A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Holiday Mexico: Yucatan & Cozumel 2021

November 20-29, 2021 with Megan Edwards Crewe & Alex Dzib guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
A confiding pair of Cozumel Vireos were a highlight of our stay on the island of Cozumel -- and the first of the tour's endemics. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

There's nothing like a trip south of the border (particularly after several years of being cooped up with little or no roaming possible AT ALL) to make one appreciate the ability to change locations periodically. Our intrepid band braved travel in the time of pandemic -- and HOLIDAY travel at that -- to venture south to a land of warmth and sunshine and plenty of birds. And wasn't a journey to Mexico a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving? Our intrepid group traded turkey and football games for quesadillas and long days in the field, as we worked our way across the (mostly) sunny Yucatan peninsula in search of feathered treasure. And did we ever find it! Of course, there was more than just birds to enjoy. At Chichen Itza and Uxmal, we wandered through the spectacular remains of the vast Mayan cities that once dominated the peninsula, marveling at their scale and construction. In a variety of restaurants, we sampled some of the specialties of the region, including "pibils" wrapped in banana leaves, panuchos, salbutes, and papadzules, and the crowd-pleasing lime soup.

We started our search on the island of Cozumel, just off the eastern coast of the peninsula. Prodigious amounts of rain (at the start of our first morning) and the Cozumel Ironman couldn't deter us, and we were rewarded with some great encounters. Butterscotch-colored Cozumel Vireos pirouetted on branches at eye-level, right beside the group, while snazzy Western Spindalis dazzled from higher branches. Black Catbirds peered from roadside tangles -- or hopped around in the open on the edges of the track. Glittering green Cozumel Emeralds buzzed around a yellow-flowered shrub, and shared a pair of hummingbird feeders with Green-breasted Mangos. A trio of point-blank Ruddy Crakes cavorted along the edge of the marsh, occasionally darting into the road to snatch a tasty morsel. A plethora of overwintering warblers and vireos joined locals to allow some nice comparisons -- White-eyed Vireos side-by-side with Mangrove Vireos, for example, or Yellow-throated and Black-and-white warblers mingling with Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets and the local 'Golden' Yellow Warblers. And two Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures soared overhead near the island's sewage plant -- a surprise sighting in a corner of the country they've only recently colonized.

After a day and a half, we took the ferry across the 13-mile stretch of Bahia Cozumel to the mainland, and headed south to Felipe Carrillo Puerta and the magnificent Sian Ka'an National Biosphere Reserve. New sightings came thick and fast. A Black-headed Trogon led us on a merry chase up and down a rough track while Rose-throated Tanagers peered from treetops. A White-bellied Emerald jousted repeatedly with a Buff-bellied Hummingbird. A Long-billed Gnatwren peered from roadside vegetation, repeatedly singing its "fingers up the comb" song. A drably-plumaged Northern Schiffornis move steadily closer as we whistled its distinctive "Hey Ricky!" call; eventually, it perched on a branch right beside the group and serenaded us for a bit. Gray-throated Chats (a misleadingly dull name if ever there was one, given that the male is handsomely rose-chested) danced along the roadside. Local Mangrove Vireos and White-browed Gnatcatchers mingled with their visiting northern cousins (and plenty of migrant warblers) in busy mixed flocks. A feisty little Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl tooted in a roadside tree. Northern Royal Flycatchers and Eye-ringed Flatbills posed on trailside branches. A male Collared Trogon gleamed among the leaves. Blue Buntings bounded along a trail edge, feeding on the flowering grasses.

Our stop at Chichen Itza was primarily to visit the impressive ruins site, but we also added a few species there and in the birdy hotel district nearby. Chief among our finds was a handsome gang of Yucatan Jays swirling over and through the market stalls lining a pathway at the ruins site. A Bat Falcon perched unobtrusively in a tree near the immense ball court, and a group of Yellow-throated Euphonias gorged at a fruiting mistletoe. A pair of Turquoise-browed Motmots hunted from a spreading Guanacaste tree and a pair of Gartered Trogons posed photogenically, while Collared Aracaris, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and Masked Tityras gobbled fruits from nearby palms. White-fronted Parrots gabbled in a tree just outside our hotel and a noisy flock of Black-headed Saltators nibbled flowers in a bougainvillea bush. A softly calling Lesson's Motmot challenged our search skills; we trotted back and forth under that tree a lot of times before we finally found the right vantage point!

Another outstanding -- and decidedly less crowded -- ruins site awaited us at Uxmal, surrounded by a mix of shorter, drier, scrubbier woodland and scruffy agricultural fields. Two Crane Hawks circled overhead, their red legs glowing in the morning sunshine. Olive Sparrows bounced along a roadside, while a Lineated Woodpecker hammered on a nearby tree branch. Couch's and Tropical kingbirds perched conveniently close together, calling so that we could distinguish them vocally. Mixed flocks of Orange, Altamira and Hooded orioles provided eye candy of the highest order. Yellow-billed Caciques skulked through thick vegetation, periodically flashing their namesake yellow bills. A Yucatan Flycatcher shouted challenges from the top of a tree, showing its distinctively dark undertail. And who will forget the evocative nightly chorus of Singing Quails -- apparently just voices without bodies -- echoing from darkening forest patches?

From Uxmal, we headed west to our next lodge, with a handful of fortuitous finds on the way. A Lesser Roadrunner streaked across the highway in front of the vans, and then paused in a nearby field long enough for us all to get good scope views of it panting in the mid-day heat. A Russet-naped Wood-Rail yodeled from vegetation near a roadside cenote, edging steadily closer to the fence we stood beside. In a muddy pocket of hammock forest, a tiny American Pygmy-Kingfisher rocketed in to a low perch right in front of us, while Yellow-tailed Orioles swirled through the trees overhead. By early afternoon, we'd reached the peninsula's northwestern coast, where the greatest number of the Yucatan's endemics are found, and after a leisurely lunch on the beach, we ventured out in search of them. Yucatan Gnatcatchers scolded from thorny bushes, long tails twitching, while a noisy gang of Yucatan Wrens patrolled the roadside. A female Mexican Sheartail foraged in a weedy bank of flowers, periodically pausing on a strand of barbed wire for a preen and a stretch. Celestun is famous for its flocks of salmon-pink American Flamingos, and our encounters didn't disappoint -- particularly with the addition of Alex's expert commentary. A young Bare-throated Tiger-Heron prowled the marina where we caught the boats for our estuary tour, two Rufous-necked Wood-Rails paraded around a mudflat, Boat-billed Herons chortled as they stepped delicately along mangrove branches, and "Mangrove" Yellow Warblers glowed against the greenery.

