Bird Feature

Information on Belize Birds: birding in belize

Not all Blackbirds are black; some are yellow

Great Tailed GrackleBirding in Belize In Belizean Creole, blackbirds are birds such as grackles, orioles and more but blackbird generally refers to a family of songbirds. The family (Icteridae) includes orioles, cowbirds, meadowlarks, orependolas and grackles. Icteridae comes from Greek, which means jaundice or yellow, maybe referring to the orioles’ color. Of the 94 species of blackbirds in the New World, 17 live in Belize. Blackbirds breed in almost every environment in the New World from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. Belize is close to the heart of blackbird country. The adjacent lowland of the Mexico plateau is where orioles evolved and where the highest concentrations of blackbird species breed.

Blackbirds are unusual in having a particular behavior that enables them to exploit a wider variety of habitats and prey on species in a way that others cannot. This is referred as gaping. Most birds have strong muscles to close their bills to crush or grasp its prey. Blackbirds have strong muscles to open theirĀ Montezuma Orependola a bills against the resistance of soil, roots, wood etc. e.g. They would insert their closed bill into an area such as soil or the bark of a tree and open the bill, exposing the hiding place of an insect or grub.

Only the female blackbird incubates the eggs and in almost all cases she builds the nest. However, with the Melodious Blackbird, the male feeds the female while she incubates the eggs, and in some situations he helps build the nest.

Only the female blackbird incubates the eggs and in almost all cases she builds the nest. However, with the Melodious Blackbird, the male feeds the female while she incubates the eggs, and in some situations he helps build the nest.

Orependolas nest in colonies. You may see groups of pendulous nests in a tree, with a male giving a bowing display at the nesting site as he sings away. Nest building can be very complex in many blackbirds such as orependolas and orioles. Other members of the family such as cowbirds are brood parasites who have lost the need and ability to care for their young or build a nest.

Yellow Tailed OrioleBlackbirds build their nests in various areas and situations, always looking similar in structure and using similar materials. Orioles and orependoles first construct a loop or ring from which the nest hangs. Most of the weaving is done while upside down using the bill. Once a cup is formed the bird uses both the feet and the bill to manipulate the material. The birds may shred leaves with their bill while holding it down with the feet, producing fine materials to line the nest. Orioles and orependolas nests are often hung on branches away from predators and sometimes overhang water.

Bird Plumage and Songs

One of the greatest attractions of tropical birds is the brilliance of their plumage. A birder from North America, where male birds are often much more colorful than the females, may be surprised to find that the sexes of most richly plumaged tropical species, including tanagers, parrots, and orioles, are alike or similar. Many of the more brilliantly colored birds tend to frequent the upper levels of the forest and open country, whereas those that inhabit the dimly lit undergrowth mostly wear dark, dull colors, often with attractively barred or streaked patterns. Birds such as the Barred Antshrike and Dotted-wing Antwren have contrasting areas of white buff and or black that are normally concealed but can be strikingly exposed in display.

Many of Belize’s birds, especially some of the thrushes, are fine songsters. The dawn songs of the Melodious Blackbirds are quite lovely. The Rufous-tailed Jacamars have charming, elaborate songs. Trogons sing melodiously, and the song of the tinamous can be deeply stirring. At times, in the deep forests and thickets, we may have to identify birds by their songs and calls. Although sometimes we may not get a chance to see them, knowing their vocalizations makes it easy to identify them. It is fascinating seeing these Belize birds.

Birding in Belize. This is just a sample of the extraordinary birding experience available in Belize.