Sunday, August 16, 2015

Honduras Birding: Day 3, Rio Santiago

Our third full day of birding Honduras was sure to be one of most SPECTACular days of birding (note the foreshadowing). We drove just a little ways from our lodge to the Rio Santiago Nature Resort where we were guaranteed to see even more hummingbirds and a *few* other treats. 

The lovely view on the way to Rio Santiago Nature Resort

Banded Peacock (Anartia fatima)

Just your normal small herd of oxen coming through

On the unpaved road leading up to the resort, we pulled over to a very unassuming area next to a part of the river (Rio Santiago). A couple of our first awesome sights were TWO new species of Kingfishers – Amazon and Green. These guys were a great follow-up to the large Ringed Kingfisher and the tiny American Pygmy Kingfisher from the day before at Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge. The Amazon is smaller than our Belted Kingfisher, and the Green is smaller than the Amazon. Both are very similar looking, but when we got to watch both species in close proximity to each other, it was easier to see the size difference and slight pattern difference in the wings and belly. It was amazing to watch them both cackling and chasing each other around the riverbed. 

Amazon Kingfisher

Green Kingfisher

Lovely Orchids

Across the road from the river was a large patch of tall grasses that could fool many as being quiet and serene, but once you took a good look at it, you noticed that it was buzzing with activity. With barely moving 10 yards, we saw Blue-black Grassquit, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Variable Seedeater, White-collared Seedeater, and Yellow-faced Grassquit. Not to mention other great birds flitting through the trees, too, including Passerini’s Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, and Scrub Euphonia, and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. Whew! We were not able to capture many photos of these birds as they moved quickly and stealthily through the vegetation, so you’ll just have to trust us that this was quite a sight to see.

Golden-winged Tangers

Digiscoped pic of a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Passerini's Tanager

As we continued up the path to the resort area, we passed an inactive nest colony of Montezuma Oropendulas. Our guide, German, said they likely recently just all left as nesting season for them is still going on in other areas.

Montezuma Oropendula nest colony

Pulling up to the resort, the man who owns and runs Rio Santiago Nature Resort happily welcomed us to check out this great place. He pointed out a nearby Rufous-tailed hummingbird sitting on her tiny golf-ball sized nest. We also spotted a lovely Golden-hooded Tanager eating some juicy little berries. 

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird on a tiny nest

Golden-hooded Tanager

Some type of Satyr butterfly?

Then German says to us, “You want to go see Spectacled owls?” Uhhhh… YEAH! Of course! He had casually said it was a possibility before, and we kind of didn’t take him too seriously because, well, it’s a Spectacled Owl and we’ve only seen them at zoos or displayed at a raptor show and there was no way it could be that easy, right?!? Well, we were gladly proven wrong. German and resort manager walked us over just down the driveway and a little ways down a dirt path and a couple of yards into the tree line when there THEY were - TWO nesting Spectacled Owls! They had both flown out of their nesting tree where a little owlet lie. I tell you I literally just about cried for joy at the sought of these magnificent creatures. I was so full of joy and so astonished that it was just that easy to see these guys nesting. It’s apparently not always this easy to find them, but this nesting pair were repeat customers to this spot for a number of years now. Lucky, lucky us.

Spectacled Owl - I believe this was the male

I believe this was the female Spectacled Owl

The Spectacled Owl was a life bird above all life birds. If we saw nothing else this whole trip, I would have been a happy person. But Honduras wouldn’t let that happen, and we would see other fantastic birds, not as SPECTACular as these, but still awesome. (Remember that foreshadowing I mentioned? Aha!)

Yellow-faced Grassquit

We hiked through the steep mountain trail and saw a few things up there, including 3 different types of Woodcreepers, but didn’t snap too many photos other than of some funky fungi and a wild and crazy mystery bug. There was, however, a lovely Yellow-faced grassquit that obligingly posed for us.

Tree fungus. Can you spot the crazy bug?

Here is a closeup of that weird bug. Any takers on IDing this guy? We think he may have been a nymph of something.

Pretty Pink Fungi

The main second act after the awesomeness of the Spectacled Owls was back down near the entrance of the resort where dozens and dozens of little hummingbird feeders were strewn about in the small trees and the patio areas of the café. We saw some familiar faces we had seen back at our own lodge, including Brown Violetear, White-necked Jacobin, and Violet-crowned Woodnymph. But the numbers here were insane!

Brown Violetear

Violet-crowned Woodnymph

We spent quite some time checking out the MANY hummingbird feeders while guzzling down ice cold, freshly pressed pineapple juice. It was dizzying trying to get good looks at one hummer when another would zoom by and distract us from the previous one.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird feeding

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird perched

White-necked Jacobin

White-necked Jacobin Feeding

It was a bit overwhelming how much hummer activity there was. Just when we thought we had seen a lot back out our lodge, this place dazzled us with an even higher concentration of hummers, including some ones we hadn’t seen on our trip yet, including Long-billed Starthroat, Green-breasted Mango, and White-bellied Emerald. 

Female Green-breasted Mango

Male Green-breasted Mango

White-bellied Emerald yucking it up and showing off his white belly

White-bellied Emerald feeding

We snapped away as the resident Olive-throated Parakeet watched over us. He seemed quite content to easy living at this resort, and we could definitely see why.

Olive-throated Parakeet

Olive-throated Parakeet

White-necked Jacobin feeding

Brown Violetear


  1. Wonderful shots of hummers, what little characters! I am so happy to see that ecotourismo in Honduras is alive and well.

    1. Thanks, Bryony! The hummers sure had big personalities for such tiny birds. Pico Bonito did a great job showing us around, and I'd highly recommend them to anyone looking to visit the area