Belize Wildlife, Part 2 of 2

Brown Basalisk Lizard in Belize

In addition to the abundant bird species found in Belize, as featured last week, there is also an impressive array of reptiles, mammals, and insects. Welcome to Part 2 of the Belize Wildlife series.


 Part 1 of Belize Wildlife. 


Native to Belize, the brown basilisk lizard is known for its ability to “walk on water.” With large hind feet and web-like toes, they fly so quickly across the water’s surface that it produces the illusion of the lizard running on water.


A quiet river boat ride revealed this basilisk lizard basking beside the river. Like most lizards, the basilisks have varying colors.

Basilisk Lizard, Belize, Central America

The green iguana, which is not always green, was prevalent in many parts of the country. They are the largest lizard in Belize. We came upon this one on the outskirts of Belize City, he was about three feet long (.91 m) without the tail.

Green Iguana, Belize

Deeper into the jungle we were greeted by a troop of Gautemalan black howler monkeys. We had been birding in a Maya ruin, Lamanai, when we found the howlers lazily enjoying figs overhead. They were quiet in this scene, but other times we could hear their eerie, formidable howling from miles away.


Click to hear the black howler monkey.


Guatemalan Black Howler Monkey, Belize


Maya ruin, Lamanai, Mask Temple

An old abandoned sugar mill in this same Maya ruin had been taken over by aggressive vines, supporting numerous varieties of bats, bugs, and birds.


Bats, Lamanai



Montezuma Oropendola on nest, Belize


Leafcutter ants, my favorite kind of ant, were also in the rainforest. Columns of ants steadily marched down the trail, each ant carrying a piece of leaf they had chewed and cut.


The largest and most complex animal society on earth other than humans, leafcutter ants carry twenty times their body weight, as they dutifully deliver their leaf piece to the communal mound.


Leafcutter Ants


Where there are ants, there are antbirds.

Dusky Antbird, Belize


Life in the rainforest can be brutal. Assassin bugs are known for painful stabbing and lethal saliva.

Assassin bug


One dark night after dinner, we found this bad boy on our doorknob. Fortunately it was outside and not inside, and I was wearing a headlamp so I could see not to touch the knob.


Belize Scorpion


It is the abundance of bugs that attract birds–there were beautiful flycatchers here.

Vermillion Flycatcher, Belize


Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Belize


Heading east out of Belize’s rainforests, the traveler eventually finds the dazzling waters of the Caribbean Sea. There’s nothing more calming after jungle mosquitos than a cool sea breeze.


Ambergris Caye, Belize

The coast of Belize is comprised of a series of coral reefs, with 450 cayes and seven marine reserves.

Aerial view of Belizean coast

Sea mammals we found snorkeling were southern stingrays and green sea turtles.

Southern Stingray, Belize

Green Sea Turtle, Belize, Ambergris Caye


Snorkeling with Southern Stingrays, Belize Barrier Reef


While walking the white sand beaches, black spiny-tailed iguanas were a common sight. This frisky pair scuttled up and down a tree trunk.


With over 600 species of birds and a plethora of other wildlife, Belize is a tropical menagerie. Thank you for joining me on this two-part adventure.


Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos by Athena Alexander.


Northern Jacana


Guatemalan Black Howler Monkey, Belize



105 thoughts on “Belize Wildlife, Part 2 of 2

  1. Bugs and birds in beautiful Belize! What a wonderful place, such a wealth of natural sights and sounds. Thanks for sharing some of your Belize experiences, an absolute joy to read and see.
    Have a great weekend!

  2. Get me to the airport! I LOVE this animal extravaganza. What is the 6 lane pile up of brightly colored insects? Looks like a ball of bugs. I recall a post that you did about the basalisks and their water running skills which I thought was facinating. It seems that the underwater wildlife of the area is thriving if Athena’s brilliant photos are any indication. Belize has long been planted on our list. Written in permanent marker afte this post.

    • Your comment has me chuckling, Sue, thanks for that. That 6-lane pile-up, isn’t that cool? I don’t know what bug it is, I searched around on the internet, but without success. Glad you recalled the basilisk post. We saw one running on water (in Costa Rica) once, and I have never stopped loving them since then. As for the underwater wildlife. Admittedly, we’ve had better snorkeling in Hawaii and Australia, but I think the scuba diving is good, it’s popular with divers. I know you and Dave would enjoy Belize, a good respite from the cold Canadian winters. My warmest smiles to you, Sue, and as always, thanks for the visit.

    • Yes, those leafcutters are such a thrill to see, when those little leaf pieces go moving down the trail. From 5 feet up you can’t see the ant, just the moving leaf. Glad you enjoyed Athena’s photo, Frank; yes, she really does kick butt. As a kick-butt photographer yourself, you know what it takes to produce these kinds of photos. Really glad to have you visit, my friend…thanks.

  3. Absolutely fascinating animals so beautifully captured by Athena. Each and every one with an amazing story for us on the other side of the pond. The Leafcutter Ants are stante pede my favourite ants too, now. 🙂

    • Oh how I love that I converted you into a leafcutter ant fan, Dina. This gave me a big smile. Glad you enjoyed the Belize wildlife, today. My best to you and the Fab Four — many thanks.

  4. You’ve gone to some of the most amazing places on Earth. Thanks for taking us along. Couple of questions for you. 1. No snakes? seems like turtles and lizards showed up, so they would be naturals. 2. Who looks at an ancient ruin and says, “You know what? This would make a great sugar factory.”

    • I loved this spirited comment, Craig. Yes, there are plenty of snakes in Belize, about 10 or 11 that are dangerous, but we never saw one. You’re right, snakes would be a “natural” here. As for the sugar factory. Here’s who would look at an ancient ruin and decide to build a sugar factory: the British. They set up the sugar mill in the 19th century because it was near the river, good for supplies, and they thought they could exploit the rural Mayans who lived nearby to work there for cheap wages. But it didn’t work out that way. The Mayans rebelled and the British owners were ravaged by tropical diseases, so it was abandoned. I laughed at your question number 2 pretty hard…thanks.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Jan. Yes, it is a critter-filled place, especially the jungle. Those assassin bugs can get pretty nasty. Happy Super Bowl Sunday, my friend.

  5. what a wonderful treat on your Belize series, Jet! it’s amazing to see those multi-colored bugs. the scorpio and assassin bugs are scary. so fun to see the leaf cutter ants on pilgrimage. it’ll be interesting to see the basilisk lizard walk on water! the photography is superb. thank you again.

    • This made made me laugh, Anneli. Yes, the scorpion was a bit unnerving. I said, “OMG, what should we do?” And Athena said, “Take a photo of course.” So that’s what she did. She used a stick to take it off the door knob. Thanks so much for your visit today, much appreciated.

  6. Whoa – that scorpion on the doorknob! But what an amazing variety of wildlife. I’ve seen Mayan ruins in Guatemala, but those ruins in Belize look fascinating. I’ll definitely be making a trip to Belize one day!

    • Thanks very much, Marsi, for your comment. It is an amazing variety of wildlife, and oh yes, they’re not all tender little creatures. I hope you do get a chance to visit Belize. Many thanks.

    • Those brightly colored bugs were great to see. A cluster like that just went unseen until Athena snapped a shot of them. Underwater photos are always fun, I’m glad you enjoyed them, Janet. Thanks so much for your visit.

  7. Beautiful and fascinating! I especially like the lizards. A friend has had a pet green iguana for many years. When she first got it she named it “George”, but after it laid eggs, she changed its name to “Georgeous”.

    • I am partial to lizards too, montucky. That’s why I started this post with them, because I can never get enough of the lizards. I like the story of George’s name turning into Georgeous. That’s funny! Many thanks, my friend.

  8. Very interesting post as always! I love to see samples of wildlife from other places. Some friends told me that great arachnids abound everywhere but people are used to them. It’s almost impossible not to bump into spiders being near the jungle. Thank you my friend. 🙂

    • Oh yes, and you know the jungle, HJ, from your time in South America. Ants and arachnids, biting mosquitoes, and many others, it’s all part of the jungle. So glad you enjoyed this visit to Belize. It’s always a joy when you visit, thank you.

  9. Great narrative, as usual. So much to learn about this world of ours and you and Athena are certainly helping to expand my knowledge of the critters who share our planet. The Vermillion Flycatcher brought back memories of seeing and capturing that brilliantly scarlet little thing in New Mexico.

    • Isn’t that vermilion flycatcher stunning, Gunta? I’m glad the photo brought back memories of your frolic with it in NM. I haven’t seen too many of that species, but I know no matter how many times I see it, I will always be dazzled. Liked your feedback on the narrative, too. Sometimes I go with less words in my narratives, like this Belize series, other times I like to tell the full story; it depends on how much material I have in terms of experiences and photos. And you’re right, always so much to learn on this planet; it’s great we have the ability to share our experiences. Always a joy to hear from you my friend, thank you.

