Guatemala Endemism Areas

Endemism in Guatemala

Guatemala is the northernmost country of Central America. The country is limited by Yucatan Peninsula to the North; with Belize, Caribbean Sea, Honduras and El Salvador to the East; with Chiapas to the West, and the Pacific Ocean to the South.

The territory has an extension of 108,889 km2 and can be divided into three regions, the Peten lowlands in the northern part of the country; this is a flat land barely higher than sea level formed by limestone substrate. In the middle of the country, there is a system of mountains and volcanoes with peaks up to 4,220 meters above sea level; the land in the coastal plains in southern Guatemala are lowlands with volcanic soil.

There are 740 bird species recorded in the country with at least 35 of them with a geographic restriction from southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and part of El Salvador. These species are related to very important regions that are been declared Endemic Bird Areas: The North Central American Pacific Slope and the North Central American Highlands.

Guatemalan birds are represented by five species considered near endemic of the country, which means that are only found in Guatemala and the Mexican state of Chiapas. In the North Central American Pacific Slope, the representative bird is Azure-rumped Tanager. Birds related to the North Central American Highlands are Horned Guan, Belted Flycatcher, Pink-headed Warbler and Black-capped Siskin.

There are some bird subspecies that some ornithologists recognize as species, from those we can separate them into two groups. The first group is compound of birds widely extended in the Neotropics but they can’t breed with the groups separated by long distances.

Some example of these birds are:

  • Northern Flicker (Guatemalan Flicker)
  • Northern Pygmy-Owl (Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (Guatemalan Hairy Woodpecker)
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Velasquez’s Woodpecker)
  • Yellow Grosbeak (Golden Grosbeak)
  • Pine Siskin (Chiapas Pine Siskin)

A second group is formed by migratory species that find a reproductive resident population in Guatemala, these birds can’t breed with the individuals that are wintering so the genetic drift goes in different directions and characteristics become so different that you are in trouble trying to compare with the original species.

Two bird species in this situation are:

  • Goldman’s Warbler from Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • White-breasted Hawk from Sharp-shinned Hawk

There’s a research work from 2006 with mitochondrial DNA that shows that Goldman’s Warbler is not a subspecies from Yellow-rumped Warbler but a species. So we have a candidate for a Guatemalan endemic bird in the future.

Regional Endemism Areas

Guatemala as one as the best Central American birdwatching destination has a high diversity of birds with a high degree of regional endemism located in four main zones. The union of these four areas in such a small region creates a very attractive offer for birdwatchers adding the archaeological and cultural attractions that highly complement to birdwatching.

The highlands of northern Central America

include parts of Oaxaca and Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Some species that are endemic on these regions are the Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus), the Pink-headed Warbler (Ergaticus versicolor) and the Cabanis´ Tanager (Tangara l. Larvata).

The tropical savannas of the northern Pacific slope of Central America

Cover parts of Chiapas (Mexico), Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua along the Pacific coast. Among the endemic species we can mention the Yellow-naped Parrot (Amazona auropalliata), the American green Parakeet (Aratinga strenua), and the White-throated Magpie-jay (calocitta formmosa).

The tropical rainforest on the Caribbean slope of Central America

Lies mainly on Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica but it also include the northwestern part of Guatemala (Izabal), extending to Panama along the Caribbean coast.

In Guatemala this region represents a high diversity (more than 500 species) and specialties such as the Wedged-tailed Sabrewing (Campylopterus curvipennis) Keel-billed Motmot (Electron carinatum), and Gray-headed Piprites (Pipritis griseiceps) among others

The lowlands of the Yucatan Peninsula

Includes the states of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo in Mexico, and northern parts of the department of Peten (Guatemala) and northern Belize.
Containing species such as Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata), the Gray-throated Chat (Granatellus sallael) and the Rose-throated Tanager (Piranga roseogularis).

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