Backyard Birding in Belize

More than 500 bird species can be seen in Belize. Some are tropical residents and others migrate back and forth from North and South America. People living in Belize who love to watch birds can do a few simple things in their own backyard to provide hours of bird-watching pleasure.

Basically birds need food, water and shelter. Shrubbery and trees planted in the landscape provide shelter and nesting areas. Trees and shrubs produce food naturally but one can also place food strategically to bring the birds to your favorite spot for viewing. Choose a place that you can see easily from inside, one with cover nearby. Placing several feeding stations around the yard will increase the numbers of birds. It may take time for the birds to find your feeders but be patient; with time your efforts will be rewarded.

Papaya is a favorite food for toucans, orioles, tanagers, honeycreepers and other colorful tropical birds. Papayas are found in the market but one way to assure a plentiful supply is to plant papayas around your yard in places you can easily see. You can also use bananas, pieces of watermelon and oranges sliced in quarters. You can make a simple “orange tree” out of a sturdy limb with several branches, which are trimmed and sharpened to hold orange halves, favored by orioles and euphonias. Sunflower seeds, cracked corn and millet can be used to attract doves, seedeaters and finches.

Bird feeders range from elaborate ones found in stores to homemade ones of hardware cloth and wood. A simple platform feeder can be made with a 1-square-foot rectangle of hardware cloth framed with wood and hung with 3 equal length pieces of wire or chain. Feeders don’t have to be expensive, just fill them with fresh clean food.

Hummingbirds are easily attracted to household gardens. Feeders can be found in most agriculture stores and some high-end supermarkets. Make a solution of 20% sugar using 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups water. The water can be boiled depending on the water quality or just heated to dissolve the sugar easily. It’s a good idea to filter the sugar water to remove bits of cane. Hummingbird feeders should be changed daily. Place the hummingbird feeder in the location you wish the birds to come. From your favorite indoor chair, find the best site for your feeders. They can be hung from trees or suspended close to windows under the eaves of your house. It is a good idea to place more than one hummingbird feeder because the males become very territorial and will drive away all newcomers. Try to place the feeders on opposite sides of the house so the birds can only guard one at a time.

If tending to hummingbird feeders daily doesn’t appeal to you, you can plant shrubs, trees and flowers that will attract them naturally, both for food and for places to hide while they wait for their turn at the feeder. Bananas are beautiful and birds love them if you can resist picking the fruit. Schefflera, or Umbrella Plant, a common houseplant, will flower after two or three years if planted outside. The fruit, beloved by toucans, resemble a cluster of small orange grapes. Other plants that attract birds and grow easily in Belize are Flamboyant trees, common Fire Bush, hibiscus, heliconia, various plum trees, Sapote, Chico Sapote, Bay-leaf Palm, and Royal Palm. Birds even enjoy the fruit from the Poisonwood tree. The list is almost endless.

The last essential ingredient for developing a backyard that will attract birds is to provide a source of fresh clean water; ideally, a creek, or pond, but otherwise, use store-bought birdbaths or just use shallow pans. Dripping water is irresistible to birds so any dripping faucets are probably already bringing birds in to your yard. Place a shallow pan below the faucet and you have the perfect bird spa.

Finally, get a good bird book like “Birds of Belize” by H. Lee Jones & Dana Gardner, available on Kindle and in many stores. Get up early, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy.