Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Mexico - Yucatan, 25th March - 9th April ,

Bob Biggs


There are several trip reports for this area on the internet so I won’t go into any great detail. In fact, one report on Birdtours by Lars Olausson for January/ February 2007 reflects much of what I did a couple of months later so it would be pointless to go over the same ground. Perhaps the one important difference to note is that I stayed at the Hotel Riu Yucatan at Playa del Carmen. The reports on the internet from previous years are no longer relevant. Much of the habitat has disappeared, lost to a range of apartments and villas, patrolled by security guards. It is “little America” as far as I can see. I doubt there will be any birding to talk of here within a year or so. This, together with the disastrous consequences of Hurricane Wilma, now makes birding in this part of Mexico a more difficult job for anyone on holiday, looking for a few hours birding before the sun gets up. It is clearly very different from a few years ago. 


24 and 25/3 - My family [my wife Lorraine and my Son Phil] and I left Newcastle on the last scheduled BA flight to Gatwick on 24 March – potentially very inconvenient but thankfully, Jet 2.Com have since saved the day by taking over the vacant slots. We stayed overnight at an Airport hotel and flew the following morning, leaving late and arriving even later.

I had arranged to meet Steve Taylor and Bob Dack, a couple of fellow Northumberland birders, who had been birding for a week before I arrived. We arrived at the hotel just in time. Steve and Bob were already there and we arranged to meet early on the following morning.

26/3 – I managed to wake up on time and Steve drove back towards Cancun for about half an hour to an area opposite the Botanical Gardens. He then drove up a track, which is under total re-construction, for several miles before we got out and walked around the area. This proved to be a good spot, with several lifers for me, including Turquoise-Browed Motmot, Yucatan Wren, Rufous Browed Peppershrike and Blue Bunting [fem]. There were a few feeding parties, which included brief glimpses of Woodcreepers, Warblers and other species but I felt that I hadn’t really got my eye in so some went unidentified.

Steve and Bob had met someone earlier in the week who lived along this road and they had been invited to bird watch in their large garden area so we went there for a while, seeing a male Rose Throated Becard, both Tityra species and other species we had seen already.

The whole area was good and is known to birders as La Ruta de los Cenotes. I believe it might be the first part of an area also referred to in some reports as Boca Puma but I’m not completely sure about that. Apparently, it is even better 20 miles further inland although it is worrying to think about the consequences of the new road – more building by any chance?

We then moved on to the Botanical Gardens, where I met Luis Ku Quinones. I had already been in contact with Luis via e mail about a trip further South. We agreed that we would go on the following Friday.

After that, we made our way back to the hotel, where I said my goodbyes to Steve and Bob, looking forward to seeing them in a cold hide somewhere in the Druridge Bay area!

27, 28 and 29/3 – Phil had not been too well before we left and Lorraine was now struggling too so I limited my birding to early mornings and the occasional late afternoon. Steve and Bob had already told me that birding was fairly hard work and I was surprised how few birds were around, even first thing in the morning. The incessant building and creation of the nearby golf course has taken its toll on the number of birds. It became clear that there were a few goodies around but that I would have to go further away from the hotel area to see anything different. Birds that could be guaranteed included Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Hooded Oriole, White Winged Dove, Tropical Mockingbird and Tropical Kingbird. Other regulars included Yucatan Jay, Yellow Throated Warbler, American Redstart, Great Tailed Grackle, Melodious Blackbird and Golden Fronted Woodpecker. Migrants were few and far between but a lovely Summer Tanager brightened things up next to the golf course on 27th. An Olive Throated Parakeet opposite the hotel on the same day and a few White Fronted Parrots on the following day added two more species to my life list.

30/3 – This was the day for my trip with Luis. I was up at 5 am and off we went in a taxi towards Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve. An hour or so later, as daylight broke, we got out of the car in Muyil and walked around the birdiest spot I’ve been to in Mexico! Birds were everywhere, with the highlights being 5 Collared Aracari, 2 Yellow Winged Tanagers, Scrub Euphonia, Painted Bunting, Orange Oriole, plus several species of Hummingbird and Flycatchers, including a Royal Flycatcher close to the ruins, which gave superb views as it called while flitting from one tree to another. We saw over 80 species up to midday, when it became very hot and we made our way back to the hotel. It was an expensive trip but presumably, would be much better value for groups as the costs could be spread. Luis is a nice guy, quietly spoken and while he is not too confident when speaking English, he is very confident with his identification of birds. He hopes to develop his birding business in the next few years and I am sure he will make a success of that. I recommend him to all who intend to visit this area.

31 March to 2 April - More local walks around the area but I extended my patch to include the ponds on the golf course at the Riu Lupita. These were the best part of half an hour’s walk from my hotel but the area was fairly good, providing a welcome change of species with the ever-present Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Blue Winged Teal, Spotted Sandpipers. Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers.

I picked up a few new land birds during this time along, and adjacent to, the road to the golf course pools, adding a Yellow tailed Oriole to my life list and several sightings of Plain Chachalaca, including 5 together on 1 April on a building site, shortly to become another massive hotel. This area also yielded 2 Rufous Browed Peppershrikes and a few Warblers – but it has probably disappeared under a new building by now.

3 April - I decided to visit the Botanical gardens and took a taxi there early in the morning. Luis was already there so I asked him to guide me around the Gardens for 2 hours. Although this was not as birdy as I had hoped, I did pick up a few lifers and saw other birds for the first time on the trip. There was a deal of repetition from the Muyil trip but it was still nice to see the likes of Lesser Greenlet, Spot Breasted Wren, Buff bellied Hummingbird and White billed Emerald for a second time. We also came across a feeding party, which included Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Prothonorary Warbler and Black and White Warbler. New birds were few and far between but I did see a Black Cowled Oriole well enough to tick it.

After I had finished my visit to the Gardens, I went to a place mentioned in the Rough Guide in Puerto Morales, which was only a few miles from the Gardens. The Guide refers to Roseate Spoonbills, Egrets, herons and other goodies. It was a total waste of time!!

4 April – Phil and Lorraine were now feeling much better and they agreed that we should go to Cozumel for the day. We caught a ferry early in the morning and took a taxi to San Gervasio upon arrival. Even though we were there by 10.30am, the place was alive with tourists. It was also alive with Black Catbirds and we must have seen at least 15 different birds around the car park and inside the ruins area. Other birds were more difficult to see but we had excellent views of Palm Warblers, hopping around on the ground, and also saw 2 Yucatan Vireos, which was a lifer for me. We saw a few other birds, including Yellow-faced Grassquit and Bananaquit. I also saw Yellow Warbler but have to admit that I didn’t pay too much attention to it at the time so I don’t know whether it was a migrant or the local species.

Towards the end of our visit, I spent some time just inside the entrance and saw my only Black Throated Blue Warbler, a beautiful male working its way through the nearby trees. I also studied a hummingbird on three occasions in the same area and am all but convinced that it was a Cozumel Emerald. It just wouldn’t stay around long enough for me to be totally sure so I’ve got it on my 99% list!

We then made our way back to the ferry, calling in at the Hard Rock Café opposite the ferry terminal. This is the smallest HRC in the world. Listening to Rock/Blues music comes a close second to birding as my main hobby so I was very pleased to be able to go inside and we made our way upstairs, looking at various guitars donated by some mean “Axe men”. Imagine my surprise to see hear “YMCA” as we got nearer the bar and then to see the staff dancing on the bar, to the obvious pleasure of a packed crowd of tourists. It’s not quite what I expected….

5 to 8 April - Further local walks, mainly as far as the Golf Course ponds, provided a few new ticks for the trip, including a large group of Pectoral Sandpipers on the golf course on my penultimate day. There were increased numbers of Least Sandpipers too so I enjoyed watching them for a while until the golfers moved them further away. During the last few days, I saw a few species in and around this area that I had not seen previously on the trip, including Mangrove Vireo, 2 Yucatan Vireos and Louisana Waterthrush.

The only other excursions we made during this time were a half day trip down the road for Lorraine and Phil to swim with the dolphins, as I watched Magnificent Frigatebird and a few Terns fly around, and a day to Xcaret, where I saw a few seabirds but very little else. The show at the end of the visit was impressive though.

As a last throw of the dice, I decided to get up early on our last day and re-visit the Xcaret car park and surrounding area to see whether there was anything to be seen before the crowds arrived. It was fairly good. I think I made a mistake in leaving the immediate car park area as it was full of birds when I returned to meet my taxi. The highlight was a male Scarlet Tanager but there were several Warblers there and also a number of Turquoise Browed Motmot. I suspect I would have seen a good number of birds if I had stayed in this area. As it was, I strolled around, seeing a few birds, including one lifer in the shape of a Yellow Backed Oriole.

And that was that. We left later on and I picked up an Osprey and saw a couple of potential ticks in the form of hirundines and Ibis species but I couldn’t nail them at speed even though I could have an educated guess at both. That left me with a list of 136 species, with several lifers. Nothing particularly impressive about that but there were a few highlights. If I were to return, I think I’d stay south of Tulum next time as that is much more likely to produce good numbers of birds. The hurricane hit land just north of Tulum and therefore, the habitat south of there has been left mainly untouched – but beware of those developers!


“Near Hotel” = One mile either side of Hotel Riu Yucatan
M  = Muyil, Sian Kaan area
SG = San Gervasio, Cozumel
BG = Jardin Botanico Dr Alfredo Barrera Marin
CR = Approx 5 miles along La Ruta de los Cenotes
GCP = Area next to Golf Course Pools
XC = Xcaret

Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula)
Seen on 3 occasions near hotel, Max 5.

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)
Several pairs at GCP

Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus)
2 pairs at GCP

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
Seen GCP on 3 occasions and at Puerto Moralos

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Seen from bus

Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)
4 flying over sea on 2 days

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
GCP on 2 occasions

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
Seen most days

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Regular over beach

Neotropical Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
Several at GCP

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
2 seen flying over sea

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
c.20 seen flying above BG

Black Bellied Whistling Duck

Sevaral pairs at GCP on all visits

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus)

American Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Several seen

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Seen from bus

Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus)
Seen twice near hotel

American Coot (Fulica americana)
Several at GCP.

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
Seen twice at GCP

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
5 on beach

Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa)
Seen twice at GCP

Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Seen on 4 occasions at GCP

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
Seen most visits at GCP

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
c.12 on beach outside hotel

Sanderling (Calidris alba)
1 with Turnstone flock

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
Up to 25 at GCP on a number of visits

Pectoral Sandpiper
At least 20 at GCP

Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla)

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)
A few seen flying over sea

Royal Tern (Sterna maxima)
Fairly common along the coast.

Feral Pigeon (Columba livia 'feral')
Seen occasionally

Red-billed Pigeon (Columba flavirostris)
Seen 3 times near hotel ; also CR

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

Common Ground Dove (Columbina passerina)

Olive-throated Parakeet (Aratinga nana)
Seen twice near hotel and M

White-fronted Parrot (Amazona albifrons)
Often seen near hotel and occasionally elsewhere in flight

Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana)
3 at CR

Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris)
1 flying over M

Vaux's (Yucatan) Swift (Chaetura vauxi gaumeri)
Small groups over hotel and SG

Wedge-tailed Sabrewing (Campylopterus curvipennis)

Green-Breasted Mango

Canivet's Emerald (Chlorostilbon canivetii)

Cinnamon Hummingbird (Amazilia rutila)
M and near hotel

Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis)
M and BG

White-bellied Emerald (Amazilia candida)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
M and BG

Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus)
CR, M and BG

Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus)
Pair at CR

Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa)
CR; M and XC

Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus)
5 at M

Red-vented (Yucatan) Woodpecker (Melanerpes pygmaeus)
1 seen distantly at M was my only positive sighting

Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons)
Fairly common.

Golden-Olive Woodpecker

Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus)

Black-crowned Tityra (Tityra inquisitor)

Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata)

Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

Greenish Elaenia (Myiopagis viridicata)

Yellow-bellied Elaenia (Elaenia flavogaster)

Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens)

Royal Flycatcher (Onychorhynchus coronatus)

Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens)

Tropical Pewee (Contopus cinereus)

Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)

Brown Crested Flycatcher
CR and M

Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis)
Seen regularly at and near hotel and other sites

Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)
Seen regularly.

Couch's Kingbird (Tyrannus couchii)
M and BG

Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus)

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster)

Rufous-browed Peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis)
Seen on 4 occasions near hotel; also CR

White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)
CR and M

Mangrove Vireo (Vireo pallens)
M; GCP and XC

Yucatan Vireo (Vireo magister)
SG and near hotel

Lesser Greenlet (Hylophilus decurtatus)
M and BG

Yucatan Jay (Cyanocorax yucatanicus)
Seen regularly

Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas)
Seen at CR and M

Brown Jay (Cyanocorax morio)
Seen at a number of different sites.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
GCP on 2 occasions.

Mangrove Swallow (Tachycineta albilinea)

Purple Martin (Progne subis)
Pair at M

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Seen regularly

Yucatan Wren (Campylorhynchus yucatanicus)
2 at CR

Spot-breasted Wren (Thryothorus maculipectus)
M and BG

Carolina Wren

House Wren

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

Tropical Gnatcatcher

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
Seen at a number of sites

Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris)
About 15 birds at SG

Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus)

Clay-coloured Robin (Turdus grayi)

Northern Parula (Parula americana)

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
Seen at 4 different sites

Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
BG, XC. Probably under recorded

Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens)
Seen regularly.

Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica)
Seen regularly, particularly near hotel.

Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum)
2 at M and SG

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
M and BG

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
Seen regularly

Prothonotary Warbler
BG and near hotel


Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla)

Grey-crowned Yellowthroat (Geothlypis poliocephala)

Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina)
Female at M

Yellow-billed Cacique (Cacicus holosericeus)

Yellow-tailed Oriole (Icterus mesomelas)
1 near hotel

Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus prosthemelas)

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)
A few near hotel

Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)
Fairly Common.

Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater)
Male at XC

Orange Oriole (Icterus auratus)

Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)
A few seen near hotel, M and BG

Melodious Blackbird (Dives dives)
Seen regularly

Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Bronzed Cowbird

CR; M and BG

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)

White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola)
CR and M.

Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus)
2 at SG

Green-backed Sparrow (Arremonops chloronotus)
1 at M

Yellow-winged Tanager (Thraupis abbas)
2 at M

Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)
Male near hotel and 3 others seen elsewhere

Scarlet Tanager
Male at XC

Red-throated Ant Tanager (Habia fuscicauda)

Scrub Euphonia (Euphonia affinis)

Yellow-throated Euphonia (Euphonia hirundinacea)

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
CR and M

Black-headed Saltator (Saltator atriceps)

Greyish Saltator (Saltator coerulescens)

Blue Bunting (Cyanocompsa parellina)
Female at CR

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)
BG and XC

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
Several seen at different sites

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)
Male at M.


Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?