Important Bird Areas of Belize
The Important Bird Area Program, led at the international level by BirdLife International, aims to identify the sites in each country which must be conserved in order to ensure the long-term survival of all species of birds throughout the world. The Belize Audubon Society is the BirdLife Partner for Belize. The BirdLife Partnership forms the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life.
The Belize IBA Project was completed for BAS by Bruce W. Miller Ph.D. and Carolyn M. Miller MSc, with input from BAS staff and various keen birders in Belize. After evaluating all of the predictive models and species distributions, six IBAs emerged and were delineated for Belize. These are the Rio Bravo and Gallon Jug Estate, Crooked Tree and Associated Wetlands, Northeastern Belize, the Maya Mountains and Southern Reserves, the Coastal and Near Shore Islands and the Offshore Area and Barrier Islands. For more information on these IBAs see the site descriptions below.
Rio Bravo and Gallon Jug Estate
This IBA is comprised of the Aguas Turbias National Park, Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area and the Gallon Jug Estate, both of the latter are privately owned. This 201,200 ha area has 444 recorded species of which 305 are residents, 277 are known or thought to breed in the area, 166 are species not known to nest in the area and 139 that are considered migrants.
Habitats include broadleaf forest, savannah, and marsh forest. The pine savannahs are critical habitat for the globally endangered Yellow-headed Parrot, which has experienced a very rapid population decline, equivalent to 68% in 10 years (BirdLife International 2000). This species is threatened by extensive habitat loss, illegal exportation, and persecution for damaging crops.
Crooked Tree and Associated Wetlands
This 160,345 ha area has 400 recorded species of which 277 are residents, 243 are known or thought to breed in the area, 155 are species not known to nest in the area and 123 that are considered migrants. Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and the surrounding wetlands were identified as important during the water bird risk assessment (Miller and Miller, 2006). During the dry season large numbers of waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds congregate in the lagoons.
In addition to wetlands, the surrounding pine savannahs are critical habitat for the globally endangered Yellow-headed Parrot.
This 238, 282 ha area has 255 recorded species of which 250 are residents, 241 are known or thought to breed in the area, 114 are species not known to nest in the area and 105 that are considered migrants.
This IBA includes mangrove, freshwater wetlands, open lagoons, and broadleaf forest. It is an important area for Wood Storks, egrets, herons, and other colonially nesting waterbirds. The largest nesting colony of Reddish Egrets in the Caribbean is located at Little Guana Caye.
Maya Mountains and Southern Reserves
This IBA encompasses the majority of the terrestrial protected areas in Belize and contains large tracts of broadleaf forest. Within this 645,856 ha area 411 species have been recorded; 310 are residents of which 295 are known or thought to breed in the area.
The globally threatened Keel-billed Motmot, which occurs in low densities, requires large expanses of undisturbed habitat to sustain viable populations (BirdLife International 2007). In Belize, a majority of the populations are within this site. This species has been recorded most densely in an area of steep terrain intersected by many seasonal streams, and apparently uses the stream banks for nesting (Miller and Miller 1996).
Coastal and Near Shore Islands
This 695,622 ha area has 413 recorded species of which 262 are residents, 242 are known or thought to breed in the area, 171 are species not known to nest in the area and 151 that are considered migrants.
The coastal areas and cayes includes littoral forest and mangrove habitats. There has been increasing pressure for tourism developments in caye and coastal areas that could jeopardize the Black Catbird and White-crowned Pigeon, which qualify as Near-Threatened species.
Off-shore and Barrier Islands
This 1,219,671 ha area has 157 recorded species of which 50 are residents, 42 are known or thought to breed in the area, 116 are species not known to nest in the area and 107 that are considered migrants.
The islands are important nesting areas for colonially breeding waterbirds and seabirds. Half Moon Caye Natural Monument has an estimated breeding population of 4,000 Red-footed Boobies. Man-O-War Caye is one of the largest nesting colonies in the Caribbean for the Magnificent Frigatebird and is the only nesting site in Belize for the Brown Booby.