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

A Report from

Oaxaca, Mexico - Self Tour, Nov.29-Dec.9, 2001,

Ron Hoff

Frank Bills, Sharon Bostick, Dollyann Myers, and myself had tried to set up a car rental and driver for about a month. We didn't have much success, so we just decided to fly to Oaxaca, rent our own car at the airport, use Steve Howell's book (A Bird-finding Guide to Mexico) to help us find where to look for birds, and bird Oaxaca on our own. We had a really fun time and saw many of the endemic and restricted range birds that we were seeking. December wasn't the best time to bird this area, but it wasn't too bad either. Probably February/March would be best for singing birds and the beginning of the breeding season. Howell's book was superbly useful. We basically arranged everything by looking at his book and fitting the birding spots in with the time that we had available. Some of the kilometer markings have changed as the years roll on, but the geographic locations he describes are still accurate (as."the first sharp turn to the right", etc.).


Nov. 29 - Flew from Knoxville, Tennessee to Oaxaca. We used Delta Air Lines to Mexico City, and then Aero Mexico to Oaxaca. We stayed at the Hotel Parador Crespo. It was safe, clean, and economical ($28/night). The room had good showers, satellite TV, and it was conveniently located to go to all the birding hotspots. Parking in a locked garage.

Nov. 30 - Monte Alban in the morning, and then Teotitlan del Valle in the afternoon. Night at Hotel Crespo.

Dec. 1 - Highway 175 ("garbage gulch") until about 10 a.m., then higher up to La Cumbre in the afternoon (the southeast road at La Cumbre). Garbage gulch is about km 206.5 and described as site 11.4 in Howell's book. Night at Hotel Crespo.

Dec. 2 - La Cumbre (the northwest side). We spent most of the day on this road. We came down about 2 p.m. and had lunch and then went to Teotitlan del Valle for the rest of the afternoon, which was pretty productive. Night at Hotel Crespo.

Dec. 3 - Highway 190, east of Oaxaca. First to Yagul (until 9 a.m.), then further east to Howell's site 11.12 (Las Animas).

Dec 4 - La Cumbre in the morning again, and then drive on to Valle National (long drive). We stayed at the Hotel Valle National. It is only about ½ block off the main street and is clean, safe, and the room has a fan. There is no hot water, but the weather is warm and the cool water was not unpleasant. The rooms were only $10/night. Staying here saved lots of driving time to/from Tuxtepec.

Dec. 5 - Highway 175 in the morning, from km75 down to km63. We birded along the highway to Tuxtepec in the afternoon. Night at Hotel Valle National.

Dec 6 - Highway 175, from km 75 up to km 105. "Garbage gulch" again in the late afternoon. Night at Hotel Azucenas. This was a very nice hotel a bit closer to the zocolo, the central plaza and all it's activities. About $50/night and it has lots of character.

Dec 7 - Left very early for drive to Puerto Angel. Howell's book is accurate about how long this drive is. We got to the birding area not long after daylight and birded highway 175 between km184 - 199. The hills were alive with birds. We went on to Puerto Angel and got in some late afternoon birding beyond the community of Zipolite in the arid scrub. Night at a small hotel in Puerto Angel. We did not have a reservation, as we decided at the last minute to go to Puerto Angel. There seemed to be plenty of rooms available at any of several hotels in town.

Dec. 8 - West of Zipolite from daylight until 8:30 a.m. Stopped in a few places on the way back to Oaxaca. Long day of mostly driving on very curvy mountain roads. I took the group to the hotel and then returned the rental car to the airport and took a taxi back to the hotel. Night at Hotel Azucenas.

Dec 9 - Took a taxi to the airport and left Oaxaca early in the morning and flew back home.

Species List

The numbers after the species are the dates the species was seen. (E) = endemic species. (H) = heard.

