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A Report from

Mexico 1999, 1996,

John van der Woude

Birding in Mexico is a delight: there is a very good field guide (Howell and Webb), a detailed birdfinding guide (Howell) (See below) and the country has many endemics. Add to this the fact that many good birds can be found near archeological sites or natural wonders, and you'll have a good time there. Here are summaries of John van der Woude's reports of his independent trips to this country: one to the West and one to the Southeast of the country. The full reports are at and there you will also find photos of the scenery of the birding sites, and a few sounds (in mp3 format).

A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America
Buy from or

  • This new field guide covers the 1070 bird species, including North American migrants, known to inhabit Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and western Nicaragua. More than 180 species are endemic to this region. Richly illustrated with colour plates and additional black-and-white drawings, it describes the birds' appearance, voice, habitat, behaviour (including nests and eggs), and distribution. Introductory chapters give essential background information

Where to Watch Birds in Mexico
Steve Howell, Sophie Webb (Illustrator): Buy from

  • Mexico is one of the best birdwatching destinations in the world. The country's species list comprises a wide range of resident birds and many migrants from South and Central America. This guide covers over 100 birdwatching sites from Baja California to the Yucatan Peninsula. Over 950 species can be seen including virtually all the endemics and regional specialities. This book also provides information on travel, accessibility, location of species and when it is best to see them.

Mexico West 21 November - 3 December 1999

This is the report of a private birding trip to West Mexico (West of Mexico City), to give some impressions and especially some information supplementary to Howell's Birdfinding guide to Mexico (1999). We used this essential book for most sites but we also found other sites. Moreover we also paid a visit to the absolutely stunning Monarch butterfly roost a few hours W of Mexico City, and to the immense Aztec archeological site Teotihuacan N of Mexico City. We drove a rental car and stayed in hotels. We used our 20x scope a lot, even in the forests. We made a few sound recordings (on minidisc), but did not apply playback in the field.

For general tourist info (also about the Monarch reserve) we used the Lonely Planet guide for Mexico. Wherever possible we drove toll roads (cuota, supercarretera, ruta corta). Cash machines were everywhere (often also for Cirrus), even in a small city like San Blas (rate was now nine pesos in a dollar). We had no problems with health or safety, and found it an easy going trip, except for a few potholes in the road and for finding the way through the biggest cities (Mexico City and Guadalajara). The scenery was often marvellous, especially from the nearly empty toll road to the West. We had sunny weather all the time, with pleasant day temperatures, but cold nights in the interior mountainous region.

For the birding we focused on four regions: 1. San Blas in the state Nayarit at the Pacific Ocean, for the moist tropical and subtropical zones, 2. The Pacific coast of the state Colima for the dry tropical zone, 3. The volcanoes of the state Colima for the different, often moist mountain zones, 4. Several sites on the central rather dry mountainous plateau, with large lakes.

The sites in more detail:

- Angangueo fir forest of Monarch butterfly reserve (about 3000 m a.s.l.)
- along the road in interior West Mexico
- San Blas (Nayarit state), around town
- lower Singayta track in San Blas area
- La Bajada track S of San Blas area
- Cerro de San Juan between San Blas and Tepic
- along the road in Pacific West Mexico
- Playa de Oro road, Colima state
- Volcan Nevado road, Jalisco state

Species highlights were:

Red-billed Tropicbird, Bare-throated Tiger-heron, Canvasback, Mexican Duck, Zone-tailed Hawk, Wagler's (Rufous-bellied) Chachalac, West Mexican Chachalaca, Long-tailed Wood-partridge, Elegant Quail, Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Military Macaw, Mexican (Blue-rumped) Parrotlet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Northern Potoo, Buff-collared Nightjar, Mexican Hermit, Golden-crowned Emerald, Mexican Woodnymph, Berylline Hummingbird, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Citreoline Trogon, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, White-striped Woodcreeper, Tufted Flycatcher, Spotted Wren, Grey-barred Wren, Happy Wren, Sinalao (Bar-vented) Wren, Blue Mockingbird, White-throated Thrush, Black-throated Magpie-jay, Sinaloa Crow, Dwarf Vireo, Golden Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Red Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Flame-coloured Tanager, Lincoln's Sparrow, Collared Towhee, Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow, Green-striped Brush-finch, Orange-breasted Bunting, Abeille's Oriole, Dicky's Oriole.

Other highlights were several of the species that we had seen in the Southeast in 1996 already, see report below.

More details are in the full report.

Mexico Southeast 26 Feb. - 21 March 1996

The Yucatan Peninsula and the transition zone to the mountains in Chiapas (the 'Atlantic slope') are well worth a birding trip. There are many typical Neotropical bird species. Moreover, many of the sites to be visited are around archeological 'ruinas', like Uxmal on the photo right. In the Chiapas mountains, we stayed a few days less than intended, because of some frightening stories told by a local hotel owner. Added to the warnings given in the Lonely Planet guide for the area around San Cristobal ('do not walk on back roads between the villages here'), we decided to bird in the mountains only at apparently safe sites. This meant for example that we skipped the sites in the area between Ocosingo and San Cristobal. On the Yucatan Peninsula and at the transition zone to the mountains we felt more at ease.

Notwithstanding these apprehensions, we had a beautiful birding trip, also in the mountains. We liked the contrasts in the scenery, although these are not so spectacular as farther South in the Neotropics, and the deforestation has taken its toll in the mountains and the transition zone to the peninsula. The weather was also full of contrasts. We had a cool norte for a few days, and a few very hot days, but mostly we had fine weather with reasonable temperatures (27 degrees C, in the mountains lower of course).

Sites visited were: Cancun, Coba, Felipe, Kohunlich, Zapata, Palenque, Tonina, San Cristobal, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Bochil, Teapa, Ciudad del Carmen, Puuc hills, Celestun, Progreso.

Species highlights were:

Thicket Tinamou, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Pinnated Bittern, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, White Hawk, Black-throated (Yuc.)Bobwhite, Singing Quail, Ruddy Crake, Snowy Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, White-crowned Pigeon, White-fronted Parrot, Yellow-lored (Yucatan) Parrot, Yucatan Poorwill, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, White-eared Hummingbird, White-bellied Emerald, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Green-fronted Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, Slender Sheartail, Mountain Trogon, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Greenish Elaenia, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, Pine Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Black-capped Swallow, Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow, Grey Silky-flycatcher, Spot-breasted Wren, White-browed Wren, White-bellied Wren, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Brown-backed Solitaire, Black Thrush [Robin], Rufous-collared Thrush [Robin], Unicoloured Jay, Yucatan Jay, Mangrove Vireo, Black-headed Siskin, Hermit Warbler, Golden-browed Warbler, Olive Warbler, Rose-throated Tanager, Yellow-winged Tanager, Scrub Euphonia, Blue-hooded Euphonia, Rusty Sparrow, Green-backed Sparrow, White-collared Seedeater, Cinnamon(-bellied) Flower-piercer, Yellow Grosbeak, Blue Bunting, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Yellow-winged Cacique, Yellow-billed Cacique, Orange Oriole, Streak-backed Oriole, Black-vented Oriole, Melodious Blackbird.

More details are in the full report

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