A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Christmas in Oaxaca 2021

December 19-26, 2021 with Doug Gochfeld & Dan Lane guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Monte Alban was painstaikingly cleared and the summit leveled off over many generations by the Zapotecs, who inhabited the Oaxaca Valley for for hundreds of years. Uninhabited for centuries, nature reclaimed it, and it was only within the last century that it was "rediscovered" and restored to some semblance of what it had looked like when the Zapotecs were there. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

A great way to spend the Christmas holiday is in a place with friendly people, breathtaking landscapes, mouthwatering food (and drink!), and, of course, amazing birds?! There are few places easier to achieve this than Oaxaca, Mexico, and this year’s Christmas tour experience bore that out.

Based out of our comfortable bird-and-butterfly-filled hotel grounds in the city of Oaxaca for the entire week, we were able to explore the Oaxaca valley from the low dry cactus desert all the way up to the pine and humid evergreen forests of the high (>10,000 foot) mountains. By covering such a broad elevational range, we found a diverse selection of birds, from dry-country specialists like the brilliant Orange-breasted Bunting and shy Russet-crowned Motmot, to montane birds such as the iconic Red Warbler (which was voted the top bird of the trip at the end of the tour). We also sampled many of the culinary pleasures of Oaxaca. Chapulines (cooked grasshoppers) were not most people’s cup of tea, so instead we sampled the dizzying array of delicious mole (pronounced Mō-lay) available in Oaxaca (known as the land of the seven moles), as well as scrumptious Quesillo (Oaxaca Cheese), the world-famous regional hot chocolate, and lots of other tasty delights.

This region is the cradle of one of the America's more impressive civilizations, the Zapotecs, and also was peripheral to the later Mixtec and Aztec civilizations. Importantly, it is believed to be where one of the most important events in American (and thus World) human history: the invention of maize or corn! We were able to visit a few of the Zapotec ruins around the valley, see how Mescal is produced from plant to bottle, learn about seven types of mole sauces, and how natural dyes were made for wool weaving. Even a stop to see the world's largest Montezuma Bald-cypress, the great Tule tree, was on the itinerary!

The isolated nature of the dry Oaxacan valleys in between several mountain ranges means that there are several region-specific endemics. Some of these are easier than others, and we found the more common and conspicuous ones right off the bat: White-throated Towhee, Dusky Hummingbird, Boucard’s Wren, and Gray-breasted Woodpecker. Their supporting cast was plenty diverting too, with plenty of vibrantly colored Vermilion Flycatchers, perching conspicuously on fences, wires, posts, and even buildings, and lots of neotropical migrant warblers spending their winter in the dry scrub punctuated by cacti.

The mountains surrounding the Oaxaca Valley provide much of the avian diversion on this tour, and we visited two sections of mountainous terrain: Cerro San Felipe, and the road between Teotitlan and Benito Juarez. Both areas hosted large concentrations of wintering migrants, with very high numbers of Townsend’s and Hermit Warblers in the pines, Nashville and Wilson’s Warblers lower, Hammond’s Flycatchers, Greater Pewee, and even Louisiana Waterthrush. Resident species which we ran into repeatedly included Slate-throated Redstart, Rufous-capped Warbler, Crescent-chested Warbler, Tufted Flycatcher, Greenish Elaenia, and Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo. Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, and Amethyst-throated Mountain-Gem were a couple of the scarcities we ran across up here, and we also finally got some good looks at the shy and retiring Rufous-capped Brushfinch here as well.

Our two visits to Cerro San Felipe, the mountain on the northern doorstep of Oaxaca City, provided a bevy of high elevation denizens, including the range-restricted endemic Dwarf Jay. We also sorted through the constant sounds of White-eared Hummingbirds and Mexican Violetear to find Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Gray-barred Wren, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Black-headed Siskin, and Collared Towhee. Olive-sided Flycatcher was a surprising find at the end of our time on the Yuvila road, and our nocturnal excursion led to phenomenal views of Mexican Whip-poor-will and Flammulated Owl (as well as an interesting view of a night-roosting Band-tailed Pigeon). The mountains also furnished us with repeated views of Red Warbler, which won the voting for favorite bird of the trip, and with good reason. It is astonishing to see this little bright red gem flitting around amidst the innumerable muted green tones of the montane forests.

Our morning trip to a dry canyon towards the Pacific coast provided us with several dry desert specialists, including White-lored Gnatcatcher, Green-fronted Hummingbird, Orange-breasted Bunting, and the fan favorite Russet-crowned Motmot, all in the shadow of some impressive columnar cacti.

The dryer, lower slopes surrounding the valley furnished us with the endemic Oaxaca Sparrow, and its good-looking cousin Bridled Sparrow, as well as the Oaxaca special vireo trifecta: we saw Golden Vireo several times, but it took some work to finally get good close views of Slaty Vireo and an exceptional experience with Dwarf Vireo. We encountered these latter two difficult-to-see species on the slopes below the fascinating Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban, showing just how much breadth of interest can be accommodated in this wonderful region.

The variety of habitats we visited in the relatively small area of the Oaxaca valley and its surroundings are the reason for the diversity of birds and other wildlife. The strong humidity gradient, from the desert valley floor and Pacific slope habitat of KM 77 to the deciduous scrub and oak woodland of the mid slopes of the valley, then the drier pine-oak forest of the slopes near Teotitlan, and finally those impressive forests of pine-oak and Douglas Fir on the ridges of Cerro San Felipe. Standing in the shade of those amazing forests, it can be hard to conceptualize that only a few tens of kilometers away is columnar cactus-dominated desert! But such is Mexico, a country blessed with much diversity, culture, and beauty. We hope you all enjoyed our visit as much as we did, and that we see you again soon with binoculars in hand and adventure in your eyes!


—-Doug & Dan

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) [b]

Field Guides Birding Tours
Red Warbler was, as is often the case, voted the bird of the trip, and it's really hard to argue against that. The American wood-warblers are one of the prettiest groups of birds we have in the New World, and even among this showy group, Red Warbler stands out as one of the finest gems. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris) [b]

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis) [b]

One female plumaged bird with a couple of the previous on Presa Piedra Azul.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

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

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)

Many at Presa Piedra Azul.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

This high elevation pigeon can be tricky to track down, especially in winter, but Brian spotted a bird roosting in the pines on Cerro San Felipe at night while we were owling. There was also a briefly seen flyby while we were driving up the Teotitlan mountain road during our second visit there, though it didn't stick around.

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

In towns. Named incorrectly (it was meant to be "Aztec Dove" but someone forgot which civilization was in Mexico...

Field Guides Birding Tours
Hook-billed Kite is widespread through the Neotropics, in many habitat types (if there are some land snails, it can apparently make do!), but it was still a very pleasant surprise when this one soared out over our heads while we were birding above Teotitlan. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

A couple of these dry country doves with the helicopter wingbeats at KM 77.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

A few at our first few stops below Teotitlan put this bird on our checklist.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

A cluster on the side of the highway on our first birding day was a serendipitous encounter, since we don't spend much time birding in the disturbed habitats that they call home here.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae)

Great views of two birds on Cerro San Felipe.

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris)

A cluster of large swifts zipped over us at El Colibri restaurant and they predominantly, or all, were this species.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

MEXICAN VIOLETEAR (Colibri thalassinus)

Formerly called Green Violetear, until South American populations were split off (those renamed "Lesser Violetear"). These sing incessantly around blooming Salvia patches.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our nocturnal excursion provided great views of a couple of our targets, the first of which was this vocal Mexican Whip-poor-will. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

A female was coming in to flowers at Rio Verde.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The giant Agaves of the high elevation forests at Cerro San Felipe are one of the many botanical highlights of Oaxaca, and it's always astounding to realize that a single leaf can be taller than a human. Here, guide Doug Gochfeld poses amidst one of these giants for scale. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.


A female was at the huge Salvia patch near Benito Juarez. Its rufous throat distinguished it from the nearby Blue-throated M-Gs.

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

The great big galumphing hummers we encountered in the mountains.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris) [b]

So this is where our widespread eastern hummers go! We had them in town, around the valley floor, and at KM 77.

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus) [b]

A fair number of these migrants from the Rockies were around the Yuvila Rd flower banks.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) [b]

A few of these were above Teotitlan.

