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Stunning Birds of the Sacred Forest

The Sacred Forest of Totonicapán Guatemala

The Sacred Forest of Totonicapán, Guatemala

The Forest of Los Altos in Totonicapán, Guatemala, also known as “The Sacred Forest,” is a breathtakingly beautiful and expansive tropical area that provides critical resources like clean water and wood to approximately 150,000 people. However, the forest isn’t only important to local people—it’s also a critical habitat for at least twelve species of migratory birds whose populations are in decline. Birds help to maintain the equilibrium of ecosystems in the landscape, by preying on insect pests such as beetles, wasps, stinkbugs, and weevils. These birds also provide priceless services to the ecosystem by pollinating flowers and distributing seeds across the forest floor. The largest threat to the migratory birds who make Totonicapán their home for part of the year is habitat loss, caused mostly by humans clearing the forest to expand agriculture and industry.

At EcoLogic, part of our conservation efforts in Totonicapán involve working with local communities to raise awareness about why these habitats need to be protected. Thanks to recent support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Neotropical Migratory Birds Program (NMBCA), we are excited to do more to protect these birds’ habitat, and plan to turn the tide on deforestation by reforesting 500 acres of degraded land and strengthening sustainable management of 52,000 additional acres by 2017.

To celebrate, we want to share with you some snapshot profiles of a few of our favorite beautiful birds:

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting (Photo: Andy Morffew)

Look closely at a male Painted Bunting and you can pick out nearly every color imaginable. The French name for these vibrant birds is “nonpareil,” meaning “without equal,” as no other species seems to rival them in brightness. Painted Buntings are shy, preferring to stay hidden under the dense cover of trees and bushes. They forage for seeds as well insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and flies. During the spring and summer these beauties can be found in the southeastern part of the United States. But before cold weather sets in, they fly further south, where they make their winter homes across Central America. They can be found in Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Panama, as well as the Caribbean islands for the season.

Flammulated Owl

Flammulated owl

Flammulated owl (Photo: Flickr)

“Flammulated” is specific avian terminology—a name for flame-shaped plumage. These regal creatures, eat primarily insects, often hovering to grab moths and swooping down to grab insects off the foliage. Their low, monotone hoot can be heard almost continuously throughout the night. Flammulated Owls are found across the West Coast of North and Central America, with a habitat range that stretches from Vancouver, Canada all the way down to Honduras.

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush (Photo: Flickr)

If you live in an urban area, you’re likely to recognize the Wood Thrush, as they often construct their nests in city parks in North America, where they live during the warm summer months. Wood Thrushes are known for their clear, melodious songs, which they use to defend their territory from others. Unfortunately, they have faced significant declines in recent years. This is due to several contributing factors. One issue they face face is “nest parasitism” from cowbirds, who damage some of the Wood Thrush’s turquoise eggs and replace them with their own white and grey ones. Another problem is the loss of their winter habitat—the forests of Central America, including Totonicapán—to deforestation.

Protecting and restoring tropical ecosystems is a key component of EcoLogic’s mission, and we’re proud to protect the winter homes of these birds (as well as thousands of other animals).

If you’re curious about the avian and non-avian endangered species living in the places where we work, you can check out our Biodiversity Catalog to learn more!

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