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.
The horned guan is a unique, large bird that resembles a turkey. It is named for the distinctive red horn on the top of its head. The horned guan, also identified by its shiny black plumage and red feet, lives in mountain forests in southern Mexico and in Guatemala. The bird is an endangered species, and has been threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat, as well as by excessive hunting.
One part of Guatemala where the horned guan can be found is the Communal Forest of Los Altos de San Miguel, Totonicapán—the site of EcoLogic’s Forest of the Water Spirit project. The Communal Forest is part of the Atitlán Important Bird Area, a mountainous part of southern Guatemala that is home to several threatened and endangered bird species, including the endangered horned guan and the near threatened resplendent quetzal—Guatemala’s national bird.