DUSKY HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus sordidus) [E]

One of our first endemics of the trip.

BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia beryllina)

Common around town and sites around the valley floor.

GREEN-FRONTED HUMMINGBIRD (CINNAMON-SIDED) (Amazilia viridifrons wagneri) [E]

One or two of these attractive hummers were at KM 77. Evidence suggests that it may be best to lump this species with the similar Violet-crowned Hummingbird (which gets to Arizona).

WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Hylocharis leucotis)

The common higher elevation hummer of the trip.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) [b]

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus) [b]

Field Guides Birding Tours
It wasn't easy, but eventually Dan found a softly calling Flammulated Owl during our night excursion. These owls can be extremely ventriloqual, and often perch in densely vegetated pines, and so can be very difficult to find visually. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) [b]

At one point, a huge number took off from the shores of the lake when a falcon flew by.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) [b]

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

These herons were all at Presa Piedra Azul, about the only water body of any size we encounter on the tour.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

This and the next sp were both "everyday birds."

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

We saw one or two of these graceful pale raptors below Teotitlan on the first day.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Dwarf Vireo is one of the more difficult-to-find endemics on this tour, but we were able to track one down on our final morning, on the very slopes of Monte Alban. Not only did we find one, but it then foraged in full sunlight for a few minutes, allowing us excellent looks. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

HOOK-BILLED KITE (Chondrohierax uncinatus)

Ahmet got us on a gorgeous black morph adult that landed briefly, then flew over us as we hiked the switchbacks above Teotitlan. What a beauty!

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius) [b]

One or two over the ag fields below Teotitlan.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

Seen in the mountains on two days. These could have been migrants or local breeders.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii) [b]

SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)

Brian got us on a dark morph bird over KM 77.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

One over Yuvila Rd was nice.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Seen on most days, these birds appeared mostly to be the local subspecies hadropus with their rufous-washed vents.

Strigidae (Owls)

FLAMMULATED OWL (Psiloscops flammeolus) [b]

All right! This small migratory owl can be a real bear to see... but we managed to lock our eyes on one of two we heard and enjoy it through the scope until finally walking away from it!

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

Often diurnal, and that's how we saw it.

NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL (Aegolius acadicus) [*]

One squealed in response to playback, but never showed, unfortunately.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

MOUNTAIN TROGON (Trogon mexicanus)

This fancy tropical bird showed well on Cerro San Felipe, where we saw both a male and a female.

Momotidae (Motmots)

RUSSET-CROWNED MOTMOT (Momotus mexicanus)

Another very tropical family that we enjoyed at our usual spot at KM 77.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here the group birds at Presa Piedra Azul above the village of Teotitlan on our first morning. This is the place where we see almost all of our waterbirds on this trip, and this year was highlighted by a large flock of around 200 small Calidris sandpipers getting chased around by a Merlin. Photo by participant Lois Wood.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) [b]

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

A pair around the edge of Piedra Azul.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

Not great views, but a brief flyby near the entrance to Benito Juarez.

GRAY-BREASTED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes hypopolius) [E]

An endemic we saw on two days. Looks like a Gila Woodpecker wearing mascara.

GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER (WEST MEXICO) (Melanerpes aurifrons polygrammus)

Not very cooperative this visit, but we had brief views at KM 77.


HAIRY WOODPECKER (SOUTH MEXICAN) (Dryobates villosus jardinii)

A few views of this one in the pines on Cerro San Felipe and above Teotitlan. Smokier-looking than most populations to the north.

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

Wow, after commenting that we "never see flickers"... one perched out on a limb allowing scope views!

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara cheriway)

The "Mexican Eagle" is a common sight as we drive the roads along the floor of the valley.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Mexican Pine-Satyr was one of the special butterflies we found in the pine forest, thanks to Ahmet's diligence on the butterfly front. Photo by participant Ahmet Baytas

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius) [b]

MERLIN (Falco columbarius) [b]

Harassing shorebirds at Piedra Azul.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) [b]

A bird was at KM 77, where we have seen it before... perhaps the same bird?

Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

STRONG-BILLED WOODCREEPER (CENTRAL AMERICAN) (Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus sclateri)

Yes! Although silent, we nonetheless managed to get nice views of this flicker-sized woodcreeper before dinner on Cerro San Felipe! A memorable bird!

WHITE-STRIPED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes leucogaster) [E]

Nice views with minimal effort (for once!) above Teotitlan.

SPOT-CROWNED WOODCREEPER (NORTHERN) (Lepidocolaptes affinis affinis)

The most common of the three woodcreepers.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

A pair was moving with the jay and wren flock near our picnic spot on Cerro San Felipe.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


One on the hotel grounds, another at the pond above Teotitlan, and another pair at KM 77... that's more tyrannulets than I think we've every clocked on one tour!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Of all the Mexican endemics in Oaxaca, White-throated Towhee is perhaps the easiest to see, but that didn't make us take it for granted. When seen well, it's a very excellent looking bird! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

GREENISH ELAENIA (WEST MEXICO) (Myiopagis viridicata jaliscensis)

One showed very well near the pond at Teotitlan, but a surprise was a bird up in the pine-oak forest of Cerro San Felipe.

TUFTED FLYCATCHER (MEXICAN) (Mitrephanes phaeocercus phaeocercus)

This cute cinnamon pewee was present at several sites.

OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus cooperi) [b]

Wow, nice find! This Boreal pewee was at the field on the Yuvila Rd. Not a regular species at this time of year, but they do occasionally winter into central Mexico.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

Seen at several points in the mountains. Unusual was one on the ground at Pollo Nino.

HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER (Empidonax hammondii) [b]

The common Empid in the montane pine-oak forests.

DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri) [b]

The common Empid in the deciduous scrub of the valley.

PINE FLYCATCHER (Empidonax affinis)

One bird was in the dry pine-oak near our picnic spot above Teotitlan. Didn't stick around long though.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

This water-loving tyrant was at Presa Piedra Azul.

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya) [b]

Ahmet spotted this migrant below Teotitlan. Not common on the tour.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

This one is found at many spots in more open habitats of the region.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here the group poses at the fascinating ruins of Mitla. Most of what is behind us is the original stone work, created centuries ago by the Zapotecs. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer) [*]

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens) [b]

This and the next were both at KM 77, and this species was also at Monte Alban.

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

Seen well at KM 77 and the switchbacks above Teotitlan.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

This large and boldly marked species has increased in the valley since I first started coming to Oaxaca in 2000.

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (VERMILION-CROWNED) (Myiozetetes similis texensis)

Like the last species, which it looks like, coincidentally, this too has increased very much in presence in the valley.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Mostly around town, but one that flew over the lower switchbacks at Teotitlan was a surprise.

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans) [b]

A common wintering species in the valley.

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

Sometimes hard to encounter, we did so most days of the tour.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis) [b]

One seen well at Monte Alban.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

CHESTNUT-SIDED SHRIKE-VIREO (Vireolanius melitophrys)

A dynamite bird to see! We had a good view our first day at Rio Verde.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Elegant Euphonia is one of the flashiest birds we see on this tour, and it's not particularly common, so seeing one never gets old. Photo by participant Jan Wood.

GOLDEN VIREO (Vireo hypochryseus) [E]

The easiest of the three endemic vireos; we had this our last three days, including on the hotel grounds.

SLATY VIREO (Vireo brevipennis) [E]

A lucky find our last day below Monte Alban, this looker really gave us a nice view!

DWARF VIREO (Vireo nelsoni) [E]

At the same place as the last, we had this Ruby-crowned Kinglet look-alike in the scrub below Monte Alban.

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

Another Ruby-crowned Kinglet look-alike, but found in the pine-oak forests of the mountains.

CASSIN'S VIREO (Vireo cassinii) [b]

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius) [b]

Interestingly, I think this former "Solitary Vireo" outnumbered the other two species on this tour... usually, it is the rarest.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus) [b]

A common wintering migrant in most habitats.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Getting to the southernmost point of shrike range in the Americas.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Gray Silky-flycatchers seemed like our constant companions in some places, and their charming antics and elegant figures were a delight to bask in over and over again. Photo by participant Jan Wood.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

DWARF JAY (Cyanolyca nanus) [E]

We had fleeting views on our first visit to Cerro San Felipe, but our second visit netted us far more satisfying views of this Cardinal-sized jay.

STELLER'S JAY (CENTRAL AMERICAN) (Cyanocitta stelleri coronata)

This blue-headed form is quite easy on the eyes.

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (SUMICHRAST'S) (Aphelocoma woodhouseii sumichrasti)

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

A couple birds flew over the pond above Teotitlan.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

The only chickadee in most of Mexico.

BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)

For some strange reason, this species is soooo much harder to see here than in Arizona! I have no idea why.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) [b]

Field Guides Birding Tours
El Árbol del Tule, also known in short as the Tule Tree, is one of the most impressive trees on the planet. This particular Montezuma bald cypress, perched in a church courtyard in the center of Santa María del Tule, has been measured to have the thickest trunk of any tree on Earth. Depending on how you measure it, the diameter is anywhere from thirty to forty five feet! It is truly awe-inspiring, and we were even able to pick out some of the shapes of animals that are made by its gnarled trunk. Photo by participant Lois Wood.

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina) [b]

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula) [b]

Found in mixed flocks in the mountains.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

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

The local form here is resident. Studies are starting to show that Brown Creeper might be best considered several species, so bank this one for later should there be a split!

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea) [b]

Most of the birds here were probably migrants from eastern USA and Canada, but there is a local breeding form too.

WHITE-LORED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila albiloris)

Found only at KM 77 on this tour, but it is plenty common there!

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

Several around the ruins at Monte Alban.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Many of the colorful red, yellow, and pink thistle flowers were close to full bloom in the mountains, lending a splash of warmth to the lush green landscape. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

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

Sometimes split off as "Brown-throated Wren" but currently still considered a form of House Wren by most worldwide authorities.

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

GRAY-BARRED WREN (Campylorhynchus megalopterus) [E]

The core member of the jay-wren flocks in the pine-oak forests.

RUFOUS-NAPED WREN (SCLATER'S) (Campylorhynchus rufinucha humilis)

We only encountered this fancy wren at KM 77.

BOUCARD'S WREN (Campylorhynchus jocosus) [E]

Endemic to southern Mexico, but not hard to find in the valley where there is cactus.

BANDED WREN (Thryophilus pleurostictus) [*]

Heard only at KM 77.

GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (CENTRAL AMERICAN) (Henicorhina leucophrys mexicana)

This bouncy little sprite showed on a couple of visits to the pine-oak forest.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

BLUE MOCKINGBIRD (Melanotis caerulescens) [E]

Mostly heard, but some fleeting views, especially at Monte Alban.

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis) [b]

Heard at the pond by Teotitlan.

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

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Near the southern end of its range.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

BROWN-BACKED SOLITAIRE (Myadestes occidentalis)

What a great voice! These were largely confined to the Yuvila Rd.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Olive Warblers often remain concealed at the very tops of pine trees, so it was a special and unusual treat to see this gorgeous male descending into the mid story to check us out. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

ORANGE-BILLED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus aurantiirostris) [*]

RUSSET NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus occidentalis) [E]

We were lucky to see this thrush at Rio Verde our first day... they were very hard on Cerro San Felipe.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus) [b]

At Cerro San Felipe.

CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (Turdus grayi) [I]

This and Rufous-backed are thought to be introduced into the Oaxaca valley from opposite coasts of Mexico, with Clay-colored from the Gulf Coast.

AMERICAN ROBIN (MIGRATORIUS GROUP) (Turdus migratorius phillipsi)

With almost no fruit in the mountains, we encountered this species at the surprisingly low Monte Alban!

RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN (Turdus rufopalliatus) [I]

Apparently introduced to the valley, but from the Pacific Coast.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

GRAY SILKY-FLYCATCHER (Ptiliogonys cinereus)

A handsome and garrulous species we enjoyed seeing at several spots.

