A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Central Mexico & Baja: Birds, Butterflies & Whales 2022

February 12-23, 2022 with Micah Riegner & John Coons guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Sue Bryer photographed this friendly Gray Whale as it approached to nudge our boat! These majestic animals migrate from Alaska to the calm lagoons of Baja where they mate and give birth.

The idea for this tour was sparked at a Field Guides business meeting when Jesse Fagan and I were on the topic of Mexico. He had just visited Baja and I had seen the Monarch Butterflies wintering in Central Mexico, so we figured, why not combine our expertise to establish a new, exciting Mexico itinerary—one with birds, butterflies and whales? Our first tour offering was a blast. It was in February 2020, and we managed to slip out unscathed before the global Covid shutdown. I was super excited to run the tour again, this time with John Coons. After several months of not leading tours, it was great to get back in the field again with him. We saw some fabulous birds including Black-polled Yellowthroat, Sierra Madre Sparrow, and several hundred White-naped Swifts. We witnessed a forest festooned with wintering Monarchs, and had a Gray Whale approach our boat to give a friendly nudge. Oh, and we also followed a Whale Shark through the water as it sieved plankton off the coast of La Paz. We couldn’t have asked for better food on the tour. The tlacoyos, enmoladas, chilaquiles and fresh fish tacos made for a true culinary adventure and being in Mexico, we were able to have almost all our meals outdoors!

Our tour began in Mexico City in the picturesque neighborhood of Coyoacan, just down the road from Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul. We spent our first morning in a bunchgrass meadow south of the city searching for the endangered Sierra Madre Sparrow, only known from a few localities around Mexico City and way north in the state of Durango. In the process of finding it, we stumbled upon several Striped Sparrows, also endemic to the uplands of Central Mexico. We then walked into a glorious pine-oak forest where we encountered Strickland’s Woodpeckers, a miniature version of Arizona Woodpecker endemic to the Transvolcanic Belt, Hooded Yellowthroat, Elegant Euphonias and a Russet Nightingale-thrush.

Our days birding the state of Morelos were fueled by sightings of Lesser Ground-cuckoo, Black-chested Sparrows, Chestnut-sided Shrike-vireos, Balsas Screech-owls and White-naped Swifts. Let me go into more detail about the swifts. Just a few weeks prior to the tour, an ornithologist friend mentioned that there’s a waterfall in downtown Cuernavaca where hundreds of swifts go to roost. I scouted it out, was completely blown away by it and decided it had to be part of the tour. After a day of dry forest birding around Cuernavaca, we arrived at the waterfall, ordered some pizzas, and waited for the swifts to make an appearance. The swifts came in right on time, several hundred of them, and they whirled overhead before swooping in front of us into the abyss. I’m working on an Outbirding episode about the swifts, so check it out when it’s published!

From the dry forest of Morelos, we drove to the conifer-covered mountain of Reserva Piedra Herrada, stopping for Black-polled Yellowthroat (actually, more like 20 of them!) along the way. Then, after morning of uphill hiking or horseback riding for some folks, we were engulfed in a canopy of roosting monarchs, the only sounds were their wings as they shuffled off into the peaceful morning air. Our local guide said it was one of the best seasons for them in recent years, which was heartwarming to find out.

Then, after a travel day through Mexico City and normal airport fun, we were glad to be landing in La Paz for a final week on the Baja Peninsula. We were picked up at our hotel and shuttled across to the town of Lopez Mateos where we boarded a lancha to go look for Gray Whales—a mother and calf greeted us as we approached the mouth of the estuary. That evening we spent eating fresh fish at our luxury tent camp while more Gray Whales and Bottlenose dolphins splashed offshore.

The final days of the tour we got to swim with a Whale Shark and explore a vast arroyo at Parque Nacional Sierra de la Laguna where we saw the endemic Gray Thrasher, Xantus’s Hummingbird, Cape Pygmy Owl, San Lucas Cassin’s Vireo and Belding’s Yellowthroat. The yellowthroat, by the way, was lifer 5,000 for Steve Rannels, and it happened to be the very last bird of the tour! Of course, we planned for it to happen that way.

There are several people who made this tour possible. We’d like to thank Nicole in the office who worked tirelessly on all our reservations, Cristian our five-star driver, Anuar for showing us the Sierra Madre Sparrow, Joaquin for taking us to see the Balsas Screech-owls, Jazmin for a great birding day at San Juan, Dellis, Abraham and the rest of the crew from Mar y Aventuras for taking care of us at whale camp and Edgardo for a great morning at Sierra de la Laguna. John and I would like to thank you all for joining us on this Mexico extravaganza—we look forward to birding with you again soon!


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

We saw a handful at the small pond at Texcal.

Check out this tour video that guide Micah Riegner put together!

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

A few were seen from the highway on the lake we passed as we were heading back to Mexico City.


A few in breeding plumage were seen from the highway as we drove by the lake.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

WEST MEXICAN CHACHALACA (Ortalis poliocephala) [E]

We had nice views of several at Chapultepec Park in Cuernavaca.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

LONG-TAILED WOOD-PARTRIDGE (Dendrortyx macroura) [E*]

BANDED QUAIL (Philortyx fasciatus) [E*]

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)

About four individuals including a young one or two were seen at the lake at Texcal Reserve in Cuernavaca.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

These were quite common in the Tepoztlan area.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

We heard a few here and there but had our best views on our final morning in Baja.

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

This well-known species was quite common in a few of the areas we visited in Baja.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw some nifty endemic yellowthroats on the tour! Here are Hooded (left), Black-polled (center) and Belding's Yellowthroat photographed by participants Sue Bryer and Steve Rannels and guide Micah Riegner.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

Our only sighting was in the marshy area at the Texcal Reserve.

LESSER GROUND-CUCKOO (Morococcyx erythropygus)

One of the great birds of the trip. Mark spotted this uncommon and often difficult to see bird just outside the ruins at Xochicalco. It ended up walking down an open limb fully exposed to us.

LESSER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx velox) [*]

Unfortunately, we never got a look at this smaller relative of Greater Roadrunner. We heard it calling along the road to Rio Hormiga and Micah saw it jump off a perch but we could not get it into view.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis)

We had a few vocalizing and got the light on a couple of these during our nightbirding expedition near Amilcingo.

BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus ridgwayi)

After hearing a few we had great looks at an individual that perched on a limb right in the open.

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae) [*]

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-NAPED SWIFT (Streptoprocne semicollaris)

We had a nice evening experience with over 500 of these large swifts as they went to roost behind a waterfall. The birds gathered high above the canyon and circled for several minutes as they gradually got closer. They ended up rocketing right over us and into the canyon which was getting dark with the setting sun.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

MEXICAN VIOLETEAR (Colibri thalassinus)

We had a couple of nice views along the entrance road to Rancho Viejo.

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT (Heliomaster constantii)

We saw one perched at the edge of the marsh at Texcal, and we managed to get it in the scope.

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

Formerly known simply as Blue-throated Hummingbird. We saw one along the road at San Juan de Tlacotenco.

Here's a short video that encapsulates our time watching White-naped Swifts at Cascada el Salto de San Anton. Video by guide Micah Riegner.

COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte costae)

One was buzzing and calling around the flowers at the hotel in La Paz but I'm not sure we ever really got a look at it.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

We saw both a male and female near the top of our walk at the Parque Maravillas.

BUMBLEBEE HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus heloisa) [E]

DUSKY HUMMINGBIRD (Phaeoptila sordida) [E]

We had a brief view of this Mexican endemic along the trail at Rio Hormiga.

GOLDEN-CROWNED EMERALD (Cynanthus auriceps) [E]

We had scope views of this local specialty along the trail at Texcal.

WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna leucotis)

We saw a handful at the higher elevations we visited through out the central Mexico portion of our trip.

XANTUS'S HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna xantusii) [E]

One of the handful of birds endemic to the Baja Peninsula; we had several good views of males and females in the Sierra de las Laguna area.


BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD (Saucerottia beryllina)

We had a scope view of one along the road at San Juan Tlacotenco.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

RIDGWAY'S RAIL (Rallus obsoletus)

We enjoyed nice views of a couple of individuals that came out of the mangroves during our boat trip with Alberto in the morning. We watched one of these swim across an open channel of water.

AZTEC RAIL (Rallus tenuirostris) [E*]

We heard a couple of these calling from the Lerma Marsh but could not get one to appear. This species was formerly considered a subspecies of King Rail.

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola) [*]

We heard about five individuals vocalizing from the Lerma Marsh with some folks getting a look at one that crossed a gap in the reeds.

SORA (Porzana carolina) [*]

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

A few were at the marsh at Texcal.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This is just a fraction of the flock of White-naped Swifts at the cascada. Photo by guide Micah Riegner.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

Two individuals flew past us while we were at the whale camp.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) [*]

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

We heard one calling during our first morning in the field.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

We saw a few loafing on the sandbars as we boated the estuary near the whale camp.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

We saw one on a sandbar in the estuary.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

We only saw one individual on a sandbar near the whale camp.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)

We saw a couple in the estuary near Magdalena Bay.

Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)

PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus)

It was a surprise to see two of these swimming in the estuary not far off the beach from our camp.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

HEERMANN'S GULL (Larus heermanni)

We saw a few adults and immatures on both sides of the Baja Peninsula.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

Our only sighting was at the marina near our hotel in La Paz.

WESTERN GULL (Larus occidentalis)

This was the most commonly encountered gull in Magdalena Bay.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Sue Bryer photographed this Green-striped Brushfinch on our hike up to the butterflies. This species is endemic to the Transvolcanic Belt of Central Mexico.


We saw a few in the marina area at La Paz.

CALIFORNIA GULL (Larus californicus)

HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus)

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

A fair number were flying about or perched on the sandbars in the estuary at Magdalena Bay.

Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)

BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER (Puffinus opisthomelas)

From the shore we spotted a smallish tubenose swimming off the beach from the whale camp. It seemed to be oddly plumaged, and we sent distant photos to friends who agreed it was a leucistic Black-vented Shearwater. Although uncommon to see one that close to shore, they are regular in the area.

Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)


A fair number were soaring about over the coasts on both sides of the peninsula.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

We only saw one.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

We had a group of 28 individuals on the sandbars in Magdalena Bay.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Many were seen.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

We had close encounters with our friend on the beach at the whale camp.

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One of the many branches cloaked with sleeping Monarchs. Photo by guide Micah Riegner.

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

One or two were spotted in the estuary of Magdalena Bay.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

Only a few were seen during our entire trip.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

A couple were seen in the mangroves near the whale camp.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

Surprisingly, we only saw one or two in the mangroves in Magdalena Bay.

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Good numbers were seen.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

There were impressive numbers of these, and nests, as we approached Magdalena Bay from the La Paz side.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

We saw one flying low over the Lerma Marsh.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

We watched one diving on a Cooper's Hawk for a nice comparison at Parque Maravillas.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

We saw a few flying through or soaring during our travels.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

It was somewhat of a surprise to see an adult perched in a tree on one of the islands in the estuary at Magdalena Bay with another adult atop a nearby nest.

HARRIS'S HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Sally spotted two individuals sailing about at our pit stop at Km 98 during the return to La Paz.

SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)

One was spotted flying above the park in Cuernavaca.

After a fun morning of birding near the town of San Juan, Tlacotenco, we arranged for outdoor lunch. Video by guide Micah Riegner.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

We saw one or two individuals over the hotel in La Paz.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

We saw a few with at least 2-3 dark morph individuals.

Strigidae (Owls)

WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

We ended up getting nice looks at one during our night birding at Rancho Viejo.

BALSAS SCREECH-OWL (Megascops seductus) [E]

We enjoyed great views of this quite uncommon species along a dirt road outside of Tepoztlan in the evening of our first day of birding.

NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (MOUNTAIN) (Glaucidium gnoma gnoma)

After chasing one around in the dark the previous night, we returned the next afternoon and got nice looks at it during the day.

NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (CAPE) (Glaucidium gnoma hoskinsii) [E]

This subspecies, and possible future split, is an endemic to the Baja Peninsula. Persistence paid off and we had nice views of this bird in the canyon at Sierra de la Laguna.

FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium brasilianum)

We enjoyed a lengthy view near the ruin site at Xochicalco.

MOTTLED OWL (Ciccaba virgata) [*]

Trogonidae (Trogons)

MOUNTAIN TROGON (Trogon mexicanus) [*]

Unfortunately, we could not get a calling bird at the Monarch Reserve to come in to view.

Momotidae (Motmots)

RUSSET-CROWNED MOTMOT (Momotus mexicanus)

We saw a couple or three, with nice views of the one across the canyon at the waterfall, then better looks along the Pila Pila Road outside of Tepoztlan.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

We saw a couple of these iconic birds in the mangroves in the Magdalena Bay estuary.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus nuchalis)

Two individuals were in the pine forest near our Rancho Viejo Hotel.

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

GOLDEN-CHEEKED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes chrysogenys) [E]

We saw a couple of these in the Rio Hormiga Road area.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This is the only Field Guides tour where we see Balsas Screech-owl, an endemic of western Mexico. Photo by guide Micah Riegner.

GRAY-BREASTED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes hypopolius) [E]

This desert species showed well amongst the columnar cacti at Texcal.

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)

These became rather common when we got to Baja.


HAIRY WOODPECKER (SOUTH MEXICAN) (Dryobates villosus jardinii)

This dark subspecies was seen in the pine forests near Rancho Viejo.

STRICKLAND'S WOODPECKER (Dryobates stricklandi) [E]

Formerly considered the same species as Arizona Woodpecker, this bird showed well on our first morning in the forest along the road at Parque Maravillas.

NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus mexicanus)

GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides)

We saw a couple of these in the large cacti habitat west of Santiago on our last morning in the field.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

These were rather common in Baja.

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

We saw a few here and there.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

A few saw one fly over at the Monarch Reserve.

Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

WHITE-STRIPED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes leucogaster) [E]

One in the pine forest just down the road from the Rancho Viejo Hotel showed nicely for us.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

A male gave varying degrees of looks in the forest at Texcal Park near Cuernavaca.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


GREENISH ELAENIA (WEST MEXICO) (Myiopagis viridicata jaliscensis)

TUFTED FLYCATCHER (MEXICAN) (Mitrephanes phaeocercus phaeocercus)

A few gave us nice looks along trails at the higher elevations.

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This friendly golden retriever joined us for part of the morning on the road above San Juan. Photo by guide Micah Riegner.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

WHITE-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax albigularis)

We had nice looks at one in the marsh at Texcal while Sue was photographing another a short ways off.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)

One turned up with a mob scene at Xochicalco.

GRAY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax wrightii)

We saw a couple of these in the dry country of Baja.

DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri)

PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis)

We had a calling individual on the downslope side of the trail as we headed back to the vehicles at Sierra de la Laguna.

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

One was seen on a fence as we approached Lerma Marsh.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

We saw a handful of these elegant flycatchers during the first few days of our trip.

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

These were most common in the Baja area.

NUTTING'S FLYCATCHER (NUTTING'S) (Myiarchus nuttingi inquietus)

A close relative of Ash-throated but with a different vocalization. We saw a couple in the Tepoztlan area.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (SOCIAL) (Myiozetetes similis pallidiventris)

A widespread tropical species, but we only saw them one day of the trip.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

We had nice looks along the trail heading to the Rio Hormiga.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

CHESTNUT-SIDED SHRIKE-VIREO (Vireolanius melitophrys)

A great looking bird! We saw a couple of them and got one in the scope along the road at San Juan de Tlacotenco.

GOLDEN VIREO (Vireo hypochryseus) [E]

Our best view was with the mixed flock mobbing us at the Xochicalco ruin area.

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

We saw about 3-4 along the road at San Juan de Tlacotenco where they were singing.

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This was hands down the best view I've ever had of Lesser Ground-cuckoo. Normally they 're really tough to see! Photo by guide Micah Riegner.

CASSIN'S VIREO (Vireo cassinii)

We saw one at Chapultepec Park in Cuernavaca.

CASSIN'S VIREO (SAN LUCAS) (Vireo cassinii lucasanus) [E]

This subspecies is endemic to the Baja Peninsula and we had nice looks with one of the groups of birds mobbing us at Sierra de la Laguna.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

A few of these were seen as migrants.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

It seemed a bit of a surprise to see one on an island in the estuary at Magdalena Bay.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

CALIFORNIA SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma californica)

This species was pretty well represented in some of the areas we visited in Baja.

TRANSVOLCANIC JAY (Aphelocoma ultramarina) [E]

This recent split from the Mexican Jay occupies a range east and west of Mexico City. We had nice looks a couple of times.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

We saw about three individuals on our first morning then more in the area near the Monarch Reserve. This species barely gets into the US in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona.

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

We had close views of one in the garden of our hotel in La Paz.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

We saw these in the higher elevations we visited.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Field Guides Birding Tours
Some of the Baja endemics we saw on our morning at Sierra de la Laguna: Cape Pygmy Owl, Xantus's Hummingbird and San Lucas Cassin's Vireo. Photos by participant Steve Rannels and guide Micah Riegner.
Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (MELANOTIS GROUP) (Psaltriparus minimus melanotis)

We saw a couple of groups of this subspecies that has a distinct black ear patch.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

These were surprisingly common at the higher elevations of central Mexico.

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa) [*]

One was calling right overhead along the trail as we descended from the Monarch area but we could not lure it out.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (INTERIOR WEST) (Sitta carolinensis mexicana)

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (ALBESCENS/ALTICOLA) (Certhia americana alticola)

A couple of these familiar birds were seen in the pine forest at the Rancho Viejo Hotel.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

This species was often in the mixed flocks that came to mob us.

CALIFORNIA GNATCATCHER (Polioptila californica) [*]

We could not lure this bird into view in the desert west of La Paz in Baja.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)

Our best looks were at Chapultepec Park in Cuernavaca.

HOUSE WREN (NORTHERN) (Troglodytes aedon parkmanii)

HOUSE WREN (BROWN-THROATED) (Troglodytes aedon brunneicollis)

This was the form we saw at the higher elevations.

BEWICK'S WREN (MEXICANUS GROUP) (Thryomanes bewickii mexicanus)

GRAY-BARRED WREN (Campylorhynchus megalopterus) [E]

These loud and large wrens showed well along the San Juan de Tlacotenco Road.

BOUCARD'S WREN (Campylorhynchus jocosus) [E]

Closely related to the previous species. We saw a couple near the Pila Pila Road, where a pair popped up on the wall to watch the traffic pass by.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

We found this more familiar relative of the two previous species in the desert in Baja.

BANDED WREN (Thryophilus pleurostictus)

It took some work but we finally got some nice looks at this handsome wren along the road going to Rio Hormiga.

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The waitress took our photo as we had dinner on the lawn of the hotel in Tepoztlan.
Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

We saw/heard a couple as we entered the Mexico City airport.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

BLUE MOCKINGBIRD (Melanotis caerulescens) [E]

We heard a few and everyone got looks at this skulker as it flew across the road but only a few of us had lengthy looks at it.

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (CURVIROSTRE GROUP) (Toxostoma curvirostre curvirostre)

We heard and saw a couple of individuals long the trail to Rio Hormiga.

GRAY THRASHER (Toxostoma cinereum)

We saw this Baja California endemic very well in the desert west of La Paz and again at Sierra de la Laguna. It is a sharply marked thrasher.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

A handful were seen the last few days of our trip in the desert.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

A male was outside the restaurant at Rancho Viejo after we got back from the Monarch trip.

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

A couple were seen at the park on our first morning.

BROWN-BACKED SOLITAIRE (Myadestes occidentalis)

One of the great songs of Mexico. We saw a few and heard many more with the male displaying above us being especially memorable.


We had nice views of one along the entrance road to Rancho Viejo even showing the orange bill.

RUSSET NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus occidentalis) [E]

Another Mexican endemic.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)


There was one along the road at San Juan de Tlacotenco.

