Birding in Honduras has become a household activity. There are more and more persons and tour operators that are involved in this activity. I know many of these persons, and I know a bit about birding. But I do not know about birds in general, much less about birds in Honduras. To be able to write a decent article about birding in Honduras I set out to find an expert. I chose to interview Angel Fong, who is a birding guide, is the owner and manager of Go Bird Honduras a tour operating company that specializes in birding tours and is president of ASHO. ASHO is the Ornithological Association of Honduras.
JD. What is ASHO and who is a member of this association?
AF. ASHO is the Honduran Association of Ornithology. Its initials in Spanish stand for Asociacion Hondureña de Ornitologia. It is a non-profit organization that focuses on birds. It has been in existence for over 7 years. Our members are environmentalists and nature lovers who are concerned about deforestation and climate change. There is a direct relationship between habitat and the preservation of bird species.
ASHO has four main lines of interest on which it focuses its activities.
1.- Conservation of bird species.
This activity includes conservation and protection of species. We focus on the those who are particularly vulnerable. We comply with international organizations such as Birdlife International and endangered species list provided by the IUCN. Of Course, the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird tops our list. This is the only endemic bird of Central America, and it is only found in Honduras.
2.- We promote and encourage the observation of birds.
Over the past years, birding has become a major force in tourism. This is also true in Honduras. It has become a powerful tool to promote sustainable tourism. It is also a great way to include people from rural communities in the generation of extra income. As ASHO we promote the participation of Honduras is specialized bird fairs. The British Birdfair has really helped us emerge as a viable destination for birding in Central America. ASHO is committed to promote Honduras as a birding travel destination. We specifically contribute to this cause by helping certify local and national birding guides.
3.- Scientific Investigation.
Honduras has many hectares of tropical unexplored forests. ASHO is committed to actively participate in a scientific bird registry. We seek to continuously expand the registry of different species that are either native or migratory in Honduras. ASHO organizes and participates in birding blitzes and bird counts in different habitats. We promote the use of tools such as the E-Bird platform. E-bird provides an easy online tool that everyone can use.
4.- Environmental Education.
One of our biggest challenges is environmental educacion. There is not much information available for public use. We seek to provide up dated scientific information about the importance of birds and their specific involvement within the biodiversity chain. We also seek to promote the interest of young men and women in birding. Without doubt, this is a great tool to promote interest in our environment.
Asho is actively involved in promoting a tool we call bird detective. This methodology belongs to Cornell University and seeks to promote the interest of young persons. It is a great learning tool that kids enjoy.
JD. Who is Angel Fong
AF. To talk about myself, I need to separate the person I was before I took up birding. Back then, I simply did not understand or was aware of the magnificent world within our sight.
I am a native of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Before I became aware of the world of birds I was a credit analyst and software programmer. When I discovered the world of birds, my life did a complete turnabout! I took advantage of a birding program sponsored by USAID in Honduras. There I became a specialized birding guide for Honduras. I then started up my very own tour operator that focuses on birding tours in Honduras. Me company is Go Bird Honduras Birding and Eco Adventure Tours. I am currently managing this company and occasionally lead birding tours personally. I participate in the Tegucigalpa Junior Chamber and am a member of the board of directors of the Scout Association of Honduras. Last, and most important, I am president of ASHO.
Birding has changed my life and I am thankful for this newfound passion. In just a few years it has I have achieved great satisfactions. Truly I am a happier and better person thanks to my passion for birding!
JD. Does Honduras really have a potential to attract visitors to enjoy this activity?
AF. We have a tremendous potential as an Avitourism destination. Our multiple and diverse habitats make Honduras ideal for a variety of species. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to move throughout the country. This makes it easy to visit completely different habitats within a few hours. For example, we can be birding in the tropical rain forest in the morning. By the time sunset comes up, we can be birding in mangrove forests! This provides two very distinct habitats with very different species in each one!
JD. What makes Honduras an interesting destination for birders?
AF. Honduras is a unique destination for birders and it is slowly growing. Birders from around the World are now getting interested in Honduras. Participating in the most important bird fairs has been an important tool to engage with birders and with specialized tour operators. It is important that we continue to participate in these bird fairs. Birding is a fine tool to market the country to upscale travelers with a specific interest. It is also a great way to help protect the environment. If tourists will pay to see birds, then we must conserve the forests where they live in! Fortunately, there are more and more tourists visiting Honduras to practice birding.
JD. Could we say that Honduras has the more bird species than the rest of Central American countries?
AF. To date, we have identified about 770 different bird species in Honduras. We are the country with the most variety of birds in the northern half of Central America. We have more bird species in Honduras than Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Nicaragua. Reports of new bird species sightings continue to pour in. It is everybody´s job to continuously report new bird sightings.[bctt tweet=” To date, we have identified about 770 different #bird species in #Honduras.” username=”hondurastravel1″]
The E-Bird platform that has been put in place by Cornell University is a great tool. If you check this platform, you will notice that there are regularly new sightings recorded here. I have no doubt that soon we will be reaching the sum of 800 species reported in Honduras!
