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Honduras is one of the most biodiverse countries in Latin America. With more than 45% of the country covered in forest, by far the highest amount in all of Central America, much of the flora and fauna of the country remain pristine and untrammeled. The range of species here is breathtaking -- especially birds. Species rarely seen elsewhere in Latin America, like the resplendent quetzal and toucan, are a dime a dozen in Honduras and in relatively easily accessible locations. Tourists have explored few of the national parks, and if you visit one there's a good chance you will be the only one there.

Mammals

Many consider Honduras the best place in Central America to see mammals. While threats from hunters, poachers, and shrinking habitat increase, in places such as Sierra de Agalta and Pico Bonito national parks, and the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, mammal sightings are relatively common. While catching a glimpse of a jaguar or ocelot is unlikely, seeing a monkey or one of almost 100 species of bats is a safe bet.

Jaguar -- (Panthera onca) This cat measures from 1 to 1.8m (3 1/4-6 ft.) plus tail and is distinguished by its tan/yellowish fur with black spots. Often called simply tigre (tiger) in Honduras. Prime Viewing: Jaguars exist in all major tracts of primary and secondary forest in Honduras, as well as some open savannahs. However, jaguars are endangered and extremely hard to see in the wild. The largest concentrations of jaguars can be found in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in La Mosquitia and Pico Bonito National Park near La Ceiba.

Ocelot -- (Leopardus pardalis) Known as tigrillo in Honduras (as is the similar-sized margay), the tail of this small cat is longer than its rear leg, which makes for easy identification. Ocelots are mostly nocturnal, and they sleep in trees. Prime Viewing: The ocelot inhabits all regions of Honduras, with the greatest concentration found in La Mosquitia.

Jaguarundi -- (Herpailurus yaguarondi) This smallish to midsize cat, with a solid black, brown, or rust colored coat, can occasionally be spotted in a clearing or climbing trees. The jaguarundi has a unique look for a wild cat, with a face often compared to that of a weasel or otter. Jaguarundis are diurnal hunters. Prime Viewing: Jaguarundis are most frequently spotted in the middle elevation moist forests in Olancho or Western Honduras. They are sometimes mistaken for a tayra.

Paca -- (Agouti paca) The paca, a nocturnal rodent, inhabits the forest floor, feeding on fallen fruit, leaves, and some tubers dug from the ground. Prime Viewing: The paca is most often found near water throughout many habitats of Honduras, from river valleys to swamps to dense tropical forest. However, since they're nocturnal, you're much more likely to see their smaller cousin, the diurnal agouti (guatusa).

Tayra -- (Eira barbara) This midsize rodent is part of the weasel family. Tayras run from dark brown to black, with a brown-to-tan head and neck. Long and low to the ground, they have a long bushy tail. Prime Viewing: Often called tolumuco in Honduras, tayras are found across the country, in forests as well as plain areas, and in trees as well as on the ground.

Baird's Tapir -- (Tapirus bairdii) Known as the danta in Honduras, Baird's tapir is the largest land mammal in Honduras and a relative of the rhinoceros. Tapirs are active both day and night, foraging along riverbanks, streams, and forest clearings. Prime Viewing: An endangered species, tapirs can be found in wet forested areas, particularly on the North Coast and throughout La Mosquitia. The Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve has a particularly high concentration of this mammal.

Coatimundi -- (Nasua narica) Known as pizote or pezote in Honduras, the raccoon-like coatimundi is active both day and night; it is equally comfortable on the ground and in trees. Prime Viewing: The coati is not as frequently seen in Honduras as it is in Costa Rica or places farther south, though sightings do occur on occasion in a variety of habitats across Honduras. Social animals, they are often found in groups of 10 to 20.

Collared Peccary -- (Tayassu tajacu) Sometimes called jagüilla in Honduras, the collared peccary is a black or brown pig-like animal that travels in small groups of 5 to 15 members (larger where populations are still numerous) and has a strong musk odor. Prime Viewing: You can find them in low- and middle-elevation forests throughout Honduras.

Northern Tamandua -- (Tamandua mexicana) Better known as the collared anteater (oso hormiguero in Spanish), the northern tamandua grows up to 77cm (30 in.) long, not counting its thick tail, which can be as long its body. It is active diurnally and nocturnally. Prime Viewing: Look in low- and middle-elevation forests in most of Honduras, especially in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve.

Three-Toed Sloth -- (Bradypus variegatus) The larger and more commonly sighted of Honduras's two sloth species, the three-toed sloth has long, coarse brown-to-gray fur and a distinctive eye band. They have three long and sharp claws on each foreleg. These slow-moving creatures are entirely arboreal. Prime Viewing: Sloths live in low- and middle-elevation forests in most of Honduras, though overhunting has made them move to extremely remote locations. While sloths can be found in a wide variety of trees, they are most commonly spotted in the relatively sparsely leaved cecropia.

Mantled Howler Monkey -- (Alouatta palliata) Sometimes called mono congo, the highly social mantled howler monkey grows to 56cm (22 in.) in size and often travels in groups of 10 to 30. The loud roar of the male can be heard as far as 1.6km (1 mile) away. Prime Viewing: Look in wet and dry forests across Honduras, especially La Mosquitia and along the North Coast. Almost entirely arboreal, they tend to favor the higher reaches of the canopy.

White-Faced Monkey -- (Cebus capucinus) Known as both mono carablanca and mono capuchin in Honduras, the white-faced or capuchin monkey is a midsize species (46cm/18 in.) with distinct white fur around its face, head, and forearms. It can be found in forests all around the country and often travels in large troops or family groups. Prime Viewing: You can see them in wet and dry forests across Honduras.

Central American Spider Monkey -- (Ateles geoffroyi) Known as mono araña in Honduras, the spider monkey is one of the more acrobatic monkey species. A large monkey (64cm/25 in.) with brown or silvery fur, it has long thin limbs and a long prehensile tail. It is active both day and night, and travels in small to midsize bands or family groups. Prime Viewing: They live in wet and dry forests across Honduras.

Nine-Banded Armadillo -- (Dasypus novemcinctus) This is the most common armadillo species. Armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one," and that's an accurate description of this hard-carapace-carrying mammal. The nine-banded armadillo can reach 65cm (26 in.) in length and weigh up to 4.5kg (10 lb.). The female gives birth to identical quadruplets from one single egg. Prime Viewing: You'll find them in low- and middle-elevation forests, as well as farmland, in most of Honduras. These prehistoric-looking animals are nocturnal and terrestrial.

Birds

The array of habitats and microclimates are host to an impressive count of resident and migrant birds. The number of species is fast approaching 800, and the area has long been beloved by ornithologists. In other words, Honduras is one of the world's great bird-watching spots.

Jabiru Stork -- (Jabiru mycteria) One of the largest birds in the world, the jabiru stork stands 1.5m (5 ft.) tall, with a wingspan of 2.4m (7 3/4 ft.) and a .3m (1-ft.) bill. An endangered species, the jabiru is very rare. Prime Viewing: The wetlands of southern Honduras and in La Mosquitia are the best places to try to spot the jabiru stork.

Keel-Billed Toucan -- (Ramphastos sulfuratus) The rainbow-colored canoe-shaped bill and brightly colored feathers make the keel-billed toucan a favorite of bird-watching tours. The toucan can grow to about 51cm (20 in.) in length. It's similar in size and shape to the chestnut mandibled toucan. Honduras is also home to several smaller toucanet and aracari species. Prime Viewing: Lowland and middle elevation forests, including Lancetilla near Tela, Pico Bonito National Park, and Lago de Yojoa, are the best places to see them.

Scarlet Macaw -- (Ara macao) Known as guara roja in Honduras, the scarlet macaw is a long-tailed member of the parrot family. It can reach 89cm (35 in.) in length. The bird is endangered over most of its range, particularly because it is so coveted as a pet. Its loud squawk and rainbow-colored feathers are quite distinctive. Prime Viewing: Look for them in low-lying tropical forest, especially La Mosquitia.

Resplendent Quetzal -- (Pharomachrus mocinno) Perhaps the most distinctive and spectacular bird in Central America, the resplendent quetzal, of the trogon family, can grow to 37cm (15 in.). The males are distinctive, with bright red chests, iridescent blue-green coats, yellow bills, and tail feathers that can reach another 76cm (30 in.) in length. The females lack the long tail feathers and have a duller beak and less pronounced red chest. Prime Viewing: High-elevation wet and cloud forests, particularly in La Tigra, Montaña de Celaque, Sierra de Agalta, or La Muralla National Parks, are the best places to see them.

