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Republic of Nicaragua

Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa ©Katja Schulz (Creative Commons) Website

Birding Nicaragua

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua is a representative democratic republic. It is the largest state in Central America with an area of 130,000 km2. Nicaragua is the least densely populated country in Central America (42/km2) with 5,600,000 people. The country is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west of the country, the Caribbean Sea to the east. Falling within the tropics, Nicaragua sits 11 degrees north of the Equator, in the Northern Hemisphere.

The origin of the name 'Nicaragua' is unclear; one theory is that it was coined by Spanish colonists based upon the name of the local chief at that time, Nicarao; another is that it may have meant 'surrounded by water' in an indigenous language (this could either be a reference to its two large freshwater lakes, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua, or to the fact that it bounded on the east and the west by oceans.

Nicaragua occupies a landmass of 129,494 km² - roughly the size of Greece or the state of New York and 1.5 times larger than Portugal. Close to 20% of the country's territory is designated as protected areas such as national parks, nature reserves and biological reserves. The country is bordered by Costa Rica on the south and Honduras on the north, with the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific Lowlands, the North-Central Highlands or highlands and the Atlantic Lowlands.

Pacific Lowlands

Located in the west of the country, these lowlands consist of a broad, hot, fertile plain. Punctuating this plain are several large volcanoes of the Marrabios mountain range, including Mombacho just outside Granada, and Momotombo near León.

The lowland area runs from the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua's Pacific border with Costa Rica south of Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater lake in Central America (20th largest in the world), and is home to the world's only freshwater sharks (Nicaraguan shark). The Pacific lowlands region is the most populous, with over half of the nation's population. The capital city of Managua is the most populous and it is the only city with over 1.5 million inhabitants.

In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific Lowlands is also the repository for much of Nicaragua's Spanish colonial heritage. Cities such as León and Granada abound in colonial architecture and artifacts; Granada, founded in 1524, is the oldest colonial city in the Americas.

North-Central Highlands

This is an upland region away from the Pacific coast, with a cooler climate than the Pacific Lowlands. About a quarter of the country's agriculture takes place in this region, with coffee grown on the higher slopes. Oaks, pines, moss, ferns and orchids are abundant in the cloud forests of the region.

Bird life in the forests of the central region includes Resplendent Quetzal, goldfinches, hummingbirds, jays and toucanets.

Atlantic Lowlands

This large rainforest region, irrigated by several large rivers and very sparsely populated. The Rio Coco is the largest river in Central America, it forms the border with Honduras. The Caribbean coastline is much more sinuous than its generally straight Pacific counterpart; lagoons and deltas make it very irregular.

Nicaragua's Bosawas Biosphere Reserve is located in the Atlantic lowlands, it protects 1.8 million acres (7,300 km²) of Mosquitia forest - almost seven percent of the country's area - making it the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil.

Nicaragua's tropical east coast is very different from the rest of the country. The climate is predominantly tropical, with high temperature and high humidity. Around the area's principal city of Bluefields, English is widely spoken along with the official Spanish. The population more closely resembles that found in many typical Caribbean ports than the rest of Nicaragua.

A great variety of birds can be observed including eagles, turkeys, toucans, parakeets and macaws. Animal life in the area includes different species of monkeys, ant-eaters, white-tailed deer and tapirs.

Wildlife and Biodiversity

Rainforest in Nicaragua covers more than 2,000,000 ha, particularly on the Atlantic lowlands. As well as the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve (in the north) there is the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve (in the south), which protects 2,500km² of the Atlantic Rainforest. These two areas are very rich in biodiversity. There are 5 species of cats, including jaguar and cougar; 3 species of primates, spider monkey, howler monkey and capuchin monkey; 1 species of tapir, called Danto for the Nicaraguans; 3 species of anteaters and many more.



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Number of Species

Number of bird species: 781

National Bird: Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa

Of the 781 bird species, 54 are rare or accidental and four have been introduced by humans. None are endemic.


