It had been several years since I had been in Oaxaca during Christmas and it was great to be back for the festivities, mole, tlayudas and the birds, this time with Bret on our first Mexico tour together! The first day of the tour, we visited the Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez near Oaxaca City where we saw our first Bridled Sparrows, West Mexican Chachalacas, Ocellated Thrasher and side-by-side Nutting’s and Ash-throated Flycatchers. We even glimpsed the electric green wings and tail of a Slaty Vireo from deep in the vegetation. Then, after lunch in Teotitlan, we birded the Presa Piedra Azul, dotted with Least Grebes, ardeids and dabblers. In the Baccharis-lined riparian area we scoped an Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush hiding in the dense cover, but we could see the orange bill, which is all that really matters. Christmas eve dinner we spent at the Zocalo, watching the parade go by from our balcony above.
Christmas morning we spent at Monte Alban, learning about the Zapotecos from Jorge, our renaissance man, driver and archeology expert. For the afternoon we headed up into the Cerro San Felipe, the majestic conifer-covered mountains overlooking Oaxaca City, where we set up a picnic dinner as darkness engulfed the moss-laden woods around us. Soon after dinner we heard the distant hoots of Fulvous Owl, so we hustled down the hill and found it high in the mossy trees. Next, was the Mexican Whip-poor-will sitting quietly among some oak leaves—probably too cold to move.
The rest of the week we spent birding the mountains behind Teotitlan del Valle, the ruins of Yagul and, again, Cerro San Felipe, where we saw a plethora of Red Warblers, Collared Towhees and the Oaxacan form of Strong-billed Woodcreeper, that frigid morning in the pines. It was so cold and damp that morning; I felt like I was in Nome, Alaska! That afternoon we planned to picnic farther up on the mountain in an area where we generally see Dwarf Jays, but a construction crew blocking the road threw a wrench in that plan. Instead, we walked the road from there and saw the rarest bird of the tour: a Brown Pelican! What on earth was it doing sailing over the pine forest???
Our morning at KM77 opened with Russet-crowned Motmot, Green-fronted Hummingbirds and White-lored Gnatcatchers backdropped by tall columnar cacti and flowering Kapok Trees. Later, we found the flock of White-throated Magpie-Jays accompanied by a pair of Squirrel Cuckoos and a flock of Orange-fronted Parakeets, which was another first for this Oaxaca tour! They’re normally lower down towards the coast. That afternoon we drove into the pine/oak zone and saw Chestnut-sided Shrike-vireo and Pine Flycatcher--we could see the solid yellow lower mandible and hear its "whit" note.
The final day of the tour we went back up to La Cumbre to bird the Yuvila Road, where we saw Spot-crowned Woodcreepers, Rose-throated Becards and more mixed warbler flocks. The day was coming to a close, and there was one bird we still needed to see: Dwarf Jay. We drove back up and the construction crew was still there, but this time they let us through, thanks to some sweet-talking and 100 pesos. We reached the area for the jays and it was dead quiet. There wasn’t even a kinglet chattering. Suddenly a Gray-barred Wren shot in from over the ridge, followed by another and another, and then, there they were, the Dwarf Jays! They didn’t even make a sound, aside from some soft whisper contact notes as they perused the undersides of mossy branches high in the treetops. We spent a good 40 minutes watching the flock, which included the wrens, Dwarf Jays, Steller’s Jays, and a pair of Rose-throated Becards. They worked their way down the drainage and even went down to drink and bathe at eye level. What a perfect way to wrap up the tour!
Bret and I would like to thank you all for joining us on this short, but jam-packed, adventure. We hope to see you again soon either in Mexico or Brazil, or anywhere for that matter! Vamonos!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
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
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
Lots were out dabbling at Presa Piedra Azul.
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
Also at Presa Piedra Azul.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
WEST MEXICAN CHACHALACA (Ortalis poliocephala) [E]
We scoped a couple birds at Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez.
LONG-TAILED WOOD-PARTRIDGE (Dendrortyx macroura) [E*]
We heard these on the road to Benito Juarez. Unfortunately they were waaaay down the slope.
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
There was no shortage of these at Presa Piedra Azul. It was cool to hear them vocalize. They sound a lot like crakes to my ear.
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)
COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)
WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi) [*]
Heard at KM 77.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)
A few were along our drives outside of Oaxaca City.
SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)
We saw two feeding with the Magpie-Jays at KM 77.
MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae)
We found one the night we went owling at Cerro San Felipe. It was tucked in the leaves but with the scope we could pick out the details of the back pattern.
WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)
Wow! A couple zipped by at La Cumbre.
MEXICAN VIOLETEAR (Colibri thalassinus)
The constant twinkling sound of the pine/oak zone. We scoped a few at Rio Verde above Teotitlan del Valle.
RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)
We had a fabulous look at a male with its turquoise gorget at Ex-Hacienda Aranjuaez.
AMETHYST-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis amethystinus)
Seeing one at the giant thistles on Cerro San Felipe was outstanding!
BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)
Fairly common in the lowlands.
BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)
We saw a close female on the Yuvila Road.
DUSKY HUMMINGBIRD (Phaeoptila sordida) [E]
One of the most abundant hummers of the tour. We saw them at most of our low elevation sites.
WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna leucotis)
The rhythmic ticking of the high elevations. We saw a few on the Cabeza de Vaca Trail.
GREEN-FRONTED HUMMINGBIRD (CINNAMON-SIDED) (Leucolia viridifrons wagneri) [E]
The common hummers at KM77 with the gleaming white underparts. These are replaced by Violet-crowned Hummingbird just a bit farther north.
BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD (Saucerottia beryllina)
Abundant in the dry forest around Oaxaca City. Conspicuously absent from the dry forest at KM77.
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
I was surprised to see these at Presa Piedra Azul.
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
We saw a handful at Presa Piedra Azul.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
The least expected bird of the tour! One flew over the pines at Cerro San Felipe while we were looking for Dwarf Jays.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
It was cool to see one working the lake shore at Presa Piedra Azul.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)
We encountered this species with regularity on the drives outside Oaxaca City.
HOOK-BILLED KITE (Chondrohierax uncinatus)
We saw a distant bird from the ruins at Monte Alban.
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
WHITE-TAILED HAWK (Geranoaetus albicaudatus)
Jacob spotted one on sitting above Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez. This is a species that's rarely seen sitting.
SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)
A dark morph flew over us at Aranjuez.
ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)
We had an absolutely incredible look at one soaring over the restaurant at La Cumbre.
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (MOUNTAIN) (Glaucidium gnoma gnoma)
As we ascended the dusty road above Teotitlan del Valle, Bret and a few others saw one zip across the road, grab a lizard and zip back down the slope with its prize.
FULVOUS OWL (Strix fulvescens)
One of the thrilling moments of the tour! Shortly after our picnic dinner atop Cerro San Felipe, we heard one calling from below us and after shuffling down the hill, we illuminated it way up on a mossy branch.
MOUNTAIN TROGON (Trogon mexicanus)
We saw one fairly close to us along the Cabeza de Vaca Trail.
RUSSET-CROWNED MOTMOT (Momotus mexicanus)
One of the first birds we saw in the cactus forest of KM77.
GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus varius)
GRAY-BREASTED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes hypopolius) [E]
This cactus-loving endemic was above Teotitlan del Valle and KM 77.
GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER (WEST MEXICO) (Melanerpes aurifrons polygrammus)
We had excellent looks at this handsome woodpecker at KM77.
LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER (Dryobates scalaris)
HAIRY WOODPECKER (SOUTH MEXICAN) (Dryobates villosus jardinii)
NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus mexicanus)
CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
ORANGE-FRONTED PARAKEET (Eupsittula canicularis)
Wow! This was the first time we've seen this species on the tour. They were well up the arroyo at KM77.
STRONG-BILLED WOODCREEPER (CENTRAL AMERICAN) (Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus sclateri)
The taxonomy of this highly distinctive form of Strong-billed Woodcreeper is still being worked out. We had the joy of finding one at Cerro San Felipe and getting scope views of it right at eye level!
WHITE-STRIPED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes leucogaster) [E]
We saw one in the pine/oak zone on the road to Benito Juarez.
SPOT-CROWNED WOODCREEPER (NORTHERN) (Lepidocolaptes affinis affinis)
The woodcreeper we saw from the Yuvila road.
ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)
We saw a pair at the Yuvila road and at close to 10,000 ft on Cerro San Felipe.
NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET (Camptostoma imberbe) [*]
GREENISH ELAENIA (WEST MEXICO) (Myiopagis viridicata jaliscensis) [*]
TUFTED FLYCATCHER (MEXICAN) (Mitrephanes phaeocercus phaeocercus)
GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)
LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)
We had incredible views of several individuals along the road at KM77. How incredible to think that this bird spent the summer in the bog country of Canada!
HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER (Empidonax hammondii)
We had scope views of a cooperative bird near Rio Verde above Teotitlan del Valle.
DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri)
The common Empidonax of the lowlands around Oaxaca City.
PINE FLYCATCHER (Empidonax affinis)
The Empid we saw on the road up to Benito Juarez. It was an olive green, with a peak crest and a bright yellow lower mandible. The "whit" note solidified the ID.
CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis) [*]
Heard at Monte Alban.
BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer) [*]
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)
It was nice to compare this species with Nutting's Flycatcher at Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez.
NUTTING'S FLYCATCHER (NUTTING'S) (Myiarchus nuttingi inquietus)
BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (ARIZONA) (Myiarchus tyrannulus magister)
One showed at KM77.
GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)
SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (VERMILION-CROWNED) (Myiozetetes similis texensis)
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)
CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)
THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)
We saw one with a deformed bill at Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez.
WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)
CHESTNUT-SIDED SHRIKE-VIREO (Vireolanius melitophrys)
How outstanding to see one at eye level on the road to Benito Juarez. Certainly one of the great birds of Mexico!
GOLDEN VIREO (Vireo hypochryseus) [E]
One showed briefly above Teotitlan del Valle.
SLATY VIREO (Vireo brevipennis) [E]
Consider yourself lucky to have seen the electric green tail and wings of the Slaty Vireo as it hopped around in the dry understory at Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez.
DWARF VIREO (Vireo nelsoni) [E]
One zipped around below us on the road above Teotitlan del Valle.
HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)
Ubiquitous in the mountains.
BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)
We saw one in the riparian area at Pollo Niño.
PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)
WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)
We saw both easter and western types.
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)
DWARF JAY (Cyanolyca nanus) [E]
Patience and 100 pesos finally got us the jay! We tried to reach the area where they tend to hang out at Cerro San Felipe, but there was a construction crew that had the road totally blocked off, so we couldn't drive to the spot. We returned the final afternoon of the tour and the guys were still working but they let us through. The jays were foraging quietly with a group of Gray-barred Wrens, Steller's Jays and Rose-throated Becards and they eventually came down to eye level. What a show!
WHITE-THROATED MAGPIE-JAY (Calocitta formosa)
We came across the flock at KM77. They were with a pair of Squirrel Cuckoos.
STELLER'S JAY (CENTRAL AMERICAN) (Cyanocitta stelleri coronata)
These are totally different from the ones in the US. We had several decent views at Cerro San Felipe.
WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (SUMICHRAST'S) (Aphelocoma woodhouseii sumichrasti)
Who's jay is this, Sumichrast's or Woodhouse's? We saw these above Teotitlan del Valle.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)
In the feeding flocks at Cerro San Felipe.
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)
BUSHTIT (MELANOTIS GROUP) (Psaltriparus minimus melanotis)
We saw a small flock on the road above Teotitlan del Valle.
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)
GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa)
We saw a small flock of these high in the conifers at Cerro San Felipe. There aren't many places in Mexico where you can see Golden-crowned Kinglets!
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (INTERIOR WEST) (Sitta carolinensis mexicana)
BROWN CREEPER (ALBESCENS/ALTICOLA) (Certhia americana alticola)
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
WHITE-LORED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila albiloris)
Perhaps the most common bird at KM77. We had great looks at some males with dark helmets.
ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)
CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)
HOUSE WREN (NORTHERN) (Troglodytes aedon parkmanii)
HOUSE WREN (BROWN-THROATED) (Troglodytes aedon brunneicollis)
The resident population of house wrens in the mountains of Oaxaca.
BEWICK'S WREN (MEXICANUS GROUP) (Thryomanes bewickii mexicanus)
GRAY-BARRED WREN (Campylorhynchus megalopterus) [E]
We found several flocks of these noisy gregarious wrens at the high elevations.
RUFOUS-NAPED WREN (SCLATER'S) (Campylorhynchus rufinucha humilis)
The large wren we saw working its way up the columnar cacti at KM77.
BOUCARD'S WREN (Campylorhynchus jocosus) [E]
HAPPY WREN (Pheugopedius felix) [*]
A recent arrival in the Central Valley. We heard some at Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez.
GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (CENTRAL AMERICAN) (Henicorhina leucophrys mexicana)
The tiny wren with a huge voice at Cerro San Felipe.
BLUE MOCKINGBIRD (Melanotis caerulescens) [E*]
A rather uncooperative bird sang profusely just out of view at Monte Alban.
CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (CURVIROSTRE GROUP) (Toxostoma curvirostre curvirostre)
OCELLATED THRASHER (Toxostoma ocellatum) [E]
Estupendo! It's always a challenge to see this species in the breeding season, let alone in the dead of winter. To have one out singing our first morning was quite a treat.
