Seeing bamboo-specialized birds in Guatemala
with CAYAYA BIRDING

Slaty Finch in Guatemala
Male Slaty Finch Haplospiza rustica in a bamboo thicket in the highlands of Guatemala.

Bamboos are classified in a subfamily of the grasses (Poaceae). Some of the woody bamboo species grow up to 40 m tall. Probably more than 20 native species of woody bamboos occur in Guatemala, most of them in the humid highlands. They grow between 1 and 30 m tall. Some species climb into the canopy of surrounding trees. In addition about eight species of herbaceous bambus including bamboo-like basal grasses occur in Guatemala.

Chusquea bamboo thicket in the highlands of Guatemala.
Chusquea bamboo thicket in the highlands of Guatemala.

The flowering cycles of most woody bamboos span multiple years up to several decades. Typically, the flowering of a population of a mountain massif is synchronized, followed by mast seeding. Bamboos produce nutritious seeds similar to other grasses, including important grain such as corn (Zea mays), wheat (Triticum spp.), rye (Secale cereale), barley (Hordeum vulgare), rice (Oryza spp.), and oat (Avena sativa). Areas with mast-seeding bamboo offer therefore a feast for wildlife including birds.

Maroon-chested Ground-Dove in Guatemala
Male Maroon-chested Ground-Dove Claravis mondetoura in a bamboo thicket in the highlands of Guatemala.

In Guatemala, four bird species are generally associated with seeding bamboo, Blue Seedeater Amaurospiza concolor, Slaty Finch Haplospiza rustica, Slate-colored Seedeater Sporophila schistacea, and Maroon-chested Ground-Dove Claravis mondetoura. They are irregularly occurring in their large Neotropical ranges because of their more or less tight dependence on seeding bamboo.

Blue Seedeater in Guatemala
Female Blue Seedeater Amaurospiza concolor in a bamboo thicket in the highlands of Guatemala.

Many other birds take advantage of the massive food source of bamboo seeds, such as Barred Parakeet, Black-capped Siskin, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, and Spotted Towhee among the resident birds, and Indigo Bunting and Rose-breasted Grosbeak among the Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds. Many more bird species take advantage of the dense structure of bamboo thickets for nesting and feeding habitat, including large birds such as Horned Guan and Highland Guan, chachalacas, and passerines such as brushfinches and nightingale-thrushes. The dense structure if bamboo thickets also provides protective roosting sites for small resident and migratory birds.

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Photographs of bamboo-specialized birds seen during CAYAYA BIRDING tours in Guatemala

Maroon-chested Ground-Dove in bamboo thicket male Maroon-chested Ground-Dove calling Maroon-chested Ground-Dove female Maroon-chested Ground-Dove female Maroon-chested Ground-Dove male Maroon-chested Ground-Dove male Maroon-chested Ground-Dove male Maroon-chested Ground-Dove juvenile male Maroon-chested Ground-Dove juvenile Maroon-chested Ground-Dove Male Slaty Finch Male Slaty Finch Male Slaty Finch Male Slaty Finch young male Slaty Finch young male Slaty Finch Female Slaty Finch portrait female Blue Seedeater male Blue Seedeater portrait female Blue Seedeater flock Indigo Buntings Barred Parakeet feeding bamboo seeds

Start here planning your birding trip to Guatemala:


Dying Chusquea bamboo in the highlands of Guatemala.
Dying Chusquea bamboo in the highlands of Guatemala.
Blue Seedeater in Guatemala
Male Blue Seedeater Amaurospiza concolor in the highlands of Guatemala.

Contributions by Knut Eisermann and Claudia Avendaño of CAYAYA BIRDING to the knowledge about the distribution of bamboo-specialized birds

  • Eisermann, K. & C. Avendaño (2018) An update on the inventory, distribution and residency status of bird species in Guatemala. Bulletin British Ornithologists' Club 138: 148-229.
  • Eisermann, K. & C. Avendaño (2007) Lista comentada de las aves de Guatemala - Annotated checklist of the birds of Guatemala. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Eisermann, K. & C. Avendaño (2006) Diversidad de aves en Guatemala, con una lista bibliográfica. Pp. 525-623 In: E. Cano (ed.) Biodiversidad de Guatemala, Vol. 1. Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala.
  • More about our bird research in Guatemala.

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