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Guide to the Birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras

by R S Ridgely & J A Gwynne | Princeton University Press | 1992 | Paperback | 534 pages, 48 colour plates, 53 line illustrations |

ISBN: 0691025126

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Central America

(Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama) | By Andrew Vallely & Dale Dyer | Princeton University Press | 2018 | Paperback | 560 pages, 260 plates with colour illustrations; 1190+ colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9780691138022

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Nicaragua: A Field Guide

by Liliana Chavarría-Duriaux, Robert Dean & David C Hille | Comstock Publishing Associates | 2018 | Paperback | 480 pages, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9781501701580

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua

by Juan Martínez-Sánchez, Liliana Chavarría-Duriaux & Francisco José Muñoz | VerlagsKG Wolf | 2014 | Paperback | 250 pages, 97 plates with colour illustrations; 2 b/w maps |

ISBN: 9783866171183

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Nicaragua: Pacific Slope Birds

by Robert Dean | Rainforest Publications | 2011 | Unbound | 13 pages, colour illustrations, colour map |

ISBN: 9780984010707

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in Nicaragua

By Bill Volkert | Puffbird Endeavors | 2014 | Spiralbound | 251 pages, colour photos, b/w maps |

ISBN: 9781886284852

Buy this book from NHBS.com


Wildlife Conservation Society Nicaragua


WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.


Abbreviations Key

CFR El Jaguar


Satellite View

El Jaguar is a sanctuary for a large number of birds, migratory and residents. In April 2002 a research team from the COCIBOLCA Foundation as part of the National Important Bird Areas Program from BirdLife International, financed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) rediscovered in El Jaguar, for the first time in Nicaragua since 1891, the Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia). At the same time, the research team detected the presence of the resident Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus); both species are threatened worldwide.

CFR Mombacho


Satellite View

On top of the inactive Mombacho Volcano you will find the 2,500-acre Mombacho Cloud Forest Reserve where stunning cloud forest flora can be observed. The reserve is southwest of Managua near Lake Cocibolca - also known as Lake Nicaragua - and is surrounded by small farms and coffee plantations

CFR Selva Negra


Satellite View

This is a privately owned reserve with a difference. The reserve forest is part of an organic shade coffee operation and hotel project. This coffee hacienda is praiseworthy as it is 100% ecologically sustainable. Everything here is carefully recycled. The forest is a great place to go hiking and you are likely to see howler monkey as well as plenty of birds along the way.

National Parks in Nicaragua


Nicaragua has some 78 nature reserves, parks and wildlife sanctuaries filled with amazing diversity. Many of Nicaragua’s National Parks provide nearby lodging to limit wilderness camping and further damage to the environment.

NR Chocoyero-El Brujo


Satellite View

Chocoyero-El Brujo is one of 78 protected areas in Nicaragua, and at just 455 acres this tropical forest is one of the smallest in size. The large amount of biodiversity is obvious, with bird species estimated at 113 species, some of which include toucans, hummingbirds, and green Pacific parakeets

NR Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve


Satellite View

The Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve, named after the Indio and Maiz rivers, has an area of 2500 Km2. The Reserve is the refuge for wild species such as turtles, primates, jaguars, birds, reptiles and fish…

NR Isla Juan Venado


Satellite View

The stunning Juan Venado Island is situated near the fascinating city of León to the south of the beaches of Las Peñitas and Poneloya. Bird watching enthusiasts will find the island a real treat as it is home to 106 bird species.

PWR Domitila


Satellite View

The reserve has more than 125 species of tropical birds, reptiles, butterflies, and insects. A portion of the reserve borders the southwest shore of Lake Cocibolca (Lake of Nicaragua), drawing numerous migratory neotropical birds…

Wetlands of International Importance


Nicaragua currently has nine sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 406,852 hectares.

WR Los Guatuzos


Satellite View

Los Guatuzos is a protected area consisting of tropical wetlands, rainforest, and wildlife refuge, it is the only internationally registered tropical wetland area in Nicaragua. The number of recorded species of birds living in the wildlife refuge is recorded at over 389, which doesn't include the thousands of migratory birds that frequently visit the refuge.

Guides & Tour Operators

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Gaia Birdwatching Tours

Tour Operator

By taking a birdwatching tour with GAIA, you are getting the most knowledgeable, professional bird field guide, and you are aiding in our efforts to protect important wildlife habitats. We are in the field studying birds weekly, so we know the local birds better than anyone. Additionally, all our birdwatching guides have experience in bird research projects in several areas in the country. No other birdwatching guide service in Nicaragua can provide bird guides with as much experience, knowledge, or accomplishment. Our staff and collaborators at GAIA have co-authored several scientific publications on the birds of Nicaragua.

Merlin Birding & Nature Tours

Tour Operator

Visiting Nicaragua is reminiscent of what Costa Rica was like 30 years ago, minus the long drives. At times, you'll truly get the sense that you stepped back in time in this charming country.

