Birds of Honduras: Habitats in Honduras

This section aims to exemplify the varied habitats and some of the microhabitats found around Honduras. We are lucky to have such a wide array of habitats that vary from humid, lowland rain forest to arid scrub forest to mangrove-lined lagoons. In some places a number of these habitats are in close proximity to each other. For example, the Nombre de Dios range behind La Ceiba has cloud forest that spills all the way down the mountain to the north to humid, lowland rain forest then on to mangrove-line lagoons at Cuero y Salado W.R., and on the south it rolls into pine/oak woods then into the arid thorn-scrub forest in the Aguan Valley. Although this area centered around the Nombre de Dios range has not been inventoried well it is believed that it is one of the richest species' pockets in Honduras, likely containing well over 500 species.

La Mosquitia Pine Savanna

This special habitat is found almost entirely in the Dept. of Gracias A Dios in eastern Honduras. The vegetation typical of this area consists of Caribbean Pine (Pinus caribaea), "Nance" (Byrsonima crassifolia), grasses and marshy hammocks with palms and other broadleaf trees.

mosquitia pine savanna
Typical Mosquitia savanna habitat-Wampusirpe

Birds found almost exclusively is this habitat include: Aplomado Falcon, Black-throated Bobwhite, Grasshopper Sparrow, Botteri's Sparrow, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Stygian Owl and the Vermillion Flycatcher. Other species typically found here include: Northern Harrier, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Palm Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Grace's Warbler, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-naped Amazon, Common Nighthawk, Acorn Woodpecker and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture.



This habitat exists all over Honduras where there is vegetation alongside streams and rivers. It can consist of scrubby overgrowth typical around farmed areas or even large trees. Although only three species of birds specialize in riparian habitat it may serve as a refuge and breeding site for many. The American Dipper, Buff-rumped Warbler and the Sunbittern are found almost exclusively in riparian areas.

Celaque creek crossing

Some species often found in riparian areas include: Crane Hawk, Roseatte Spoonbill, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, White-throated Crake, Sungrebe, kingfishers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Paltry Tyrannulet, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Slate-colored Seedeater, wood-warblers, saltators and orioles.

Rio Platano


Wetlands and Lakes

These freshwater habitats are scattered throughout the country and can either be permanent bodies of water or seasonal. Some of the more permanent freshwater areas have adjacent corresponding marshes comprised of grasses, rushes, sedges, cattails, etc. These areas also provide critical habitat for a number of bird species. One of the largest freshwater habitats in Honduras is Lake Yojoa.

Species typically found in this habitat include: Snail Kite, Limpkin, Ruddy Crake, Gray-breasted Crake, Spotted Rail, Sora, herons and egrets, ducks and the Sedge Wren. Other species often associated here include: Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Least Grebe, N. Jacana, Moorhen, Spot-tailed Nigntjar, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, White-throated Flycatcher, yellowthroats, seedeaters and Red-winged Blackbird.


Brackish Water Lagoons, Mangroves and adjacent Flood Forest

These habitats are spread throughout Honduras along both coasts with the bodies of water being either freshwater, brackish or almost completely inundated by sea water. Typical vegetation can include: red, black and white mangroves (Laguncularia spp), "Sangre" trees (Pterocarpus spp), Soursops (Anona spp), "Zapoton" (Pachira aquatica), Buttonwood (Conocarpus sp) and other broadleaf species. In some areas such as La Mosquitia streams run slowly through low-lying rain forest thereby flooding areas before releasing the freshwater into a mangrove-lined lagoon.

Species mostly specific to these habitats include: Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Black-collared Hawk, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail and Mangrove (Yellow) Warbler. Other species commonly found here include: Agami Heron, Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler and Yucatan Vireo.


Pine/Oak Forest

This habitat is common throughout Honduras occupying mostly hilly or mountainous terrain. It is characterized by six species of native pines, with P. oocarpa being the most common species, and oaks (Quercus sp.). pine oak forestThey are often interspersed with other broadleaf trees and a scrubby understory.

Although these forests are not as species rich as broadleaf forests they are, however, important wintering grounds for many migratory species and breeding grounds for pine/oak specialists.

Species found frequently in this habitat include: White-breasted Hawk, Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, Ocellated Quail, Whiskered Screech-Owl, Mountain Pygmy-Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner, Greater Pewee, Tufted Flycatcher, Gray-collared Becard, several jays, Band-backed Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Brown-backed Solitaire, Brown Creeper, Rufous-collared Thrush, Grace's, Olive and Red-faced Warblers, many migrant wood-warblers, Black-headed Siskin, Red Crossbill, Rusty Sparrow and Yellow-backed Oriole.


Broadleaf Rainforest

Tropical broadleaf rainforests are very complex habitats that are dominated mostly by broadleaf trees. These trees contain most of the forests biomass whose shallow root systems quickly absorb the nutrients made available by the microorganisms within a thin, fertile layer of soil and detritus. These forests are broken down into the forest floor, mid-level and canopy layers. Rainforests are also broken down by altitude accordingly:
Humid Lowland Forest: 0 to 750m.
Pre-montane Wet Forest: 750 to 1,500m.
Montane Forest: 1,500 to 2,849m. (highest peak in Honduras)

Elevation Gradients

Each layer in a rainforest at any given elevation can be a special niche or refuge for any number of species. Birds, however, are highly mobile with many being found at various layers within the forest. There are, however, many species that are more frequently found in the canopy, some more common at mid-levels and some that are almost entirely terrestrial.

The following selection of species are typically encountered to humid forest understory: Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Black-eared Wood-Quail, Tawny-faced Quail, Great Curassow, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, some antbirds, Thicket Antpitta, some manakins and some wrens.

Lowland Rainforest Lowland rainforest

The following species are typically encountered in humid forest in mid level and the canopy: Harpy and Crested Eagles, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, other large raptors, Scaled Pigeon, macaws, most large owls, Rufous Motmot, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, many woodcreepers, cotingas, Speckled Mourner, Green Shrike-Vireo, many tanagers and Slate-colored Grosbeak.

The following species are more frequently found in pre-montane wet forest: Spotted Wood-Quail, Violet Sabrewing, Brown Violet-Ear, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Brown-capped Vireo, Green Jay, N. Nightingale Wren, Slate-throated Redstart and Blue-hooded Euphonia.

Pre-montane Wet Forest Pre-montane wet forest

The following species are more frequently encountered in montane forests: Highland Guan, Singing Quail, Amethyst-throated and Garnet-throated Hummingbirds, Mountain Trogon, Blue-throated Motmot, Emerald Toucanet, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Scaled Antpitta, Mountain Elaenia, Black-capped Swallow, Black-throated, Unicolored and Azure-hooded Jays, Rufous-browed Wren, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Spotted Nightingale-Thrush, Black Thrush, Golden-browed Warbler, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia and Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer.

Montane Rainforest Montane rainforest

Elfin Forest-An enchanting world in the sky

Elfin forests are similar to montane forests in many respects concerning rainfall, humidity and temperatures. They are, however, different structurally in terms of the size of the trees. They tend to grow on wind-swept ridges and peaks which stunt most plant growth and tree roots are mingled. Solid ground is rarely encountered and upon “hiking” here one finds oneself climbing on layers of roots. A large percentage of the surfaces of trees and ground are covered in a thick layer of mosses that even in the summer months retain moisture. They can be rich in orchid diversity if they occur at lower elevations which is the case around Pico Dama in La Mosquitia. They occur in a number of places in Honduras including Sierra de Agalta N.P., Olancho, Celaque N.P. and along the ridge trail leading to Pico Dama, Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve (both photos), Gracias A Dios.

Bird diversity tends to be low here, but one nonetheless finds species of flycatchers and hummingbirds feeding on wildflowers. Other birds are usually found just passing through.


Arid Scrub Forest

Arid scrub forests are characterized by unique plant communities and usually have a longer dry season. Many of the plants Cactus Flowerhave adapted to retain scarce water and are succulent in nature or are spiny to protect small, delicate leaves from herbivores. Many of the plants lose all their leaves in the dry season and make the habitat appear almost lifeless. Typical plants are cacti, acacias and other succulents. Arid scrub forest habitats are highly endangered throughout the region. In Honduras they occur primarily along the Gulf of Fonseca, Agalta Valley in Olancho and the Aguan Valley in Yoro.

Birds typical of this habitat include: Hook-billed Kite, Thicket Tinamou, Double-striped Thick-Knee, White-fronted Amazon, Lesser Roadrunner, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Honduran Emerald, N. Beardless Tyrannulet, Ash-throated and Nutting's Flycatchers, Long-tailed Manakin, White-lored Gnatcatcher, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Banded Wren, White-bellied Wren, Stripe-headed Sparrow and Altamira Oriole.


Disturbed Areas, Gardens, Scrub, etc.

Although not specifically considered habitats, these areas do harbor many bird species, most of which are common. They can provide a multitude of food sources such as seeds for ground-doves and seedeaters, or insects for flycatchers and nighthawks or rodents for birds of prey.

Birds often encountered in these areas include: Roadside Hawk, Bat Falcon, Crested Bobwhite, ground-doves, anis, Barn Owl, caprimulgids, many hummingbirds, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, many flycatchers, swallows, Brown Jay, Rufous-naped Wren, Clay-colored Thrush, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, yellowthroats, some tanagers, saltators, seedeaters, sparrows and many icterids.

Gardens such as the one found in this photo are considered bird friendly in that it provides a source of foraging areas for birds such as wood-warblers, flycatchers, saltators, and many nectar sources for hummingbirds. Add the Nature Center website here



Honduras has some 650 km. of coastline along the Caribbean Sea that run in an east to west direction from near Omoa in the northwest to the Cape of Gracias A Dios in the east. In the Gulf of Fonseca there are approximately 150 km. of coastline along the Pacific Ocean.

A number of seabirds inhabit the coast such as the Magnificent Frigatebird, boobies, pelicans, gulls, terns, and Neotropic Cormorant. The coastline itself acts as an important resting and feeding area or jumping off point for a myriad of migrant shorebirds. Some shorebirds that are frequently seen include: Black-bellied Plover, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling and a number of sandpipers. The Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Cuckoo and a number of migrant wood-warblers are often found in the adjacent dune scrub.


Pelagic and Bay Islands

The marine waters of Honduras have been explored little by bird enthusiasts and there are a fair number of species yet be registered. The Bay Islands of Utila, Roatan and Guanaja as well as the Hog Islands and Swan Islands have been inventoried to a great extent.


Birds recorded on the islands and in ocean waters include: Parasitic Jaeger, Large-billed Tern, Brown Noddy, Skua sp., Bridled and Roseate Terns,Caribbean Dove, Antillean Nighthawk, Yellow-lored Parrot, Canivet's (Fork-tailed) Emerald, Red-vented Woodpecker, Smooth-billed Ani, Gray Kingbird, Yucatan Vireo, Vitelline Warbler, Northern Cardinal and Bobolink.