: Mark Faherty)
Photos: Mark Faherty

Nestled deep in the subtropical forest of northwestern Belize, the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA) is renowned for being the largest private reserve and second-largest protected area in the country. 

It's also located only two-and-a-half hours away from Belize City.

A Place Like No Other

This important conservation site has a total of 260,000 acres—approximately 4% of Belize’s total land area. 

In terms of plant communities, the RBCMA is the most diverse protected area in Belize. 

Ornate hawk-eagle © Melvis Valdez
Ornate hawk-eagle © Melvis Valdez

It's also home to 200 species of trees, 330 species of birds (25 migratory species), 80 species of mammals, and 39 species of conservation concern including the Jaguar, Puma, Margay, Ocelot, and Howler and Spider monkeys.

Just this past July, an Ornate Hawk-Eagle was found near the Rio Bravo border. The Ornate Hawk-Eagle has a fairly wide range—from southern Mexico into the middle of South America. They are, however, extremely rare in Belize. 

Encountering Rarities in the Reserve

A beautiful bird of prey, these large hawk-eagles dine on snakes and small mammals. They nest high in the canopy with a clutch size of one or two eggs. The juveniles, once fledged, remain in the nesting area for at least year, sometimes longer.

Agami Heron © Melvis Valdez
Agami heron © Melvis Valdez

Another special bird was found by Programme for Belize (PfB) guide Melvis Valdez. He came across an Agami Heron at PfB’s Dos Hombres birding area at La Milpa Lodge! 

The Agami Heron—sometimes known as the Chestnut-billed Heron—is an exceptionally striking and seldom-observed species. A specialized bank fisher, it nests in isolated clumps of mangroves or live trees standing in water.

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