One of the heavy-hitters to be found at Tikal: Orange-breasted Falcon. These peregrine-sized tropical falcons nest high on one of the large temples, and are easily found around the main plaza. This is the female, who was constantly exhorting the hapless male to bring her more food. Excellent views of the falcons could be had from the top of Temple II, and we were able to show many a bird-illiterate tourist these very exciting birds through the scopes.
Here's some of our crew from the 4th International Bird Watching Encounter posing high on Temple II: Front, kneeling: Brian Bland, Jeff Bouton, Sharon Mackie. Back row, L to R: Tim Appleton, Jeff Gordon, Liz Gordon, Bill Thompson, Lisa White, Jim McCormac, Susumu Kumemura, and Terry Moore. This is the spot where we had the best looks at the Orange-breasted Falcons.Sensational and unwary, Ocellated Turkeys can't be missed at Tikal. They are gaudy to the point of outrageousness, more so than Ohio's Wild Turkey, also in the genus Meleagris.
I greatly enjoyed watching the goings-on at this colony of Montezuma's Oropendolas, which was high in a tree overlooking the central plaza at Tikal. Like a small colony of avian Mayans, the birds engaged in all of the activities of a busy little city. Oropendolas busied themselves constructing or patching their intricate woven bag-like nests, seemingly talked and socialized amongst themselves, and uttered their incredible descending gurgles - a sound that totally seems as one with the jungle. Especially interesting was watching one of the crow-sized males doing his courtship acrobatics. The bird perches on an unobstructed horizontal branch - keep in mind this is some 80 feet above the ground - and slyly looks about to see if any suitable chicks are watching. When an attractive audience is assured, he jostles about on the perch, and lets loose with a splendid flute-like gurgling whistle. Simultaneously, the bird rocks forward with a slight outward flap of the wings, and plunges off the branch headfirst. Like a trapeze artist, he maintains a firm grip on the branch and quickly pirhouettes halfway around before lunging back to an erect position. All the while, his golden tail flashes a vivid arc as he spins around. Indeed, "oropendola" stems from the Spanish Oro (gold) and pendola (pendulum).
Watching the antics of the orpoendolas, I had to wonder if the Mayans who lived here were equally amused by these birds living high overhead their ancient city some 2,000 year prior.