Least Grebe - Tachybaptus dominicus. 30,2.
Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis. 7,8.
Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster. 7.
Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens. 7,8.
Great Egret - Ardea alba. 30,2.
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis. 30- 3.
Blue - winged Teal - Anas discors. 30.
Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis. 30,2.
Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus. 3,5- 7.
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura. Seen every day.
Osprey - Pandion haliaetus. 8.
White - tailed Kite - Elanus leucurus. 30,2.
Northern Harrier - Circus cyaneus. 30,3.
Sharp - shinned Hawk - Accipiter striatus. 1,3.
Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii. 6.
Harris's Hawk - Parabuteo unicinctus. 3.
Gray Hawk - Asturina nitida. 5,7.
White - tailed Hawk - Buteo albicaudatus. 3.
Zone - tailed Hawk - Buteo albonotatus. 7.
Red - tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis. 30,2- 4.
Crested Caracara - Caracara plancus. 30,5.
American Kestrel - Falco sparverius. 30,2,3,5,8.
(E) Long - tailed Wood- Partridge - Dendrortyx macroura. 6. Brief look at one running away along highway 175, up in the mountains north of La Cumbre.
American Coot - Fulica americana. 30,2.
Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago. 30.
Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularia. 30,5,6.
Western Sandpiper - Calidris mauri. 30.
Rock Dove - Columba livia. Yes.
Red - billed Pigeon - Columba flavirostris. 5. Flyovers only.
Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura. 30,3.
White - winged Dove - Zenaida asiatica. 30,1,3,8.
Common Ground - Dove - Columbina passerina. 30,3,8.
Inca Dove - Columbina inca. 2,3,6- 8.
Olive - throated Parakeet - Aratinga nana. 5.
Orange - fronted Parakeet - Aratinga canicularis. 8.
White - fronted Parrot - Amazona albifrons. 8.
Red - lored Parrot - Amazona autumnalis. 5.
Squirrel Cuckoo - Piaya cayana. 8.
Groove - billed Ani - Crotophaga sulcirostris. 8.
White - collared Swift - Streptoprocne zonaris. 5.
Vaux's Swift - Chaetura vauxi. 8.
White - throated Swift - Aeronautes saxatalis. 2.
Stripe - throated Hermit - Phaethornis striigularis. 5. In the mountains along highway 175. Howell calls this species Little Hermit, but I could not find the genus Pygmornis in Clements' fifth edition.
Green Violet - ear - Colibri thalassinus. 4,8.
Black - crested Coquette - Lophornis helenae. 5. Female only.
(E) Golden - crowned Emerald - Chlorostilbon auriceps. 7. We found this recent split gathering spider web material and building a nest at the Mirador Restaurant/overlook. Fantastic!        (E) Blue - capped Hummingbird - Eupherusa cyanophrys. 7. Coming from Oaxaca, the side road for this species is the last left just before the small community of La Soledad. It's a nice, safe place to bird.
(E) Dusky Hummingbird - Cynanthus sordidus. 30,3. Yagul is the best place. Common.
Broad - billed Hummingbird
- Cynanthus latirostris. 8. We found this "Doubleday's" subspecies in the arid scrub just west of Zipolite.
White - eared Hummingbird - Hylocharis leucotis. 1,2,4,6. Very common at La Cumbre and in the mountains generally.
Rufous - tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl. 5.
(E) Green - fronted Hummingbird - Agyrtria viridifrons. 7. We got terrific looks at the "Cinnamon- sided" subspecies of this species around km 196 on highway 175.
(E) Berylline Hummingbird - Saucerottia beryllina. 30,6. Common at garbage gulch.
Blue - throated Hummingbird - Lampornis clemenciae. 2. La Cumbre.
(E) Garnet - throated Hummingbird - Lamprolaima rhami. 6. Fair looks in the fog around km 105.
Magnificent Hummingbird - Eugenes fulgens. 2,4.
(E) Beautiful Hummingbird - Calothorax pulcher. 3,6. Yagul.
Ruby - throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris. 3.
(E) Bumblebee Hummingbird - Atthis heloisa. 6. A real jewel! We found one alongside highway 175, around km 80. It perched on a thin, vertical branch end in the morning sunlight. It was a male and we watched it for about 15 minutes at point blank scope range. It was such a great view, I could even see wrinkles in the gorget feathers!
Rufous Hummingbird - Selasphorus rufus. 30,3.
(E) Citreoline Trogon -
Trogon citreolus. 7. Good looks just west of Zipolite.
Collared Trogon -
Trogon collaris. 5. Trogons were hard to find on this trip. Don't know why.
Ringed Kingfisher -
Ceryle torquata. 7.
Amazon Kingfisher -
Chloroceryle amazona. 5.
(E) Russet - crowned Motmot
- Momotus mexicanus. 8. Found one along highway 175, north of
Puerto Angel. What a beauty!
Emerald Toucanet -
Aulacorhynchus prasinus. 5,6.
Acorn Woodpecker -
Melanerpes formicivorus. 7.
(E) Golden - cheeked Woodpecker
- Melanerpes chrysogenys. 7,8. Just west of Zipolite.
(E) Gray - breasted Woodpecker - Melanerpes hypopolius. 1- 3,6. Garbage gulch, Yagul.
Golden - fronted Woodpecker - Melanerpes aurifrons. 3,5.
Yellow - bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius. 4.
Hairy Woodpecker - Picoides villosus. 4,8.
Smoky - brown Woodpecker - Veniliornis fumigatus. 5.
Plain Xenops - Xenops minutus. 5.
Strong - billed Woodcreeper - Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus. 2,4.
Spotted Woodcreeper - Xiphorhynchus erythropygius. 5.
Spot - crowned Woodcreeper - Lepidocolaptes affinis. 2.
Yellow - bellied Elaenia - Elaenia flavogaster. 4.
Eye - ringed Flatbill - Rhynchocyclus brevirostris. 7.
Yellow - olive Flycatcher - Tolmomyias sulphurescens. 5.
(E) Pileated Flycatcher - Xenotriccus mexicanus. 30,6. Good looks at Monte Alban.
Tufted Flycatcher - Mitrephanes phaeocercus. 7.
Greater Pewee - Contopus pertinax. 7.
(E) Pine Flycatcher - Empidonax affinis. 6. Good looks along highway 175 in the mountains.
Black Phoebe - Sayornis nigricans. 30.
Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya. 2.
Vermilion Flycatcher - Pyrocephalus rubinus. 30,2,3,5.
Dusky - capped Flycatcher - Myiarchus tuberculifer. 1,5H.
Nutting's Flycatcher - Myiarchus nuttingi. 3,8. Good looks in arid scrub west of Zipolite.
Brown - crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus tyrannulus. 3,7.
Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus. 3,7.
Social Flycatcher - Myiozetetes similis. 5.
Tropical Kingbird - Tyrannus melancholicus. 1,5.
Cassin's Kingbird - Tyrannus vociferans. 1,2.
Thick - billed Kingbird - Tyrannus crassirostris. 3. Decent look along highway 190, east of Las Animas.
Western Kingbird - Tyrannus verticalis. 30,2.
Rose - throated Becard - Pachyramphus aglaiae. 4,7,8. Great scope look on the way back from
Puerto Angel.
Gray - breasted Martin
- Progne chalybea. 8.
Violet - green Swallow - Tachycineta thalassina. 30,1.
Northern Rough - winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx serripennis. 30,4- 6,8.
Ruby - crowned Kinglet - Regulus calendula. 30- 2,4- 6,8. Very common.
(E) Gray Silky - flycatcher - Ptilogonys cinereus. 30,2,4,6. Gorgeous and easy to find at La Cumbre.
(E) Gray - barred Wren - Campylorhynchus megalopterus. 2,4. La Cumbre, with Dwarf Jays.
Rufous - naped Wren - Campylorhynchus rufinucha. 3,7,8.
(E) Boucard's Wren - Campylorhynchus jocosus. 30,3. Monte Alban and Yagul.
Rock Wren - Salpinctes obsoletus. 30.
Canyon Wren - Catherpes mexicanus. 30.
Happy Wren - Thryothorus felix. 7.
Bewick's Wren -
Thryomanes bewickii. 3.
House Wren -
Troglodytes aedon. 2,3.
White - breasted Wood - Wren
- Henicorhina leucosticta. 5.
Gray - breasted Wood- Wren - Henicorhina leucophrys. 4,6,7.
Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos. 30,3.
(E) Ocellated Thrasher - Toxostoma ocellatum. 30. Brief but good look at Monte Alban. Most people seem to miss this one but we got lucky. It hopped up to the top of a small shrub and perched for almost a minute, before disappearing into the scrub. Never seen again.
Curve - billed Thrasher
Toxostoma curvirostre. 30,3.
(E) Brown - backed Solitaire
- Myadestes occidentalis. 2,4,7. Fairly easy at La Cumbre.
Slate - colored Solitaire - Myadestes unicolor. 5,6. Beautiful songster.
Russet Nightingale - Thrush - Catharus occidentalis. 1,2. La Cumbre.
Ruddy - capped Nightingale- Thrush - Catharus frantzii. 4.
Black - headed Nightingale- Thrush - Catharus mexicanus. 5.
Hermit Thrush - Catharus guttatus. 2,4- 6.
Wood Thrush - Hylocichla mustelina. 5.
Clay - colored Robin
- Turdus grayi. 5.
White - throated Thrush - Turdus assimilis. 7.
American Robin - Turdus migratorius. 2,4,6.
(E) Aztec Thrush - Ridgwayia pinicola. 2. Very brief look up at La Cumbre. Never seen again.
Blue - gray Gnatcatcher - Polioptila caerulea. 30- 6.
White - lored Gnatcatcher - Polioptila albiloris. 3,7,8.
Mexican Chickadee - Poecile sclateri. 2,4. La Cumbre.
White - breasted Nuthatch - Sitta carolinensis. 2.
Loggerhead Shrike - Lanius ludovicianus. 3.
Steller's Jay - Cyanocitta stelleri. 2,4,6.
White - throated Magpie- Jay - Calocitta formosa. 7,8.
Green Jay - Cyanocorax yncas. 5,7.
Brown Jay - Cyanocorax morio. 5.
(E) Dwarf Jay - Cyanolyca nana. 4. Saw two different flocks at La Cumbre. One at km 3 on the "northwest" road, per Howell's book.
Unicolored Jay - Aphelocoma unicolor. 4,6.
Common Raven - Corvus corax. 30,3,4,6.
(E) Slaty Vireo - Vireo brevipennis. 2. Great look up at La Cumbre. Gorgeous bird!
White - eyed Vireo - Vireo griseus. 5.
(E) Dwarf Vireo - Vireo nelsoni. 30,1. Teotitlan del Valle.
Blue - headed Vireo - Vireo solitarius. 2,5,7,8.
Warbling Vireo - Vireo gilvus. 2,3,7.
(E) Golden Vireo - Vireo hypochryseus. 30,8. Monte Alban. Good looks at both places.
Yellow - green Vireo - Vireo flavoviridis. 2,3,7,8.
Olive Warbler - Peucedramus taeniatus. 2,4,6.
Orange - crowned Warbler - Vermivora celata. 30- 5.
Nashville Warbler - Vermivora ruficapilla. 30,3,5,7,8.
Virginia's Warbler - Vermivora virginiae. 3.
(E) Crescent - chested Warbler - Parula superciliosa. 4. Great looks at La Cumbre.
Northern Parula - Parula americana. 5.
Tropical Parula - Parula pitiayumi. 1.
Chestnut - sided Warbler - Dendroica pensylvanica. 8.
Magnolia Warbler - Dendroica magnolia. 5.
Yellow - rumped Warbler - Dendroica coronata. 30- 3,6,7.
Black - throated Gray Warbler - Dendroica nigrescens. 30,1,3.
Black - throated Green Warbler - Dendroica virens. 5- 8.
Townsend's Warbler - Dendroica townsendi. 1- 4,6.
Hermit Warbler - Dendroica occidentalis. 1,2,4,6,8.
Black - and- white Warbler - Mniotilta varia. 4- 8.
American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla. 5,8.
Worm - eating Warbler - Helmitheros vermivorus. 5.
Ovenbird - Seiurus aurocapillus. 5.
Louisiana Waterthrush - Seiurus motacilla. 30.
Kentucky Warbler - Oporornis formosus. 5.
MacGillivray's Warbler - Oporornis tolmiei. 3,7,8.
Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas. 5.
Hooded Warbler - Wilsonia citrina. 5.
Wilson's Warbler - Wilsonia pusilla. 30- 8. One of the most common birds we saw for the whole trip. These guys were everywhere.
(E) Red Warbler - Ergaticus ruber. 1,2,4,6. Great looks at La Cumbre.
Slate - throated Redstart - Myioborus miniatus. 30- 2,4,5.
Golden - crowned Warbler - Basileuterus culicivorus. 5.
Rufous - capped Warbler - Basileuterus rufifrons. 30- 8. Common.
Golden - browed Warbler - Basileuterus belli. 2,6.
Bananaquit - Coereba flaveola. 5.
Common Bush - Tanager - Chlorospingus ophthalmicus. 4- 7.
Red - throated Ant- Tanager - Habia fuscicauda. 4.
Hepatic Tanager - Piranga flava. 7.
Summer Tanager - Piranga rubra. 3H,5.
Western Tanager - Piranga ludoviciana. 30,1,7.
Flame - colored Tanager - Piranga bidentata. 7.
White - winged Tanager - Piranga leucoptera. 5.
(E) Red - headed Tanager - Piranga erythrocephala. 7.
Crimson - collared Tanager - Ramphocelus sanguinolentus. 5.
Blue - gray Tanager - Thraupis episcopus. 5.
Yellow - winged Tanager - Thraupis abbas. 5.
Yellow - throated Euphonia - Euphonia hirundinacea. 5.
Elegant Euphonia - Euphonia elegantissima. 3.
Variable Seedeater - Sporophila corvina. 5.
White - collared Seedeater - Sporophila torqueola. 3.
(E) Cinnamon - bellied Flowerpiercer - Diglossa baritula. 1,2.
(E) White - naped Brush- Finch - Atlapetes albinucha. 5.
(E) Rufous - capped Brush- Finch - Atlapetes pileatus. 1,2,4. Chestnut- capped Brush- Finch - Buarremon brunneinucha. 5.
(E) Rusty - crowned Ground- Sparrow - Melozone kieneri. 4.
(E) Collared Towhee - Pipilo ocai. 2. La Cumbre.
Spotted Towhee - Pipilo maculatus. 4.
(E) White - throated Towhee - Pipilo albicollis. 30,1,3.
(E) Bridled Sparrow - Aimophila mystacalis. 2,3. Great looks at Yagul.
(E) Cinnamon - tailed Sparrow - Aimophila sumichrasti. 3. Saw a couple alongside highway 190, just before the town of Las Animas, about 5 p.m.
Rufous - crowned Sparrow - Aimophila ruficeps. 30,1.
(E) Oaxaca Sparrow - Aimophila notosticta. 1. Poor, brief look just above garbage gulch. These were supposed to be somewhat common, but we only saw the one bird, one time.
Clay - colored Sparrow - Spizella pallida. 30,2,3.
Lark Sparrow - Chondestes grammacus. 30.
Lincoln's Sparrow - Melospiza lincolnii. 3,4,6.
Yellow - eyed Junco - Junco phaeonotus. 1,2,4,6.
Black - headed Saltator - Saltator atriceps. 5,7.
Rose - breasted Grosbeak - Pheucticus ludovicianus. 5.
Black - headed Grosbeak - Pheucticus melanocephalus. 1,6.
Blue Grosbeak - Guiraca caerulea. 3,5.
Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea. 2,7.
(E) Orange - breasted Bunting - Passerina leclancherii. 3,7. Spectacular birds! Near Las Animas and also west of Zipolite.
Melodious Blackbird - Dives dives. 5.
Great - tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus. 30- 2,5,7.
Bronzed Cowbird - Molothrus aeneus. 8.
Altamira Oriole - Icterus gularis. 7.
Streak - backed Oriole - Icterus pustulatus. 3.
Hooded Oriole - Icterus cucullatus. 6- 8.
Baltimore Oriole - Icterus galbula. 5.
Bullock's Oriole - Icterus bullockii. 2,4,7.
Orchard Oriole - Icterus spurius. 5.
Black - vented Oriole - Icterus wagleri. 2,3,6.
(E) Yellow - winged Cacique - Cacicus melanicterus. 7,8.
Montezuma Oropendola - Gymnostinops montezuma. 5.
House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus. 1- 3.
Lesser Goldfinch - Carduelis psaltria. 30,3,6.
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus. Yes.


1 - This was really a fun trip. The people of the area were all very friendly and helpful. The scenery and food were excellent. Although this wasn't the best time of the year to go, we still managed to find most of the target species. We didn't have tapes to try for owls, but I did whistle Pygmy Owl a lot. We never heard a response.

2 - Transportation. I would recommend reserving a car in advance. You might have a better chance of getting what you want that way. Our cars performed perfectly, but they are not cheap, running about $80/day. Gas is over $2/gal. I though most of the roads were fine, with the exception of a few bad places. The roads over either mountain chain are very curvy and take forever to drive. I found Howell's book to be very accurate concerning the driving times he suggests. I've read that you shouldn't drive at night in Mexico. We drove a fair amount at night and never experienced any problems. Most of the towns of any size have a Pemex gas station. Once we got used to the layout of Oaxaca, we didn't have much trouble driving around the city.

3 - Zipolite. I refer several times to an area just west of Zipolite. As you drive west from the community of Zipolite, you eventually get away from most houses. Go a bit further, and as the road rises and turns sharply to the left and then back right (cresting a small ridge), look back to the right and you will see a road that goes up a hill. There were no private- property signs or no trespassing signs, so we walked up the road and it led to the top of the hill, where there was a small dump that looked to be unused at the moment. We had lots birds here, including Doubleday's Hummer, Magpie-Jays, and Parrots.

4 - Take a U.S. field guide. The U.S. migrants are not illustrated in the Mexican field guides. We had several times where we could have used one.

If you have any questions or comments, contact Ron Hoff, Clinton, Tennessee  USA

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