Thanks to all of you for helping to make this, my first tour in nearly two years, such fun to lead. Thanks too for coping with all the rigamarole that comes with travel in the time of a pandemic -- mask-wearing, antigen-testing, unexpectedly closed restaurants, slower than normal service, etc. And special thanks to Alex and Juan, who worked so hard to make our visit a success. Let's hope that travel continues to get easier in the new year, and that we can share some adventures elsewhere in the world very soon!


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

Tinamidae (Tinamous)

THICKET TINAMOU (Crypturellus cinnamomeus) [*]

We heard the short, low whistles of this forest dweller in several places while we birded along the road to Laguna Ocum.

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Western Spindalis was another treat on Cozumel -- a particularly colorful one. The subspecies there (benedicti) is endemic to the island, and a potential future split. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Several small groups floated among the Black-winged Stilts on some of the shallow lagoon edges near Celestun. This is typically the most common duck (and very often the ONLY duck) of the tour.

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

PLAIN CHACHALACA (Ortalis vetula)

Our best views came on our evening walk near Celestun, when we found a pair nibbling the buds of a century plant growing along the road. We had others in flight near our hotel in Chichen Itza.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

SINGING QUAIL (Dactylortyx thoracicus) [*]

We were oh-so-close on several occasions -- near our hotel at Uxmal and along the Be-Ha track -- but just couldn't entice the singing birds into view. Still, listening to their loud calls echoing from the forest as dusk slowly descended was pretty atmospheric. In fact, Dave named it as his favorite bird!

Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)

AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber)

One of the highlights of our stay in Celestun was getting up close and personal with these salmon-pink beauties -- particularly in the company of an expert like Alex, who's been studying them for more than two decades.

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Our visit to Cozumel coincided with the running of the 2021 Ironman Cozumel competition -- with its nearly 3000 competitors! Photo by participant Suzi Cole.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps) [b]

Three or four dozen floated in a mat of surface vegetation on Laguna Celestun. These were newly arrived from the north, the vanguard of a much larger invasion to follow.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Regular around town on Cozumel, including one pecking determinedly at a Cheeto someone had dropped on the sidewalk near where we boarded the ferry, with others in Celestun.

WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)

We had a few flyovers while birding along the track out to Alberto's on Cozumel, but our best views came at the island's north end, when Jan spotted us one perched up nicely on a dead snag. That crown is certainly eye-catching!

RED-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas flavirostris)

Best seen along the San Simon road, where we found a few nibbling fruits in a treetop; we saw others in flight across the peninsula. Our scope views allowed us to see that the bills are actually yellow (as the scientific name says) with only a narrow ring of red at the base.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Seen in small numbers on several days days. This species has spread widely across the peninsula since first arriving some two decades or so ago.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

One in the middle of the San Simon road on our second visit and others around Celestun. Typically far less common and widespread than the next species.

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We had some especially nice views of the diminutive Yucatan Woodpecker on Cozumel. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

Common across the peninsula, including lots rummaging in the streets of El Cedral and a little group resting in a bush along the Santa Teresa road, near where we found our first Turquoise-browed Motmot.

BLUE GROUND DOVE (Claravis pretiosa)

A few lucky folks happened to be looking in the right direction when one of these bigger ground doves flashed in and landed just above eye level while we searched for the trogon along the Vigia Chico track. Unfortunately, it flew off again almost immediately.

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

One trundled around in the middle of the track out to Santa Teresa, looking plump. We heard its blowing-across-a-soda-bottle song well along the San Simon road on our first morning in Uxmal.

CARIBBEAN DOVE (Leptotila jamaicensis)

A singing bird in El Cedral proved surprisingly difficult to get a good look at, as it had positioned itself perfectly behind a screen of branches. We did all get scope views of its distinctively pale head with its red eye ring -- and we certainly all got acquainted with its mournful song!

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Several large flocks flew over us while we birded on Cozumel, and we saw others on the mainland -- particularly around Uxmal.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

Missing from Cozumel, but regularly seen on most other days of the tour, including a noisy gang sunning along the Santa Teresa road late one afternoon, giving us the chance to study their grooved bills in the scopes.

LESSER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx velox)

Alex spotted one sprinting off the road as we drove to Celestun, and a quick scan after we piled out of the vans soon located it. We had some super views before it crept slowly off into the thicker growth.

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A pair of Yellow-faced Grassquits posed by the parking lot of Alberto's Restaurant on the beach at Cozumel, allowing participant Valerie Gebert to snap this fine portrait.

SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)

Great views on several days, including one high overhead in the forest along the Vijia Chico track and others on the Santa Teresa road. The subspecies found in the Yucatan peninsula has a blackish belly and undertail.

MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)

One flashed in along the track out to Alberto's while we were looking at something else. It showed us all sides as it perched on a series of branches, then disappeared silently off into the forest.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis)

One in the middle of the Santa Teresa road for those in Alex's van, and another hunting from the edge of the San Simon road near Uxmal. The long tail of this species is distinctive.

YUCATAN POORWILL (Nyctiphrynus yucatanicus) [*]

We heard one calling (and calling and calling) from the dark forest along the Santa Teresa road, but couldn't get it to budge.

Apodidae (Swifts)

VAUX'S SWIFT (YUCATAN) (Chaetura vauxi gaumeri)

Common in the skies over Felipe Carillo Puerta, with a sprinkling of others along the San Simon road. This endemic subspecies is found only on the northern Yucatan peninsula.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

GREEN-BREASTED MANGO (Anthracothorax prevostii)

A female danced over one of the roads in El Cedral, hunting insects, and a male shared a nearby feeder with a Cozumel Emerald.