  10. What amazing creatures those lizards are! My favourites from this post though, are the little Antbird – such beautiful colour – and the Fork-tailed Flycatcher. It’s tail alone is worth a like but I wonder what the purpose is of it is? I’m not sure how well I would cope with all those bugs (it was certainly a good job you had a head torch on for the scorpion), but their patterns are something to behold and I think that kind of thing might just give me the courage to brave that part of the world. And then there is the snorkelling with stingrays! Stingrays – fabulous creatures, and the turtles too of course.

    • Those lizards always had me in awe, oo, Alastair, I’m glad you found them as amazing as I did. They’re all different sizes, but the biggest always was the green lizard. The antbirds are outstanding birds to watch. There’s this whole dance they do, popping around, chasing the ants, their prey. There are many species of antbirds in the rainforest, and we spent a good deal of time watching them. It’s tricky to watch them, though, because they hop around a lot in their predatory pursuits; but trickier is that the ants are on the move and I found I was always looking around making sure I was out of their paths. Besides the antibirds’ active behavior, they are difficult to photograph because the deep part of the jungle is so dark. I love love love the fork-tailed flycatcher. When they fly with that tail, it wavers in their wake. Purpose of it, I am guessing, is flashiness in finding a mate. Yes, the bugs are a big part of the rainforest, and not for everyone. I have learned 2 weeks in the rainforest is my absolute max. I rarely use bug spray, don’t like the chemicals, and I am a real target for the bugs, so I come out looking like a pin cushion. Snorkeling with stingrays was really fun. These were relatively small, as far as stingrays go, so less intimidating. My friend, thanks so much for your interest and support, much appreciated.

  11. pretty cool but a little scary too. All looks pretty in photos but 1 on 1 in the jungle bet is a whole different situation. Thanks for sharing

    • You summarize it well, Bill, it does look pretty in the photos, and yes, there are some worries, too. I’m glad I could share it with you in complete safety. And my very best to you on your own tricky adventure today, heading to the Midwest in one of its worst storms after a month in the paradise of Hawaii.

  12. A total and completely fascinating post covering this well preserved country
    that actually puts it’s natural resources first! Belize does a great job taking
    care of the beauty and wonders that are Belize.
    Outstanding photos and story Jet!

    • I was so impressed with the preservation of wilderness and wildlife in Belize, Eddie, and I’m glad you share with me the efforts and profoundness of it. It was great fun to share the beauties of Belize with you, thanks so much for your attentiveness and appreciation.

  13. Not sure how I would feel about meeting a three-foot (without the tail) lizard face to face. But a flock (?) of leaf cutter ants would be pretty cool! After seeing such an array of wildlife, can’t help but appreciate the planet even more.

    • Always a joy when you stop by, Roslyn. The 3-foot lizard might be a little alarming to those not accustomed to lizards, but keeping one’s distance, rather than being close up, always helps. And yes, those leaf cutter ants really are pretty cool. Glad this helped you appreciate the planet even more. Thanks so very much.

  14. I was delighted by that pile of colorful insects. The leaf-cutter ants were fun, too. I often see leaf-cutter bees setting up shop in the boats I work on. They’re solitary, and find the most amazing places to dwell. The fork-tailed flycatcher’s related to our scissor-tailed. They’re the only two species of their genus that have the extra-long tails.

    When I think of Belize, I think of it as a sailing and sportfishing destination, but it clearly has a good bit to offer anyone interested in various aspects of nature. A wonderful post.

    • Your location in Texas affords many great sightings of tropical birds and other warm weather wildlife. I once saw a scissor-tailed flycatcher in Texas, while visiting my mother, and oh was that fun. So I am glad you enjoyed this visit to Belize, Linda. It is not very far from TX in terms of flights. Always great to “see” you, thank you.

  15. Well this was a treat for the eyes! Such a great collection of wildlife. I love those brightly coloured bugs, they really are quite incredible!! And the ants carrying their heavy loads ~ always fascinating to watch ant highways. Beautiful bright red fly catcher. We saw howler monkeys in Nicaragua, with the interesting sound that they make. That brown basalisk lizard is COOL! Thanks for sharing Jet.


    • I am very glad you enjoyed the visit to Belize, Peta, and that you have had the pleasure of experiencing howler monkeys. With your residence in Sri Lanka, you know the pleasure of tropical wildlife. My warmest thanks….

  16. What a fantastic article! It just took me back to when I visited Costa Rica. The basilisks, leafcutter ants and howler monkeys all remind me so much of the jungle there. Very well written and lovely photos! I will make sure to head to Belize one day 🙂

    • Yes, there are many similarities to Belize in Costa Rica, and I am glad this post brought back fun memories of your visit to CR. Thanks so much for your visit and comment, Juliet.

  17. Belize looks like a neat place. Closest I’ve come to that is Costa Rica, where I saw your basilisk’s green cousin. The local guide told us they called it the “Jesus Christ” lizard, because it could walk on water.

    • I’m happy you have had the pleasure of seeing a basilisk lizard, Dave. Yes, some people do call it the “Jesus Christ” lizard. Glad you’ve been to Costa Rica, another Central American country I love.

    • I’m delighted you were able to enjoy both parts of this Belize series, Janet. It’s a wonderful place in the world that hosts so many hundreds of stunning creatures, I’m glad I could share some of them with you.

  18. That has certainly been an adventure Jet!! About the leafcutter ants, imagine carrying your own body weight 20 times! Wow! What do they use to carry the leafs with? Thanks for the posts.

    • I am happy you enjoyed the Belize series, Bertie, and I loved that you absorbed the leafcutter ants into your thoughts. A great question you asked, thrilled me. The ants have powerful jaws and they cut the leaf piece with their jaws, then carry it to their destination. They carry the leaf piece in their jaws, and it extends behind them, over the ant’s back, thereby not obliterating their vision. Pretty remarkable, I’m sure we both agree. Bertie, always a supreme pleasure to hear from you, thank you.

  19. Interesting and varied assortment, Jet. The assassin bug had me heading off to the Schmidt Pain Index. It seems to be 2 on the scale – intense but not intolerable. The pepsis wasp (available on Abaco) is 4 and definitely to be avoided at all costs! RH

    • You once led me to xeno-canto for bird sounds, now I found myself heading off to learn about the Schmidt Pain Index, which I had never heard of either. You are a great resource of cool info, RH! I love how he describes a relatable discomfort to the inflicted pain. Really a treat to know this tidbit of info, RH, my smiling thanks. 😀

    • Your eye for beaches is a good one, ACI, they are super attractive beaches down there in Belize. On Ambergris Caye you can walk along the beach barefoot, stop and get really delicious Caribbean food and refreshing drinks, then keep walking and enjoy the palm trees, sea breeze, and gently lapping water. Underwater was beautiful too. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Athena has an inexpensive underwater camera that takes decent photos. Fun to have you along for the Belize adventure, thanks for stopping by.

  20. Such an interesting post; and of course the photos are stunning. I have never been to Belize but many of the creatures you captured were ones that delighted us in Costa Rica. I remember seeing a basilisk there and our guided called it a Jesus Christ lizard because it was able to “walk on water”. Good to know its real name. 🙂

    • The basilisks do have that name, and if you were to see it fly across the water surface, you would be amazed. I’m glad you have seen them, and other beautiful creatures in Costa Rica, LuAnne. Thank you for your visit and comment.

  21. Enjoyed this 2-part look at a beautiful country. LOVE those leafcutter ants! So diligent. If I were so inclined as to have a favorite ant, that would be it. ;>)

    • Thanks so much, dear Nan. It was truly a pleasure to highlight some of the many beautiful creatures in Belize with you. Ants are such fascinating beings, and diligent is a great word for them. And the leafcutters, well, I could go on and on about them. Smiles to you–

  22. Wow, I’m amazed by the diversity of life and yet the relations between us all – the jacana is just like a moorhen but brighter and yet those fantastic multi-coloured bugs are like nothing I’ve ever seen!

  23. Another wonderful post with pictures and information about the wildlife in Belize! Of all the colorful species, the Leafcutter Ants impressed me the most. Thank you for sharing.

  24. OH MY GOSH! Gasped over and over seeing all of this. We’re going someday and that is that. Man. Thank You both for the wonderful pictures and words. Lord!!! Sending huge hugs Your way! 🙂

    • Always a joy to hear from you, Katy, you are great at articulating your enthusiasm. Thanks so much for your full attention to the Belize series, I do think you and your mate will visit there someday. Until then, you have these images in your mind to nudge you. Many thanks and smiles.

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