Central America

Updated: October 12, 2022
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Below you can find a complete list of types of animals found in Central America. We currently track 492 animals in Central-America and are adding more every day!

The term Central America refers to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. This region connects North America to South America. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. With its many miles of coastline, acres of tropical forest, and centuries of unspoiled growth, Central America is an important biodiversity hotspot containing more than 7% of the earth’s biodiversity.

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What Are the National Animals of Central American Countries?

While many of the countries share similar types of animals, they all have differing national animals.

Where To Find the Top Wild Animals in Central America

All Central American countries have established national parks, marine reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. Some of these countries have turned to eco-tourism to boost their economies while preserving animals native to Central America and unique to the region.

Here are some well-known places to visit animals in Central America.

Native Birds

Various habitats make up the region of Central America, as it is a string of several countries bridging South America to North America. As a result of the differing environments, Central America has a vast variety of wildlife, making it one of the most biodiverse zones in the world. From the American Cordillera mountain range to Pacific lowlands to volcanoes, extraordinary avifauna is especially prevalent in this part of the world, seen flying the open skies and enjoying the vegetation. Below is a list of Central American countries and some of the most unique bird species found there.

Guatemala

  • 750 bird species
  • National bird: resplendent quetzal
  • Unique species: Guatemalan pygmy owl, pink-headed warbler, keel-billed toucan, ocellated turkey, wine-throated hummingbird

Costa Rica

  • 850 bird species
  • National bird: clay-coloured thrush
  • Unique species: violaceous trogon, blue-crowned motmot, scarlet macaw, great green macaw, golden-hooded tanager

Belize

  • 580 bird species
  • National bird: Keel-billed toucan
  • Unique species: Harpy eagle, red-footed booby, great egret, magnificent frigate bird, jabiru stork

Honduras

  • 770 bird species
  • National bird: Scarlet macaw (guaras)
  • Unique species: Honduran emerald, green-breasted mountain gem, highland guan, ocellated quail

Panama

  • 1,000 bird species
  • National bird: Harpy eagle
  • Unique species: golden-green woodpecker, rufous-winged antwren, bare-crowned antbird, spectacled owl, today motmot

Nicaragua

  • 783 bird species
  • National bird: Guardabarranco (torogoz)
  • Unique species: Lineated woodpecker, Lesson’s motmot, bushy-crested jay, white-collared manakin, crowned woodnymph

Traveling Central America is a dream for birders worldwide, experiencing the multitudes of avifauna, as well as their breathtaking habitats. Unfortunately, deforestation has diminished the natural homes of many birds, limiting their existence to conserved and protected areas.

Native Fish

Almost every country within the region of Central America is bordered by both the Caribbean and the Pacific Oceans, warm waters home to multitudes of fish species. Avid sports fishermen come from around the world to catch sailfish, marlin, tuna, dorado, and wahoo. The most popular offshore fishing sites are found on the Pacific side, resulting from Californian Current meeting the southern, Peru Current.

Other types of fishing are highly popular in the region, as well, thanks to the various environments. The saltwater flats of Belize are especially alluring to fly fishermen looking for bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Fly fishing can also be done from the coastlines for billfish of huge sizes.

The Pacific Shoreline of Central America is also called the “Ring of Fire” as a tribute to its volcanic nature that gives rise to reefs, rocky outcroppings, pinnacles, and islands. These differing territories make the perfect inshore fishing spot, particularly in Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama. Game fish found here include jacks, rooster fish, mackerel and snappers.

Freshwater fishing can prove the most enjoyable, with views surpassing that of the oceans surrounding Central America. Freshwater sources are found running through jungles, at the bases of volcanoes, and surrounded by other magnificent wildlife. Many species of bass, gar, snook, and mojarra are often caught in these environments.

Overall, Central America is the ideal destination for fishing with a view, whether it be in the oceans or rivers of the surrounding countries. Unlike other places, fishing is productive year round, weather permitting. Some of the most exciting catches include:

Native Snakes

Many reptiles call Central America their home, including snakes. Non-venomous and venomous species exist in all of the countries and the surrounding oceans. Some of the most notable snake species are:

  • Bushmaster – largest snake in Central America
  • Fer-de-lance – most dangerous snake in Central and South America
  • Eyelash viper -various coloration such as yellow, teal, or green with eyelash-like protrusions above eyes

Snake bites are not common in Central America but do occur. If bitten, seek medical treatment immediately regardless of toxicity, as allergies or reactions may still arise.

The Most Dangerous Animals in Central America

Central America has many dangerous insects, reptiles and fish. Here are some examples of harmful types of animals in Central America:

  • American crocodile: While not as large or aggressive as its Australian cousin, the American crocodile, also known as the Central American alligator, is dangerous when provoked. Fortunately, these crocodiles prefer smaller prey.
  • Venomous snakes: The fer-de-lance viper, which is native to the Central American forests, is one of the world’s deadliest snakes. Central America is also home to the tropical rattlesnake, yellow-bellied sea snake, and the Mexican bearded lizard. They are all highly poisonous.
  • Amazonian giant centipede: The world’s largest centipede can reach 14 inches. These long, brightly colored insects kill their prey by injecting venom. Their bite won’t kill you, but it will cause intense pain and swelling.
  • Bullet ant: Locals say the sting of this ant is like getting hit by a bullet. It is not fatal, but it will hurt.
  • Red-bellied piranha: Piranhas are carnivorous fish that live in the Amazon River and surrounding streams. Piranhas are aggressive, but attacks on humans are rare.