Magnificent Frigate Bird -- (Fregata magnificens) The magnificent frigate bird is a naturally agile flier, and it swoops (unlike other seabirds, it doesn't dive or swim) to pluck food from the water's surface -- or, more commonly, it steals catch from the mouths of other birds. Prime Viewing: Look along the shores and coastal islands of both coasts; they are often seen soaring high overhead.

Montezuma's Oropendola -- (Psarocolius montezuma) Montezuma's oropendola has a black head, a brown body, a yellow-edged tail, a large black bill with an orange tip, and a blue patch under the eye. These birds build long, teardrop-shaped hanging nests, and are often found in large groups. They have several distinct loud calls, including one that they make while briefly hanging upside down. Prime Viewing: You can spot the birds in low and middle elevations in La Mosquitia and along the North Coast.

Roseate Spoonbill -- (Ajaia ajaja) The roseate spoonbill is a large water bird, pink or light red in color and with a large spoon-shaped bill. Also known as garza rosada (pink heron). They were almost made extinct in the United States because their pink wings were sought for feather fans. Prime Viewing: Low-lying wetlands, both fresh and salt water, along both coasts are the best places to see them.

Cattle Egret -- (Bubulcus ibis) The cattle egret changes color during breeding: A yellowish buff color appears on the head, chest, and back, and a reddish hue emerges on the bill and legs. Prime Viewing: They are usually seen anywhere there are cattle, hence the name, but can also often be found following behind tractors.

Boat-Billed Heron -- (Cochlearius cochlearius) The midsize boat-billed heron (about 51cm/20 in.) has a large black head, a large broad bill, and a rusty brown color. Prime Viewing: They are seen throughout the country, near marshes, swamps, rivers, and mangroves. The best spots are in La Mosquitia, Cuero y Salado, and elsewhere along the North Coast.

Laughing Falcon -- (Herpetotheres cachinnans) The laughing falcon gets its name from its loud, piercing call. This largish (56cm/22-in.) bird of prey's wingspan reaches an impressive 94cm (37 in.). It specializes in eating both venomous and non-venomous snakes, but will also hunt lizards and small rodents. Prime Viewing: They are most commonly found in lowland areas, near forest edges, grasslands, and farmlands.

Mealy Parrot -- (Amazona farinosa) Called loro or loro verde, this large, vocal parrot is almost entirely green, apart from a touch of blue on the top of its head and small red and blue accents on its wings. Loro means parrot, and verde means green, so you and locals alike may confuse this parrot with any number of other local species. Prime Viewing: It's most common in lowland tropical rainforests on the North Coast and La Mosquitia.

Scarlet-Rumped Tanager -- (Ramphocelus costaricensis) With a striking scarlet red patch on its backside, this is one of the most commonly sighted tanagers in Honduras. Prime Viewing: The best places to spot them are in lowland and mid-elevation areas.

Osprey -- (Pandion haliaetus) These large (.6m/2-ft., with a 1.8m/6-ft. wingspan) brownish birds with white heads are also known as gavilán pescador or "fishing eagle." In flight, the osprey's wings "bend" backward. Prime Viewing: They can be seen flying or perched in trees near water in lowland coastal areas and wetlands across Honduras.

Pygmy Owl -- (Glaucidium brasilianum) Unlike most owls, this small (about 38cm/15-in.) grayish brown or reddish brown owl is most active during the day. Prime Viewing: They inhabit low and middle elevations along the north Pacific slope, in wooded areas, as well as forest edges and farmlands.

Violet Sabrewing -- (Campylopterus hemileucurus) The largest hummingbird found in Honduras, the violet sabrewing shines a deep purple when the sun strikes it right. Its beak is long, thick, and gently curving. Prime Viewing: Spot them in mid- and higher-elevation rain and cloud forests countrywide.

Amphibians

Frogs, toads, and salamanders are found throughout Honduras, and because of their bright and bold colors, you can easily spot them, even in dense tropical foliage.

Marine Toad -- (Bufo marinus) The largest toad in the Americas, the 20cm (7 3/4-in.) wart-covered marine toad is also known as sapo grande (giant toad). The females are mottled in color, while the males are uniformly brown. These voracious toads have been known to eat small mammals, along with other toads, lizards, and just about any insect within range. They also have a very strong toxic chemical defense mechanism. Prime Viewing: They live in forests and open areas throughout Honduras.

Mexican Burrowing Toad -- (Rhinophrynus dorsalis) The blob-like, 7.6cm (3-in.) Mexican burrowing toad will inflate like a blowfish when frightened. It often has a single red, orange, or yellow line down the center of its brown or black back. Prime Viewing: Look for them in lower-elevation forests, and moist grasslands and farmlands.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog -- (Agalychnis callidryas) The colorful 7.6cm (3-in.) red-eyed tree frog usually has a pale or dark green back, sometimes with white or yellow spots, with blue-purple patches and vertical bars on the body, orange hands and feet, and deep red eyes. This nocturnal amphibian is also known as the gaudy leaf frog or red-eyed tree frog. Prime Viewing: Low- and middle-elevation wet forests throughout Honduras are their territory. This is a very beautiful and distinctive-looking frog that you will certainly see on T-shirts and postcards, if not in the wild.

Reptiles

Honduras is home to slews of reptile species, ranging from cute little geckos to fearsome fer-de-lance pit vipers. The country is home to more than 100 species of snakes and several dozen lizards, as well as crocodiles and several species of sea turtles.

Boa Constrictor -- (Boa constrictor) Adult boa constrictors average about 1.8 to 3m (6-9 3/4 ft.) in length and weigh over 27kg (60 lb.). Their coloration camouflages them, but look for patterns of cream, brown, gray, and black ovals and diamonds. Prime Viewing: You can spot them in low- and middle-elevation wet and dry forests; they often live in rafters and eaves of homes in rural areas.

Fer-de-Lance -- (Bothrops atrox) Often called barba amarilla in Honduras, the aggressive fer-de-lance can grow to 2.4m (7 3/4 ft.) in length. Beige, brown, or black triangles flank either side of the head, while the area under the head is a vivid yellow. These snakes begin life as arboreal but become increasingly terrestrial as they grow older and larger. Prime Viewing: They are found throughout the country.

Mussurana -- (Clelia clelia) This bluish-black, brown, or grayish snake grows to 2.4m (7 3/4 ft.) in length. While slightly venomous, this snake has rear fangs and is of little danger to humans. In fact, it is prized and protected by locals, since its primary prey happens to be much more venomous pit vipers, like the fer-de-lance. Prime Viewing: You can see them in open forests, pastures, and farmlands across Honduras.

Tropical Rattlesnake -- (Crotalus durissus) This pit viper has a triangular head, a pronounced ridge running along the middle of its back, and (of course) a rattling tail. It can reach 1.8m (6 ft.) in length. Prime Viewing: They are mostly found in low-elevation dry forests and rural areas.

Leaf-Toed Gecko -- (Phyllodactylus xanti) Spotting the 6.8cm (2 3/4-in.) leaf-toed gecko is easy -- it loves to be around buildings and other areas of human activity. Prime Viewing: They are common on the ground and in the leaf litter of low- and middle-elevation forests.

Smooth Gecko -- (Thecadactylus rapicauda) The smooth gecko's autonomous tail detaches from its body and acts as a diversion to a potential predator; it grows back later in a lighter shade. Prime Viewing: Find them in low-elevation wet forests on the North Coast and Bay Islands, as well as in urban and rural residential environments.

Green Iguana -- (Iguana iguana) Green iguanas can vary in shades ranging from bright green to a dull grayish-green, with quite a bit of orange mixed in. The iguana will often perch on a branch overhanging a river and plunge into the water when threatened. Prime Viewing: You can spot them in all lowland regions of the country, living near rivers and streams, along both coasts.

Basilisk -- (Basiliscus vittatus) The basilisk can run across the surface of water for short distances by using its hind legs and holding its body almost upright; thus, the reptile is also known as the "Jesus Christ lizard" or "Monkey La-La." Prime Viewing: They are found in trees and on rocks located near water in wet forests throughout the country.

American Crocodile -- (Crocodylus acutus) Although an endangered species, environmental awareness and protection policies have allowed the massive American crocodile to mount an impressive comeback in recent years. While these reptiles can reach lengths of 6.4m (21 ft.), most are much smaller, usually less than 4m (13 ft.). Prime Viewing: They live near swamps, mangrove swamps, estuaries, large rivers, and coastal lowlands on the North Coast.

Sea Life

With a 735km (457-mile) Caribbean coastline in the north and a 153km (95-mile) Pacific coastline in the south, on top of a good chunk of the world's second-largest barrier reef along the Bay Islands, Honduras attracts its fair share of marine species.

Whale Shark -- (Rhincodon typus) Although the whale shark grows to lengths of 14m (46 ft.) or more, its gentle nature makes swimming with them a special treat for divers and snorkelers. Prime Viewing: They can frequently be spotted off Utila, as well as occasionally off the other Bay Islands.

Leatherback Sea Turtle -- (Dermochelys coriacea) The world's largest sea turtle (reaching nearly 2.4m/7 3/4 ft. in length and weighing more than 544kg/1,199 lb.), the leatherback sea turtle is now an endangered species. Prime Viewing: The best places to spot these massive reptiles are on the north side of Utila and along the Mosquito Coast.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle -- (Lepidochelys olivacea) Also known as tortuga lora, the Olive Ridley sea turtle is famous for its massive group nestings, or arribadas. Prime Viewing: Olive ridleys can be seen nesting on beaches or inhabiting the waters in the south of the country in the Golfo de Fonseca.

Moray Eel -- (Gymnothorax mordax) Distinguished by a swaying serpent-head and teeth-filled jaw that continually opens and closes, the moray eel is most commonly seen with only its head appearing from behind rocks. At night, however, it leaves its home along the reef to hunt for small fish, crustaceans, shrimp, and octopus. Prime Viewing: Spot them along rocky areas and reefs off the Bay Islands and North Coast.

Humpbacked Whale -- (Megaptera novaeangliae) The migratory humpbacked whale spends the winters in warm southern waters and has been spotted close to Honduran shores. These mammals have black backs and whitish throat and chest areas. Females have been known to calve here. Prime Viewing: They are most common in the waters off Utila.

Bottle-Nosed Dolphin -- (Tursiops truncates) Their wide tail fin, dark gray back, and light gray sides identify bottle-nosed dolphins. Dolphins grow to lengths of 3.7m (12 ft.) and weigh up to 635kg (1,400 lb.). Prime Viewing: They swim along both coasts and the Bay Islands.

Manta Ray -- (Manta birostris) Manta rays are the largest type of rays, with a wingspan that can reach 6m (20 ft.) and a body weight known to exceed 1,361kg (3,000 lb.). Despite their daunting appearance, manta rays are quite gentle. If you are snorkeling or diving, watch for one of these extraordinary and graceful creatures. Prime Viewing: They thrive along the north coast and around the Bay Islands.

Brain Coral -- (Diploria strigosa) The distinctive brain coral is named for its striking physical similarity to a human brain. Prime Viewing: See them off the Bay Islands and Cayos Cochinos.

Invertebrates

Creatures that give schoolgirls the willies are some of the most abundant, fascinating, and easily viewed fauna in Honduras. Hundreds of thousands of invertebrates are found in the country, including moths, butterflies, ants, beetles, bees, and even crabs.

Blue Morpho -- (Morpho peleides) The large blue morpho butterfly, with a wingspan of up to 15cm (6 in.), has brilliantly iridescent blue wings when opened. Fast and erratic fliers, they are often glimpsed flitting across your peripheral vision in dense forest. Prime Viewing: You can see them throughout the country, particularly in moist environments.

Leafcutter Ants -- (Atta cephalotes) You can't miss the miniature rainforest highways formed by these industrious little red leafcutter ants, as they carry their freshly cut payload. The ants do not actually eat the leaves, but instead feed off a fungus that grows on the decomposing leaves in their massive underground nests. Prime Viewing: The ants can be found in most forests.

Golden Silk Spider -- (Nephila clavipes) The common neo-tropical golden silk spider weaves meticulous webs that can be as much as .5m (1 3/4 ft.) across. The adult female of this species can reach 7.6cm (3 in.) in length, including the legs, although the males are tiny. The silk of this spider is extremely strong and is being studied for industrial purposes. Prime Viewing: Look for them in lowland forests on the North Coast.

Mouthless Crab -- (Gecarcinus quadratus) The nocturnal mouthless crab is a distinctively colored land crab with bright orange legs, purple claws, and a deep black shell or carapace. Prime Viewing: They are found on Golfo de Fonseca.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.