Birding Conservation Events Press Releases

Birds, Coffee & Culture in the Land of the Maya

Guatemala! Clockwise from upper left: Antigua Guatemala, Blue-throated Motmot, Sunset over Lake Atitlan, Cinnamon Hummingbird (Chris Fischer Photography)
Clockwise from upper left: Antigua Guatemala, Blue-throated Motmot, Sunset over Lake Atitlan, Cinnamon Hummingbird.

Guatemala’s Highlands and Lake Atitlan, March 9-18, 2018

Join us next March for a 10-day journey to Guatemala that will include great birding, scenery, food, world-class coffee, and cultural experiences. Along with the best montane birding opportunities in this scenic country, we will take time to experience the wonderful and colorful living culture of the Maya. We will visit Mayan markets, learn a bit about Guatemalan people and their Mayan culture and also visit the world renowned colonial city of Antigua and the picturesque Lake Atitlan (where we will also have the special opportunity to participate in the first ever Guatemala Bird Fair).

Clockwise from upper left: Elegant Euphonia, Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-naped Brush Finch, Pink-headed Warbler.
Clockwise from upper left: Elegant Euphonia, Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-naped Brush Finch, Pink-headed Warbler.

Guatemala is a fantastic country with a diversity of rich habitats for birds, from montane cloud forest to lowland forest. Led by Chris Fischer, this tour specifically focuses on the highlands of the Chiapas-Guatemala Highlands Endemic Bird Area, where many regionally endemic birds can be found. Our target species will include the Highland Guan, Ocellated Quail, Fulvous Owl, Black-capped Swallow, Black-throated Jay, Bushy-crested Jay, Rufous-browed Wren, Rufous-collared Robin, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Pink-headed Warbler, Azure-rumped Tanager, Bar-winged Oriole, and Black-capped Siskin, among others. There will be an option for those who are physically fit to endure a steep and difficult hike up a volcano in search of the rare but spectacular Horned Guan.

Horned Guan, locally known as "Pavo de Cacho," on Cerro Paquisis, near Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.
Horned Guan, locally known as “Pavo de Cacho,” on Cerro Paquisis, near Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.

Hummingbirds will make an impression with a great diversity of shapes and colors. Some lodges have started using hummingbird feeders, so species that were once quite difficult to find are now much more reliable. These include the Rufous Sabrewing, Slender Sheartail, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Azure-crowned, Blue-tailed, Amethyst-throated, Garnet-throated, Sparkling-tailed, Wine-throated as well as tiny and local Emerald-chinned hummingbirds! We will have a great chance to leisurely observe many of these little gems.

Rufous Sabrewing, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)
Rufous Sabrewing feeding on a banana flower at a coffee plantation near San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala.

Part of the focus of this tour will also be to enjoy, study and learn about North American birds in their wintering areas. Guatemala is vital to northern migrants, including many species that summer here in northeast Pennsylvania. Seeing “our” birds in a different context adds immensely to a fuller understanding of their lives and also of how these birds unite people across borders.

Joining this tour will make you a partner in helping international conservation. The National Audubon Society and Asociación Vivamos Mejor, based in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, have teamed up to train Guatemalans to become birding and nature guides. Along with our primary tour leader, we will have their local guiding help throughout this trip, and in turn are helping them make a living while protecting a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Birders who choose to take these tours in order to see and enjoy the natural riches will have a direct economic impact on the local people resulting in preservation of local habitats that maintain a healthy, viable ecotourism industry.

To reserve your place on this tour, contact Chris Fischer at (570) 446-9597 or This tour will be limited to a maximum of 8 participants.



DAY 1: Friday, March 9 – WELCOME TO GUATEMALA!

Arrive at the International Airport La Aurora in Guatemala City, where you will be met by your guide upon arrival. Our tour begins with a short 45-minute flight to Flores in the evening. Greeting at Flores airport and transfer to the hotel by hotel shuttle.

Overnight and Dinner at Hotel Isla de Flores. (D)

DAY 2: Saturday, March 10 – YAXHÁ

Following an early breakfast at the hotel, we’ll make our way to the atmospheric lakeside site of Yaxhá, a former ceremonial center and city of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. This is the third-largest archaeological site in Guatemala with more than 500 structures, including about 40 stelae, 13 altars, 9 temple pyramids, 2 Mesoamerican ballcourts, and a network of causeways. Yaxhá is situated within the Maya Biosphere Reserve and is also part of the National Park Yaxhá-Nakúm-Naranjo, which protects lowland rainforest.

This is a terrific location for parrots, with passing flocks easily observed from the top of the temple in the mornings and evenings – including Red-lored, White-fronted, White-crowned, and the less common Mealy parrots. We’ll also be sure to check for raptors resting on top of the nearby trees. Among the possibilities are Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Black Hawk-Eagle, Plumbeous Kite, as well as many migrant raptors that occur in the area as their wintering grounds.

Overnight and dinner at El Sombrero Ecolodge. (BLD)

DAY 3: Sunday, March 11 – TIKAL NATIONAL PARK

We continue our way to Tikal, the largest excavated archaeological site in Mesoamerica with more than 3,000 structures in an area covering more than 6.2 square miles. Once one of the largest of the Classic Maya cities, Tikal was the first site of the Maya civilization declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. In 1955, the area around Tikal was declared as the Tikal National Park, with the preserved area covering 220 square miles. The park is within is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the largest Neotropical rainforest north of the Amazon basin.

Temple IV, Kapok Tree (Cieba Tree), Red-lored Parrot. (Chris Fischer Photography)
Clockwise from upper left: Tikal ruins, View from Temple IV, Kapok Tree (Cieba Tree), Red-lored Parrot.

Home to more than 400 species of birds, there’s arguably no other place on earth where you can combine birds with archaeology on this scale! We will have the opportunity to explore the trails inside the jungle and climb temples. As with Yaxhá, ancient structures amidst the forest offer great opportunities to see canopy birds and regional endemics like Ocellated Turkey and Black-throated Shrike-Tanager. Our target bird here will be the rare and magnificent Orange-breasted Falcon.

Orange-breasted Falcon, Tikal, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)
Orange-breasted Falcon, Tikal, Guatemala.

In addition to the birds, we should see a variety of wildlife. White-nosed Coaties, Agouties, and Gray Foxes are commonly observed walking around the park grounds, and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys and Mexican Black Howler Monkeys in the forest canopy. While rare, it is also possible to see jaguarundis and jaguars!

Overnight at Hotel Jungle Lodge. (BLD)


Our lodge is located just outside the park gate, allowing us an early morning start. Following an early breakfast at the hotel, we’ll continue to explore the ruins of Tikal to cover more of the forest and look for species not seen before.

Afternoon transfer to Flores Airport for the 45-minutes flight back to Guatemala City followed by transfer to Antigua, Guatemala.

Overnight at La Posadita Hotel. (BLD)

Antigua, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)
Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala.

DAY 5: Tuesday, March 13 – ANTIGUA GUATEMALA

Antigua Guatemala is the most important and enchanting city of colonial Guatemala. Founded by the Spaniards in 1543, Antigua is now a beautiful blend of ruins, restored colonial buildings, and new buildings in colonial style. It was declared “Monument of America” in 1965.

Today, we’ll start with a half-day walking tour of Antigua (approx. 3-4 hrs). We’ll visit the Central Plaza, surrounded by the antique Cathedral, the Municipal Government Building, and the Palace of the Captains General; colonial churches and monasteries.

In the afternoon, we will visit La Azotea Coffee Farm and Museum, well known in Antigua for its high-quality coffee, long time tradition and commitment to Guatemalan culture. The Coffee Museum exhibits introduce you to the history of coffee in Guatemala and explain the growing and processing of the golden bean.

Overnight at La Posadita Hotel. (BLD)

Mottled Owl, Los Tarrales Reserve, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)
Mottled Owl, Los Tarrales Reserve, Guatemala.
Shade-grown coffee at Los Tarrales Reserve (Chris Fischer Photography)
Shade-grown coffee at Los Tarrales Reserve

DAY 6: Wed., March 14 – ANTIGUA – LOS TARRALES

We continue our journey towards Los Tarrales Reserve, a private nature preserve and shade coffee plantation located on the southeastern slope of Atitlán Volcano. At just over 2,000 ft. in elevation, this special location lies in the heart of the Pacific foothills where the lowlands of the Pacific coast meet the western highlands.

With access to a variety of habitats, Los Tarrales has an exceptional bird list. We’ll enjoy watching Orange-chinned Parakeet, Cinnamon Hummingbird, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Rufous-naped Wren, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow-throated Euphonia, and Spot-breasted Oriole among others. We’ll also be looking for such species such as Orange-fronted Parakeet, Long-billed Starthroat, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Long-tailed Manakin, Tody Motmot, White-throated Thrush, White-winged Tanager, Blue Seedeater, and Bar-winged Oriole.

In the afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to take a tour to observe the traditional process of coffee production. Experts will guide us through the gourmet coffee cycle, starting in the nursery and following these small grains in their process of growth, careful collection and selection. We will discover how the unique characteristics of Guatemala’s climates and terrain combine to create the perfect conditions for growing the best coffee beans. Afterwards, we’ll continue our journey towards Panajachel, one of twelve lakeshore villages surrounding Lake Atitlán.

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos (BLD)

Birds of Lake Atitlan. Clockwise from upper left: Gray-backed Solitaire, Prevost's Ground Sparrow, Rusty Sparrow, Slender Sheartail. (Chris Fischer Photography)
Clockwise from upper left: Gray-backed Solitaire, Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, Rusty Sparrow, Slender Sheartail.


We’ll travel by boat across the calm waters of Lake Atitlán to visit the fascinating lakeside Mayan village of San Juan La Laguna. Enjoy this bustling indigenous community where weavers work the colorful textiles. We will visit the community project of Rupalaj K´istalin (meaning “Mayan Face” in Mayan Tz’utujil language and referring to the hill overlooking the village), showcasing the daily activities, traditions, culture, handicrafts and art work of the Mayan Tz’utujil culture.

We’ll return to Panajachel, where in the evening we will participate in the welcome dinner kicking off the inaugural Guatemala Bird Fair!

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos. (BLD)

San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)
The town of San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala.

DAY 8: Friday, March 16 – GUATEMALA BIRD FAIR

We’ll have a full day to participate in the 2018 Guatemala Bird Fair, with optional activities including your choice of the following sites for a birding day trip (with key bird species noted for each):

  • Corazon del Bosque – Pink-headed Warbler, Yellow-eyed Junco
  • Rey Tepepul – Azure-rumped Tanager, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Resplendant Quetzal
  • La Cascada (San Juan) – Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, Rufous Sabrewing
  • Tzankujil – Elegant Euphonia, Blue-throated Motmot, Prevost’s Ground Sparrow
  • Volcán San Pedro – Horned Guan, Wine-throated Hummingbird, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos (BLD)

DAY 9: Saturday, March 17 – BIRD FAIR – GUATEMALA CITY

Today you will be able to choose another one of the sites listed above for a birding day trip. Afterwards, we will depart towards to Guatemala City, where you will spend the last night of your visit in a comfortable hotel in the city. The tour officially ends upon arrival at our hotel in Guatemala City.

Overnight and dinner at Hotel las Americas (BLD)

Squirrel at Tzankujil Reserve (Chris Fischer Photography)
Squirrel at Tzankujil Reserve

DAY 10, Sunday, March 18 – GOOD BYE GUATEMALA!

Breakfast at the hotel. The hotel offers a free hotel shuttle for when you need to get to “La Aurora” international airport for your flight home.



PRICE: $2,450 per person


  • Internal flights between Guatemala City and Flores
  • Private transportation for all transfers and excursions, as per itinerary
  • Accommodations on a twin/double basis (single supplement $300)
  • Almost all meals as indicated in the itinerary above: (B)reakfast, (L)unch, (D)inner
  • Local birding, nature and culture guides
  • Entrance fees & permits for all birding and cultural areas visited
  • Drinking water will be available in our vehicle(s) for the duration of the tour


  • International airfare to/from Guatemala City
  • Food, alcoholic beverages and services not specified in the itinerary
  • Beverages of any kind during meals
  • Tips for guides, driver, hotel maid, etc.
  • Optional tours
  • Personal expenses


Please contact Chris Fischer at (570) 446-9597 or This tour will be limited to a maximum of 8 participants.

Sunset Over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)
Sunset Over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

All photographs on this page are the copyright of Chris Fischer Photography and may not be used in any manner without express permission.

Events Press Releases

Birds and Wine – A Great Pairing!

Join Audubon on September 18 and 19, 2015 for a camping trip to the Finger Lakes wine and bird country. We will visit the Montezuma Wildlife Management Area & National Wildlife refuge to witness the annual fall bird migration, especially the shore birds that use the Montezuma ponds as resting spots. We will follow this with stops at local wineries for a taste of the famous local wines. Camping on Friday and Saturday nights will be at the Cayuga State Park on the west shore of Cayuga Lake. There will be camping fees and some fees associated with wine tasting. This trip is limited to fourteen people, so sign up early! Plan to arrive Friday evening the 18th and depart Sunday morning.

There are plenty of campsites, so it is not necessary to reserve one prior to this trip. But, if you are not the tent-camping type, and want to reserve a camping cabin, go to to check cabin availability. Please sign-up with Audubon if you reserve a cabin so that you are included in our group limit of fourteen people. To sign up, contact Audubon by September 5th at or call 253-9250.


Endangered Species Act Under Attack

Your Actions are needed today!

Over the past several months, our new congress has been conspiring to dismantle many of this country’s greatest environmental and conservation legislation. Much of the Endangered Species Act in under attack and since January, over 30 bills and amendments have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would dismantle the Act, including eight extreme bills in the Senate that received a hearing last week.

S. 855, sponsored by Senator Rand Paul, which would remove at least half of all species from the ESA by eliminating protections for species that exist in only one state, which applies to birds like the Golden-cheeked Warbler, and would automatically delist all species after five years. 
Science-based decision making is at the heart of the ESA. Legislation such as S. 736 could require the use of potentially inferior science, while S. 112 would inject more burdensome and unnecessary economic analyses into the process.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are under attack in a House bill introduced by Congressman Duncan (R-SC). HR 493 would:

  • Require 30-year eagle take permits to be automatically issued one year after a permit application is submitted under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Audubon strongly opposes the 30-year permit for Bald and Golden Eagles and this bill would worsen an already flawed approach.
  • If HR 493 is enacted, bird “death traps” like unshielded power lines, waste oil pits and other modern hazards would no longer fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These bird death traps can otherwise be avoided with low-cost mitigation measures like nets covering waste pits and bird scaring devices on power lines. But HR 493 ignores common sense, low cost, win-win solutions like these and mandates that the law not help these birds at all.
  • Audubon strongly opposes HR 493. At a time when bird populations are facing an increasing array of threats from industrial development, now is not the time to undermine our core bird conservation laws. These laws have been instrumental in protecting bird species and bringing our national symbol, the Bald Eagle, back from the brink of extinction.

Send an email to your members of Congress and register your opposition to this bill.

Thank you for doing the right thing!

– Barbara Leo, Conservation Chair