Endangered Animals in Central America

Endangered species include jaguars, howler monkeys, iguanas, and scarlet macaws, all animals native to Central America. The Bahama Swallow, Bang’s mountain squirrel, big deer mouse, funnel-eared bat, and brown pelican are all animals that may become extinct if current trends continue.

Zoos in Central America

Wildlife is prevalent in the wild throughout Central America but that is not the only place to see exquisite species. Each country within the region also has zoos dedicated to educating the public and animal preservation. Read more about the top zoos within each country below.

Guatemala

  • La Aurora Zoo – Founded in 1924, the zoo heavily focuses on education and immersion of visitors into the wildlife experience. The zoo covers 37 acres and displays animal species ranging from Humboldt penguins to Asian elephants.

Costa Rica

  • Zoo Ave – Animals are donated to this zoo for the purpose of rehabilitation and life-long care. The wildlife that comes in is usually injured, orphaned, or both and are nursed back to health in the zoo’s facilities.
  • Arenal Eco Zoo – Renowned for having the largest reptile and amphibian collection within all of Costa Rica. The zoo’s animals were originally part of wildlife enthusiast Victor Hugo Quesada’s collection which he opened to the public.

Honduras

  • Joya Grande Zoo y Eco Parque – Incorporates wildlife sightseeing with family fun. Many large cat species are born and raised within the zoo, providing a large big cat attraction.

Nicaragua

  • Zoologico Nacional – A smaller zoo that has many exhibits of monkeys, big cats, and reptiles. Colourful birds fly around in tropical environments while the animals roam their habitats. The zoo also has a magnificent butterfly display.

Panama

  • El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden – Nestled into tropical forest, this zoo enables visitors to get a close up view of some of Panama’s most exquisite animals. Toucans, macaws, and monkeys dazzle visitors while they learn about rescue and rehabilitation of species that are becoming increasingly endangered within the region.

While visiting the many amazing countries that make up Central America, be sure to support the local zoos and rehabilitation centres. A huge goal of the region is to promote preservation of native species and many local zoos are involved in these endeavours.

Central America’s Exotic Animals

The animals of Central America have evolved to endure the hot, humid conditions of the rainforest and warm coastal areas. Conservation groups are working to protect these unusual exotic animals from becoming extinct. The best places to see them are the many zoos, wildlife preserves and national parks.

Central American Countries Animals Lists

Click any of the countries below to see a detailed list of animals located in that country!

Central American Animals

Acadian Flycatcher

Their nests are sloppily held together and have an abandoned appearance

Africanized bee (killer bee)

Will chase intruders up to a quarter mile from their hives

Alligator Gar

The alligator gar has toxic eggs to protect against predators

Amazon Parrot

These parrots can be trained to be "talking birds" that mimic human speech

American Eel

Don't eat raw eel! Their blood is poisonous to humans when consumed raw.

American Robin

The color “Robin egg blue” is named after the hue of their eggs.

Anhinga

Their name means snake bird

Anole Lizard

There are just under 400 species, several of which change color.

Ant

First evolved 100 million years ago!

Anteater

Found throughout the Southern Hemisphere!

Apple Head Chihuahua

Apple Head Chihuahuas are toy breed dogs with a history dating back to ancient Mexico. They are lovable, loyal, smart and courageous with a lengthy lifespan despite being the world's smallest canines.

Arctodus

The South American spectacled bear is its closest relative living today.

Arizona Bark Scorpion

Under UV light they glow a bright blue or green, making them easy to spot.

Armadillo

Can curl into a hard, protective ball!

Armyworm

They are so named because they "march" in armies of worms from one crop to another in search of food

Asian Lady Beetle

Asian lady beetles infest indoor spaces, but they do not reproduce indoors.

Axolotl

Found only in one complex of lakes!

Baird’s Rat Snake

Baird’s rat snake subdues its prey through suffocation.

Bark Beetle

Not all bark beetles feed on a tree's bark. Some species feed on fruits, seeds, and other parts of the plant

Bark Scorpion

Glow under UV light

Barn Owl

Found everywhere around the world!

Barn Swallow

Older offspring help care for new hatchlings.

Barred Owl

Like other owls, the barred owl swallows its prey whole.

Basilisk Lizard

Can run/walk on water.

Bat

Detects prey using echolocation!

Bear

There are 8 different species!

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs feed for 4-12 minutes.

Bee

Rock paintings of bees date back 15,000 years

Beetle

There are more than 350,000 different species

Belgian Canary

The Belgian canary is one of the oldest and most influential in its genus.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn rams can run at speeds up to 40 miles per hour when fighting for dominance.

Bird

Not all birds are able to fly!

Biscuit Beetle

The biscuit beetle form a symbiotic relationship with yeast

Black Widow Spider

They typically prey on insects!

Black Witch Moth

Some folklore associate Black Witch Moths with bad luck (and even death!), while other associates them with good fortune.

Blacknose Shark

When threatened, Blacknose sharks raise their head, arch their back, and lower their pectoral fins.

Blind Snake

The blind snake is often mistaken for a worm.

Blue Belly Lizard

This species can detach its tail to escape from predators

Blue Catfish

It's a strong fighter when caught on a fishing line

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher

Joy and happiness are the spiritual meaning of this bird.

Blue grosbeak

Blue grosbeak parents take off the head, legs and wings of an insect before feeding it to their baby.

Blue Tanager (Blue-Grey Tanager)

They travel and forage in pairs or groups

Bluegill

The world record for longest bluegill is 15 inches.

Bobcat

About double the size of a domestic cat!

Booby

Seabirds found across the South Pacific!

