Wood Storks, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize
For fantastic birding and a trip back in time to a simpler era, plan a trip to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and Crooked Tree Village.
Located on a large fresh-water lagoon, the village is surrounded by the wildlife sanctuary. There are four lodges and a few restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. Crooked Tree occupies a huge, natural area and has a population of only 1000 people,. This is arguably the best place for birders in the country, and more than 300 species have been recorded here. Because of the lagoon environment, many of the birds are shore or wading birds.
I have been birding at Crooked Tree twice. Once for a very short “fam” tour, and a second time when I spent 2 nights there and was a full-paying guest. Once it was during peak dry season and much of the lagoon was dry, and we still saw 30 different species on an abbreviated tour; the second time on the all-morning tour we saw almost 50 species. In both cases our Bird’s Eye View Lodge birding guide was fantastic. Since I am a snorkeling guide out at Glover’s Reef, I could tell when we were really seeing something rare by the change in our guide’s demeanor. You could hear the excitement in his voice when he spotted the rare Agami Heron. We watched this magnificent bird stalking fish along the shoreline for at least 10 minutes. In addition to this sighting, some of the other birds I have seen at Crooked Tree are: Great Blue Heron, Neo-Tropic Cormorant, Ring Kingfisher, Grey-Necked Wood Rail, Boat-Billed Heron, Wood Stork, Limpkin, Prothonotary Warbler, Osprey, Black Vulture, Juvenile Black-Collared Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Snail Kite, Little Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Tropical Kingbird, Orchid Oriole, Black-Cowled Oriole, Tri-Color Heron, Blue-Wing Teal, American White Pelican, Jacana, White Egret, Snowy Egret, and the enormous Jabiru Stork (wingspan: 10-12 feet). We also saw two Bare-Throated Tiger Herons in the middle of a territorial dispute. One of our guides also reported recent sightings of the Pinnated Bitter, a rare Northern Lapwing from South America blown off-course, Glassy Ibis, White Ibis, Rosette Spoonbill, White-Crowned Parrot, and the American Coot.
Bird’s Eye View Lodge, Belize
Of the four lodges at Crooked Tree, I recommend Birds Eye View Lodge. Situated right on the shore of the lagoon, it is simple, clean, and comfortable. If you can remember all the way back to the 60s, it just might remind you of lodges you visited with your parents when you were a kid. Their excellent kitchen staff serves buffet-style meals with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Be sure to ask for the rooms on the second floor/balcony level. This huge elevated patio is the perfect place for happy hour (visible in above photo). We added about six species to our bird list right from this porch.
They have a small bar for their guests and an in-house tour company. Rates are from $100 a night for a double, depending on room and on season, and meals are just as affordable. Breakfast and lunch are each $15, while dinner is $19 and they accommodate vegetarians. The birding tour for 1-3 persons is $125, each additional person is $35. Birding tours last about 3 hours, starting at 6 a.m. Before your tour they serve you a small breakfast with coffee, then when you get back about 9 or 10 they serve you a full breakfast. Contact Kira Jiminez directly: 011-501-203-2040, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website: www.birdseyeviewbelize.com.
Crooked Tree is only 45 minutes from the Belize International Airport; a perfect choice if you are flying in a day early for one of our Adventure Island packages. They will pick you up at the airport for $75 US (one way) for 1-3 persons; each additional person is $20. You can stay the night, take an early morning birding tour, relax the rest of the day or tour the village, and have them drop you off at the Biltmore in time for our meeting on Day 1 of your tour with us. You can also travel here on your own just for the day in a Belize car rental, but we recommend booking a birding tour in advance, don’t just drop in expecting an instant tour.
If you are thinking of traveling to Crooked Tree, don’t expect a 5-star hotel, great shopping, or nightlife. Accommodations are clean and simple, the village is quiet. What you can expect is to meet some wonderful Belizean people and to see some of the most exotic birds in the world.