AMERICAN ROBIN (MIGRATORIUS GROUP) (Turdus migratorius phillipsi)

We saw many with most on our first day in the field at Parque Maravillas.

RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN (Turdus rufopalliatus) [I]

I believe we only had a quick look for some but one was calling pre-dawn at our hotel in Mexico City before we headed out.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

GRAY SILKY-FLYCATCHER (Ptiliogonys cinereus)

We had this unusual bird on several days with great views on our first day at Parque Maravillas.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Pat Bacchetti took this photo of whale camp.

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

We saw one in the courtyard of the LunaSol hotel in La Paz.

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

Now the sole member of its family, we saw a few with, perhaps, the best views in the pine forest outside the Rancho Viejo Hotel where it was singing nicely.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)

We saw a few flushing out of the open area where we searched for Sierra Madre Sparrow.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

ELEGANT EUPHONIA (Chlorophonia elegantissima)

We had a very nice morning with this colorful species in the forest at Parque Maravillas. We saw both males and females with a couple seemingly working on a nest site.

HOUSE FINCH (COMMON) (Haemorhous mexicanus roseipectus)

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus) [*]

A small group flew over at Parque Maravillas.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

We saw a few here and there throughout the trip.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

STRIPE-HEADED SPARROW (Peucaea ruficauda)

This snazzy looking sparrow showed pretty well in the Ag fields along the trail to Rio Hormiga,

BLACK-CHESTED SPARROW (Peucaea humeralis) [E]

A very nicely marked sparrow, we saw these in the drier country below Tepoztlan. They always seemed to be in pairs or a family group of three.

GREEN-STRIPED BRUSHFINCH (Arremon virenticeps) [E]

After a quick view at Parque Maravillas we saw two very well in the forest as we climbed to see the Monarchs.

YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)

These were relatively common at the higher elevations.

STRIPED SPARROW (Oriturus superciliosus) [E]

This was another endemic that we saw on several of the days with our first at Parque Maravillas.

SIERRA MADRE SPARROW (Xenospiza baileyi) [E]

This was a major target on our first morning at Parque Maravillas. This sparrow occupies an unusual tall bunch grass habitat that is quite limited these days due to agricultural practices and habitat destruction. We found two individuals that were singing and had scope views of a closer one of them as it perched atop the grass clumps and a small pine tree.

SONG SPARROW (MEXICANA GROUP) (Melospiza melodia mexicana)

We saw and heard a few in the Lerma Marsh area.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Some afternoon beach birding. Photo by guide Micah Riegner.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)


We had one posing nicely for us along the road through the agricultural area on the way to Rio Hormiga.

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

We saw one near the Lerma Marsh.

CALIFORNIA TOWHEE (Melozone crissalis)

On our last morning we encountered about four individuals along the trail at Sierra de la Laguna.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (MACULATUS GROUP) (Pipilo maculatus oaxacae)

Thus subspecies looks quite different from the familiar form we know from the western US. It has a greenish back and sounds a bit different. It has to be a future split.

RUFOUS-CAPPED BRUSHFINCH (Atlapetes pileatus) [E]

We enjoyed nice looks at Parque Maravillas where we scoped one feeding in the grass.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

We saw a few on our first morning flushing out of the tall grass.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

STREAK-BACKED ORIOLE (Icterus pustulatus)

We had nice looks along the PIla Pila trail.

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

We saw about six individuals along the walk before and after breakfast at Sierra de la Laguna.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

These were mostly seen in the towns we passed through.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

One was working along the creek where we had dinner in the small town below Tepoztlan.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

A couple of these came out of the mangroves to show themselves during our boat trip in the estuary.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Guide Micah Riegner photographed this Gray Thrasher, a striking Baja endemic!


Only a couple were seen.

CRESCENT-CHESTED WARBLER (Oreothlypis superciliosa)

We heard a few with our best view along the San Juan de Tlacotenco road.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

A fair number were seen the first few days of the trip with several in the trees outside the large historic church in Tepoztlan.

MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei)

We saw one chipping away along the San Juan de Tlacotenco road and another in the Baja desert.

BLACK-POLLED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis speciosa) [E]

The Lerma Marsh where this very local species lives is huge and has to be important biologically. In our short walk along the marsh edge we found about 14 individuals as they perched in the tall reeds.

BELDING'S YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis beldingi) [E]

This quite local Baja endemic showed well in the marsh in Santiago. It was the last new bird of our trip and #5000 for Steve!

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

One made a quick appearance at the Lerma Marsh.

HOODED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis nelsoni) [E]

Another yellowthroat we saw that is endemic to Mexico. We heard a few calling on the slopes at Parque Maravillas and finally got a nice look at one that popped up on the lower branches of a small tree.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

YELLOW WARBLER (MANGROVE) (Setophaga petechia castaneiceps)

We saw a couple of individuals both times we checked the mangroves from our boat while in the estuary.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

We saw a couple and heard more singing in the pine forests near Rancho Viejo and at the Monarch Reserve.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

We saw a few in both central Mexico and in Baja California Sur.

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi)

We saw this species and the next, both Pacific northwest breeders, in the coniferous forests at Rancho Viejo and the Monarch reserve.

HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis)

RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER (RUFIFRONS GROUP) (Basileuterus rufifrons rufifrons)

This species showed well along the road at San Juan de Tlacotenco.

GOLDEN-BROWED WARBLER (Basileuterus belli)

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

RED WARBLER (Cardellina rubra) [E]

A dazzling looking warbler, with its white cheek against a red body. We had a few nice looks at this area specialty.

SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus miniatus)

These showed well in several of the higher locations we visited.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (NORTHERN) (Piranga flava hepatica)

One or two were seen early in the trip.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

We saw them in central Mexico and again in Baja.

FLAME-COLORED TANAGER (Piranga bidentata)

We only saw one, along the San Juan de Tlacotenco road.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Both a male and female were seen at Sierra de la Laguna on our final day.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

We heard many and saw a few on our first morning in the field at Parque Maravillas.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

This species showed well along the trail to Rio Hormiga.

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)

We saw a couple mixed in with Indigo Buntings.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

The most we encountered were along the trail at Pila Pila where several were picking about in the short ground vegetation.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Steve Rannels photographed this Baja California Rock Lizard, found only at the southern tip of the peninsula.

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

We saw one along the Rio Hormiga trail and another on our last day at Sierra de la Laguna.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

CINNAMON-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa baritula baritula)

We had nice looks at a male along the road near Rancho Viejo.


RED-BELLIED SQUIRREL (Callosciurus rubriventer)

We saw several of these in the forests of central Mexico.

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)

A few were seen from shore at the whale camp.

GRAY WHALE (Eschrichtius robustus)

What a great experience it was to be so close to these wonderful creatures in the estuary at Magdalena Bay. Our morning trip out was a better overall experience as we got closer to a more accommodating Gray Whale than during the previous afternoon. A couple of our long-armed folks managed to give it a scratch as it bumped the boat.

HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Two of these leviathans surfaced as we were engaged with our Whale Shark off of La Paz.

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

We heard them howling at night during our stay at the whale camp and Zachary saw one walking the beach early in the morning.

RINGTAIL (Bassariscus astutus)

It was a surprise to spotlight this great looking raccoon relative during our night birding below Tepoztlan.


MEXICAN SPINY-TAILED IGUANA (Ctenosaura pectinata)

These were plentiful near Xochicalco.

BAJA CALIFORNIA ROCK LIZARD (Petrosaurus thalassinus)

These dazzling blue lizards clung to the granite boulders at Sierra de la Laguna.

Other Creatures of Interest

WHALE SHARK (Rhincodon typus)

Wow! This experience was tremendous. Getting to swim with the largest fish in the world was so cool. This docile beast hung around for quite awhile and even stalled for a bit to allow the first group to enjoy it up close. Yip! Yip! Yip!


MONARCH BUTTERFLY (Danaus plexippus)

Another fantastic highlight of the trip. We got to spend about 45 minutes by ourselves in the company of well over a million(s?) Monarchs as they began to warm with the morning sun and stretched their wings before many took flight. Most of us will never forget the experience.

Totals for the tour: 237 bird taxa and 6 mammal taxa