A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Central Mexico & Baja: Birds, Butterflies & Whales 2024

February 18-29, 2024 with Micah Riegner & Bret Whitney guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the first birds of the tour was Sierra Madre Sparrow, a species of dwindling bunchgrass meadows near Mexico City. Astonishingly, there's another small population way far north in the state of Durango. Photo by Micah Riegner.

This year we had a great run of our Birds, Butterflies and Whales tour finding just about everything we'd hoped to see and then some. We saw many iconic Mexican birds, enjoyed some delicious and authentic food, hiked to a spectacular Monarch Butterfly colony, rubbed the belly of a Gray Whale, and some of us even swam alongside a 16-foot Whale Shark! On our first day of birding outside Mexico City with my friend Anuar, we saw several highland specialties including over a dozen close Sierra Madre Sparrows in one of the last few parcels of their native bunchgrass habitat, several Striped Sparrows, and the transvolcanic form of Grass Wren. And there would be more! We birded some high-elevation woodland nearby and managed to see, not just hear, a flock of Long-tailed Wood-Partridges as they rummaged through the mossy undergrowth on both sides of the road. This was the first time I’ve actually seen them on tour! Then, having yet to see Hooded Yellowthroat, one of the three endemic yellowthroats possible on this route, we made our way to the UNAM Botanical Gardens, where the bird is quite reliable in the native scrub that grows on the volcanic fields. It didn’t take long before we found one foraging on the ground along with a handsome Buff-breasted Flycatcher. We think they were getting tiny ants that were emerging from a crack in the concrete.

The following days we birded the tropical deciduous forests of the state of Morelos around Tepoztlan and Cuernavaca. First, we spent a morning in some beautiful oak forest near the town of San Juan Tlacotenco where we found an Amethyst-throated Mountain-gem, a scarce hummer of the Mexican highlands, some Flame-colored Tanagers, Gray-barred Wrens, Brown-backed Solitaires in their display flights and a Northern Pygmy-Owl hooting in an oak right above us. After a delicious pozole with chicken and zetas (a local mushroom) cooked over a wood-fire stove, we spent the afternoon at a site called Amilsingo below Tepoztlan. As the day drew to a close, huge numbers of Vaux’s Swifts streamed by overhead, backdropped by the jagged cliffs of Tepoztlan. We had another delicious meal of Cochinita Pibil, at my friend Joaquin’s rustic ranch house and, after that, we set out for owls. It took no more than half an hour to have excellent views of Balsas Screech-Owls, Elf Owls and Buff-collared Nightjars all in the same general area.

We returned to Amilsingo the next morning in hopes of finding more dry-forest species, and we were not disappointed. Along our walk we saw the handsome yet secretive Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, a pair of Black-chested Sparrows, overwintering Least Flycatchers and a flock of Banded Quail scratching around in a burned field, another first for the tour! They’re tough to see at this time of year since they’re not vocalizing. In the afternoon we visited the ruins of Xochicalco where my girlfriend, Michelle, gave us a tour of the ruins. A very close Pileated Flycatcher was a neat surprise as was the eye-level Virginia’s Warbler! To finish the day, we stopped at Cascada el Salto de Anton in downtown Cuernavaca. Just as it was getting dark, the flock of 200 or so White-naped Swifts showed up overhead -- right on time. They made a couple loops over us before diving into the abyss to roost behind the waterfall. Awesome show!

From Morelos we crossed into the state of Mexico stopping to see Black-polled Yellowthroat, another local and declining endemic of Central Mexico. A pair foraged right in front of us along the edge of the cattails, gleaning tiny insects, and there was a pair of Common Yellowthroats right there as well, bringing us up to three species of yellowthroats. We then had lunch in Valle de Bravo and birded in the pine/oak forest nearby finding White-striped Woodcreepers and a super-confiding Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo singing for several minutes from the same perch. That was right before some park guards told us we would have to leave because our telephoto lenses could start a fire, which they said had happened with some other birders a month or so earlier. Hmmm, but we got the shrike-vireo!

The next day was the day we’d all been waiting for: butterfly day! After a drive, a horseback ride and a hike up, we arrived at the site where several thousand butterflies were cloaking the trunks and branches of the Oyamel Firs, truly one of the great spectacles of mother nature. Then, after another fun morning with Strickland’s Woodpeckers, a close Russet Nightingale-Thrush, and a pair of Mountain Trogons outside our lodge, we took off for Mexico City to catch our afternoon flight to La Paz. From La Paz we drove north the next day along the Transpeninsular Highway stopping to scan some mudflats that were full of shorebirds and American White Pelicans. In a line of Black Mangroves, we pulled in a Mangrove Yellow Warbler and a pair of Ridgway’s Rails that scampered right out in front of us. Reaching the little town of San Carlos at the edge of Magdalena Bay, we loaded into two pangas for our whale-watching excursion. The first couple spouts and Gray Whale flukes were incredible, but then came the big surprise. A whale came right up to our boats and nudged us so that we could reach into the water to pet it. For almost an hour it went back and forth between our two boats and everyone had the chance to feel its rubbery barnacle-covered skin and look into its golf ball-sized eye.

We spent the night under a full moon at a remarkably cozy tent camp on the beach, and the next morning boatmen took us to Isla Patos, an island covered in Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, numerous gulls and shorebirds. From San Carlos we drove back to La Paz in search of another spectacular marine animal: Whale Shark! We left from the marina on another panga, and while we were out looking for the sharks in the shallows of the bay, with Blue-footed Boobies plunge-diving off the bow of our boat, Bret spotted a small flock of Sabine’s Gulls, an unexpected bonus for the tour. They’re normally way offshore at this time of year. It didn’t take long before we found our first Whale Shark, appearing first as a 16-foot shadow in the blue-green water. Our boat captain pulled up alongside the animal and we took turns jumping in with snorkels and wetsuits to swim alongside it. From underwater we could see the rows of spots on its dorsal surface, the tremendous pectoral fins and the remoras latched onto its sweeping caudal fin.

Continuing south for the last leg of the trip we made a brief stop at a site called Termopilas where we saw close to a dozen San Lucas Robins, another first for a Field Guides tour, and a lifer for both me and Bret! For our last morning of birding, we met up with local guide Edgardo, who set us up with a fabulous field breakfast at an old ranchito way back in Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve. Here, we spent the morning watching Xantus’s Hummers, the San Lucas subspecies of Cassin’s Vireo, Western and Gray Flycatchers and an overwintering Gray Vireo. We tried hard for Cape Pygmy-Owl, but unfortunately did not get a response from one. After another nice lunch in the field, we called in a surprisingly secretive Belding’s Yellowthroat at a gorgeous palm-lined oasis, a fitting closure to our 12 days in Mexico.

There are many people we’d like to thank for their efforts in this tour. First, we’d like to thank Caroline in our office for setting everything up, Hugo, our five-star driver, Anuar for joining us outside Mexico City, Jazmine in San Juan, Joaquin, Arlen and Augustine for hosting us at Amilsingo, Michelle for her tour of Xochicalco, Angel our guide at the butterfly reserve, the wonderful staff at the whale camp, Alejandro our Whale Shark guide and Edgardo for hosting us at Sierra de la Laguna. Bret and I would like to thank you all for joining us on this tremendous adventure—we look forward to birding with you pronto!

— Micah and Bret

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)

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the key elements of this tour is a day spent with several thousand Monarch Butterflies at a winter roost outside Mexico City. Words really can't describe what it's like to be among so many butterflies. Photo by Micah Riegner.

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)

We had nice light on these at the La Paz Sewage Ponds.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)


LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

There was a big raft of these at the estuary at San Carlos.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

One male was spotted in the estuary at San Carlos.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

WEST MEXICAN CHACHALACA (Ortalis poliocephala) [E*]

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

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

This is one of the trickiest birds to see on this tour. During our morning of birding at La Cima with Anuar, we were surrounded by several on both sides of the road. We were getting bits and pieces of them as they meandered through the dense vegetation, when all of a sudden, one strutted out in the open and flew across!

BANDED QUAIL (Philortyx fasciatus) [E]

Another tricky bird to see, especially at this time of year when they're not vocalizing much. We were walking up the trail at Amilsingo when we spotted a small flock in a freshly burned field. We spent several minutes watching them rummage around in the ash. Fantastico!

CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Callipepla californica) [*]

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)

Seen at the pond at Amilsingo and the La Paz Sewage Ponds.

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis californicus)

We saw some on our boat trip from San Carlos and at the La Paz Sewage Ponds.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

This short video walks takes us through the first half of the tour, which centered around Mexico City, Tepoztlan and Cuernavaca. Filmed by both Bret Whitney and Micah Riegner.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)

We had great looks at a pair in the oak forest at San Juan Tlacotenco.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus ridgwayi)

We had good looks at one in the spotlight during our night of owling at Amilsingo.

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae)

We called one into view at the cabins at Rancho Viejo.

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-NAPED SWIFT (Streptoprocne semicollaris)

One of the largest swifts in the world. We timed our visit to El Salto de San Anton in the middle of Cuernavaca to see the arrival of these spectacular swifts. Right at dusk they arrived and we watched them swirl over the waterfall before they dropped in to roost.

VAUX'S SWIFT (Chaetura vauxi)

We were blown away by how many there were around Amilsingo, especially that afternoon before owling.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

MEXICAN VIOLETEAR (Colibri thalassinus) [*]

PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT (Heliomaster constantii)

The enormous hummer we saw at Amilsingo.


We found this scarce hummingbird at a patch of Salvias at San Juan Tlacotenco.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We spent a morning birding the dry forest below Tepoztlan where to our surprise we found a flock of Banded Quail foraging right out in the open. These diminutive quail are quite difficult to see, especially during the dry season when they don't vocalize much. Photo by Micah Riegner.

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

Seen a couple times around Rancho Viejo.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

Interestingly we saw only females during our days of birding around Central Mexico. I think the males mostly go elsewhere for the winter.

COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte costae)

We had excellent views of a male visiting some yellow flowers at our whale camp on the beach.

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus) [*]

DUSKY HUMMINGBIRD (Phaeoptila sordida) [E]

A few of these rather drab hummers were coming to the flowering Casahuates at Amilsingo.

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris)

Seen at the UNAM Botanical Gardens.

GOLDEN-CROWNED EMERALD (Cynanthus auriceps) [E]

We saw a female at the white Casahuate flowers at Amilsingo.

WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna leucotis)

Our best views were right outside Rancho Viejo.

XANTUS'S HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna xantusii) [E]

We had great views of males and females during our morning at Sierra de la Laguna.


Also at the white Casahuate flowers at Amilsingo below Tepoztlan.

BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD (Saucerottia beryllina)

Seen at San Juan.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

RIDGWAY'S RAIL (Rallus obsoletus)

I think we were all flabbergasted when the pair walked right out of the mangroves in front of us near La Paz! What a great view.

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)

We got bits and pieces as it skulked through the cattails at Laguna Almoloya.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

Several were on Isla Patos.

Here's a short video showing the trees full of Monarchs. Slow motion video by Micah Riegner.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

Seen out on the mud flats near La Paz.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Seen in the fields at Amilsingo.

WILSON'S PLOVER (Anarhynchus wilsonia)

We saw a few out on the mudflats at La Paz.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

We saw a big flock at Isla Patos.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

SABINE'S GULL (Xema sabini)

We were quite surprised to find a flock of four birds during our boat trip for Whale Sharks out of La Paz Bay. These gulls are usually way offshore at this time of year.

BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

We watched a pair settle down on the La Paz Sewage Ponds.

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

HEERMANN'S GULL (Larus heermanni)

We saw both adults and juveniles at Isla Patos.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)


These gulls are almost completely restricted to the Gulf of California. We saw some on a beach near La Paz.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our group enjoying dinner with Joaquin at Amilsingo near Tepoztlan. Later that night we would see Balsas Screech-Owls, Elf Owls and Buff-collared Nightjars. Photo by Micah Riegner.

WESTERN GULL (Larus occidentalis)

The most common gull we saw during our time around Magdalena Bay.

HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus)

A few were on Isla Patos.

CALIFORNIA GULL (Larus californicus)

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

We saw a huge flock out over the mudflats near La Paz.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

ELEGANT TERN (Thalasseus elegans)

We saw one mixed in with a flock of Royal Terns near La Paz.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)


Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)

BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY (Sula nebouxii)

A few flew by during our Whale Shark boat trip out of La Paz.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

BRANDT'S CORMORANT (Urile penicillatus)

We saw several thousand clustered together on Isla Patos. Some showed turquoise throats, indicating they were coming into breeding condition.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

Also incredibly densely packed on Isla Patos.

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

There were a few on the mangroves near San Carlos.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

While we were working on the Ridgway's Rails a flock of White Pelicans landed right behind us in perfect light!

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Continuing our adventures through the wonderfully diverse country of México, we landed in Baja California Sur, with dreams of Gray Whales, Whale Sharks, and endemic birds dancing in our heads. Birds, in order of appearance: Mangrove Yellow Warbler, Ridgway's Rails, estuary with Black Skimmers, American White Pelicans et al. terns and shorebirds; Isla de los Patos with many thousands of Brandt's and Double-crested cormorants, breeding plumaged Brown Pelicans, lots of Western, California, Herring, Ring-billed, and Heermann's gulls, and Sanderlings; Western Willets, Marbled Godwits, and Short-billed Dowitchers; and a Green-tailed Towhee we found at our stop on the "Amazonas" sand dunes. Video by Bret Whitney and Micah Riegner.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (YELLOW-CROWNED) (Nyctanassa violacea bancrofti)

Seen on the mudflats near San Carlos.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

We spooked one off its roost at Amilsingo.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

One showed up in tree above us at Cascada el Salto de San Anton.


GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

We saw one flying over Laguna Almoloya.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

Seen flying over Amilsingo.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

One was out on the beach near our whale camp at Magdalena Bay.

WHITE-TAILED HAWK (Geranoaetus albicaudatus)

One shot overhead at Amilsingo.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Strigidae (Owls)

WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

We heard one calling during the day at Reserva Monte Alto and then had great views of one at night near our cabins at Rancho Viejo.

BALSAS SCREECH-OWL (Megascops seductus) [E]

Another cool Mexican endemic. We had great looks at one at Amilsingo.

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

Buenisimo! We whistled one into view during our morning walk at San Juan Tlacotenco.

FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium brasilianum) [*]

ELF OWL (Micrathene whitneyi)

We were pleasantly surprised to find a pair at Amilsingo near Tepoztlan. This is an uncommon species in this part of Mexico.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo sang in front of us on the same perch for several minutes! What a strange set of colors it has. Photo by Micah Riegner.
Trogonidae (Trogons)

MOUNTAIN TROGON (Trogon mexicanus)

We saw a male and female near our cabins at Rancho Viejo.

Momotidae (Motmots)

RUSSET-CROWNED MOTMOT (Momotus mexicanus)

These are normally not so difficult to see! We finally got a nice scope window on one at Amilsingo.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Seen in the mangroves near San Carlos.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

Seen in the oak forest around San Juan and also at various spots in Baja.

GOLDEN-CHEEKED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes chrysogenys) [E]

We had great views of some at Amilsingo.

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)


We were eye-to-eye with a male at Sierra de la Laguna.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (SOUTH MEXICAN) (Dryobates villosus jardinii)

We had great views of a female at Rancho Viejo.

STRICKLAND'S WOODPECKER (Dryobates stricklandi) [E]

We saw a pair copulating at Rancho Viejo. This is another species restricted to the transvolcanic belt of Central Mexico.

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

GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides)

We saw a pair at Las Termopilas on the way to Cabo.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

Common once we got to Baja. Seen just about every day along the roads.

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

We scoped one at the La Paz Sewage Ponds.

Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

WHITE-STRIPED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes leucogaster) [E]

These were abundant at Reserva Monte Alto near Valle de Bravo.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae) [*]

Field Guides Birding Tours
After our close Gray Whale experience, we visited Isla Patos, which was covered with roosting Brandt's Cormorants. Some were coming into breeding condition with bright blue throats. Photo by Micah Riegner.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

GREENISH ELAENIA (WEST MEXICO) (Myiopagis viridicata jaliscensis)

Seen along the road at San Juan.

PILEATED FLYCATCHER (Xenotriccus mexicanus)

We had super close views of this dry forest endemic at Xochicalco. Gorgeous!

TUFTED FLYCATCHER (MEXICAN) (Mitrephanes phaeocercus phaeocercus)

We saw a good number along our walk at San Juan.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

Numerous in Central Mexico.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)

We had exceptionally good views of one in the dry forest of Amilsingo.

HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER (Empidonax hammondii)

Seen up in the oaks at San Juan.

GRAY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax wrightii)

Seen at several sites in Baja.

DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri)

We had nice close views of one in the botanical gardens in Mexico City.

WESTERN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis)

The yellowish empids seen during our morning of birding at Sierra de la Laguna.

BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax fulvifrons)

We watched one alongside a Hooded Yellowthroat at the botanical gardens in Mexico City.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

Seen at Sierra de la Laguna.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

Seen well during our walk at San Juan.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

Abundant around Baja.

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

The common Myiarchus at Xochicalco.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus) [*]

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (SOCIAL) (Myiozetetes similis pallidiventris)

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus) [*]

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

Seen at Amilsingo and at various stops in Baja.

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

We had really good looks at one from the ruins at Xochicalco.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

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The close and cooperative Golden-browed Warbler we saw at Rancho Viejo. Photo by Micah Riegner.
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

CHESTNUT-SIDED SHRIKE-VIREO (Vireolanius melitophrys)

After having one get away somehow at San Juan we were treated to eye-level views of one at Reserva Monte Alto. What a fabulous bird!

GRAY VIREO (Vireo vicinior)

We stopped along the road in decent looking habitat with a lot of fruiting Bursera trees at Sierra de la Laguna and sure enough one responded and flew right in!

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

We watched a pair in a low tree at San Juan.

CASSIN'S VIREO (Vireo cassinii)

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

Found only at Sierra de la Laguna, this local subspecies of Cassin's Vireo performed nicely for us.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Seen in the fields around Amilsingo.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

CALIFORNIA SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma californica)

Encountered daily around Baja.

TRANSVOLCANIC JAY (Aphelocoma ultramarina) [E]

A recent split from Mexican Jay. We saw these at several sites in Central Mexico.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

A few flew over the butterfly reserve. Also seen around Magdalena Bay.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

Seen in the forest at La Cima.

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

We had nice close looks at some on our drive to San Carlos, Baja California Sur.

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Sunrise at our whale camp. Photo by Micah Riegner.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (MELANOTIS GROUP) (Psaltriparus minimus melanotis)

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)


Seen in the woods around La Cima.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

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

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

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

Seen in the conifers around La Cima.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

CALIFORNIA GNATCATCHER (Polioptila californica)

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus) [*]

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Russet Nightingale-Thrush hopped right into view near our lodge. Note the dark tip of the lower mandible, a feature to distinguish it from the very similar Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush. Photo by Micah Riegner.

HOUSE WREN (NORTHERN) (Troglodytes aedon parkmanii)

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

GRASS WREN (Cistothorus platensis)

Seen in the bunchgrass at La Cima.

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

GRAY-BARRED WREN (Campylorhynchus megalopterus) [E]

We came across a small flock of these high canopy wrens at San Juan Tlacotenco.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Common around Baja.

HAPPY WREN (Pheugopedius felix) [E*]

Heard a couple times around Tepoztlan.

BANDED WREN (Thryophilus pleurostictus)

One showed nicely during our walk at Amilsingo.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

BLUE MOCKINGBIRD (Melanotis caerulescens) [E]

These are always a challenge to see. After many attempts we finally saw one perched near Rancho Viejo.

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

GRAY THRASHER (Toxostoma cinereum) [E]

We had excellent views of one foraging behind some shacks along the drive to Baja.

Micah made this cool video of the Baja endemic Gray Thrasher that performed so nicely for us.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

Seen in the trees around Rancho Viejo.

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

Seen in the open fields around La Cima and Sierra Chincua.

BROWN-BACKED SOLITAIRE (Myadestes occidentalis)

We saw several doing display flights along the road at San Juan.

RUSSET NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus occidentalis) [E]

We had one hop out to our feet at Rancho Viejo.


AMERICAN ROBIN (MIGRATORIUS GROUP) (Turdus migratorius phillipsi)

AMERICAN ROBIN (SAN LUCAS) (Turdus migratorius confinis)

A first for any Field Guides tour! We saw close to a dozen at Las Termopilas on the way to Los Cabos.

RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN (Turdus rufopalliatus)

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

GRAY SILKY-FLYCATCHER (Ptiliogonys cinereus)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

Seen at Sierra de la Laguna.

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus) [*]

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Field Guides Birding Tours
This was the Gray Whale that sprayed us multiple times as it went from boat to boat to get its belly rubbed. Photo by Micah Riegner.
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)

Several flew over us at La Cima.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

ELEGANT EUPHONIA (Chlorophonia elegantissima)

We saw a pair in perfect light along the road at San Juan.

HOUSE FINCH (COMMON) (Haemorhous mexicanus roseipectus)

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra stricklandi)

We saw a pair constructing a nest with plastic fibers from the parking lot near the restaurant we ate at the first day of the tour.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

Seen at Rancho Viejo.

BLACK-HEADED SISKIN (Spinus notatus)

We had a quick view of a male at Rancho Viejo.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

STRIPE-HEADED SPARROW (Peucaea ruficauda)

Seen in the fields at Amilsingo.

BLACK-CHESTED SPARROW (Peucaea humeralis) [E]

This is one of my favorite birds in Central Mexico. We had great views of a pair at Amilsingo.

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum)

Seen briefly at Amilsingo.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)

Abundant in the fields around Amilsingo.

BREWER'S SPARROW (Spizella breweri)

Seen mixed in with all the Clay-colored Sparrows at Amilsingo.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata bangsi)

We saw some on the ground at Camp Chirinola.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

Very common in the fields around Amilsingo.

This video features some of our experiences birding various habitats in Baja California Sur. Birds, in order of appearance: San Lucas Robin, Scott's Oriole, Xantus's Hummingbird (male and female), California Towhee, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Belding's Yellowthroat. Video by Bret Whitney and Micah Riegner.

GREEN-STRIPED BRUSHFINCH (Arremon virenticeps) [E]

We had great looks at one at San Juan.

YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)

STRIPED SPARROW (Oriturus superciliosus) [E]

This cool endemic was common at La Cima and around Rancho Viejo.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

We saw a couple in the fields around Amilsingo.

SIERRA MADRE SPARROW (Xenospiza baileyi) [E]

These were hands down the best views I've ever had of Sierra Madre Sparrow! We saw close to a dozen individuals warming up in the early morning at La Cima. This species is only known from a handful of sites around Mexico City and then strangely enough all the way up in Durango.

SONG SPARROW (MEXICANA GROUP) (Melospiza melodia mexicana)

Seen at Laguna Almoloya.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

Seen well at the UNAM Botanical Gardens.


Another cool Mexican endemic. We watched one at Amilsingo near Tepoztlan.

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

The towhees we saw at the UNAM Botanical Gardens.

CALIFORNIA TOWHEE (Melozone crissalis)

Seen our morning at Sierra de la Laguna.

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

We watched one hopping along the trail at the UNAM Botanical Gardens.

GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)

We called one out of the mangroves at "Los Amazonas" near San Carlos.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (MACULATUS GROUP) (Pipilo maculatus oaxacae)

The Spotted Towhees in this part of Mexico have a lot of green on the wings and tail.

RUFOUS-CAPPED BRUSHFINCH (Atlapetes pileatus) [E]

We eventually got great views of one at Rancho Viejo.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

BLACK-VENTED ORIOLE (Icterus wagleri)

Seen from our hotel in Tepoztlan.

Field Guides Birding Tours
White-striped Woodcreepers live in pine/oak forests of the Mexican Highlands. We saw this one near Valle de Bravo. Photo by Micah Riegner.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

Seen at various sites in Baja.

STREAK-BACKED ORIOLE (Icterus pustulatus)

Common in the dry forests of Morelos.

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)

BLACK-BACKED ORIOLE (Icterus abeillei) [E*]

Heard near Rancho Viejo. Unfortunately nobody in the group got on it.

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

We had outstanding views of one at the UNAM Botanical Gardens. Also seen at Sierra de la Laguna.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

A few females were at the La Paz Sewage Ponds.


GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

One zipped back and forth across the mangrove channels near San Carlos.


CRESCENT-CHESTED WARBLER (Oreothlypis superciliosa)

Wow! We had nice close views of a stunning male at Rancho Viejo.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

We spent several minutes watching one forage in some dead flower clusters at the UNAM Botanical Gardens.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

One of the most common wintering warblers in Central Mexico.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

We had great views of one in the dry forest at Xochicalco.

MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei)

Seen surprisingly well along the road at San Juan. They usually don't come into the open like that!

BLACK-POLLED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis speciosa) [E]

This is a fabulous tour for yellowthroats. The Black-polled Yellowthroats we saw at Laguna Almoloya where we had great views of a pair foraging along the edge of the cattails.

BELDING'S YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis beldingi) [E]

Another local endemic of southern Baja. We saw them at the marsh behind Santiago.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This is THE best tour we offer for yellowthroats. Upper left: Hooded Yellowthroat seen at the UNAM Botanical Gardens in Mexico City. It is found in brushy habitat, not marshes. Bottom left: Common Yellowthroat at Laguna Almoloya. Center: Belding's Yellowthroat at the marsh near Santiago, Baja California Sur. Right: Black-polled Yellowthroat at Laguna Almoloya, one of the few places in the world to see it. Photos by Micah Riegner.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

It was cool to see some alongside the much smaller Black-polled Yellowthroats at Laguna Almoloya.

HOODED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis nelsoni) [E]

We watched one hopping out on the pavement along with a Buff-breasted Flycatcher at the UNAM Botanical gardens. We presume they were getting tiny ants that were emerging from their colony.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

YELLOW WARBLER (MANGROVE) (Setophaga petechia castaneiceps)

We saw a nice looking male at the mangroves near La Paz.

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

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

We saw a few high in the pines at Reserva Monte Alto.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi)

Seen in mixed flocks at the high elevations. Also seen at Las Termopilas.

HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis)

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

We watched a pair right along the road at San Juan.

GOLDEN-BROWED WARBLER (Basileuterus belli)

This is one of the sharpest looking of the Mexican warblers. We had great looks at a pair at Rancho Viejo.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

RED WARBLER (Cardellina rubra) [E]

One of most iconic birds in Mexico. We had our best views on the road at San Juan.

SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus miniatus)

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (NORTHERN) (Piranga flava hepatica)

We saw a male behind Rancho Viejo.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

FLAME-COLORED TANAGER (Piranga bidentata)

We had great scope views of a male and female along the road at San Juan.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This isn't the sharpest image, but it is nonetheless an image of Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, one of the trickiest birds to see in Central Mexico. Photo by Micah Riegner.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Seen at the UNAM Botanical Gardens and also at Sierra de la Laguna.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

There was one foraging at eye level at the UNAM Botanical Gardens.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

Several were out in the fields at Amilsingo.

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)

Seen at Termopilas, Baja California Sur.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

We watched some eating flower buds near the Xochicalco museum.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

CINNAMON-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa baritula baritula)

We had great views of them at the UNAM Botanical Gardens. Also seen around Rancho Viejo.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Seen along the road at Rancho Viejo.

MEXICAN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus aureogaster)

GRAY WHALE (Eschrichtius robustus)

Not only seen well, we actually touched it! What a privilege to be in the presence of such a magnificent animal! It's something we'll remember for the rest of our lives.

COYOTE (Canis latrans) [*]

CALIFORNIA SEA LION (Zalophus californianus)

Seen on the around Magdalena Bay.

Other Creatures of Interest

WHALE SHARK (Rhincodon typus)

I think this might be the only birding tour that incorporates a Whale Shark outing. Watch Bret's underwater video to get a sense of what it was like to swim alongside it!


MONARCH BUTTERFLY (Danaus plexippus)

Despite it being a rough year for Monarchs with record low numbers, we saw an impressive number. Most were sitting on the branches of the Oyamel Firs, but many were also flying around.

We found our Whale Shark just a short distance out of La Paz! A few great birds also put in an appearance: Sabine's Gulls, and a sand-spit with a young Brown Pelican, California and Laughing gulls, a few Yellow-footed Gulls, Royal Terns, and several Elegant Terns. Here are some memorable moments from that beautiful morning. Video by Bret Whitney

Totals for the tour: 261 bird taxa and 5 mammal taxa