Over sixty-percent of the Mundo Maya bird species are permanent residents; the rest are migratory, heading north to summer in the United States and Canada. Some make short stops in the region as they travel between North and South America; others simply choose to linger around the Caribbean. To reach Mundo Maya directly from the United States or Canada the birds must cross the Gulf of Mexico, which implies flying over 1,000 kilometers of open sea (some of the birds stick to land, but the majority do not). This arduous journey, performed every year by so many fragile creatures, is a marvel of nature. Depending on wind direction and speed, the birds will fly continuously for 20 to 40 hours.
The rarest, most exotic of the region's birds are jungle dwellers. Many prefer the ground to the trees, and the Great Tinamou (Tinamus major) will sprint for distances of five to ten meters, but only if threatened. The Ocellated Turkey and the Great Currasow (Crax rubra), both of which stand about a meter tall, also keep their feet on the ground.
The Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) sticks to the forest, flying through the trees and dodging obstacles with consummate grace. It is endangered as a result of deforestation, but the Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus) is in even greater peril; only a handful still exist, in the cloud forests of the El Triunfo Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico.
The tropical birds par excellence are the parrots and macaws, otherwise known as Psittacidae (order). There are approximately 20 types of Psittacidae, most of which are green; the exception is the great Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao), with stunning red, blue and yellow plumage.
The jungle is full of shrieking Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula) and song birds like the Clay-Colored Robin (Turdus grayi) and the Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus), whose parrot, dog and chicken imitations are eerily on the mark.
Hawks, falcons, eagles, owls and other birds of prey are plentiful, as are the Passeriformes, represented by dozens of species of flycatchers, woodpeckers and other insectivores. Included among the 20 or so kinds of woodpeckers is the giant, 35-cm-tall Flint-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis).
Toucans are real attention-grabbers for their raucous call and extraordinary beaks; the Keel-Billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) is probably the most familiar.
Species commonly referred to as plovers, sandpipers and turnstones also live on the beach. Plovers scavenge through the sand behind retreating waves, searching for edible "left-behinds." Sandpipers have long narrow beaks used to "drill" the sand for food. Turnstones do exactly that, turn over rocks and shells in search of a meal.
The estuaries and marshes along the Caribbean of Mundo Maya constitute its wetlands habitat, home to some of the largest birds in the world. One can see entire colonies of the most exotic birds-flamingos, herons, giant storks, etc.-in the Americas, species easily recognized by their large feet and long beaks.
The largest stork is the Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria), also the largest bird on the continent with a wingspan of three meters and the height of an average man. Unique and unmistakable with stark white plumage, it has a narrow, down-curving black beak and a red band around its neck. The remaining Jabiru populations keeps to the grassy, coastal savannas of Mundo Maya. There are only about 20 pairs nesting in the Yucatan Peninsula (mostly around Términos Lagoon), and about 100 more in Belize. Jabiru nests are usually found in trees standing alone, making them eminently visible. Given the bird's "endangered species" status, however, visitors are advised to keep their distance. The Jabiru frightens easily and could be scared off its nest, leaving the young to die.
The region's many reserves have secured the protection of at
least 90 percent of its bird population, including most of the endangered
species. Spread throughout the five nations of Mundo Maya are the following
major reserves: the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Guatemala); Río Plátano
Reserve (Honduras); Community Baboon Sanctuary (Belize); and Mexican Sian
Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (Quintana Roo), Términos Lagoon Reserve and
the Calakmul Reserve (Campeche), Centla Marshes Reserve (Tabasco), and El
Triunfo and Montes Azules Reserves (Chiapas).
It usually nests 3 dull-white eggs in a stick nest lined with leaves and moss, usually on a low tree limb. Resident from extreme southern Texas to Nicaragua.
These noisy, gregarious birds are a feature of the Rio Grande delta and locally common in the Sabal Palm Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. Although primarily arboreal in habits, they often come to the ground to feed on leaves, buds, berries, nuts, insects, and human handouts. Where they are not protected, they are hunted as game.
Red Macaw, Ara Macao
its dashing scarlet collar and huge white wings, the rare jabiru stork can
sometimes be sighted in the wetlands and plains of southeast Mexico and Belize.
familiar yellow beak immediately identifies the emerald toucanet. With its
chestnut tail and deep emerald plumage, this bird lives in the cloud forests
of the Mundo Maya.
Very little research has been done on the ocellated and less is known about the ecology of this turkey than any of the 5 subspecies of North American wild turkeys, including the Gould's. The National Wild Turkey Federation, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Hornocker Wildlife Institute, helped sponsor the first research project to trap and place radio transmitters on ocellated turkeys in Guatemala in 1993.
The ocellated turkey exists only in a 50,000 square mile area comprised of the YucatÃ¡n Peninsula range includes the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, Petán, and Yucatan, as well as parts of southern Tabasco and northeastern Chiapas.
The ocellated turkey is easily distinguished from its North American cousin in appearance. The body feathers of both male and female birds have a bronze-green iridescent color mixture, although females sometimes appear duller in color with more green than bronze pigments. Unlike North American turkeys, breast feathers of male and female ocellated turkeys do not differ and cannot be used to determine sex. Neither male nor female birds have a beard.
Tail feathers in both sexes are bluish-gray in color with a well defined, eye-shaped, blue-bronze colored spot near the end followed by bright gold tip. The tail feather spots are similar to those seen on peacock feathers which led some scientists to once believe the ocellated was more related to peafowl than turkeys. In fact, these spots helped give the ocellated its name, as the Latin word for eye is oculus.
The upper, major secondary wing coverts, or wing bar, are a rich copper color and highly iridescent. The barring on primary and secondary wing feathers is similar to North American turkeys, but the secondaries contain more white coloration, especially on the outer edges.
Both sexes have a blue-colored head and neck with distinctive orange to red, warty, carbuncle-like growths, called nodules, but they are more pronounced on males. The head of the male also has a fleshy blue crown behind the snoot which is adorned with yellow-orange nodules similar to those on the neck. During breeding season, this crown enlarges and the coloration of the nodules becomes more pronounced. Ocellated turkeys also have a distinct eye-ring of bright red colored skin, especially visible on adult males during the breeding season.
Legs of ocellated turkeys are shorter and thinner than North American wild turkeys and are deep red in color. Legs of adult males also have pronounced spurs; longer and more attenuated than those of North American gobblers. Spur lengths in males over 1 year old average at least 1.5 inches. Spurs longer than 2 inches have been recorded.
Ocellated turkeys are significantly smaller than any of
the 5 subspecies of North American wild turkeys. Adult hens weigh approximately
8 pounds just prior to egg-laying and nesting and about 6-7 pounds the remainder
of the year. During the breeding season adult males weigh approximately 11-12
Colibrí or Hummingbird
Pelicans are among the larger and heavier birds in the world, so they are very impressive in flight. Breeding colonies of all species require protected islets away from predators.
Cranes are also well-known for their stately courtship rituals, an unforgettable
mixture of graceful neck postures, wing flourishes, dance steps, and cries.
People the world over have considered sandhill cranes and their relatives
to be special creatures. They occur again and again in local art, folklore
and sacred traditions. If you see one you have seen a very special and rare
King Vulture, Zopilite Rey (Sarcoramphus papa)
King Vultures nest on the ground, in treestumps, hollow logs,
or other natural cavities. Their nest consists of very little material; usually
just scratched out of the existing substrate. Males and females appear identical
in coloration and size. The King Vulture usually lays a solitary egg. Both
parents share the responsibilities of incubation. The habitat of the king
vulture is decreasing rapidly, and the vulture has become imperiled due to
increases in development all over its natural range.
Scaled Quail are sometimes referred to as blue racer quail, blue quail, Cordorniz Azul, Cordordniz Escamosa, cottontop quail, Mexican quail, scaled partridge, top-knot quail. There are four subspecies of Scaled quail. The C.s. castanogastris, often called Chestnut bellied quail, are found in southern Texas and eastern Coahuila Mexico. C.s. pallida can be found in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and western Texas. C.s. hargravei is found in western Oklahoma, South western Kansas, south-eastern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and north west Texas. C.s.squamata is found in northern Sonora and Tampaulipas south to the valley of Mexico, and of course the Costa Maya area.
Scaled Quail range from 25 to 30 cm (10 –12 in) in length. The wings, when folded, are 10.9 to 12.1 cm (4.29 to 4.76 in) in males, and 10.95 to 12.0 cm (4.31 to 4.72 in) in females. The tail length ranges from 7.5 to 9.0 cm (2.95 to 3.54 in) in males and 7.5 to 8.8 cm (2.95 to 3.46 in) in females. The average weight for males is 179g and 173g in females.
The sexes are similar in appearance. They are bluish gray with extensive
markings on the back, breast and abdomen with blackish "scaly" markings
. The crest varies in color from buff in females to more whitish in males.
Reddish Egret, Garza Rojiza (Dichromanassa rufescens)
Almost entirely a coastal species nesting on mangrove islands and feeding in the surrounding shallows. Rarely seen in inland freshwater habitats even in extreme southern Florida. Breeds on the Gulf Coast of the United States in Texas, Louisiana, and southern Florida, south to the West Indies and Mexico. Generally a resident where it breeds; however, wanders widely, especially immatures. Up to about 1890, it was much more abundant and widespread in Florida and nested north to Tampa Bay and the Cape Canaveral area. Now a rather uncommon species throughout its range. The Texas population, numbering in the low thousands, is the largest known. Florida birds number about 300. The numbers in the Costa Maya area is not known.