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A Yucatan Vireo on Cozumel does its best chickadee imitation, hanging upside down as it searches for tidbits. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

MEXICAN SHEARTAIL (Doricha eliza) [E]

Lovely looks at a perched female along the coast road north of Celestun one evening, with other males and females seen in flight later and the following day. This species is found only in a narrow strip along the coast of northern Yucatan.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris) [b]

A female fed in a tree full of white flowers near where we parked for coffee on the San Simon road, perching repeatedly on the same few dead twigs.

COZUMEL EMERALD (Chlorostilbon forficatus) [E]

Regular around Cozumel, with especially nice views of a glittering male perched (and later jousting with another male) in a shrub covered with yellow flowers in El Cedral. We found others (both male and female) buzzing around several feeders elsewhere in El Cedral, along the road to Alberto's beach, and at the island's north end. This species was formerly considered to be a subspecies of the next.

CANIVET'S EMERALD (Chlorostilbon canivetii)

Several foraged along the road to Laguna Ocum. Males of this species have shorter tail feathers than male Cozumel Emeralds do, and females show less white at the base of their tails.

WEDGE-TAILED SABREWING (Campylopterus curvipennis)

Arg! One made a very brief appearance along the trail at Laguna Ocum, but zipped away before most of the group spotted it.

WHITE-BELLIED EMERALD (Amazilia candida)

A few along the road into Laguna Ocum -- including one repeatedly tangling with a Buff-bellied Hummingbird -- with others around the parking lot of our Chichen hotel.

BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia yucatanensis)

Seen well along the road into Laguna Ocum, where we found several perched and others foraging -- and fighting. We had others along the San Simon road.


Surprisingly scarce this year (considering that the 2019 triplist called them "the most common hummingbird of the trip"). Our best views came around Celestun, where they were regular; a few folks also spotted one in a bush right outside our Chichen hotel.

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Cozumel Emerald was the other endemic we found on the island. This was split from the mainland's Canivet's Emerald, which is distinctly shorter-tailed. Photo by participant Valerie Gebert.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

RUFOUS-NECKED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides axillaris)

Wow! This often skulking species put on an excellent show along the road into Celestun, with an adult and a nearly fully-grown youngster parading around at the edge of the mangroves.

RUSSET-NAPED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides albiventris)

A calling bird crept closer and closer along the edge of a roadside cenote on our drive to Celestun. This was formerly considered to be a subspecies of the now-defunct Gray-necked Wood-Rail.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

A raft of 50 or so floated in a tight cluster in the middle of Laguna Celestun, seen as we finished our brief leg stretch around the boardwalk on Bird Island.

RUDDY CRAKE (Laterallus ruber)

At least a half dozen around the sewage treatment plant at Cozumel's north end, including a trio that scurried along the edge of the road, repeatedly darting out to grab tasty morsels and then retreating to the grassy edges where they stood in plain view. They're certainly aptly named!

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Dozens strode around on their long pink legs in various puddles and along lagoon edges in Celestun.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) [b]

Two scuttled back and forth along the beach at Alberto's, seen while we birded before our lunch there. This is a winter visitor to the region.

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Watching a trio of Ruddy Crakes scurrying around in the open was a fun way to spend our last morning on the island. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

SNOWY PLOVER (Charadrius nivosus)

A couple rested in the shadow of a Black-necked Stilt at the edge of a pond near the bridge at Celestun. This species breeds on the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, with numbers augmented by visitors from further north in the winter.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus) [b]

We heard one calling as we walked out to the cenote at Laguna Ocum and spotted a couple of others along the edge of one of the lagoons near Celestun. These are winter visitors to the Yucatan.

Jacanidae (Jacanas)

NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa)

A handful of stripey-faced youngsters were seen around the wastewater treatment plant on Cozumel's north end, and a chestnut adult strode around the edges of Lake Ocum.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) [b]

A little party worked along the beachfront sidewalk in the middle of Cozumel, completely oblivious to passing traffic. This is a winter visitor to the Yucatan.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) [b]

A single bird trooped back and forth through a puddle near Cozumel's sewage treatment plant, and a few little flocks scurried along the edges of lagoons near Celestun. Like the other sandpipers on this list, this one is a winter visitor.

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata) [b]

One flushed up from the marsh near the treatment plant at the north end of Cozumel island and made several circles over us before finally dropping back down out of sight. This is another winter visitor.

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We had some nice close encounters with Brown Pelicans at both ends of our ferry crossing to the mainland. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) [b]

One near the Black-bellied Plovers along Alberto's beach demonstrated nicely its distinctively stiff-winged flight. We saw a handful of others around Celestun.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca) [b]

Regular around Celestun, including some in nice comparison with some Lesser Yellowlegs where we admired our first close flamingos.

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata) [b]

A few poked along the fringes of Laguna Celestun. This too is a winter visitor.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes) [b]

Best seen near where we admired our close flamingos before breakfast on our last morning, when we found several dozen foraging along the edge of the lagoon.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

A scattering on Cozumel with much bigger numbers around Celestun. This resident species is by far the most common gull of the trip.

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus) [b]

A few grubby-looking youngsters seen around Celestun; this is a relatively uncommon winter visitor to the peninsula.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

One flapped past Alberto's restaurant on Cozumel, and another did the same at the island's ferry terminal.

SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)

A handful circled around and threw themselves into the water near the ferry terminal on Cozumel.

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Our first afternoon on the mainland brought us some fine views of Rose-throated Tanagers -- one of the Yucatan peninsula's regional endemics. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Ciconiidae (Storks)

WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

Several seen soaring high over Celestun.

Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)


Regular in the skies over Cozumel and Celestun, including a few making half-hearted dives at passing cormorants while we were on our boat trip.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

One flew over while we checked out the cenote in Laguna Ocum, showing its pencil-thin neck and long, squared tail.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

Small numbers around Celestun, including one drying out in a mangrove at Ria Celestun, just across the road from where we found our wood-rails.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Very common around Celestun, with dozens flying past along the beaches and others hunting in the lagoons and ponds around the town.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) [b]

A few of these large winter visitors sailed overhead as we motored up the big lagoon at Celestun on our boat trip.

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One of the highlights of our visit to the Laguna Ocum area was finding (Northern) Royal Flycatchers on territory as we walked along one of the trails on our second morning there. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Very common along the coast, including a few floating alongside the ferry docks on our journey from Cozumel to the mainland.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma mexicanum)

A couple of adults bickered as they flashed through the mangroves near the road into Celestun on our last morning, and a wonderfully tame youngster hunted at the marina where we caught our boat for the flamingo tour.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) [b]

A few sprinkled along the edges of various lagoons and waterways near Celestun. These are winter visitors to the Yucatan peninsula.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

A few flew past the restaurant at Alberto's beach, and we saw others around Celestun. Resident birds along the coast of the Yucatan peninsula are augmented by winter visitors from further north.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

A trio strode through a puddle in El Cedral, and dozens of others foraged around the lagoons of Celestun. Like the previous species, residents are joined by winter visitors during the time of our tour.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea) [b]

Both adults and immature birds were seen in the marshy area around Cozumel's sewage treatment plant, and we saw others in flight over the San Simon road. But the biggest numbers were around Celestun, where these winter visitors proved particularly common.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor) [b]

Two dropped in to an apparently hidden pool near Alberto's restaurant on Cozumel, and we saw others around Celestun. This is another winter visitor to the Yucatan peninsula.

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And here's the gang enjoying close views of one of those flycatchers! Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens) [b]

A single bird ran around like a mad thing, chasing small prey in a pool at the edge of Celestun. This is yet another winter visitor.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

A few rummaged around the feet of some cows near the roadside cenote where we found our Russet-naped Wood-Rail.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

A few hunted among the mangrove roots along the road into Celestun, peering intently into the water below them.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

A few with some Boat-billed Herons on one of the mangrove islands we checked during our Celestun boat trip.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

A youngster stood on a pole in one of the roadside puddles north of Celestun one evening, and an adult stalked prey in the shallows of the lagoon we visited on our early morning outing for flamingos.

BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius)

A few chortled from the mangroves near the road into Celestun, sounding surprisingly monkey-like as they stepped delicately along the arching roots. Those in Megan's boat got even closer to one on a mangrove island during our boat tour.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

Small flocks over the north end of Cozumel, with bigger numbers -- including a fair few youngsters -- around Celestun.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Abundant and ubiquitous, seen every day of the tour, often in significant numbers -- like the big groups circling in thermals over the hot roadsides as we drove back to Merida on the tour's last day.

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Laguna Ocum gave us good looks at a number of species we didn't see elsewhere, including these handsome Yellow-winged Tanagers. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Less common than the previous species, but still present in good numbers -- though somehow we missed recording them one day!

LESSER YELLOW-HEADED VULTURE (Cathartes burrovianus)

Two rocking over the sewage treatment plant at the north end of Cozumel were a surprise; Alex says this species first started showing up on the island about five years ago. We saw others, more expectedly, around Celestun.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

One flapped past our Cozumel hotel on our second morning, and we saw others around Celestun. This species is known to breed in Quintana Roo, but is only a winter visitor elsewhere on the Yucatan peninsula.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

A big female sailed across the road in front of the vans, seen by a few folks as we drove back to Merida on the final day of the tour. This is an uncommon species on the Yucatan peninsula.

CRANE HAWK (Geranospiza caerulescens)

Two circled over the scrubby forest along the San Simon road, eventually spiraling right over our heads. We had great looks at their distinctively "pinch-winged" look, the whitish crescents near their wingtips and their bright red legs.

ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)

The tour's most common raptor, recorded on four days -- including a very cooperative perched bird along the track into Laguna Ocum.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

Super studies of a patient adult perched on a telephone wire right beside the road -- which stayed perched even when we pulled up right beside it.

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Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls proved to be far more obliging than their Middle American Screech-Owl cousins! We had multiple excellent views, including this one along the Santa Teresa road one afternoon. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Strigidae (Owls)

MIDDLE AMERICAN SCREECH-OWL (MIDDLE AMERICAN) (Megascops guatemalae thompsoni) [*]

Arg! There were undoubtedly at least two and possibly three pairs calling from the scrubby forest along the ranch track near San Simon, but we just couldn't pull any of them into view. Phooey!

FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium brasilianum)

These little owls, on the other hand, proved wonderfully obliging, perching right out in the open on multiple occasions. Linda spotted us our first, as it tooted from a tree right beside the Santa Teresa track, and we found others near the hotel parking lot at Chichen (part of that great morning's flurry of birds) and along the San Simon road.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

BLACK-HEADED TROGON (Trogon melanocephalus)

A calling male led us on a merry chase up and down the mosquito-infested trail in to Sian Ka'an on the afternoon we drove to Felipe Carrillo Puerto before finally revealing himself, and we spotted another along the track into Laguna Ocum the following morning. This is the larger of the two yellow-bellied trogons we can see on this tour.

GARTERED TROGON (Trogon caligatus)

These, the smallest of the tour's trogons, were seen well on several days, including a very cooperative pair we found along the edge of Mayaland property while trying to locate a Lesson's Motmot. The thinly barred undertail of this species helps to separate it from the previous one.

COLLARED TROGON (Trogon collaris)

A male along the trail at Laguna Ocum let us study him from all sides as he moved from perch to perch. Great spotting, Suzi!

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We got some lovely looks at Turquoise-browed Motmot in the Chichen hotel district. This must surely be the prettiest of the motmots! Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Momotidae (Motmots)

LESSON'S MOTMOT (Momotus lessonii exiguus)

It took a couple of visits -- and some patience -- but we finally spotted one near the cenote at Chichen after tracking down its soft "mot mot" call. This is one of the five species that resulted from the split of the former Blue-crowned Motmot.

TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT (Eumomota superciliosa)

Regular in the middle part of the tour, with particularly nice views of several hunting from a huge spreading Guanacaste tree down the road from our Chichen hotel.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) [b]

One flew past Albert's beach on Cozumel, and we saw others around Laguna Celestun. This is a winter visitor to Mexico.


A little male rocketed in to the hidden pond we visited in the hammock forest, on our way to Celestun, and perched mere yards away from us, giving us all some really great views. We saw others along the road at Ria Celestun, and on our boat trip.

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

One perched (and ticking) among the arching mangrove roots at Ria Celestun, along the road into the town, was part of a flurry of birds we spotted while angling for a better look at the tiger-herons.

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Of course, the Yucatan is famous for more than just birds. Remnants of the ancient Mayan civilization that flourished there thousands of years ago still stud the landscape. This is the restored El Castillo at Chichen Itza. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Ramphastidae (Toucans)

COLLARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus torquatus)

Our best views probably came at Chichen Itza, where we found one feeding on palm fruits right over the parking lot at the Mayaland resort. We had another little party along the road into Laguna Ocum.

KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

Unfortunately, we didn't all get a really good look at these big toucans; they always seemed to be either in flight or tucked well into the leaves at the very top of a tree! They were regular around Laguna Ocum.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)


A youngster hitched its way up a tree in someone's back garden in El Cedral, showing well its distinctive, broad, white wing stripe. Interestingly, when Howell and Webb's field guide was published in 1995, there were apparently no records of this species on Cozumel.

YUCATAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pygmaeus)

Particularly fine views of our first, seen on the crossbar of a telephone pole along the track to Alberto's beach. Through the scopes, we could even examine those golden nasal tufts.

GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER (VELASQUEZ'S) (Melanerpes aurifrons dubius)

Two along the track to Santa Teresa, seen high in one of the bigger trees shortly after we spotted our first Turquoise-browed Motmot. Despite the name, the nasal tufts of this species are red -- hence perhaps the subspecies name "dubius"!


All-too-brief views of one that perched briefly across from where we'd parked for "breakfast #1" on the San Simon road, on our full day at Uxmal.

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Needless to say, we continued to bird even at the ruins site. A noisy gang of Yucatan Jays briefly interrupted our guided tour. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER (Campephilus guatemalensis)

Another all-too-brief look -- one clinging to a telephone pole along the road into Laguna Ocum bounded off into the forest just about as soon as we piled out of the vans.

LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus)

One at a nest hole in a phone pole along the track into Laguna Ocum gave us a good chance for study, as did another on our foggy morning along the San Simon road.

GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus)

One along the Laguna Ocum track bounded off before everybody got a look. Fortunately, we found another near the start of the San Simon ranch road that proved (eventually) a bit more cooperative.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

COLLARED FOREST-FALCON (Micrastur semitorquatus) [*]

Well, we certainly HEARD it well -- and on five different days of the tour! Unfortunately, we never connected with any of those calling birds.

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara cheriway)

One far down the road out of Celestun, a bit fuzzy in the scopes due to heat haze, seen as it repeatedly jumped out onto the pavement to gobble some unfortunate, squashed creature.

BAT FALCON (Falco rufigularis)

One sat high in trees overlooking the ballcourt at Chichen Itza, completely ignoring the hordes of visitors.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

WHITE-FRONTED PARROT (Amazona albifrons)

Common and widespread throughout much of the tour, including dozens along the San Simon road on each of our visits. We had especially nice studies of several noisy birds clambering around in the trees right outside our Chichen hotel on our early morning outing there.

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The Golden-fronted Woodpeckers in the Yucatan aren't actually golden-fronted! Those red nasal tufts are likely the reason behind their subspecies name: dubius. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

YELLOW-LORED PARROT (Amazona xantholora)

A few small groups, always in flight, over us as we birded along the track in to Laguna Ocum. Sadly, this species seems to be slowly disappearing from many of its former haunts.


Scope views of a few feeding in a fruiting tree near the Cozumel sewage works, with others over the track into Laguna Ocum and around Celestun. The long, pointed tail of this species quickly distinguishes it from any of the tour's other parrots.

Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)

BARRED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus doliatus) [*]

This normally showy species proved surprisingly tough to get a look at, though we heard them well on several days. Unfortunately, they were only seen as vague shapes moving through the bushes.

Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER (GRAYISH) (Sittasomus griseicapillus gracileus)

One of these little woodcreepers crawled up a series of tree trunks all around us along the track at Laguna Ocum, giving us multiple good looks. This "widespread species" is actually a group of closely-related cryptic species; the songs of birds in various areas are considerably different.

TAWNY-WINGED WOODCREEPER (Dendrocincla anabatina) [*]

We heard the loud, distinctive "TWO" call of this small species along the trail at Vigia Chico but couldn't entice the bird out to where we could see it.

IVORY-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster)

Nice views on several days, including one hitching its way up a tree along the road into Laguna Ocum and another in the big Guanacaste tree near the Mayaland Chichen hotel.

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We had some great looks at Masked Tityra in the Chichen hotel zone. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA (Tityra inquisitor)

Jan spotted us a pair at the top of a tree along the road into Laguna Ocum. This is typically the less common of the two tityra species possible on the tour.

MASKED TITYRA (Tityra semifasciata)

Especially nice views of several gobbling berries just up the road from our Chichen hotel, with another female on the Santa Teresa road. Their "little piggy" grunting calls are pretty distinctive.

NORTHERN SCHIFFORNIS (Schiffornis veraepacis)

Wow! We heard the immediately recognizable "Hey Ricky" call of this species along the trail at Laguna Ocum, and some patient whistling brought the bird right in beside us -- where it sat for a few minutes, whistling back.

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

Our first was a female high in a big Guanacaste tree near the visitor's center at Laguna Ocum. We found another pair in a Guanacaste tree on the grounds of the Mayaland Chichen hotel later in the tour.

Oxyruncidae (Sharpbill, Royal Flycatcher, and Allies)

ROYAL FLYCATCHER (NORTHERN) (Onychorhynchus coronatus mexicanus)

Yahoo! This was definitely one of the stars of the tour -- a very obliging bird that sat for long minutes right in the open near the trail at Laguna Ocum. In fact, there were two -- and maybe even three, given that we found another further down the trail.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

STUB-TAILED SPADEBILL (Platyrinchus cancrominus) [*]

Arg! We chased the soft three-note song of this little forest species several times along the trail at Laguna Ocum, but never caught up with the singers.

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Black-headed Saltators also showed nicely there, as they foraged in a flowering bougainvillea bush. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

NORTHERN BENTBILL (Oncostoma cinereigulare)

The soft calls of these little flycatchers alerted us to their presence, but the birds themselves were certainly a challenge to locate! We got there in the end though -- with some folks catching up to one or more along the Laguna Ocum road, and others with one on the trail there.

EYE-RINGED FLATBILL (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris)

One flicked through the middle canopy of some trees along the track down to the visitor's center at Laguna Ocum. There aren't many birds that are so well named!

YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (GRAY-HEADED) (Tolmomyias sulphurescens cinereiceps)

As usual, we heard far more than we saw, but we did have reasonably good studies of one along the rough track into Sian Ka'an on our first afternoon on the mainland. This is another "species" that is actually a group of closely-related "cryptic species" -- similar in appearance but very different in voice and genetics.


One noisy little bird on the track down to Alberto's beach was very cooperative, singing from branches right over the road. Its small size, noticeable crest and pink-based bill make it easy to identify.

YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)

A vocal pair near the thatched shelters in the middle of El Cedral were showy as they shouted from treetops.

CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica)

One along the road down to Alberto's beach on Cozumel.

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens) [b]

The long primary projection of this northern migrant help to distinguish it from the next species. One on a telephone wire on the road to Alberto's let us get good looks at that feature in the scopes.

TROPICAL PEWEE (Contopus cinereus)

One made repeated sorties from a pile of cut branches under the utility wires along the Be-Ha track, and another hunted from tall weeds along the road to San Simon.

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A Yucatan Squirrel was as interested in the palm fruits as the Golden-fronted Woodpeckers were! Photo by participant Valerie Gebert.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)

Quite common across the Yucatan peninsula, recorded on five days -- including multiples hunting along the road into Laguna Ocum.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

Found only on the dry western side of the peninsula, with one at the cenote where we found our Russet-naped Wood-Rail, and others around Celestun.

BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA (Attila spadiceus)

A calling bird along the track down to Alberto's flicked through the trees on both sides of us, showing us its plumage from nearly every conceivable angle. The subspecies (cozumelae) is endemic to the island. We heard others along the track into Laguna Ocum, but didn't see them.

YUCATAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus yucatanensis)

Alex's keen ear caught the call of this one along the San Simon road, and playing a recording of that call brought the bird right in for a closer look.

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

One in a big tree over the Vigia Chico track showed the distinctively rusty feather edges of birds of the laurenceii subgroup. It was quickly upstaged by our first Turquoise-browed Motmot!


One of these winter visitors showed nicely -- and called as well -- along the track into Laguna Ocum.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

Our best views came during our "first breakfast" outside Hacienda Uxmal, when a very territorial calling bird zipped into trees right near where we stood. This is the largest -- and largest billed -- of the Myiarchus flycatchers possible on our tour route.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

Seen every day but our last -- and we probably just overlooked a handful that day!

BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua)

A few noisy pairs tangling in the big Guanacaste trees in the hotel district around Chichen allowed good studies. That beak is pretty substantial!

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We had plenty of opportunities to try some local dishes too. Sopa de lima, or lime soup, is a Yucatan specialty. Photo by participant Suzi Cole.

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis)

Regular throughout, typically in noisy (and appropriately social) gangs.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Ubiquitous, recorded every day, often in good numbers. Their twittering calls were a regular part of the tour soundtrack.

COUCH'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus couchii)

Heard on many days, but our best views came along the road to San Simon, where we found a handful of birds shouting from the treetops once the sun broke through the fog.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)


Seen or heard all but one day of the tour, with a couple of pale-bellied birds seen along the road down to Alberto's beach (subspecies insularis) and some yellower-bellied ones (subspecies yucatanensis) at Chichen.

TAWNY-CROWNED GREENLET (Tunchiornis ochraceiceps) [*]

We heard the distinctive clear whistles and chatters of this small vireo along the track at Laguna Ocum, near where we found our first Northern Royal Flycatcher.

LESSER GREENLET (Pachysylvia decurtata)

A few seen in the more forested parts of the mainland, including some near our first Yellow-olive Flycatcher along the rough track into Sian Ka'an on our first afternoon on the mainland, and another handful with a mixed flock along the road into Laguna Ocum.

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus) [b]

Regular across much of the peninsula, with especially nice views of several along the track into Laguna Ocum -- including one in good comparison with a pair of the next species.

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We saw two different subspecies of Rufous-browed Peppershrike. This is the yellow-bellied mainland form: subspecies yucatanensis. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

MANGROVE VIREO (Vireo pallens)

A singing pair along the road into Laguna Ocum were quite cooperative, spending long minutes out in the open as they clambered through the roadside bushes hunting for food. We had others around Celestun, and heard more on the road to San Simon.

COZUMEL VIREO (Vireo bairdi) [E]

We almost could have reached out and touched a couple along the track out to Alberto's; what a gorgeous bird!

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons) [b]

One flicked through the treetops along the track down to Alberto's beach on Cozumel, and another worked along the edge of the road in to Laguna Ocum.

YUCATAN VIREO (Vireo magister)

A couple along the road down to Alberto's beach (seen right after we found our Cozumel Vireos) with others in El Cedral.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio)

A few noisy flocks kept an eye on us as we progressed down the road to Laguna Ocum each day.

GREEN JAY (Cyanocorax yncas)

Regular throughout, including one that briefly interrupted our Chichen tour. This subspecies (maya) has yellow eyes.

YUCATAN JAY (Cyanocorax yucatanicus)

A big, noisy flock swirled through the trees along one of the tracks at Chichen Itza, briefly disrupting our walk from the site's observatory to the main plaza. There were a handful of yellow-billed youngsters (also sporting big yellow eye rings) among the group.

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From Chichen, we moved on to Uxmal, where the remains of another ancient Mayan city awaited us. This is the spectacular Pyramid of the Magician, also known as the Dwarf's Palace. Photo by participant Valerie Gebert.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

The birds we saw on Cozumel -- which appeared in swirling swarms overhead on several occasions -- all appeared to be northern (i.e. migrants).

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (RIDGWAY'S) (Stelgidopteryx serripennis ridgwayi)

A few of the low swallows over the San Simon road were this southern subspecies, best told by the dark undertail coverts -- which can be pretty tough to see on flying birds!

MANGROVE SWALLOW (Tachycineta albilinea)

Those perched on the observation blind at the cenote near the visitor's center at Laguna Ocum gave us particularly nice views. There were others pacing our boat on the Laguna Celestun.

CAVE SWALLOW (Petrochelidon fulva)

A mix of these swallows and some Vaux's Swifts zipped overhead while we birded along the San Simon road.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

LONG-BILLED GNATWREN (Ramphocaenus melanurus)

A furtive pair along the road into Laguna Ocum made us work for a look -- but I think most of us got there in the end. We all certainly heard their "fingers on a comb" call though!

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

A few with mixed flocks on both Cozumel (along Alberto's beach road) and the mainland. These are winter visitors from further north. There is a subspecies (mexicana) endemic to the peninsula.

YUCATAN GNATCATCHER (Polioptila albiventris) [E]

Great views of several pairs around Celestun -- some almost within arm's reach! This is one of Mexico's newest endemics.

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We finally got some close views of a Lineated Woodpecker on a foggy morning along the San Simon road. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (COZUMEL I.) (Troglodytes aedon beani)

After struggling to get much of a look at our first, we got a wonderful serenade from another that sat right up on top of a dead snag along Alberto's beach road, singing its heart out.

CAROLINA WREN (WHITE-BROWED) (Thryothorus ludovicianus albinucha) [*]

Jan heard one -- doing its familiar "teakettle" song -- when we entered the main grounds of Mayaland Chichen as dusk approached.

YUCATAN WREN (Campylorhynchus yucatanicus) [E]

A nice encounter with these big, social wrens north of Celestun on our first afternoon there, with others near where we admired our close flamingos the following morning.

SPOT-BREASTED WREN (Pheugopedius maculipectus)

Common throughout -- though more often heard than seen -- with our best views probably coming on our first afternoon on the mainland, when we found a few working along the rough track in to Sian Ka'an. Others at Laguna Ocum helped catch up those who'd missed the first ones.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

BLACK CATBIRD (Melanoptila glabrirostris)

Satisfyingly common on Cozumel, with others along the road into Laguna Ocum. Though it's called a "catbird", this one doesn't make any cat-like noises.

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

Scattered individuals, including one bouncing around the same stretch of road as the previous species on our walk down to Alberto's beach.


Ubiquitous, recorded every day of the tour.

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Then we were off to Celestun, on the peninsula's west coast. A Russet-naped Wood-Rail along the edge of a roadside cenote on the drive was a super find. Photo by participant Valerie Gebert.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)

We heard one chuckling along the road down to Alberto's beach, and many in the group spotted another perched in the forest near the boardwalk trail at Laguna Ocum. This winter visitor is in serious decline, with only a fraction of the numbers seen even a decade ago.


Most common in the forest around Sian Ka'an -- including one found during our search for trogons on our first afternoon on the mainland -- with a couple of others atop trees along the San Simon road.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

SCRUB EUPHONIA (Euphonia affinis)

A pair nibbled mistletoe berries in a clump over the shelter at the Laguna Ocum visitor's center, giving us the chance to study the male's distinctively dark bib and throat.

YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia hirundinacea)

A small group foraged on mistletoe berries in one of the trees along a path at Chichen Itza. Most were drabber females, but one was a brightly colored male that showed the yellow chin and throat that distinguishes him from a male Scrub Euphonia.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

A few flicked around the streets of El Cedral, including a pair that perched out in the open on some telephone wires, giving us the chance to study them in the scope.

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A tiny American Pygmy-Kingfisher zipped in to perch right in front of us when we visited a hammock forest pool not far from Celestun. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

OLIVE SPARROW (Arremonops rufivirgatus)

Though our first was a bit elusive, other birds along the San Simon road were far more accommodating, sitting up on bare branches where we could study them.

GREEN-BACKED SPARROW (Arremonops chloronotus)

Finding our first as it bounced along the road into Laguna Ocum led to us spotting a host of other species in the same area. Another bird along the trail through the forest there gave us a great chance to see it from all possible angles as it moved through some trees around us.

Spindalidae (Spindalises)

WESTERN SPINDALIS (COZUMEL I.) (Spindalis zena benedicti)

Quite common on Cozumel, with multiple birds seen well -- especially those in some trees near where we parked at El Cedral. The subspecies "benedicti" is endemic to the island. It differs strongly from other Western Spindalis subspecies both vocally and plumage-wise and is a good candidate for future splitting.

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


Val spotted one near where we parked for our coffee break on the San Simon road; unfortunately, it played a bit "hard to get"! Luckily, another bird across the road proved far more cooperative, swiveling for several minutes on a small branch right in the open.

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Our attention in that hammock forest was divided between the kingfisher (sitting low over the water) and some handsome Yellow-tailed Orioles over our heads. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-BILLED CACIQUE (Amblycercus holosericeus)

The little group we found along the Be-Ha track were typically reticent, skulking in the thickest vegetation and only popping up briefly into the open for a look around.

BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE (Icterus prosthemelas)

A pair foraging low in a flowering tree along the track into Laguna Ocum were very cooperative, as were others near our "first breakfast" spot along the San Simon road.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

Common and widespread, seen on all but one day of the tour.

YELLOW-TAILED ORIOLE (Icterus mesomelas)

A single bird along the ranch track we walked in our fruitless search for Ocellated Turkeys was a nice consolation prize. We had others just over our heads in the hammock forest we stopped at on our way to Celestun. As its name suggests, the all-yellow undertail of this black-and-yellow oriole is distinctive.

ORANGE ORIOLE (Icterus auratus)

Our first was along the track into Laguna Ocum, but our best views came along the San Simon road, where we found some in good comparison with nearby Altamira Orioles.

ALTAMIRA ORIOLE (Icterus gularis)

Regular on the latter half of the tour, including some fine views around Mayaland Chichen and along the San Simon road. This big oriole is distinguished by the large orange wedge on its coverts.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula) [b]

A male at Mayaland Chichen blended perfectly with the flowers it was feeding on.

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Celestun is probably most famous for its flocks of American Flamingos. Our close encounters with these colorful birds were enhanced by Alex's extensive knowledge of their life history. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

Especially nice looks at a male having a bath in the fountain at Mayaland Chichen, seen as we walked in for breakfast.


Daily on the mainland, including several rummaging in the forest at the start of the trail at Laguna Ocum and several along the edges of the road in the Chichen hotel district.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Abundant and widespread, seen in big numbers every day.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla) [b]

One strutted around on a side track at our picnic spot on Cozumel's north end, cocking its tail up repeatedly like a tiny bantam chicken.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) [b]

A couple shared the shadowy track with the previous species, and others paraded around on arching mangrove roots in Laguna Celestun.

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

Small numbers on Cozumel and around Laguna Ocum, including one (bizarrely) singing as if it were on territory.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

Those in Alex's boat spotted one near the entrance to the "mangrove tunnel" during our Celestun boat trip.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina) [b]

A little party of a half dozen or so feeding in the tangled vegetation near Alberto's restaurant on Cozumel gave us some great looks as we waited for lunch.

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The dry scrub on the Yucatan peninsula's northern and western edges is home to a number of endemic species. This female Mexican Sheartail is one of them. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

GRAY-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis poliocephala)

One in the marshy area near Cozumel's sewage treatment plant showed nicely. The black on this one's face is confined to its lores.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

A few on Cozumel, including some in the same area as the previous yellowthroat.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina) [b]

Best seen at the visitor's center for Laguna Ocum, where we watched a male hunting actively right in front of where we parked the vans.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) [b]

Small numbers on about half the days of the tour, with adult males far outnumbered by females and youngsters.

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina) [b]

One, seen all too briefly, in trees over one of the more ramshackle houses in El Cedral.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana) [b]

Fairly common on Cozumel, with others in mixed flocks around Laguna Ocum, Uxmal and Celestun.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia) [b]

A scattering along the road down to Alberto's with others in mixed flocks on the track into Laguna Ocum. Like most of the warblers, this one is a winter visitor.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) [b]

A few on Cozumel (particularly in the marshy area at the island's north end), with another in a mixed flock near our Chichen hotel. These are the winter visitors from further north.

YELLOW WARBLER (MANGROVE) (Setophaga petechia bryanti)

Our first was a speckly-faced female near the viewing platform on the way in to Celestun. We found others, including several red-headed males, among the mangroves on our boat trip later the same day.

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The Yucatan is home to three different subspecies of Yellow Warbler. This "Mangrove Yellow Warbler" (which is split by some taxonomic authorities) is restricted to the coasts. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

YELLOW WARBLER (GOLDEN) (Setophaga petechia rufivertex)

Some great studies of a few with mixed flocks along the road down to Alberto's beach. This subspecies is very color-saturated (it's YELLOW!!!), and the rusty cap of the male is distinctive.

PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum) [b]

Particularly common on Cozumel, where we found plenty of tail-wagging birds foraging along roadsides and tracks. We saw others along the road into Laguna Ocum and around Celestun.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica) [b]

There's something endearing about a forest-dwelling bird (in North America) hopping around at one's feet looking for tidbits! These colorful warblers were common on Cozumel -- even around our hotel -- with others in mixed flocks around Laguna Ocum and Chichen Itza. In its winter residence, it's particularly fond of palm trees.


Val spotted one for us as it flicked through the trees along Alberto's beach road, and we found another in the ruins at Uxmal.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED TANAGER (Piranga roseogularis)

Great looks at these handsome regional endemics (found only in the southern Yucatan peninsula) along the track out to the Sian Ka'an bioreserve.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

Common throughout, including a bright male in the spreading Guanacaste on the grounds of Mayaland Chichen.


After hearing the gruff calls of several along the road into Laguna Ocum on our first visit, we caught up with a busy group on our second.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Yucatan Gnatcatcher is another Mexican endemic, recently split from the White-lored Gnatcatcher. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

One on a post near the start of the boardwalk at Laguna Ocum, with another near Celestun. The crest on the former seemed particularly long and pointy!

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

We found an adult male in El Cedral, but our best views came along the San Simon road, where we found a mix of adults and youngsters of both sexes on both of our visits.

GRAY-THROATED CHAT (Granatellus sallaei)

We heard the loud "slick" calls and warbling song of this species along the track into Laguna Ocum, and had multiple lovely views of several males. What a gorgeous little bird!

BLUE BUNTING (MIDDLE AMERICA) (Cyanocompsa parellina parellina)

A little group bounced in the grasses near the start of the woodland track at Laguna Ocum, occasionally flitting up into the trees overhead.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea) [b]

A female rummaged in the grass along the edge of the road in El Cedral, and others roosted in the huge reed grass bed along the Be-Ha track.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)


Great studies of a preening pair near the tower at the Laguna Ocum visitor's center.

BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT (Volatinia jacarina)

A little group foraged along the edge of the San Simon road on our first visit.

MORELET'S SEEDEATER (Sporophila morelleti morelleti)

Small numbers, both males and females, in the marshy area near the Cozumel sewage treatment plant. This is one of the species split from the former White-collared Seedeater.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We had some close looks at various waterbirds around the estuary and along the coast at Celestun, including this juvenile Bare-throated Tiger-Heron near where we started our boat trip. Photo by participants David and Judy Smith.

BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola)

Regular on Cozumel. Particularly fun were the ones we saw poking their way into the bases of the tubular "morning glory" type flowers around the sewage plant -- behaving just like little flowerpiercers! The subspecies here (cabboti) is very white on the throat.


Lovely views of a pair near the parking lot for Alberto's restaurant on Cozumel, with others at the island's north end.

BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR (Saltator atriceps)

Great studies of a busy group foraging in a bougainvillea bush in the Chichen hotel district. They're such a distinctive color!

GRAYISH SALTATOR (Saltator coerulescens)

A few near the top of a big tree along the Vigia Chich road (right across the road from where we found our first Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl) showed their bold white eyebrows and peachy vents nicely. This species has just been split as the Cinnamon-bellied Saltator, Saltator grandis.


JAMAICAN FRUIT-EATING BAT (Artibeus jamaicensis)

These were the big bats we saw flying out as dusk approached in Chichen and Uxmal.

YUCATAN SQUIRREL (Sciurus yucatanensis)

One scampered across the road, seen as birded before breakfast at Chichen. These big squirrels look pretty similar to just about every Eastern Gray Squirrel you've ever seen.

GRAY FOX (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

One started to cross the San Simon road, then stopped and sat down to watch us for a bit instead -- nice spotting, Jim!

Watching the courtship display of a group of American Flamingos in the Celestun estuary was pretty entertaining. The wing-spreading and "preening" movements are all part of the dance.

Totals for the tour: 212 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa