Managua Area

A sprawling city of more than a million people spread along the southeast shore of Lake Managua, Nicaragua’s capital was largely destroyed by a powerful earthquake in 1972 and the city center was never rebuilt. Urban expansion over the ensuing four decades has been mainly toward the south and east and virtually unregulated. With the country’s only international airport, four star hotels, and a selection of car rental businesses, Managua is likely to be the starting point for most birding trips to Nicaragua.

While Managua itself has no city parks of ornithological interest, many private residences and a few hotels boast gardens full of lush, tropical vegetation, and the low mountain range to the south of the city still contains patches of undisturbed Pacific dry forest – an endemic-rich habitat unique to the west coast of southern Mexico and northern Central America. Within an hour’s drive of central Managua, the visiting birder can find a good selection of birds typical of Nicaragua’s Pacific lowlands, including several regional endemics like Hoffmann’s Woodpecker and Nicaraguan Grackle.

Listed below are the most common and widespread species found in the Managua area, which the visiting birder can expect to find without much concerted effort. These species are generally not otherwise mentioned in the specific site accounts that follow:

Year-round Resident Species:
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Rock Pigeon
Red-billed Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Inca Dove
Orange-fronted Parakeet
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Groove-billed Ani
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Common Pauraque
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Turquoise-browed Motmot
Hoffmann's Woodpecker
Social Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
White-throated Magpie-Jay
Gray-breasted Martin
Barn Swallow
Rufous-naped Wren
Clay-colored Thrush
Rufous-capped Warbler
Blue-gray Tanager
Grayish Saltator
Stripe-headed Sparrow
Great-tailed Grackle
Bronzed Cowbird
Spot-breasted Oriole
Streak-backed Oriole
House Sparrow

Winter or Seasonal Visitors:
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher*
Yellow Warbler*
Baltimore Oriole*

Chiltepe Peninsula
The Chiltepe Peninsula juts north into Lake Managua just a few kilometers to the west of Managua. While the dry, cultivated areas that dominate the 120 km2 peninsula are of little ornithological interest, the wetlands along the west side (just north of the town of Mateare), and the easily-accessible crater lake, Laguna de Xiloá, attract waterbirds not otherwise easily found near Nicaragua’s capital city. The lakeside cattle pastures north of Mateare also host the near-endemic Nicaraguan Grackle.

View of Momotombo Volcano and wetlands along west side of Chiltepe Peninsula, just north of Mateare - the cattle pasture in the foreground is prime habitat for the near-endemic Nicaraguan Grackle

Notable Species:
Crested Bobwhite
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Northern Shoveler*
Blue-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup*
Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Neotropic Cormorant
Great Egret
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Great Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Wood Stork
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Harris's Hawk
Pearl Kite
Crested Caracara
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Collared Plover
Semipalmated Plover*
Black-necked Stilt
Northern Jacana
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs*
Lesser Yellowlegs*
Ruddy Turnstone*
Stilt Sandpiper*
Pectoral Sandpiper*
Least Sandpiper*
Wilson's Phalarope*
Laughing Gull
Caspian Tern*
Black Tern*
Royal Tern*
Common Tern*
Sandwich Tern*
Common Ground-Dove
Groove-billed Ani
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Lesser Ground-Cuckoo
Lesser Nighthawk
Ringed Kingfisher
Eastern Wood-Pewee*
Bank Swallow*
Mangrove Swallow
Tropical Mockingbird
Blue-black Grassquit
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Nicaraguan Grackle

Directions: From Carretera Sur just opposite the new U.S. Embassy, take the "New Highway" to León (012°07.765'N, 086°18.662'W).

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To reach Lago Xiloá, take the right turn opposite the Texaco station just past Ciudad Sandino (012°10.416'N, 086°20.812'W)...

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...then follow the road north to the entrance to the lake-front park, on your left (012°12.539'N, 086°19.409'W).

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To reach the wetlands on the west side of the peninsula, continue on the main highway to León until you reach Mateare, where you will turn right (northeast) on the road that follows the shoreline of the peninsula (012°14.022'N, 086°25.375'W).

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The best birding is on the left (northwest) side of the road within the first three kilometers after the turn. Look for Nicaraguan Grackles among the Great-tailed Grackles, Cattle Egrets, and Groove-billed Anis stalking cattle in these waterfront pastures.

Gran Pacifica
A sprawling retirement and golf development along the Pacific coast less than an hour from Managua’s western suburbs, Gran Pacifica preserves large areas of dry scrub, gallery forest, grassland, and open areas that harbor species typical of these habitats, including Plain Chachalaca, Double-striped Thick-knee, Elegant and Black-headed Trogon, Plain-capped Starthroat, buntings, orioles, and wintering Dickcissels. The rocky shoreline in front of the restaurant and office building attracts resident herons and migrating shorebirds. Mangroves near the north beach parking lot, though degraded, harbor kingfishers, herons, shorebirds, etc.

Notable Species:
Blue-winged Teal
Plain Chachalaca
Brown Pelican
Magnificent Frigatebird
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Common Black-Hawk
Crested Caracara
Double-striped Thick-knee
Semipalmated Plover
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Royal Tern
Common Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
White-fronted Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Plain-capped Starthroat
Black-headed Trogon
Elegant Trogon
Belted Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Blue Grosbeak
Painted Bunting*
Eastern Meadowlark

Directions: Follow Carretera Sur south (uphill) until it curves to the west and becomes the "Old Highway" to León. Turn left (south) at Km 30, following signs for Montelimar and Pochomil (12°4'26.66"N, 86°29'54.41"W).

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At Km 49, turn right (west) onto a dirt road (11°54'58.07"N, 86°30'26.60"W)...

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...then continue to the entrance of Gran Pacifia resort on your right at 11°55'5.41"N, 86°35'49.53"W.

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Look for Double-striped Thick-knee on the golf course, and flocks of wintering Dickcissel in the corn field along the dirt road heading north to the beach from the main entrance road. The mangroves adjacent to the parking lot for the north beach are worth checking for herons, kingfishers, shorebirds, and Common Pauraque. Further north along the access road, Plain Chachalacas are common and vocal at dawn and dusk, and Elegant Trogon can be found with some additional effort.
Double-striped Thick-knee at Gran Pacifica

Coming Soon...
  • Montibelli
  • Chocoyero-El Brujo
  • Volcán Masaya
  • Laguna de Apoyo
  • Isletas de Granada
  • Laguna de Tisma
  • Volcán Mombacho