Year of compilation: 2008

Site description (baseline)
Atitlan is located in the Guatemalan volcanic belt and includes Lake Atitlan, volcanoes San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlan, as well as Cerro Tecpan and the conifer forests around Totonicapan. This IBA ranges in elevation from 500 to 3500 m.

Key biodiversity
More than 320 bird species have been recorded in Atitlan. The area is important for range-restricted birds of the North Central American Highland (20 species reported) and the North Central American Pacific slope (2 species), and for biome-restricted species of the Madrean Highlands (47 species) and the Pacific Arid Slope (5 species). The site supports populations of four threatened species, Horned and Highland Guan (Oreophasis derbianus and Penelopina nigra), Pink-headed Warbler (Ergaticus versicolor), and Azure-rumped Tanager (Tangara cabanisi) (Méndez 2000, Eisermann 2006, Eisermann et al. 2006, González García et al. 2006, Eisermann & Avendaño 2006, Rivas Romero 2006, Eisermann et al. 2007) Lake Atitlán supported once a small population of the now extinct Atitlan Grebe (Podilymbus gigas) (Hunter 1988).

Habitat and land use
Forest cover in the IBA has been reduced to 40%, 18% of the area is used for coffee plantations and 19% for corn fields (MAGA 2006). Tourism and research help to create alternative income to the local population. Lake Atitlan is one of the main tourist attractions of the country.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
About 150 years ago began the establishment of coffee plantations, which caused an extensive loss of habitat for species like Azure-rumped Tanager and Highland Guan, which are now considered threatened. However, today several of the enterprises are strongly involved in conservation of remaining forests and also in reforestation. Current threats to bird populations of conservation concern include forest fires, illegal hunting and logging, an advancing agricultural border, and natural disasters (major landslides) caused by deforestations (Villalobos & López 2002, ParksWatch 2002, Castellanos et al. 2002, Ríos 2003, CEPAL 2005, Girón 2006).

Protected areas
About 50% of the IBA are legally protected (CONAP 2007). The surroundings of Lake Atitlan are included in a multiple use protected area. A management plan for this reserve has been released in 2007. A network of private nature reserves and several municipal parks are a stronghold for the conservation of high-elevation habitat >1600 m.

Land ownership
State, communal, and private.

Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CONAP) - Solola supported a workshop to identify IBAs in June 2006, hosted by Universidad del Valle (Altiplano) in Solola, and the Museum of Natural History Jorge Ibarra, hosted a workshop in Guatemala City in June 2006. Input of unpublished data and suggestions for the delimitation of the IBA were provided during these workshop by representatives of CONAP, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala - Altiplano, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Fundación para el Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO Huehuetenango), Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación de Guatemala (MAGA) - Solola, Cuerpo de Paz, Municipality of Tecpan, Autoridad para el Manejo Sustentable de la Cuenca del Lago Atitlán y su Entorno (AMSCLAE), Centro de Acción Legal – Ambiental y Social de Guatemala (CALAS), and Los Tarrales Nature Reserve. This first assessment of IBAs in Guatemala was conducted by Sociedad Guatemalteca de Ornitologia and BirdLife International in the Americas.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Atitlan. Downloaded from on 04/06/2023.