Mottled Owl
Groove-billed Ani
Streak-backed Oriole


C o p a n

Last visited December 2004

Copan is a major tourist attraction because of its ancient Mayan ruins and it would be a great shame to come to Honduras and not take the opportunity to visit. Its particularly famous for its stelae, which are large stones carved with hieroglyphics and pictures. However, it is also a great spot for birding. The ruins themselves offer some good species such as Hook-billed Kite, Red-lored Parrot, Aztec Parakeet, Chestnut-capped Warbler, Streak-backed and Spot-breasted Orioles, but there are also some good sites nearby. During my first year in central America I visited these sites with local bird guide Jorge Baraza (651 4435). He lives in Copan and has a pick-up truck for transport. He offers birding trips locally and can also lead longer tours throughout the country. I havenít visited Copan for a long time, so some of my details will be a bit sketchy.

There is a good patch of rain/cloud forest that lies to the north east of Copan, with the added attraction that a good variety of species that can be seen from the road on the way there. Along this road I saw Plain Chachalaca, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Prevostís Ground-Sparrow and both oropendolas, which had nest trees that are viewable from the road. The sparrow can be a difficult species to see. It is also a virtual endemic to Northern Central America; the small population in Costa Rica often being considered a separate species.

The forest does not have very easy access, so it is not a good idea to visit unless you are fit and healthy. The problem is that in many places the path is blocked by a water pipe which follows the same route, so you have to climb around it. You quickly enter moist forest and will start to pick up some good species. I had Great Tinamou, Blue-black Grosbeak, Long-tailed Hermit and Rufous Mourner. However, I also had some species that are more associated with cloud forest, such as Yellowish Flycatcher, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Golden-crowned Warbler and Slate-coloured Solitaire.

I once visited an area of pine forest in the hills above Copan with Jorge. This was only an evening visit to look for Mottled Owls so there was little chance for much daytime birding, but it looked like a good site for a number of pine species. We heard the Mottled Owls and also Brown-backed Solitaires, but had no sightings of either. We saw Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Yellow-backed Orioles on the way up.


Copan is easily reached from the north-east on CA 11 from La Entrada or from Guatemala in the west. There are a number of good hotels in the town for all budgets. The ruins lie about a kilometre or two to the north of the town on the main road, which is an easy walk.

Just as you are leaving the town towards the ruins, you cross a small bridge. The last turning to the left before the bridge will take out of town on a decent quality road that heads towards the area of moist forest. Follow this road, birding all the way, for 16.3km (10.2 miles). The road curves to the left and there is a small store by the side of the road on your right. Park your car here and head up into the hills on your right. There is a gate just before the shop and a path that heads up a ridge to the forest.

The pine area is reached by heading south from Copan where there is a large bridge over the river. There was only a temporary one when I was there because the original had been destroyed by Hurricane Mitch, but there may be a newer one now. From here the road headed upwards through fields and into pine forest. I apologise for my vague directions.

Some of my notes from my earlier visits did not include details of the numbers of birds seen, so the status of birds in the following list is going to be less accurate. It will also depend on which habitat you are visiting.

Macaw Copan Dec 04

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson (2)

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson (3)

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson (4)

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson (5)

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson (7)

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson (12)

Copan Dec 2004 J. Jackson (13)

List (15-16.4.00 / 29.4.00 / 13.4.01 / 21.12.04)

English name Genus Species Abundance
Great Tinamou. Tinamus major F
Plain Chachalaca. Ortalis vetula F
Cattle Egret. Bubulcus ibis C
Black Vulture. Coragyps atratus C
Turkey Vulture. Cathartes aura C
Hook-billed Kite. Chondrohierax uncinatus F
Swallow-tailed Kite. Elanoides forficatus U
Broad-winged Hawk. Buteo platypterus F
Short-tailed Hawk. Buteo brachyurus F
Red-billed Pigeon. Patagioenas flavirostris C
White-winged Dove. Zenaida asiatica C
Inca Dove. Columbina inca C
Ruddy Ground-Dove. Columbina talpacoti C
White-tipped Dove. Leptotila verreauxi C
Olive-throated (Aztec) Parakeet. Aratinga nana C
White-fronted Parrot. Amazona albifrons C
Red-lored Parrot. Amazona autumnalis F
Squirrel Cuckoo. Piaya cayana F
Groove-billed Ani. Crotophaga sulcirostris C
Mottled Owl. Ciccaba virgata F
Lesser Nighthawk. Chordeiles acutipennis F
Chestnut-collared Swift. Streptoprocne rutila U
White-collared Swift. Streptoprocne zonaris F
Vauxís Swift. Chaetura vauxi F
Great Swallow-tailed Swift. Panyptila sanctihieronymi U
Long-billed (Long-tailed) Hermit. Phaethornis longirostris U
Violet Sabrewing. Campylopterus hemileucurus F
White-bellied Emerald. Amazilia candida F
Azure-crowned Hummingbird. Amazilia cyanocephala F
Cinnamon Hummingbird. Amazilia rutila F
Elegant Trogon. Trogon elegans U
Blue-crowned Motmot. Momotus momota C
Turquoise-browed Motmot. Eumomota superciliosa C
Collared Aracari. Pteroglossus torquatus F
Acorn Woodpecker. Melanerpes formicivorus F
Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Melanerpes aurifrons C
Golden-olive Woodpecker. Piculus rubiginosus F
Olivaceous Woodcreeper. Sittasomus griseicapillus U
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper. Xiphorhynchus flavigaster U
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper. Lepidocolaptes affinis U
Northern Bentbill. Oncostoma cinereigulare U
Yellow-olive Flycatcher. Tolmomyias sulphurescens F
Olive-sided Flycatcher. Contopus cooperi F
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Empidonax flaviventris F
Yellowish Flycatcher. Empidonax flavescens F
Bright-rumped Attila. Attila spadiceus U
Rufous Mourner. Rhytipterna holerythra U
Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Myiarchus tuberculifer F
Great Kiskadee. Pitangus sulphuratus C
Boat-billed Flycatcher. Megarynchus pitangua C
Social Flycatcher. Myiozetetes similis C
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Myiodynastes luteiventris C
Tropical Kingbird. Tyrannus melancholicus C
Rose-throated Becard. Pachyramphus aglaiae C
Masked Tityra. Tityra semifasciata C
Bellís Vireo. Vireo bellii U
Yellow-throated Vireo. Vireo flavifrons F
Blue-headed Vireo. Vireo solitarius F
Yellow-green Vireo. Vireo flavoviridis F
Lesser Greenlet. Hylophilus decurtatus F
Rufous-browed Peppershrike. Cyclarhis gujanensis F
White-throated Magpie-Jay. Calocitta formosa C
Brown Jay. Cyanocorax morio C
Bushy-crested Jay. Cyanocorax melanocyaneus C
Gray-breasted Martin. Progne chalybea
Violet-green Swallow. Tachycineta thalassina F
Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Stelgidopteryx serripennis C
Rufous-naped Wren. Campylorhynchus rufinucha C
Spot-breasted Wren. Thryothorus maculipectus F
Plain Wren. Thryothorus modestus F
(Southern) House Wren. Troglodytes (musculus) aedon C
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Polioptila caerulea U
Brown-backed Solitaire. Myadestes occidentalis F
Slate-colored Solitaire. Myadestes unicolor F
Wood Thrush. Hylocichla mustelina U
Clay-colored (Thrush). Turdus grayi C
Gray Catbird. Dumetella carolinensis F
Tennessee Warbler. Vermivora peregrina F
Yellow Warbler. Dendroica petechia C
Magnolia Warbler. Dendroica magnolia C
Black-throated Green Warbler. Dendroica virens F
Blackburnian Warbler. Dendroica fusca U
Black-and-white Warbler. Mniotilta varia C
American Redstart. Setophaga ruticilla C
Ovenbird. Seiurus aurocapilla F
Kentucky Warbler. Oporornis formosus F
Common Yellowthroat. Geothlypis trichas F
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. Geothlypis poliocephala F
Hooded Warbler. Wilsonia citrina F
Wilsonís Warbler. Wilsonia pusilla F
Slate-throated Redstart. Myioborus miniatus F
Golden-crowned Warbler. Basileuterus culicivorus F
(Chestnut)-capped Warbler Basileuterus (delattrii) F
Common Bush-Tanager. Chlorospingus ophthalmicus F
Red-throated Ant-Tanager. Habia fuscicauda U
Western Tanager. Piranga ludoviciana F
Blue-gray Tanager. Thraupis episcopus C
Yellow-winged Tanager. Thraupis abbas C
Red-legged Honeycreeper. Cyanerpes cyaneus F
Blue-black Grassquit. Volatinia jacarina F
White-collared Seedeater. Sporophila torqueola C
Yellow-faced Grassquit. Tiaris olivacea F
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch. Buarremon brunneinucha F
Prevostís Ground-Sparrow. Melozone biarcuatum F
Rusty Sparrow. Aimophila rufescens F
Buff-throated Saltator. Saltator maximus F
Black-headed Saltator. Saltator atriceps C
Blue-black Grosbeak. Cyanocompsa cyanoides U
Eastern Meadowlark. Sturnella magna U
Melodious Blackbird. Dives dives C
Great-tailed Grackle. Quiscalus mexicanus C
Bronzed Cowbird. Molothrus aeneus C
Black-vented Oriole. Icterus wagleri U
Orchard Oriole. Icterus spurius F
Yellow-backed Oriole. Icterus chrysater C
Streak-backed Oriole. Icterus pustulatus C
Spot-breasted Oriole. Icterus pectoralis C
Altamira Oriole. Icterus gularis C
Baltimore Oriole. Icterus galbula C
Chestnut-headed Oropendola. Psarocolius wagleri C
Montezuma Oropendola. Psarocolius montezuma C
Scrub Euphonia. Euphonia affinis F
Yellow-throated Euphonia. Euphonia hirundinacea F
Olive-backed Euphonia. Euphonia gouldi F
House Sparrow. Passer domesticus C

.: C=Common ; F=Fairly Common ; U=Uncommon ; R=Rare :.