JD. Which are the best destinations or regions for birding in Honduras?
AF. To date, Honduras has several birding destinations that are ripe for Avitourism. The National Birding Strategy in Honduras has defined 7 areas of interest for birding. These all have lodges, guides and trails that can be used by birders in their quest to complete their birding lists.
Region 1 is in Southern Honduras. The Gulf of Fonseca offers a great potential due to the mangrove forests and estuaries in this area. This area offers the largest variety of seabirds in Honduras.
Region 2 includes Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Here, you will find La Tigra National Park, one of the most accessible areas with Cloud Forest habitat in Honduras. There are over 200 species of birds that can be found in the region. This is a great location for birding, if you are Tegucigalpa or surrounding areas. La Tigra has two different entrances to the park. One is through El Hatillo, a village up in the mountains very close to Tegucigalpa. The other is in the town of San Juancito, an old mining town, where old buildings are now used for tourism!
Region 3 offers ideal conditions to enjoy two activities: birding and visiting Coffee Estates. This region includes the department of La Paz, in western Honduras. La Paz borders with El Salvador. One of the two denominations of origin for Honduran Coffee is within this region! Marcala in la Paz is famous for its outstanding coffee. This region is relatively close to Tegucigalpa, and you can visit it either from there or from Comayagua. If you are a serious birder and coffee drinker, a visit to this region is a must!
Region 4 includes Lake Yojoa and surroundings. This is an amazing birding destination in itself! Over 500 species of birds have been reported here! The area includes Lake Yojoa and the man made lake known as “El Cajon” or Represa Francisco Morazan. There are two National Parks in the Area. PANACAM (Parque Nacional Azul Meambar) is formidable and has some great birding facilities. These include birding platforms and towers, lodging and easy trails. There are many different hotels around the lake where you can stay when birding in Lake Yojoa. If you are serious about birding in Honduras, then Lake Yojoa has to be in your itinerary!
Region 5 is in Western Honduras and includes Honduras Departments of Copan and Lempira. Personally, I refer to this region as Mayas and Birds. A tour of the Archaeological Park in Copan will provide an unforgettable experience. Having a flock of Scarlet Macaws flying over your head will literally produce goose bumps in your skin.
Region 6 is in the department of Atlantida. This a magnificent birding destination that offers many protected areas to discover. This also the most popular destination for birdwatchers visiting Honduras. The Lodge at Pico Bonito has invested heavily in birding in Honduras, so it is no surprise it is the premier birding lodge in Honduras. But there are many more interesting alternatives, including several lodges in the Cangrejal River area. You can combine a tour through Pico Bonito National Park. There are a variety of trails into Pico Bonito that are ideal for birders. At Pico Bonito National Park you will be in a tropical rain forest. The Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, which were set up by Dr. Wilson Popenoe offers outstanding birding near Tela.
Nearby is Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, which offers mangrove forests and estuaries. These are ideal to sight a variety of sea birds that thrive on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Perhaps the biggest prize in Atlantida is to sight a lovely cotinga. This bird is rarely seen elsewhere, but can be sighted easily in Atlantida.
Region 7 includes the Bay of Trujillo and Cayos Cochinos. This last destination has some of the best preserved coral reefs in the Caribbean. What a perfect way of combining the bright tropical colors of our birds with some of the most colorful reefs in the World!
Suggestions for the Perfect Birding in Honduras Tour
JD. And tell me Angel, do we have specialized birding guides to serve these destinations?
AF. We have enough guides that are appropriately trained and can provide quality service. Birders require personal attention. Guides must give the best of themselves and go the extra mile. Above all, we must continue to train our guides and certify them as specialty birding guides.
JD: What would you recommend to birders planning a visit to Honduras? In other words, what tips could be useful to prepare the perfect birding tour in Honduras?
AF. Birders should contact one of the specialty birding tour operators in the country. There are several tour operators that specialize in birding. These tour operators are waiting for you to contact them to prepare a hand tailored tour just for you. You will love the natural beauty of Honduras. The friendly attitude of our people will enthrall you. If you are already visiting Central America, you should consider spending between 3 to 5 days in Honduras. If you do, you will soon find yourself planning a trip back to Honduras.
JD. Are there any specific birding festivals or events in Honduras that birding enthusiasts should be aware of when planning a trip to?
AF. Yes, there are several events that have become an institution in Honduras. The Christmas Lancetilla Bird Count is the oldest and most established. In addition, the Lake Yojoa Blitz and the Celaque Bird Count have also become repetitive events worth participating in.