Bowfin

The bowfin is a primitive fish that first evolved in the Jurassic

Box Turtle

This reptile has an S-shaped neck allowing it to pull its entire head into its shell.

Brazilian Treehopper

“Mild-Mannered Minimonsters”

Brown Dog Tick

Can live its entire life indoors

Brown Headed Cowbird

Males are generally monogamous during mating season and will protect the female from other males. However, females tend to venture from their partners and mate with other males.

Buffalo Fish

The oldest Buffalo fish recorded was 112 years old!

Bullfrog

Has loud cow-like calls!

Bullsnake

Considered “The farmer’s friend” because it eats mice and other vermin.

Burrowing Owl

The burrowing owl lives in underground burrows

Butterfly

There are thought to be up 17,500 species!

Cactus Wren

It is the largest wren in the United States

Caecilian

Some species' babies use their hooked or scraper-like teeth to peel off and eat their mother's skin

Caiman

Can grow to up 6 meters long!

California Condor

They are the largest bird in North America

California Kingsnake

A full-grown California kingsnake can be about 3.5 feet long, though there are some cases in Mexico of the snake being almost twice this size.

Camel Cricket

The camel crickets that are found in the USA are light brown in color. They also have dark streaks all over their body.

Camel Spider

Fast, carnivorous arachnid with a painful bite.

Carpenter Ant

Carpenter ants can lift up to seven times their own weight with their teeth!

Cascabel

Cascabels rely on their camouflage first, and rattle if that doesn't work.

Cat

First domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians!

Cat-Eyed Snake

Evidence indicates that females can delay fertilization and store sperm for later years to produce eggs even in the absence of contact with a male!

Caterpillar

The larvae of a moth or butterfly!

Catfish

There are nearly 3,000 different species!

Cedar Waxwing

Their feathers have red, waxy tips that can be hard to identify unless you’re up close.

Centipede

There are about 3,000 documented species!

Checkered Garter Snake

It has the ability to expel a stinky liquid from its body as a way to make predators (and humans) retreat!

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

They inhabit regrowing forests

Chickadee

Chickadees are named for the sound they make: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee!

Chicken

First domesticated more than 10,000 years ago!

Chihuahua

Curious and devoted personality!

Cichlid

There are more than 2 000 known species!

Click Beetle

Click beetles are named for the clicking noise they make to escape predators.

Clothes Moth

Clothes Moths can remain in the larvae stage for up to 2 years, but adults only live 10 days.

Coachwhip Snake

Coachwhip snakes pose little danger to people

Coati

Found in dense forests and wet jungles!

Cockroach

Dated to be around 300 million years old!

Codling Moth

Pupae are able to undergo diapause to survive poor fruit yield years and winter.

Collared Peccary

Form bands of up to 12 individuals!

Common Furniture Beetle

The common furniture beetle feeds exclusively on wood

Common Grackle

Common grackles are a pest species that damage crops and spread disease.

Common House Spider

House spiders have the ability to eat most insects in a home.

Common Raven

A group of ravens is called an unkindness or a conspiracy.

Conure

They are intelligent and noisy, often mimicking sounds and learning vocabulary.

Cooper’s Hawk

Eyes change color as they age

Copperhead

Copperheads get their name, unsurprisingly, from their bronze-hued heads.

Coral Snake

There are over 80 species of coral snake worldwide.

Corella

Corella birds are noisy, especially during the early morning or late evening.

Cow

There are nearly 1.5 million worldwide!

Coyote

Also known as the Prairie Wolf!

Crab

There are 93 different crab groups

Crab Spider

Crab Spiders can mimic ants or bird droppings

Cricket

Male crickets can produce sounds by rubbing their wings together

Crocodile

Have changed little in 200 million years!

Crow

A group of these birds is called a Murder.

Cuban Boa

One of the only snakes observed using cooperative hunting tactics.

Cuban Cockroach

Believed to have been introduced to the United States by being shipped with green bananas.

Dark-Eyed Junco

They are called snowbirds because many subspecies reappear in the winter.

Darkling Beetle

Darkling Beetles have segmented antennae. Each one is divided into eleven segments.

De Kay’s Brown Snake

They have specialized jaws for removing snails from shells.

Death’s Head Cockroach

People buy Death's Head Cockroach nymphs and raise them as pets!

Deer Head Chihuahua

The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world.

Desert Tortoise

Lives in burrows underground!

Dog

First domesticated in South-East Asia!

Dog Tick

Dog ticks feed on dogs and other mammals

Donkey

First domesticated 5,000 years ago!

Dragonfly

It's larvae are carnivorous!

Dubia Cockroach

The most popular species of feeder roach

Duck

Rows of tiny plates line their teeth!

Dung Beetle

The dung beetle can push objects many times its own weight

Dusky Shark

The Dusky Shark sometimes eats trash discarded by humans.

Dwarf Boa

Some species can change color from dark to light, and back again.

Eagle

Has exceptional eyesight!

Earthworm

They are hermaphrodites, which means they have male and female organs

Earwig

There are nearly 2,000 different species!

Eastern Bluebird

Bluebirds drop straight down on their prey from their perch, much like leopards.

Eastern Fence Lizard

Females are usually larger than males.

Eastern Kingbird

The eastern kingbird is a fierce fighter once known as the butcher king!

Eastern Meadowlark

They can live up to 9 years.

Eastern Phoebe

This passerine bird can sing its song without ever hearing another bird vocalize first.

Eastern Racer

Fast and Furious!

Eel

Eels can be a mere few inches long to 13 feet!

