Guatemala is the northernmost country of Central America. The country is limited by Yucatan Peninsula to the North, Belize, the Caribbean Sea, Honduras, and El Salvador to the East, Chiapas to the West, and the Pacific Ocean to the South.
The territory has an area of 108,889 km2, divided into the following three regions: the lowlands of Petén in the northern part of the country is a flat land just above sea level formed by limestone substrate.
In the country’s middle, 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 is lowlands with volcanic soil.
Birds in Guatemala
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 El Salvador. These species are related to significant regions 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 they are only found in Guatemala and the Mexican state of Chiapas. The representative bird in the North Central American Pacific Slope is the 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 a compound of birds widely extended in the Neotropics. Still, they can’t breed with the groups separated by long distances.
Some examples 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 comprises migratory species that find a resident breeding population in Guatemala; these birds cannot breed with overwintering individuals, so genetic drift goes in different directions. As a result, the characteristics become so diverse that it is difficult to compare them 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
Research work from 2006 with mitochondrial DNA 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.
Guatemala Bird Endemism Areas by Region
As one of the best Central American birdwatching destinations, Guatemala 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 desirable offer for birdwatchers adding the archaeological and cultural attractions that complement 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 to 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 in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Still, it also includes 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 Grey-throated Chat (Granatellus sallael), and the Rose-throated Tanager (Piranga roseogularis).