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
BROWN-BACKED SOLITAIRE (Myadestes occidentalis)
The voice of West Mexico. After hearing them all week, we scoped one along the Yuvila Road.
ORANGE-BILLED NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus aurantiirostris)
With a bit of patince, we had scope views of one near Presa Piedra Azul.
RUSSET NIGHTINGALE-THRUSH (Catharus occidentalis) [E]
We had an above average experience with this species at the Cabeza de Vaca Trail. It popped out right at eye level in front of us!
CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (Turdus grayi) [I]
AMERICAN ROBIN (MIGRATORIUS GROUP) (Turdus migratorius phillipsi)
RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN (Turdus rufopalliatus) [I]
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
GRAY SILKY-FLYCATCHER (Ptiliogonys cinereus)
We got super close to some feeding on mistletoe fruit above Teotitlan del Valle.
OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
ELEGANT EUPHONIA (Chlorophonia elegantissima)
These were also in the mistletoes above Teotitlan del Valle.
HOUSE FINCH (COMMON) (Haemorhous mexicanus roseipectus)
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra stricklandi) [*]
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)
BRIDLED SPARROW (Peucaea mystacalis) [E]
We had a fabulous time watching a pair at Ex-Hacienda Aranjuez and KM77.
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)
LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)
CHESTNUT-CAPPED BRUSHFINCH (CHESTNUT-CAPPED) (Arremon brunneinucha suttoni)
This skulker emerged from the dense riparian vegetation along the creek at Cerro San Felipe.
YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)
WHITE-THROATED TOWHEE (Melozone albicollis) [E]
One of the most ubiquitous birds in the Central Valley of Oaxaca. We saw them just about every place we went.
SPOTTED TOWHEE (MACULATUS GROUP) (Pipilo maculatus oaxacae) [*]
COLLARED TOWHEE (Pipilo ocai) [E]
Ahh, what a view! After following a small family group up the road, one sat out and sang from a low hanging branch at Cerro San Felipe.
RUFOUS-CAPPED BRUSHFINCH (Atlapetes pileatus) [E]
This one showed a couple times while we were in the mountains.
BLACK-VENTED ORIOLE (Icterus wagleri)
This handsome oriole was at several spots we birded at around the Central Valley.
STREAK-BACKED ORIOLE (Icterus pustulatus)
The common oriole at KM77.
BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)
We saw a few of these migrants throughout the tour.
AUDUBON'S ORIOLE (DICKEY'S) (Icterus graduacauda dickeyae)
We heard one singing and got a quick look at a female above Teotitlan del Valle.
BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)
We found one along the creek up at Cerro San Felipe.
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
CRESCENT-CHESTED WARBLER (Oreothlypis superciliosa)
Incredible! We watched one probing dead leaves at close range on the Cabeza de Vaca Trail.
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)
One of the more abundant winter warblers in Oaxaca.
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)
We saw one well at Monte Alban and at KM 77. This species tends to like dry forests during the winter months.
MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei) [*]
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)
GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)
TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi)
HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis)
We saw a few up in the pines.
RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER (RUFIFRONS GROUP) (Basileuterus rufifrons rufifrons)
GOLDEN-BROWED WARBLER (Basileuterus belli)
This eye-catching species lives in dense undergrowth at high elevations. We saw some at Cerro San Felipe.
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)
RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)
Bret spotted one near Rio Verde.
RED WARBLER (Cardellina rubra) [E]
Red Warbler almost always gets the most votes when we do our "top three" for the tour and this year was no exception. We had numerous memorable sightings up at Cerro San Felipe.
PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)
SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus miniatus)
HEPATIC TANAGER (NORTHERN) (Piranga flava hepatica)
We had a close cooperative male sit out on an oak branch near Rio Verde.
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)
One of the most abundant migrants. We saw some feeding on the bees that were attracted to the Casahuate flowers.
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
One sat out for a moment at Monte Alban.
BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
ORANGE-BREASTED BUNTING (Passerina leclancherii) [E]
Just as we were walking back to the vans at KM 77, I played the recording in what looked like a good spot and sure enough two birds popped out into view!
EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)
MEXICAN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus aureogaster)
WHITE-NOSED COATI (Nasua narica)
Those in the first van saw a Coati cross the road below Benito Juarez.
At KM 77 we saw a Striped Road Guarder (Conophis vittatus) and a Smith's Rosebelly Lizard (Sceloporus smithi).
Totals for the tour: 184 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa