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HONDURAS

25 February–11 March 2020

This exciting tour combines elements of ancient Mayan culture around the World Heritage Site of Copan, pristine interior cloud forests, several national parks and the breezy Caribbean north coast to give the best possible mix of Honduran birding. The areas we will visit contain a combined species count of over 650 of Honduras’s 760+ bird species including Wine-throated Hummingbird and the critically-endangered endemic Honduran Emerald.

Day 1 Flight from London to Honduras and overnight near San Pedro Sula Airport.

Day 2 We depart our hotel early this morning after breakfast for the tropical dry forests surrounding El Puente Mayan Archaeological site, situated along the way to Copan. We’ll keep an eye out for opportunistic species along the way and once at the site, have good chances for resident and migrant birds such as Eastern Meadowlark, Short-tailed Hawk, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Painted Bunting, Indigo Bunting, and more. Arriving at our Copan hotel just after mid-day, we will check in for our three night stay and have lunch. In the afternoon, we will visit Las Sepulturas Mayan Archeological Site. This important area, adjacent to the main Copan ruins acropolis, was the largest residential area of Copan’s Mayan civilization. Bird species we may encounter here include Ivory-billed Woodcreeper and Yellow-green Vireo among others.

Day 3 We will begin with an early breakfast at our hotel before setting off for a morning of birding around the spectacular Mayan ruins. This late-classic Mayan archaeological site is one of the best places to mix birds and culture in Honduras; a large, conspicuous population of Scarlet Macaws (Honduras’s national bird) resides here and throughout the Copan River Valley. Other species we should see here include Rufous-capped Warbler, Orange-fronted and Green (Red-throated) Parakeets, Altamira and Spot-breasted Orioles and Turquoise-browed and Lesson’s Motmots. We will have lunch in the town centre and then pay a quick visit to the local museums before heading to the Macaw Mountain Birding Rescue Centre, located ten minutes out of Copan Ruinas, where it is possible to have close encounters with many native species as they recuperate before being released back into the wild.

Day 4 Today we will make an early departure for La Laguna Road, one of the best birding places in the Copan River Valley with a great mix of habitats offering a variety of species. We will begin in a dry scrub habitat and later move up into pine-oak forest, where we hope to encounter Elegant Trogon, Northern Beardless-tyrannulet, Striped Cuckoo, Crested Bobwhite, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Northern Emerald-toucanet, White-throated Magpie-jay, Grace’s and Olive Warblers, Elegant Euphonia and many more of the montane species of this area. The higher elevations of La Laguna Road are a mix of pine and broadleaf forest where, occasionally, we find the White-breasted subspecies of Sharp-shinned Hawk and Highland Guan. After lunch in town we will visit the Las Sepulturas archaeological site. This important area, adjacent to the main acropolis ruins, was the largest residential area of Copan’s Mayan civilization. Key bird species we may encounter here include Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Laughing Falcon, Canivet’s Emerald, Barred Antshrike and Streak-backed Oriole.

Day 5 After an early breakfast at the hotel we will head for the El Cajon Reservoir area, close to our base for the next two nights and the Lake Yojoa area. The target of our search is the country’s only endemic species; the beautiful but critically endangered Honduran Emerald survives only in the remaining pockets of tropical dry forest as well as transitional pine forest in Honduras. A recent discovery of a population of these birds will have us birding transitional pine forest for this species as well as other targets such as White-necked Puffbird, Berylline Hummingbird, the spot-bellied subspecies of Crested Bobwhite, Lesser Ground-cuckoo and Lesser Roadrunner. Two nights at a Panacam Lodge within the Cerro Azul Meambar National Park.

Day 6 We will make an early departure from the lodge and head for Santa Barbara National Park to sample the beautiful cloud forest bird species living in its surroundings. Pheasant Cuckoo, Slate-coloured Solitaire, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch and Blue-and-white Mockingbird will be among our targets. Afterwards we will descend again to the shores of Lake Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras, and the boardwalk at Los Naranjos archaeological site. The edges of the lake may hold species such as Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Red-winged Blackbird, Blue-black Grassquit, Groove-billed Ani and Common Tody-flycatcher, while Snail Kite, Northern Jacana, Bare-throated Tiger-heron, Wood Stork and Ruddy Crake are also possible here, as is White-throated Flycatcher, an Empidonax flycatcher with poorly understood migratory movements. The magnificent boardwalk birding trail at Los Naranjos meanders through secondary forest and edge habitat and we will be hoping to see Squirrel Cuckoo, White-winged Becard, Rufous-naped and Rufous-and-white Wrens, Golden-olive Woodpecker and Yellow-winged Tanager. In addition, we may also catch up here with some delightful Mesoamerican species such as Rufous-breasted Spinetail and Grey-crowned Yellowthroat. In the evening we will try for Mottled Owl, which often calls outside the restaurant of our lodge.

Day 7 This morning we will explore the lush, tropical rainforest along our lodge’s trail system and from its observation tower. We will keep a sharp eye and ear out for roving feeding flocks that may contain Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Golden-crowned Warbler and Northern Barred-woodcreeper as well as various migrant warblers. Abundance and diversity are widely recognized in this area and we also have great opportunities to find the Mayan subspecies of Black-faced Antthrush, Stub-tailed Spadebill, White Hawk, Grey-chested and Grey-headed Doves, Short-billed Pigeon, Red-capped Manakin, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, White-throated Thrush and Tawny-winged and Wedge-billed Woodcreepers. We will also have time to bird the entrance road, which is always very active with the many tanagers, tityras, toucans and parrots that dominate the forest canopy here. The grounds themselves should hold Green and Brown Jays, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Keel-billed Motmot and Prevost’s Ground-sparrow while Swallow-tailed Kite may be seen overhead. Later in the morning we will pack up and drive southward through a landscape of pine-clad mountains to arrive at our next destination. We will make a stop along the way for lunch and then head up to the mountains of Marcala La Paz. Here we may be lucky enough to spot the suavis subspecies of Steller’s Jay, which doesn’t show the long crest. Two nights at a hotel in Marcala.

Day 8 We will spend the whole of today birding the Opatoro area. A 5:30am departure will take us to the Opatoro-Guajiquiro highlands, which feature the highest elevation forest accessible by road in Honduras and give us an opportunity to observe several northern Central American endemics that are difficult to see anywhere else within their range. One of our main targets will be the stunning Blue-throated Motmot, which occurs only in a narrow strip of mountains from southern Mexico to Honduras. Other regional endemics that we will spend time looking for in this area include Black-throated Jay, Fulvous Owl, Brown-backed Solitaire, Green-throated Mountain-gem and Black-capped Swallow. We may also encounter Buffy-crowned Wood-partridge, Black-vented Oriole, Grey-breasted Wood-wren, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, Great Swallow-tailed Swift, Northern Flicker and White-faced Quail-dove.

Day 9 After another morning in the Opatoro-Guajiquiro highlands to target any outstanding species, we will make our way to La Tigra National Park high above the city of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. We will arrive at our base for the next two nights in the early afternoon and will soon begin to focus our attention on the road leading to the national park – a mosaic of pine forest, pastures, gardens and cloud forest. Large and noisy family parties of the near-endemic Bushy-crested Jay frequent this area, often accompanied by Yellow-backed Orioles and Flame-coloured Tanagers. Brushy roadside edges provide habitat for Rufous-browed Wren, while flowering bushes attract hummingbirds such as the near-endemic Green-breasted Mountain-gem and the more widespread White-eared Hummingbird. We may also encounter Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Black-headed Saltator, Yellow-billed Cacique, White-naped Brushfinch and Strong-billed Woodcreeper. Two nights in a mountain inn above Tegucigalpa.

Day 10 La Tigra National Park, the first in Honduras, was established in 1980 to protect a large tract of cloud forest in the mountain range above the bustling capital city of Tegucigalpa. After breakfast we will ascend to this mist-cloaked forest to pursue a varied assortment of species such as Singing Quail, Black Thrush and Mountain Trogon. Forest clearings and brushy areas are often filled with flowers that attract some of the most exquisite Central American hummingbirds: Garnet-throated Hummingbird, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird and the diminutive Wine-throated Hummingbird. Perhaps one of the key target birds for many here will be the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal, a bird venerated by ancient civilizations due to its great beauty. The subspecies found here is slightly larger and has longer and broader tail streamers than the one found in Costa Rica. Other species we hope to see in this area include Mountain Thrush, Crescent-chested Warbler, Slate-throated Whitestart, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Spotted Woodcreeper and Chestnut-collared and White-throated Swifts.

Day 11 If we have any remaining target species, we may spend time birding the gardens of the inn before breakfast. Thereafter we will pack up and set off on the five-hour ride to our final destination of the tour – a wonderful lodge located outside the beach town of Tela. This afternoon we will have time to relax and enjoy the beach or to do some light birding around the grounds of this wonderful resort. Four nights at a beachside resort near Tela.

Day 12 Our first day in this area will begin at 6:00am with an early breakfast and a short drive to Lancetilla Botancial Gardens, just ten minutes away. For the next several hours our guide will lead us through the gardens, spotting numerous bird species that are common in the early hours. Birding on the edge of the broad, flat entrance road will offer a great diversity of species and we should pick up Bright-rumped Attila, Scarlet-rumped (Passerini’s) Tanager and Thick-billed Seed-finch here, with a chance of seeing White-collared Manakin and Boat-billed Flycatcher. Throughout the morning we will bird areas of tropical, secondary and gallery forest and plantation areas along the Lancetilla River. Along this route, diversity is the rule and examples of possible sightings include Masked and Black-crowned Tityras, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Black-cowled Oriole, Gartered, Collared and Slaty-tailed Trogons along with the range-restricted Black-headed Trogon, Royal Flycatcher, Green, Shining and Red-legged Honeycreepers and several species of hummingbird including Blue-throated Goldentail, Purple-crowned Fairy, Brown and Mexican Violetears and White-necked Jacobin. We will have lunch along the beach in Tela and in the afternoon we will return to the botanical gardens at Lancetilla, where we will learn about their 100-year history while birding these beautiful lowland tropical surroundings. Other typical encounters here include Band-backed Wren and Sepia-capped Flycatcher.

Day 13 After breakfast we will depart for Jeanette Kawas National Park and will spend the morning birding Laguna de Los Micos by boat. Laguna de Los Micos Wildlife Refuge holds many canals, mangroves and small islands which form a refuge for abundant flora and fauna, including over 200 species of tropical birds. This area is one of the main attractions of Jeanette Kawas National Park and it is home to one of the most typical Garifuna villages in Honduras (named Miami) where fishermen still ply the sea in dug-out canoes and fish with cast nets. Some of our targets include the American Pygmy Kingfisher, Agami Heron, Sungrebe and Grey-headed Kite. After spending the morning among the mangroves we will return to our resort for lunch and will spend the late afternoon birding around its gardens and forests.

Day 14 Rio Santiago Nature Reserve is a 150-acre private preserve located 80 kilometres east of our resort. Its secluded rainforest location and impressive numbers of hummingbird feeders have earned it the title “Hummingbird capital of Honduras” and we could not think of a more perfect location at which to spend our last full day in Honduras. Throughout most of the year, Santiago’s trails and main garden areas abound with bewildering numbers of some of Honduras’s most well-known hummingbird species: Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Violet Sabrewing, Crowned Woodnymph, Stripe-throated and Long-billed Hermits, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, White-bellied Emerald, Green-breasted Mango and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird are among the 20+ species that frequent the feeders. Binoculars are almost redundant here and the photographic opportunities are excellent. The garden also attracts Golden-hooded Tanager and Yellow-faced Grassquit, while the trail system of Rio Santiago leads us into the forest home of Mesoamerican endemics such as Lovely Cotinga, Black-throated Shrike-tanager, Tody Motmot, King Vulture and many more.

Day 15 There may be time for some birding in the grounds of the resort before we sadly have to transfer to San Pedro Airport to catch our overnight flight back to the UK arriving on Day 16.

General Information Honduras can be hot and humid, with rain likely at any time. The tour pace is moderate, with generally easy to moderate walking, although at altitude some extra effort is needed. There are some health requirements which should be referred to your GP. Insects can be a problem at times and repellents are recommended. Visas are not required for EU citizens although you will need an ESTA if flights transit the US.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 4; maximum group size: 10 with 2 leaders.

Blue-throated Motmot

Blue-throated Motmot