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

Now in its own family, this is not a rare species in the pine-oak forests.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Collared Towhee is yet another Mexican endemic, though this smart-looking species can be quite skulky. Luckily, we got excellent views of multiple pairs throughout the week, including this one. Photo by participant Jan Wood.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens) [*]

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

ELEGANT EUPHONIA (Euphonia elegantissima)

Euphonias and Chlorophonias have been placed in the finch family with goldfinches and siskins. More recently, this species and other blue-naped euphonias have been reclassified as Chlorophonias!

HOUSE FINCH (COMMON) (Haemorhous mexicanus roseipectus)

The House Finches in Oaxaca are this subspecies, and have highly contrasting red and gray-brown plumage, which can catch the unaware off guard.

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra stricklandi)

We had several fairly good views of these large-billed crossbills in the mountains.

BLACK-HEADED SISKIN (Spinus notatus)

Fine views of these colorful siskins on the Yuvila Rd.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

BRIDLED SPARROW (Peucaea mystacalis) [E]

A particularly snazzy endemic sparrow.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The group doing some morning birding in the foothills above Teotitlan. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum) [b]

We had a distant scope view of this sparrow. Not much to talk about, but a good bird to add to the list.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina) [b]

Mostly around Teotitlan.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus) [b]

A flock below Teotitlan.


A couple views of this large understory sparrow on Cerro San Felipe.

YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)

This crazy-eyed bird showed well in the mountains.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus) [b]

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii) [b]

Seen on two days.

WHITE-THROATED TOWHEE (Melozone albicollis) [E]

One of the first endemics we usually get on the tour, and this was no exception!

OAXACA SPARROW (Aimophila notosticta) [E]

Good views at our spot on the road to La Cumbre.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (MACULATUS GROUP) (Pipilo maculatus oaxacae)

A local breeding population.

COLLARED TOWHEE (Pipilo ocai) [E]

This species looks rather like the Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, but its behavior makes it hard to confuse with it!

RUFOUS-CAPPED BRUSHFINCH (Atlapetes pileatus) [E]

Spotty views until the penultimate day.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

Brian spotted this open country species below Teotitlan.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Russet-crowned Motmot was one of the highlights of our journey towards the dry coast, and we saw this bird both upon our arrival and just as we were leaving. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

BLACK-VENTED ORIOLE (Icterus wagleri)

A handsome oriole we saw on two days.

STREAK-BACKED ORIOLE (Icterus pustulatus)

Mostly at KM 77.

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii) [b]

Seen on two days.

AUDUBON'S ORIOLE (DICKEY'S) (Icterus graduacauda dickeyae)

Good but brief views below La Cumbre.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula) [b]

Seen on the last day at the hotel.

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

Seen well on the way to Monte Alban and again at the hotel.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Mostly around town.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla) [b]

Strange to see this species of eastern forests in the arid gullies around Oaxaca!

BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia) [b]

Creepin' is its lifestyle.

CRESCENT-CHESTED WARBLER (Oreothlypis superciliosa)

A handsome warbler of the pine-oak.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina) [b]

One on the hotel grounds was a nice find.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata) [b]

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla) [b]

One of the most common wintering warblers of the tour.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae) [b]

Seen mostly at KM 77.

MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei) [b]

Mostly seen above Teotitlan.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) [b*]

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata) [b]

One above Teotitlan. This is a rare form on the tour, but we seem to find one most visits.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We had several experiences with Brown-throated (House) Wren in the highlands, but the encounter along the Yuvila road provided by far our best views. Is this one a future split? It sure does look plenty different than our Northern House Wrens, but only time will tell. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

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

Far more common than the last, including on the hotel grounds.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens) [b]

We lucked into a few of these migrants at the lower edge of the pine-oak woodland, and one at the hotel!

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi) [b]

This and the next are very common flock members in the montane forests.

HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis) [b]

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

Seen on several days.

GOLDEN-BROWED WARBLER (Basileuterus belli)

This flashy species of higher elevations performed well.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) [b]

RED WARBLER (Cardellina rubra) [E]

One of the most popular species of the tour, and one we enjoyed many times!

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

Mostly found in the deciduous oak and just into the pine forests.

SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus miniatus)

That pink-salmon belly is so lovely!

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (NORTHERN) (Piranga flava hepatica)

Field Guides Birding Tours
This pair of Black-headed Siskins showed very well for a minute or two as we were birding along the Yuvila road. We don't see many finches in this region, but this sure is a good one! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) [b]

A singing male at the hotel was nice.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) [b]

Common around town.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus) [b]

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea) [b]

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea) [b]

ORANGE-BREASTED BUNTING (Passerina leclancherii) [E]

Ahmet got us on a fine male at KM 77.

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

A couple of birds, including at least one nice male at KM 77 was great!

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

CINNAMON-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa baritula baritula)

Wow! We had at least two adult males at some of the larger Salvia banks near Benito Juarez! That is not an easy plumage to see (heck, the species itself is easy to miss)!


MEXICAN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus aureogaster)

Our only mammal of the tour, and primarily on the hotel grounds.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The moon setting over the impressive cactus-laden landscape at KM 77. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.



Blackbelly Racerunner (Aspidoscelis deppii): the striped lizard we saw at KM 77.

Sceloporus sp.: there are many spiny lizard species in the area and they can be difficult to identify.

BUTTERFLY LIST (compiled by Ahmet Baytas)

Taxonomy and nomenclature follow BUTTERFLIES OF MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA by Jeff Glassberg.


Papilio garamas. Magnificent Swallowtail. A few individuals were always on hotel grounds; also one in downtown Oaxaca.

Battus polydamas. Polydamas Swallowtail. One individual on two separate days on hotel grounds.

Papilio sp. Giant/Thoas type swallowtail flying over trees on hotel grounds.


Catasticta flisa. Narrow-banded Dartwhite. 2 at Benito Juarez. The population here has a small forewing white cell spot (normally not on this species) on the uppersides. I call this C. flisa, but the Butterflies of America has it as a new species described in 1984, C. oaxaca, Oaxacan Dartwhite.

Catasticta nimbice. Mexican Dartwhite. Most dartwhites we saw at Benito Juarez and elsewhere was this one (has a large cell spot on the forewing above and a broad median white band).

Leptophobia aripa. Common Greeneyed-White. This is the white at higher elevations; fairly common at Benito Juarez.

Appias drusilla. Florida White. One at Benito Juarez.

Ascia monuste. Great Southern White. Small numbers at lower elevations where it generally is the default white. Some females on hotel grounds seemed to be looking for hostplants.

Hesperocharis sp. Tilewhite sp. There are 2 high altitude species that belong to this genus of whites that are quite large. We saw several individuals flying around, but none stopped, hence no positive ID.

Nathalis iole. Dainty Sulphur. Small numbers at hotel grounds, Benito Juarez, KM 77 and Monte Alban.

Colias cesonia. Southern Dogface. Several at Benito Juarez.

Phoebis sennae. Cloudless Sulphur. One or two on most days at lower altitudes—always flying fast.

Phoebis philae. Orange-barred Sulphur. One seen by Dan and Ahmet in flight.

Phoebis argante. Apricot Sulphur. At least one on hotel grounds in flight.

Phoebis agarithe. Large Orange Sulphur. One landed on wet ground on hotel grounds, right after we got tested for Covid.

Eurema daira. Barred Yellow. Small numbers at low elevations in disturbed situations; one on hotel grounds.

Eurema mexicana. Mexican Yellow. Quite common at Benito Juarez, Monte Alban, etc. This was the most widespread medium-sized Eurema sp.

Eurema sp. Several smaller individuals (Little Yellow-type) flying here and there. These butterflies don’t rest for long. Some were E. lisa/nise type.

Eurema proterpia. Tailed Orange. This individual landed for a few seconds and Dawn noticed its tail. Benito Juarez.

Eurema nicippe. Sleepy Orange. The deep reddish-orange on this species is unmistakable. A few; one on hotel grounds.


Arawacas jada. Creamy Stripe-streak. One at Benito Juarez.

Calycopis isobeon. Dusky-blue Groundstreak. This might be the commonest hairstreak in Central America. We saw several individuals, including 2 at the parking lot of KM 77.

Strymon istapa. Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak. One on hotel grounds.

Strymon bazochii. Lantana Scrub-Hairstreak. One on hotel grounds.

Strymon yojoa. Yojoa Scrub-Hairstreak. One at Benito Juarez.

Arzecla sethon. Large Groundstreak. One really worn individual at Benito Juarez.

Leptotes cassius. Cassius Blue. A couple on hotel grounds; at least one on KM 77.

Leptotes marina. Marine Blue. Several at KM 77 and a couple of other dry fields.

Hemiargus isola. Reakirt’s Blue. A couple at Benito Juarez.

Hemiargus ceraunus. Ceraunus Blue. A few on hotel grounds.

Everes comyntas. Eastern Tailed-blue. Several at Benito Juarez. This familiar butterfly of eastern N. America has a range that extends to Colombia.


Baeotis zonata. Square-spotted Yellowmark. One on hotel grounds.

Emesis emesia. Curve-winged Metalmark. One photographed on hotel grounds.

Calephelis nemesis. Fatal Metalmark. A few at Benito Juarez.

Calephelis perditalis. Rounded Metalmark. A few at Benito Juarez.

Emesis tenedia. Falcate Metalmark. Several at Benito Juarez; one at hotel grounds. This genus is a nightmare for identification. There is a small chance these (or some) are E. tegula.

Apodemia walkeri. Walker’s Metalmark. 2 at KM 77.

Rhetus periander. Variable Beautymark. One flew by when we were watching the hummingbirds and the flowerpiercer. A cosmic mind-bender.


Agraulis vanilla. Gulf Fritillary. Only a few seen, one on hotel grounds. This species is usually very common in many habitats.

Dione moneta. Mexican Silverspot. Widespread; seen nearly every day at all habitats.

Dione juno. Juno Heliconian. Several at lunch stop a Rancho Zapoto.

Dryas iula. Julia Heliconian. One at hotel grounds.

Heliconius charithonia. Zebra Heliconian. 1-2 at Rio Verde.

Nymphalis antiopa. Mourning Cloak. Always a joy to see one. Benito Juarez.

Vanessa atalanta. Red Admiral. 2 at hotel grounds.

Vanessa virginiensis. American Lady. A couple at Cerro San Felipe at high altitude.

Junonia coenia. Common Buckeye. One at Monte Alban.

Adelpha bredowi. California Sister. One at Benito Juarez.

Phyciodes pallescens. Mexican Crescent. A few seen on hotel grounds, KM 77 and Monte Alban.

Phyciodes ardys. Ardent Crescent. Several seen on hotel grounds, Monte Alban and the lower slopes of Cerro San Felipe.

Phyciodes drusilla. Orange-patched Crescent. Only one seen.

Danaus glippus. Queen. At least 4 at Rio Verde.

Danaus plexippus. Monarch. A few on the Teotitlan road.

Anetia thirza. Cloud-forest Monarch. Never got a good look at one, but Dan had one perching just as we left the Yuvila Road—but it flew away before the second van could locate it.

Paramacera xicaque. Mexican Pine-Satyr. One at 10,000 ft. at Cerro San Felipe.


Urbanus procne. Brown Longtail. We saw several long-tailed skippers (Urbanus sp.). but the only one that stopped to nectar and give us a decent view was a female of this common species.

Achlyodes busirus. Giant Sicklewing. One was resting high up on a leaf behind my room in the hotel, as usual. I have seen several individuals of this species in Central America, but never at a height I could get a decent photo!

Zera hyacinthinus. Bruised zera. One on hotel grounds.

Pyrgus oileus. Tropical Checkered Skipper. Small numbers in open, disturbed areas and historical sites.

Heliotepes macaria. Turk’s-cap White-Skipper. One at hotel grounds.

Ancyloxypha arene. Tropical Least Skipper. Probably the most numerous butterfly on hotel grounds.

Quinta cannae. Mimic Skipper. One on hotel grounds.

Pompeius pompeius. Common Glassywing. On hotel grounds by the pool.

Polites vibex. Whirlabout. One on hotel grounds.

Copaeodes aurantiacus. Orange Skipperling. I saw a few just across the street from the hotel where seedeaters were hanging out.

Panoquina ocola. Ocola Skipper. One at Rio Verde.

TOTAL (butterflies): 65 species.

Totals for the tour: 184 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa