Important Note: We look forward to birding with you! To see the most recent update of our pre-tour and on-tour protocols and our requirements for travel, please visit our tour protocols page.
This exciting tour in the Field Guides schedule, inaugurated in 2020, promises top-notch birding from mountains and meadows around Mexico City to the coastal deserts and mangrove lagoons near the tip of Baja. Along the way we'll search for some range-restricted endemics (Xantus's Hummer, Belding's Yellowthroat, and Sierra Madre Sparrow, to name a few) and a multitude of other Mexican specialties. This tour also highlights two of the most remarkable long-distance migrants in the animal kingdom: the Gray Whale and Monarch Butterfly.
Every year Monarchs find their way to the conifer forests of Central Mexico, where they congregate in the tens of thousands to form hanging baskets that cloak the trees. This is truly one of the most impressive butterfly spectacles in the world. It takes several generations to complete this migration from Mexico to Canada, each generation moving a little farther north, step-by-step, and, incredibly, it is the fourth generation of Monarchs that returns to Mexico, having never been there before. How do they accomplish this incredible feat?
At the same time of year, Gray Whales migrate from Arctic waters to the warm lagoons off the coast of Baja. They make the longest migration of any mammal on Earth, a distance of 11,000 miles. February is the best time of year to see mothers and calves wintering in these coastal lagoons. As if that weren't enough, Whale Sharks, the largest fish in the world (average adult length is 32 feet), also congregate off the coast of Baja in February. These gentle plankton-feeders can be seen cruising the waters near the port city of La Paz (in the state of Baja California Sur), where you can even swim alongside them, weather permitting of course.
And we haven't even mentioned the birds yet (or the tacos, tamales, and cold beer)! Mexico is a fabulous country to bird, with familiar families (Thrashers, Wrens, Vireos, and Orioles) but unfamiliar species. This itinerary offers a fine array of endemic sparrows. In our days of exploring the highlands around Mexico City, we'll search for the Sierra Madre Sparrow, a bird restricted to alpine meadows in the volcanic belt, and recently placed in its own genus Xenospiza. Another species in a monotypic genus we hope to encounter is the Striped Sparrow, a spectacular Mexican endemic of high-elevation bunch grass. And of course, we'll keep our fingers crossed for Black-chested Sparrow, found in arid thorn scrub and weedy fields at lower elevations, and just about the best-looking sparrow there is! Other birds we hope to find in the cordilleras include the range-restricted Black-polled Yellowthroat, the truly stunning Red Warbler (you can't get much redder than that), Golden-browed Warbler, Golden Vireo, Golden-crowned Emerald (gold seems to be a theme here), Bumblebee Hummingbird, Strickland's Woodpecker, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo (a very cool bird), Gray Silky-flycatcher, Red-headed Tanager, Green-striped Brushfinch, Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, Elegant Euphonia, Hooded Grosbeak, and, with a bit of luck, we may stumble upon a Long-tailed Wood-Partridge...who knows! Since we'll be visiting in February, we may bump into a few familiar faces wintering in the Mexican highlands such as Red-faced Warbler, Varied Bunting, and Yellow-breasted Chat among resident Black-vented Orioles, West Mexican Chachalacas, and Happy Wrens.
Baja Sur hosts six endemic species according to modern taxonomists. These include Cape (Baja) Pygmy-Owl, Xantus's Hummingbird, Gray Thrasher, San Lucas Robin, Belding's Yellowthroat, and Baird's Junco. Both the San Lucas Robin and Baird's Junco are found only at the highest elevations within the Sierra de la Laguna mountains (a hard day's hike involving camping), and, though the robin is known to occasionally descend to lower elevations, it is unlikely we will see it on this tour. However, we should see the remaining endemics and loads of other desert, semi-arid, and foothill species. These will include Elf Owl, Gila Woodpecker, Greater Roadrunner, Verdin, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Cassin's (San Lucas; V. c. lucasanus) Vireo, California Scrub-Jay, Lazuli Bunting, Scott's Oriole, and lots of Black-throated Gray Warblers and Western Tanagers, among many others.
We would be remiss not to mention Mexico's colorful culture and delicious food. Make sure you bring an appetite, as we will be sampling authentic enchiladas, sopes, and tlacoyos (if you don't know what those are, don't worry, they;re all delicious!). And, of course, we'll fill you in on some of Mexico's rich history — from the Toltecs and the Aztecs to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. So, grab your binocs and prepare for awe as we explore deep forests, high mountains, arid deserts, and open waters in search of Mexico's most spectacular natural wonders!
Select the KEY INFO tab or click here for our itinerary plus space requests, status, fees, limits, and guides for any departure.
"A great experience, and a great group. I was concerned about the night of camping on the beach, but that company really handled it well with a clean, well-organized camp in a beautiful location. This was my fourth trip with Jesse Fagan as guide and my first with Micah Riegner. Both are great guides and a lot of fun to travel with...the easy relationship the guides had, it made it fun for us as clients." J.L., CENTRAL MEXICO & BAJA: BIRDS, BUTTERFLIES & WHALES 2020
ITINERARIES • TOUR STATUS • DETAILS • SPACE REQUESTSITINERARIES • We issue a separate itinerary for each year, typically at least 9 months before that year's first departure. Most itineraries don't vary much year to year, but there may be small or rarely more substantive changes. A sample previous-year itinerary is usually available even if the one for your chosen departure is not. We do not require any deposit for provisional bookings until the itinerary for the departure is ready.
- 2023 (PDF)
- 2024 (PDF expected May 2023)
DEPARTURES • We have 2 departures currently scheduled through 2024, with details including limits, guides, fees, and space available listed below.
Feb 12-23, 2023
Guided by: Jesse Fagan & Doug Gochfeld
Tour Manager: Caroline Lewis
Tour Limit: 12
Status: Open - This tour has enough participants registered to insure its operation, but it is not yet full. Click below to book one or more spaces.
Tour Fee: $5450
REQUEST SPACE OR MORE INFO
Feb 18-29, 2024
Guided by: Micah Riegner & Bret Whitney
Tour Manager: Caroline Lewis
Tour Limit: 12
Status: Open - Space is still available on this tour, and we are accepting provisional bookings. No deposit is required until you receive the itinerary. Click below to book space.
Tour Fee: Fee TBD / 2023=$5450
REQUEST SPACE OR MORE INFO
Enjoy looking through the 2 most recent Field Guides triplists for this tour linked below!