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A Report from

Yucatan Peninsula , Mexico August 2007,


John and Thomas Yates (photography)

Last year we had a very enjoyable family holiday in Eastern Cuba. This year we again spent our family holiday in the Caribbean, on an 'unintentional' twin centre break in Mexico. The holiday was initially organised to be a two-week stay on the island of Cozumel, just off Mexico’s Eastern coast. However, just prior to the arrival of Hurricane Dean we were evacuated to the mainland and didn't return from our second hotel for a week while our Cozumel hotel was repaired. This did allow time to increase the amount of time spent on the mainland and to visit a number of tourist attractions but reduced the time looking for the islands endemics. As it happened I saw a number of the Cozumel endemics easily within the hotel grounds.

        Lesser Nighthawk


We left a wet UK Summer behind and took a nine-hour flight with First Choice direct to Cozumel. On arrival we transferred to the Iberostar Cozumel in the South West of the island. Transfer time to the hotel from the airport was about 30 minutes. Turnstones, Egrets and Vultures were noted on route.

This was a superb relaxing hotel with well vegetated grounds and although slow at times a number of birds were seen either in the hotel grounds, from the beach or in the adjacent area to the hotel .The daily temperature over the next two weeks was always around 30 oC


A Guide To the Birds Of Mexico and Northern Central America by S.N.G. Howell and S. Webb.

Where To Watch Birds In Mexico by S.N.G Howell

National Geographic Society Field Guide To the Birds Of North America

Iberostar Cozumel

Common birds seen in the hotel grounds included Great Tailed Grackle, Cozumel Emerald, Green Breasted Mango, Yucatan Vireo, Cozumel Vireo, Golden ‘Yellow’ Warbler, Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher, Black and White Warbler, Yellow Faced Grassquit, Bananaquit, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Barn Swallow, Lesser Nighthawk, Veux’s Swift and Caribbean Dove. Iguanas are more common than birds but butterflies were also thin on the ground.

One evening I took a walk along the quiet road outside the hotel and discovered Mangrove Cuckoo, Yellow Throated Warbler, Yucatan Woodpecker, Hooded Oriole, White Collared Seedeater, White Crowned Pigeon, Tropical Mockingbird and Melodious Blackbird. Louisiana Waterthrush and Solitary Sandpiper were seen together on a roadside pool.

Early morning and evening walks along the beach resulted in regular sightings of Magnificent Frigatebird, Semipalmated Plover, Grey Plover, Black Necked Stilt, Wilson’s Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling, Brown Pelican, Tropical Kingbird and Yellow Crowned Night Heron. Many Herons/Egrets flew over. A mystery sandpiper species was probably Western or Semipalmated.

During the last few days on Cozumel I discovered that an adjacent hotel to the Iberostar, the Occidental Grand Cozumel, had a prominent bridge that ran from the hotel to the beach. This bridge crossed an area of mangrove that held Least Grebe, Green Heron, Tricoloured Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Common Ground Dove and Green Breasted Mango. One visit resulted in the sighting of a Northern Jacana and an elusive Least Bittern. Numerous Terrapins inhabited this pool.

On our transfer to the mainland we stayed at the hurricane proof Hotel Baya Principle. The weather system also meant that my planned meeting with the local bird guide Luis Qui had to be postponed.

Birds seen on route to our new hotel included Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican and Magnificent Frigatebird.

On arrival at the new hotel it was immediately clear that there was a different feel both to the hotel and also to its avi-fauna. There was a large area within the hotel grounds set aside as an Eco area. Only the odd heron or wader was present when we stayed in August but I suspect that numbers may increase during the winter.  Although actually working this area was quite difficult, a large observation tower overlooked the area with its attendant Jays and flycatchers.

The prominent birds seen in the hotel grounds included Tropical Kingbird, Brown Jay, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Mangrove Swallow, Yucatan Jay, Plain Chachalaca, Snowy Egret, White Ibis (flying), Solitary Sandpiper, Orange Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Red Billed Pigeon. Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelican were always on patrol at the beach.

On the evening that the Hurricane was due to make landfall, my son Thomas drew my attention to what he thought was ‘a big fluffy chick’ in a tree that was visible from our balcony. Closer investigation revealed that it was in fact an obliging Ferruginous Pygmy Owl.

While we waited for our transfer back to Cozumel island we visited a number of tourist attractions on the mainland. Although these were family excursions birds noted were,

Xcaret: Turquoise Browed Motmot, Brown Jays and Plain Chachalaca

Xel-Ha: Anhinga

Coba Mayan Pyramid: Clay Coloured Thrush, Anhinga, Green Jay, Sulphur Breasted Flycatcher, Altamira Oriole, Limpkin, Cormorant sps


After 5 days on the mainland we returned to Cozumel and I was able to rearrange my planned bird trip with Luis Ku Quinnores.

I travelled back to the mainland via the 30min Cozumel ferry and met with Luis at 5am. Luis is an excellent guide and birder who can be contacted at

We travelled to the Mayan ruins at Muyil for a mornings birding. I knew that this was going to be a good birding day when the first few birds we saw were Bare Throated Tiger Heron, Hooded Warbler and Couch's Kingbird. At one point we found an Army Ant column with its attendant Warblers, Tanagers, Treecreepers and for me the bird of the holiday a Mexican Antthrush

The complete Muyil bird list was,

Bare Throated Tiger Heron, Hooded Warbler, Grey Hawk, Ruddy Ground Dove,

Aztec Parakeet, Wedge Tailed Sabrewing, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Buff Bellied Hummingbird, Black-headed Trogon, Violaceous Trogon, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ivory Billed Woodcreeper, Olivaeous Woodcreeper, Ruddy Woodcreeper, Mexican Antthrush, Long Billed Gnatwren, Couchs' Kingbird, Rose Throated Becard, Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Spot Breasted Wren, Rufous Browed Peppershrike, Scrub Euphonia, Yellow Throated Euphonia, Red-Crowned Ant-Tanager, Red-Throated Ant-Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, Grey Headed Tanager, Black Headed Saltator, Green Backed Sparrow, Yellow Billed Cacique, Prothonotary Warbler, Groove Billed Ani, Yellow Olive Flycatcher, Yellow Bellied Elaenia, Dusky Capped Flycatcher, Sulphur Bellied Flycatcher, Northern Cardinal and Plain Chachalaca. One final trip to the mainland took us North of Cancun on a Whale Shark Trip.

Birds of note here included Greater Flamingo, Brown Pelican and Magnificent Frigatebird. We saw one Whale Shark, Dolphins and a Manta Ray.

Overall an enjoyable holiday and a good introduction to the birds of Mexico.

Full list of birds seen.


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