Tours Nicaragua

Tour Operator

Break away from the crowd and consider our peaceful land of sun and volcanoes, lakes and islands, rivers, forests and seas…

Viva Nicaragua

Tour Operator

Nicaragua provides some unique characteristics for birdwatching particularly because it’s located between the North and South America continents. Consequently, Nicaragua enjoys an extraordinary level of biodiversity, is becoming more and more popular, and has been identified as one of the major ecotourism attractions in the future. Currently, on the official list of identified birds in Nicaragua there are 703 different species, and the list continues to grow. Many birds can be seen year-round, and there are large numbers of bird species in every department of Nicaragua, particularly in Nicaragua’s cloud forests. Some of the birds that reside in the cloud or rain forests (Mombacho and Maderas Volcanoes) include Slaty-tailed Trogons, Three-wattled Bellbirds and the Resplendent Quetzal. Birdwatching can be a relaxing and easy-to-practice activity and is suitable for everyone, so allow us to prepare your birdwatching experience during your visit to Nicaragua.

Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2011 [02 February] - Hans Christophersen

Report PDF

2013 [05 May] - Florian Klingel

Report PDF

…Best birds for me: Thicket Tinamou, Gray Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk, Black-headed and Elegant Trogon, Blue-crowned and Turquise-browed Motmot (which is easy to see even in the city, but always great to see one), White-necked Puffbird from the terrace, Dusky Antbird, Rufous- browed Peppershrike and fantastic views of a Long-tailed Manakin family…

2013 [08 August] - Daniel Watson - Nicaragua, Panama & Costa Rica

PDF Report

The heat and strong sunlight was bearing down on us as we waited at the Nicaraguan bus station, but two things lifted my spirits; firstly were several highly colourful hand painted buses in the bus station – rather sad, but I had hoped to ride on one of these! – and the second was a grackle that flew down to take a scrap of my empanada, a Nicaraguan grackle. The birds more black appearance and shorter tail gave the species away, but I spotted some pallid females nearby as well, just for confirmation.

2018 [02 February] - Robert Gallardo

PDF Report

...We saw Spot-breasted Oriole, Russet-naped Wren, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and Orange-fronted Parakeet. Pablo showed up and we embarked on a two-hour city tour of Managua to learn about its recent historical and political past...

Places to Stay

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Domitila Private Wildlife Reserve


We are located in the heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, one of the richest biological areas in Nicaragua and the reserve is a refuge for threatened and endangered species of the dry tropical forest. It features a complete representation of flora and fauna for this type of forest. Domitila is a paradise for researchers and nature lovers with 65 species of mammals including howler monkeys and wild cats. The reserve has more than 125 species of tropical birds…

Finca Esperanza Verde


Finca Esperanza Verde (Green Hope Farm) is a cool, green and tranquil paradise located in the lush mountains of central Nicaragua…

La Mariposa Spanish School & Eco-Hotel


Over the seven years that we have been open, the Mariposa has made strenuous efforts to conserve, protect and increase the bird and general wildlife on our tiny piece of land.

Montecristo Riverside Lodge


Montecristo is a riverside lodge in the tropical rainforest, within the Private Montecristo Wildland Reserve…

Nicaragua Guesthouse - Managua


Stay at our family owned and run Guest House in an elegant suburb of Managua, amid a picturesque tree-lined setting just 10 minutes away from the international airport and bus terminals! Managua, our capital city, has a vibrant nightlife!

Selva Negra


Willkommen to the Black Forest of….Nicaragua. At the Barvarian-style gatehouse the guard lifts the red and white stripped bar permitting entrance into the unique world of Selva Negra. Here at more than 3,000 feet you will have to pinch yourself to believe that you are still in Nicaragua.


International Bird Festival (Granada, Nicaragua)


Nicaragua has 764 identified bird species, 551 permanent and about 203 migratory species. As well as the many identified species, there are many non-identified due to the low level of scientific activity in this field in comparison to other neo-tropical countries. This provides a great opportunity for birdwatchers and nature tourism fans.

Other Links



Nicaragua is widely regarded as the most 'under-birded' country in Central America. With more than 700 recorded species and large areas of virtually unexplored habitat, it offers huge potential for new discoveries. Given the paucity of published information in English on birding in Central America's largest country, NicaBirds is designed to bridge that gap with information on noteworthy species and useful bird-finding information. We are indebted to the creators of the excellent Panamanian website, Xenornis.com, from which the inspiration for NicaBirds was drawn…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Dan Cesar - Birds of Nicaragua