Egret

Most species are relatively vocal, making harsh croaking sounds and squeals.

Elegant Tern

Have a lifespan of 20 years or more

Elephant Beetle

The males have multiple horns at the front of their bodies.

Eurasian Collared Dove

The Eurasian collared dove has been extensively studied due to its amazing ability to rapidly colonize new territories.

European Starling

European starlings are accomplished mimics, often copying songs or sounds of other birds and animals (frog calls, goats, cats), or even mechanical sounds and human speech!

Falcon

The fastest creatures on the planet!

False Widow Spider

False spiders actually prey on black widow spiders and other hazardous spiders

Fer-de-lance Snake

The Most Dangerous Snake in the Americas

Ferruginous Hawk

The ferruginous hawk comes in both light and dark morphs

Fiddler Crab

The fiddler crab gets its name from the motion the males make with their over-sized claw during the mating ritual.

Firefly

The firefly produces some of the most efficient light in the world

Flamingo

Sleeps on just one leg!

Flathead Catfish

The only predators that prey on flathead catfish are members of their own species and humans who catch them for commercial and recreational purposes.

Flea

Adult fleas can jump up to 7 inches in the air

Flea Beetle

Flea beetles can jump like fleas when threatened.

Flour Beetle

Flour beetles are adapted to survive in very dry environments.

Fly

There are more than 240,000 different species!

Flying Squirrel

Can glide up to 90 meters!

Fox Squirrel

Although it is a tree squirrel, it spends most of its time on the ground.

Freshwater Jellyfish

The freshwater jellyfish is native to China but is now found all over the world

Frog

There are around 7,000 different species!

Fruit Fly

Fruit flies are among the most common research animals in the world

Fulvous Whistling Duck

They build a ramp from their nest, which leads to a nearby water source

Galapagos Shark

Galapagos sharks are cannibalistic and sometimes eat their young, so the pups stay away from the adults in shallow water.

Gar

Can grow to more than 3m long!

Garter Snake

Female garter snakes give birth to live young rather than laying eggs!

Gecko

There are thought to be over 2,000 species!

Geoffroys Tamarin

Has distinctive V shape on head!

German Cockroach

The most common type of urban roach

Giant Desert Centipede

They are the largest centipede in North America

Giant Leopard Moth

When giant leopard moths mate, their mating sessions last over 24 hours.

Glass Frog

You can see their internal organs.

Glow Worm

Found inhabiting dense woodland and caves!

Gnat

Males form large mating swarms at dusk

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

They huddle together for warmth

Golden Tortoise Beetle

Golden tortoise beetles have a metallic gold color which can change to dull brown when disturbed.

Gopher

They dig large networks of tunnels!

Gopher Snake

Gopher snakes can reach up to 9 feet long.

Goshawk

The goshawk is a popular choice among European falconers

Grass Snake

Use acute hearing to hunt

Grass Spider

Their fangs aren't big enough to penetrate human skin.

Grasshopper

There are 11,000 known species!

Grasshopper Mouse

The grasshopper mice attack predators using the poison of their venom.

Gray Catbird

Their songs have cat-like qualities and can mimic other birds and animals, like tree frogs.

Gray Fox

The gray fox has retractable claws and a rotating wrist that allow it to climb trees with some proficiency

Great Blue Heron

Their wingspan is larger than an eagle’s; both males and females help hatch the eggs; rich in symbolism

Great Crested Flycatcher

This species makes use of some truly unusual nesting material, including snakeskin and garbage

Great Kiskadee

The great kiskadee is a highly adaptable predator that can live in almost any habitat within its range and can hunt in the air, on the ground and in the water.

Great Plains Rat Snake

This snake vigorously shakes its tail as a way to frighten away predators.

Great Potoo Bird

At night, they make a terrifying low call that sounds like a distressed moan or growl.

Grebe

They swim like frogs

Green Heron

Uses bait to catch prey

Green Snake

There are two types of green snakes: smooth green snakes and rough green snakes

Ground Snake

It’s sometimes called a miter snake due to the marking on its head that looks like a bishop’s miter

Grouper

Many grouper can change their sex, and it is always from female to male.

Guppy

Also known as the Millionfish!

Gypsy Moth

One of the most invasive species in the world

Hairy Woodpecker

They are natural pest controls

Hamburg Chicken

This breed doesn't usually make nests or incubate their own chicks.

Hamster

Able to run as quickly backwards as forwards!

Hare

Can reach speeds of over 40 mph!

Harlequin Snake

Red touches yellow kills a fellow, red touches black a friend of Jack.

Harpy Eagle

Talon's the size of a grizzly bear's claws!

Harris Hawk

Their vision is eight times better than a human's

Havanese

These are the only dogs that are native to Cuba

Hawk Moth Caterpillar

Many hawk moth caterpillars eat toxins from plants, but don’t sequester them the way milkweed butterflies do. Most toxins are excreted.

Hepatic Tanager (Red Tanager)

Parents and their young sing sweetly to each other

Hercules Beetle

This dynastine scarab beetle makes a weird huffing sound when it’s disturbed.

Heron

Inhabits wetlands around the world!

Herring Gull

They are loud, spirited birds with raucous cries that sound like bursts of laughter.

Hobo Spider

The Hobo Spider travels city to city like an actual Hobo and is often found near railroad tracks!

Hognose snake

Prima Donnas of the Snake World

Honduran White Bat

The bat only eats figs.

Honey Bee

There are only 8 recognized species!

Hooded Oriole

Hooded orioles have a strong sweet tooth that makes nectar and jelly among its favorite foods.

Horned Beetle

These beetles are herbivores but have an intimidating appearance because of the horn-like projection on their heads. However, they are entirely harmless to humans, as they don't sting or bite.

Horned Lizard

The horned lizards are able to squirt blood from their eyes.

Horse

Has evolved over 50 million years!

Horsefly

Horseflies have been seen performing Immelmann turns, much like fighter jets.

Horseshoe Crab

Changed little in over 500 million years!

House Finch

The house finch can become redder depending on what it eats

House Sparrow (English Sparrow)

The house sparrow has been introduced all over the world

House wren

The wren’s epithet, aedon, comes from a Greek queen who accidentally killed her only son. She was actually aiming for her nephew, and Zeus took pity on her and turned her into a nightingale.

Housefly

The fly has no teeth

Howler Monkey

Spends 80% of it's time resting!

Human

Thought to have orignated 200,000 years ago!

Hummingbird

Beat their wings up to 80 times per second!

Huntsman Spider

Some huntsman spiders have an interesting way of moving around. Some cartwheel while others do handsprings or backflips.

Ibis

Found in swamps, marshes and wetlands!

Iguana

Uses visual signals to communicate!

Imperial Moth

Since the imperial moth doesn’t eat, it does die shortly after it lays its eggs. Its lifespan is only about one week.

Insect

Insects go back over 350 million years, making the creatures older than man, flowering plants and dinosaurs.

Insects

There are an estimated 30 million species!

Ivory-billed woodpecker

The ivory-billed woodpecker can drill into wood with its sharp beak

Jabiru

They form lifelong pair bonds and live in groups near water sources.

Jacana

The jacana has the ability to swim underwater

Jackrabbit

They can run as fast as 45 mph.

Jaguar

The largest feline on the American continent!

Jaguarundi Cat

These cats are expert swimmers.

Jamaican Boa

When a Jamaican boa is coiled up, it almost looks like two snakes together because of color pattern.

Japanese Bantam Chicken

Japanese bantam chickens are the best flying chicken species

Jumping Spider

Some can jump 50 times the length of their bodies

Kangaroo Rat

Merriam’s kangaroo rats literally never have to drink water

Keel-Billed Toucan

It's beak can reach nearly 20 cm long!

Killdeer

The killdeer feigns injury to draw a predator away from its nest.

King Vulture

The king vulture is the second largest New World vulture species

Kingfisher

Inhabits wetlands and woodlands worldwide!

Kinkajou

The kinkajou is a nimble forest-dwelling mammal of Central and South America.

Kit Fox

The kit fox is the smallest canid in North America.

Knight Anole

When threatened, the promiscuous knight anole rises on all fours and turns bright green, and gives a menacing look.

Ladybug

There are more than 5,000 species worldwide!

Larder Beetle

Larder beetles were named based on their attraction to food storage rooms or cupboards, but they do not feed on stored food products. 

Leatherback Sea Turtle

They are the largest living turtle and the only sea turtle without a hard shell!

Leech

Has 10 pairs of eyes!

Leopard Frog

They can jump up to three feet

Leopard Lizard

Can jump a distance of two feet to capture prey

Lizard

There are around 5,000 different species!

Lizardfish

The lizardfish can camouflage itself against the sandy bottom to avoid predators.

Locust

Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day.

Lone Star Tick

Only females have the ‘lone star’ marking

Macaw

The largest species of parrot in the world!

Maggot

Will only live in wet areas

Magnolia Warbler

They line their nests with fungi strands

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish)

It's called the rabbit of the ocean because it multiplies so quickly.

Mallard

With an appropriate tail wind, the mallard can travel hundreds of miles a day

Marine Toad

Produces a toxin used in arrow darts!

Massasauga

The name “Massasauga” comes from the Chippewa language, meaning “Great River Mouth”.

Mayfly

There are 2,500 known species worldwide!

Mealybug

They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

Mexican Alligator Lizard

Mexican alligator lizards shed their skin like snakes.

Mexican Eagle (Northern crested caracara)

The northern crested caracara mates for life with its partner

Mexican Free-Tailed Bat

Some colonies have millions of bats

Mexican Mole Lizard

They can break off part of their tail, but it will not grow back.

Millipede

Some species have a poisonous bite!

Mojarra

The mojarra's protruding mouth allows it to sift along the seabed for food

Mojave Rattlesnake

"The Mojave rattlesnake is the most venomous rattlesnake in the world."

Mole

Primarily hunts and feeds on Earthworms!

Mole Cricket

Adult Mole crickets may fly as far as 5 miles during mating season and are active most of the year.

Molly

Known for their calm and peaceful nature!

Monarch Butterfly

During migration, Monarch Butterflies may travel 250 or more miles each day.

Mongrel

Has characteristics of two or more breeds!

Monkey

There are around 260 known species!

Monte Iberia Eleuth

The smallest frog in the Northern Hemisphere!

Moonglow Boa

Moonglow boas are the result of mixing three genetic traits.

Moorhen

Feeds on aquatic insects and water-spiders!

Mosquito

Only the female mosquito actually sucks blood

Moth

There are 250,000 different species!

Mountain Bluebird

Depending on the time of the year, the mountain bird can live as far north as Alaska.

Mountain Lion

Has no real natural predators!

Mourning Dove

It is almost always the male who makes the famous sad sound, which is a wooing call

Mouse

Found on every continent on Earth!

Mule

The offspring of a horse and donkey parents!

Mullet Fish

he Striped Mullet is one of the best-known and most easily identified species, with black horizontal stripes along its body.

Muscovy Duck

Unlike most duck species, the Muscovy is silent and only makes noise when excited or threatened.

Muskrat

The muskrat can stay underwater up to 17 minutes at a time

Naegleria

Causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis

Needlefish

no stomach to digest food

Nightjar

There are 97 nightjar species across 20 genera!

No See Ums

There are more than 5,000 species.

Northern Cardinal

Males are a bright red color, also called "cardinal red"

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers often make their homes in dead trees.

Northern Harrier

They can reach speeds of 25 Mph but prefer to soar low and slow.

Northern Jacana

The northern jacana is one of two species found in the Americas, from the United States to Panama.

Northern Parula

They live in coffee and citrus plantations during the winter

Northern Potoo

You can find them near golf courses in urban areas

Nuthatch

Nuthatches spend a lot of their time upside down.

Ocellated Turkey

These birds are timid and hard to spot, but their noisy gobbles give them away.

Ocelot

Also known as the Painted Leopard!

Orange-Crowned Warbler

Often mistaken for the Tennessee Warblers, which are equally dull.

Orb Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

Orchard Oriole

They use rapid wingbeats to hover over foliage as they search for food.

Osprey

They reuse nesting sites for 70 years!

Otter

There are 13 different species worldwide

Ovenbird

The ovenbird is named for its unusual nest, which is shaped like an oven!

Owl

The owl can rotate its head some 270 degrees

Panther

Prefers to hunt at night than during the day!

Parrot

Can live for up to 100 years!

Parrot Snake

The parrot snake shows off with bright green and bronze colors that cover its entire body.

Parrotlet

Parrotlets aren't the world's tiniest parrot — that would be the pygmy parrot of Australasia.

Pelagornithidae

The biggest members of the Pelagornithidae family were the largest flying birds known.

Peregrine Falcon

Fastest animal on Earth

Pheasant

Females lay between 8 and 12 eggs per clutch!

Phoenix Chicken

These small chickens have tails that can be up to five feet long!

Pigeon

They can find their way back to their nests from up to 1300 miles away.

Pine Beetle

Female pine beetles can lay up to 75 eggs at once, and the males will stay with their mates for up to 3 weeks after fertilizing the eggs

Pine Siskin

When foraging, pine siskins hang upside down to pick through the leaves and bark, collecting seeds from coniferous trees.

Pipe Snake

Some of these snakes flatten their neck and raise their heads to imitate cobras if they’re threatened.

Pit Viper

Pit vipers's fangs fold up into their mouths when they don't need them.

Plains Hognose Snake

The plains hognose snake gets its name from the upturned end of its snout.

Poison Dart Frog

Inhabits the jungles of Central and South America!

Polyphemus moth

The Polyphemus moth doesn’t eat.

Porcupine

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Potoo

The potoo’s eyelids have slits that let them see even when their eyes are closed.

Powderpost Beetle

Powderpost beetles prefer living in moist tree limbs, dead wood, and branches. They get into homes through infested joists, paneling, rafters, flooring, and finished wood products.

Prairie Dog

Prairie dog “towns” can consists of hundreds of individuals

Prairie Rattlesnake

The striking distance of a prairie rattlesnake is 2/3rds the length of its body.

Praying Mantis

The mantis can turn its head 180 degrees.

Pronghorn

While pronghorns are the fastest runner of any Western Hemisphere land animal, they are not good jumpers.

Puma

Has longer back legs than front legs!

Purple Gallinule

They build their nests on the water, anchoring it to nearby aquatic vegetation.

Quail

Inhabits woodland and forest areas worldwide!

Quetzal

The tail feathers of the male can be 1m long!

Raccoon

Known to wash their food before eating it!

Racer Snake

The racer snake can speed away at up to 3.5 miles per hour

Rainbow Boa

The rainbow boa is named for its iridescent skin that refracts light and creates a rainbow-colored effect.

Rat

Omnivores that eat anything!

Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are constrictors from the Colubridae family of snakes.

Rattlesnake

It's venom digests it's prey before it even swallows it!

Red Diamondback Rattlesnake

A rattlesnake can shake its rattle back and forth 20-100 times per second.

Red-Eared Slider

Sliders spend lots of time basking in the sun. As cold-blooded animals, they need the sun to heat up.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Despite their spectacular coloration, red-eyed tree frogs aren’t poisonous and can be kept as pets.

Red Finch

Red finches can form flocks of over 100 birds.

Red-Footed Tortoise

Male and female Red-Footed Tortoises move their heads to communicate.

Red Knee Tarantula

Inhabits the Pacific Mountains of Mexico!

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawks reuse the same nesting area each year.

Red-winged blackbird

The male red-winged blackbird can sing to attract mates

Rhino Beetle

Rhinoceros beetles can lift objects 850 times their weight

Ring-billed Gull

The ring-billed gull feeds on vast quantities of human waste and garbage.

River Turtle

Inhabits freshwater habitats around the world!

Roadrunner

Roadrunners are one of the few animals that prey on rattlesnakes and tarantula hawk wasps.

Robber Flies

The female pretend they are dead if they do not find the male worthy of mating.

Robin

There are more than 45 species in Australia alone!

Rodents

The capybara, the world’s largest rodent, likes to be in and around bodies of water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America decided that it was a fish, and people were allowed to eat it during Lent and First Fridays.

Rooster

Will mate with the entire flock!

Root Aphids

Nymphs take 9 to 10 days on average to mature, with a complete lifespan of an estimated 30 days.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are closely related to cardinals

Roseate Spoonbill

The only Spoonbill in the western hemisphere!

Rosy Boa

One of the few snakes that naturally comes in a rainbow of colors.

Rove Beetle

When threatened, rove beetles raise the ends of their body like scorpions, but they have no sting.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbirds can beat their wings more than 50 times per second.

Saber-Toothed Tiger

Canines up to 7 inches long!

Sable Ferret

Ferrets were used during the Revolutionary War to keep down the rat population.

Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback caterpillars are solitary in nature, unlike many of their cousins that live in pairs or groups. They only intermingle when it's time to mate and lay eggs.

Salamander

There are more than 700 different species!

Sand Crab

The sand crab burrows beneath the sand with its tail

Sand Dollar

Sand Dollar skeletons make popular collection items for seashell collectors.

Saturniidae Moth

Some of the largest moths in the world

Sauropoda

Newly hatched sauropods weighted less than 11 pounds and put on 2 tons of weight a year!

Savannah Sparrow

The Savannah sparrow gets its name because one of the first of this type of bird was found in the city of Savannah, Georgia.

Scarlet Macaw

Like many parrots, the scarlet macaw is capable of vocal mimicry.

Scorpion

There are around 2,000 known species!

Sea Eagle

The sea eagle tends to mate for life with a single partner

Seagull

Some gulls are capable of using tools

Seahorse

Males give birth to up to 1,000 offspring!

Senepol Cattle

Senepol cattle have a distinctive red color and no horns.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

In captivity, sharp-shinned hawks can live up to 13 years. However, in the wild, this number is significantly reduced to 3 years!

Sheep

Around 35 million in the English countryside!

Short-Eared Owl

The short-eared owl is one of the most widespread owl species in the world, covering five continents.

Short-Faced Bear

The modern Spectacled Bear, which lives in South America, is related to the Short-Faced Bear!

Shrew

The spinal column of the shrew Scutisorex somereni is so strong and reinforced that it can support the weight of an adult human.

Shrimp

There are 2,000 different species worldwide!

Skink Lizard

Some skinks lay eggs in some habitats while giving birth to skinklets in other habitats.

Sloth

It's body temperature is between 30 - 34 degrees!

Slug

They glide around on one foot, which is aided by the slime they produce

Smokybrown Cockroach

Has up to 45 eggs per egg case

Snail

There are nearly 1,000 different species!

Snake

There are around 3,000 known species worldwide

Snapping Turtle

Only found in North America!

Snook Fish

Males change into females after the spawning season

Snowflake Eel

Snowflake Eel have two jaws to help them swallow their food.

Soldier Beetle

Soldier beetles resemble fireflies, but they're not bioluminescent.

Song Sparrow

Pumps its tail when it flies!

Southern Black Racer

These snakes live underground, beneath piles of leaf litter or in thickets, and they are expert swimmers.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake

Southern Pacific rattlesnakes hibernate in dens that hold hundreds of snakes.

Spanish Goat

They have long, horizontal ears.

Sparrow

There are 140 different species!

Spider Beetle

Spider beetles have globular bodies, which makes them look like spiders.

Spider Monkey

Found in the tropical jungles of South America!

Spider Wasp

They prey on spiders to feed their larvae or they parasitize other spider wasps.

Spotted Gar

They are commonly mistaken as logs in the water due to their cylindrical body.

Squirrel

Small rodents found in woodlands worldwide!

Squirrel Monkey

Lives in groups of up to 500 individuals!

Stick Insect

There are more than 3,000 different species!

Stork

They can’t sing like other birds.

Summer Tanager

They remove bee stingers by rubbing them against a tree

Superworm

These larvae are native to Central and South America but now occur on every continent except Antarctica

Surgeonfish

Paracanthurus hepatus, the palette surgeonfish or bluetang, is the only member of its genus

Swainson’s Hawk

Their wings form a “V” shape when flying.

Swallow

swallows have aerodynamic bodies for hunting in flight

Swan

Populations have been affected by pollution!

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula hawks are excellent pollinators, especially for milkweed.

Termite

Their mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!

Texas Blind Snake

These snakes grow to just 11 inches long

Texas Coral Snake

Texas coral snakes have the second most powerful venom in the world

Texas Indigo Snake

Texas Indigo Snakes are known for chasing down, overpowering, and eating rattlesnakes.

Texas Spiny Lizard

They hold push-up competitions!

Thrush

The American robin is called the robin because its red breast reminded European settlers of the robin back in the old country.

Tick

They inject hosts with a chemical that stops them from feeling the pain of the bite

Tiger Beetle

The adult tiger beetle is one of the fastest land insects in the world

Tiger Rattlesnake

These rattlesnakes have the smallest heads of any rattlesnake.

Tomato Hornworm

The tomato hornworm is a ferocious pest that can eat all parts of a plant, including the fruits.

Tortoise

Can live until they are more than 150 years old!

Toucan

There are more than 40 different species!

Tree Frog

Found in warmer jungles and forests!

Tree swallow

The tree swallow can make more than a dozen distinct vocalizations

Triggerfish

There are 40 species of Triggerfish, all with different coloring and patterns.

Tufted Coquette

They are tame and easy to approach

Turkey

Closely related to pheasants and chickens!

Turtles

Some species of aquatic turtles can get up to 70 percent of their oxygen through their butt.

Umbrellabird

Migrates up and down the mountains!

Upland Sandpiper

They make jerky movements as they walk through the grass, searching for food.

Vampire Bat

Have a heat sensor on the end of their nose!

Vermilion Flycatcher

They have a fast song that lasts up to 10 syllables at max.

Vine Snake

A slender body and elongated snout give the vine snake a regal look.

Vinegaroon

Vinegaroons can spray 19 times before the glands are depleted

Vulture

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Wasp

There are around 75,000 recognised species!

Water Beetle

Water beetles bite; they use their legs to inject venomous digestive saliva

Water Bug

Some species of water bugs can deliver a painful bite when handled.

Wattled Jacana

They are typically noisy birds but take on a soft tone with their young.

Welsh Black Cattle

Welsh Black Cattle were once used as currency in Wales and referred to as “black gold”.

Welsh Springer Spaniel

Due to being so attached to their owners, the Welsh Springer Spaniel does not do well with being left alone and can experience separation anxiety.

Western Blind Snake

Western blind snakes are flourescent in black light!

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

They replace their fangs 2-4 times per year!

Western Tanager

They migrate farther north than any other tanager.

Whiptail Lizard

Many whiptail species reproduce asexually.

White-Crowned Sparrow

Males learn distinct songs from the community they grew up in and continue to sing in the same dialect as adults.

White-Eyed Vireo

During courtship, males put on exciting displays by fluffing their plumage, spreading their tails, and letting out a whining call.

White-Faced Capuchin

One of the world's most intelligent monkeys!

White Ferret / Albino Ferrets

There are two different types of white ferrets!

White-shouldered House Moth

The larva is the pest because a fully-grown white-shouldered house moth cannot feed; it can only absorb liquid

White-tail deer

White-tail deer are good swimmers

Whitetail Deer

Although deer are herbivores, they will sometimes eat mice and birds when they can catch them.

Wolf

Thought to date back more than 300,000 years!

Wolf Spider

Carnivorous arachnid that hunts its prey.

Wood Turtle

Temperature determines the sex of turtle eggs

Woodlouse

This animal can roll up into a ball

Woodpecker

There are 200 different species!

Woolly Aphids

Another name for these fuzzy insects is "boogie-woogie aphids" because of their habit of lifting their posteriors and pulsing them in synchronized motions when threatened.

Worm

Doesn’t have eyes.

Writing Spider

males pluck webs like strings on a guitar

Xoloitzcuintli

The Xoloitzcuintli is the national dog of Mexico

Yellow Aphids

These aphids are primarily wingless; however, once the infestation on their host gets too crowded, they develop wings, allowing them to fly to a new host plant.

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

The males are responsible for choosing the nesting tree most of the time. Luckily, cavity nests are often reused for multiple breeding seasons (up to 7 years.)

Yellow Spotted Lizard

Gives birth to live young.

Yellow Tanager (Black-and-Yellow Tanager)

They swallow soft fruit whole

Yellowthroat

They forage near the ground, searching leaves for insects

Zebra Tarantula

They can stay hidden in their burrows for months!

Central American Animals List

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

Central America FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What Kinds of Animals Live in Central America?

In Central America, you are likely to see many exotic rainforest animals like parrots, toucans, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crocodiles, and jaguars. Unique birds include macaws, parrots, and toucans, but you will also find owls and hawks in the forests.

Central America is home to several species of big cats, including panthers, jaguars, margays, ocelots, and jaguarundi.

The waters of these countries support many important coral reef systems. For instance, the Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest barrier reef system in the world. These waters are important nesting grounds for sea turtles, manatees, water birds, and many endangered species. Central America contains many UNESCO World Heritage Sites that recognize the unique importance of their flora and fauna.

Each country in Central America has its own unique species. These countries have taken steps to protect their precious natural resources by establishing national parks and marine reserves.

What Exotic Animals Are in Central America?

  • Baird’s tapir: The tapir, known locally as the mountain cow, looks like a cross between a cow and a wild pig.  This unusual animal almost became extinct, but it is now beloved for its gentle personality and amusing behavior. Tapirs now enjoy protected status in most of Central America.
  • White-faced capuchin monkey: This small, beautiful monkey is exceptionally smart. Central America has many unique monkey species, including howler monkeys, which are the loudest animal on earth.
  • Quetzal: This brilliantly colored bird is remarkable for its extremely long tail feathers. Although the quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, it is critically endangered. Cloud forest preserves are important sanctuaries for quetzals and other tropical birds.
  • Jaguar: The largest wild cat of the Northern hemisphere, the mysterious, elusive jaguar is an important cultural symbol to Central Americans. Although jaguars are endangered, their populations are recovering.
  • Iguana: There are several types of iguanas, and you can find them all in Central America. You can find marine iguanas, green iguanas and blue iguanas. Although iguanas seem to be everywhere when you’re in Central America, they are threatened by habitat loss and introduced species, including cats and dogs, that prey on them.

How Many Mammal Species Are Found in Central America?

Central America has more than 350 native mammal species.

What Animals Live in the Central American Rainforest?

  • Tropical birds: You will see many vivid, loud tropical birds in the rainforest, including scarlet macaws, keel-billed toucans, and orange-winged parrots. Hummingbirds are prevalent in the rainforests and surrounding areas.
  • Big cats: Jaguars, ocelots, panthers, and margays all live in the tropical rainforests and the mountain cloud forests.
  • Kinkajou: This small, nocturnal mammal spends its life in the rainforest trees. This adorable, big-eared creature has a long tongue and loves to forage for fruit.
  • Marsupials: Central America is home to much-loved marsupials like the sloth. Central America is home to pygmy sloths, Hoffman’s two-toed sloths, and brown-throated sloths.
  • Marine life: Dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles all live in the warm waters around Central America.
  • Insects: The lanternfly, rhinoceros beetle, black butterfly, mosquito, and praying mantis are all native to the rainforest.