A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Mexico: Yucatan & Cozumel (Private Tour) 2021

November 30-December 9, 2021 with Megan Edwards Crewe & Alex Dzib guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Yucatan peninsula and its offshore islands are home to a number of endemics, including the handsome Mexican Sheartail. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.

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 -- with some unexpected "diversions" for half the group -- to venture south to a land of warmth and sunshine and plenty of birds. For just over a week, 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 vast Mayan cities that once dominated the peninsula, marveling at their scale and construction. In a variety of restaurants, we sampled some of the region's cuisine, including "pibils" wrapped in banana leaves, panuchos, salbutes, papadzules, and the crowd-pleasing lime soup.

We started the tour on the island of Cozumel, just off the eastern coast of the peninsula. Despite some prodigious amounts of rain on the afternoon of our first day, we persevered, and were rewarded with some great avian encounters. A glittering green male Cozumel Emerald danced around red flowers near the sewage plant while others shared hummingbird feeders with Green-breasted Mangos in El Cedral. A pair of Cozumel Vireos crept through trees along a sandy track, occasionally popping out into the open. Black Catbirds peered from roadside tangles. A Mangrove Cuckoo showed us every conceivable side as it moved through trees in an abandoned suburb. Western Spindalis dazzled as they flicked through roadside trees. A plethora of overwintering northern warblers mingled with local "Golden" Yellow Warblers, Yucatan Vireos, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets and Rufous-browed Peppershrikes in lively mixed flocks.

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. Rose-throated Tanagers flicked through treetops. White-bellied Emeralds jousted with Buff-bellied Hummingbirds. A Yucatan Flycatcher made repeated sallies after prey. Stunning male Gray-throated Chats sang challenges as they circled us. A Gray-headed Kite soared past high overhead. Scrub Euphonias investigated mistletoe clumps. Side-by-side Mangrove and White-eyed vireos allowed easy comparisons. An antswarm at the start of the boardwalk trail at Laguna Ocum attracted a pair of Yellow-billed Caciques, Melodious Blackbirds and a gang of Red-throated Ant-Tanagers. A Roadside Hawk screamed from a treetop, appropriately right beside the road. A (Northern) Royal Flycatcher perched on branches at eye level, with its showy crest folded safely away. A Stub-tailed Spadebill flicked through roadside bushes. And the forest around the tranquil Vigia Chico cenote brought an evening chorus of Collared Forest-Falcon, Laughing Falcon and Black-faced Antthrush, as well as outstanding views of Mottled Owl and Northern Potoo.

We made several stops en route to Chichen Itza. A timely pit stop just before we reached Lago Coba brought an unexpected whirlwind of Yucatan and Green jays, Orange, Black-cowled and Altamira orioles, and Black-headed Saltators into some nearby trees. The lake itself proved to be a fabulous spot, with roadside Ruddy Crakes (a nice catch-up for those who'd missed them on Cozumel) and Russet-naped Wood-Rails, multiple noisy Limpkins, tiptoeing Northern Jacanas, Purple Gallinules, a sunning Least Bittern, Ringed Kingfisher, a perched Gray Hawk, a trio of perched and preening Cave Swallows, and our only Cinnamon-bellied Saltator. Pride of place has to go to our long-sought Spotted Rail though; after walking a significant portion of the lakeside, we were rewarded with one nearly under our feet at the last place we checked before heading to breakfast. Yahoo! A post-breakfast excursion at Punta Laguna brought us better looks at Northern Bentbill, Spot-breasted and White-bellied wrens, Long-billed Gnatwren, plus our only Eye-ringed Flatbill and Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, part of a big mob of birds attracted to Alex's "owl" whistles. A passing troop of Yucatan Howler Monkeys with a Central American Spider Monkey in tow was an added bonus.

Our stop at Chichen was primarily to visit the impressive ruins site -- and Alex's friend Ysauro took us on a wonderfully informative tour there -- but we did manage to add a few species among the ruins and in the birdy hotel district nearby. A fruiting fig tree in our hotel's garden brought in a host of birds, including a plethora of squabbling Clay-colored Thrushes, noisy White-fronted Parrots and a Lesson's Motmot, while a tooting Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl nearby attracted its own anxious mob. A Bat Falcon watched over Chichen's immense ball court, then broke into screaming flight. Masked Tityras gobbled berries from a roadside bush. A Golden-olive Woodpecker hitched its way up a trunk, briefly interrupting our ruins tour. Turquoise-browed Motmots hunted from a spreading Guanacaste tree while an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper and a pair of Lineated Woodpeckers investigated a stand of smaller trees nearby. A noisy flock of Black-headed Saltators nibbled flowers in a bougainvillea bush. And watching a trio of Collared Aracaris interacting right over our heads while we enjoyed our "first breakfast" at the back of Juan's van was a real treat.

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. We struggled a bit with heavy fog on our mornings there, but still managed some quality encounters. How about the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl that plunged into the little flock of Common Ground-Doves, carrying one to a nearby bush for consumption? Or the twitchy mass of Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks roosting in the reed bed along the edge of a farm field? Or the Ocellated Turkey that scurried off the road in front of the first van? Or the Common Pauraques flinging themselves skywards from the edges of the road? An Olive Sparrow swiveled on a low branch, Couch's and Tropical kingbirds sat almost side by side on treetops, and Yellow-backed Orioles gleamed among their oranger cousins. And who will soon forget the evocative nightly chorus of Singing Quails -- apparently just voices without bodies -- echoing from darkening forest patches?

From Uxmal, we headed west to Celestun, with a few fortuitous finds along the way. A brief stop among dusty farm fields yielded a panting Lesser Roadrunner perched amid the weeds on a dry stone wall, and as we approached the coast, we found hundreds of Wood Storks and herons in a stretch of flooded mangroves beside the highway. By early afternoon, we'd reached Yucatan's northwestern coast, where several of its most range-restricted endemics are found. Yucatan Gnatcatchers scolded from thorny bushes, long tails twitching, while a pair of Yucatan Wrens nuzzled each other on a concrete fence post. A male Mexican Sheartail returned again and again to the same rusted strand of barbed wire. A tiny American Pygmy-Kingfisher flashed in to sit on a branch just above a freshwater spring. A gimpy Bare-throated Tiger-Heron prowled a boat dock, a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail slipped furtively through mangrove roots, Boat-billed Herons chortled from the trees, and "Mangrove" Yellow Warblers glowed against the greenery around our boats. A Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture coursed low overhead, so close we could clearly see its multicolored face. 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.

Thanks to all of you for helping to make my first "Kania tour" such fun to lead. And thanks for coping with all the rigamarole that comes with travel in the time of a pandemic -- mask-wearing, antigen-testing, etc. 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 head out to 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 secretive species echoing from the forest near the Vigia Chico cenote while we waited for it to get dark enough to look for owls, and in a couple of places around Uxmal.

American Flamingos provided a real jolt of color in the Celestun estuary -- particularly in flight. Video by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

A few small groups paddled around in some of the ponds we passed on the drive in to Celestun. This is by far the most common -- and typically the only -- duck seen on this tour.

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

PLAIN CHACHALACA (Ortalis vetula)

A trio in a stand of trees along the San Simon road disappeared before everyone got a look, and other proved equally reclusive around Celestun. This isn't normally such a tough species to get a good look at!

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

BLACK-THROATED BOBWHITE (Colinus nigrogularis)

Arg! One rocketed off across the overgrown fields as we walked the Be-Ha trail, then dropped abruptly out of view. We heard others around Celestun, but never got another look.

SINGING QUAIL (Dactylortyx thoracicus) [*]

We heard their wonderfully evocative, rollicking duets around Uxmal, but couldn't entice them in close enough to get a view of them.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

OCELLATED TURKEY (Meleagris ocellata)

Arg! We were OH SO CLOSE! Some of those at the front of Alex's van spotted one of these handsome creatures before it leapt off the side of the San Simon road. Unfortunately, a suddenly steady parade of passing traffic meant our efforts to call it back into the open were fruitless.

Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)

AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber)

Lovely views of these stunners in Laguna Celestun, where the high tide made our first group look like a big flock of salmon-pink swans. Watching them in flight as they shifted locations was a treat -- as was learning more about their biology from Alex, who clearly was a flamingo in a past life!

Field Guides Birding Tours
We got multiple chances to study the grooves in a Groove-billed Ani's bill -- including some on Cozumel, seen while we waited out a lengthy downpour. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps) [b]

A dozen or so floated on Lago Coba, in various stages of changing into their winter plumage. This species doesn't breed in the Yucatan, so these were all visitors from further north.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common around the various cities and bigger towns we passed through (or stayed in) during the tour.

RED-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas flavirostris)

Our best views came along the San Simon road, where we got several of the perched-up birds in the scopes. The scientific name of this species means "yellow-billed" -- a much better description than its common name!

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Common throughout -- though somehow we managed to miss it one day.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

Our best views came along the San Simon road, where we found a little group patrolling the scruffy roadside -- until a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl blasted into their midst and carried off an unfortunate victim! We found another near the sewage treatment plant at Cozumel's north end.

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

Regular in small numbers throughout, including two snuggling on a low branch along the Santa Teresa road one afternoon and another trundling around in front of Hacienda Chichen one morning.

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

A few waddled across the Santa Teresa road, and we had others around Celestun.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Another common and widespread species, seen on all but one day.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A Mangrove Cuckoo posed wonderfully for us in an abandoned subdivision on Cozumel, showing us every conceivable angle. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

Regular throughout, often in good numbers, including a squeaky gang snuggling on some of the lower branches of a big Guanacaste tree at our Chichen hotel, and a busy group along the San Simon road.

LESSER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx velox)

Only minutes after we'd arrived at "The Spot" near Chunchucmil, we spotted one standing atop a stone wall around one of the overgrown farm fields. Yahoo!

SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)

Regular on the days we birded in larger forest, with especially nice views of one warming itself up in a roadside tree as we birded the road to Laguna Ocum -- nice spotting, Bill! The birds found in the Yucatan have a blackish belly, vent and undertail.

MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)

Wow! Spectacular repeated studies of a supremely cooperative bird in the abandoned subdivision on Cozumel. It showed us its plumage from just about every conceivable angle -- while serenading us throughout!

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

A dozen or so flicked past as dusk settled over the dry fields around Celestun.

COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis)

Two hunted from the San Simon road, flicking up from the pavement to snatch some passing insect before returning to the ground.

Nyctibiidae (Potoos)

NORTHERN POTOO (Nyctibius jamaicensis)

One flew in and landed at the edge of a big tree over our heads while we searched for the Mottled Owl near the Vigia Chico cenote. It sat for long minutes peering around, giving us all the chance to study it in the scopes.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another of the tour's endemics is the Cozumel Emerald, which was split from the mainland's Canivet's Emerald some years ago. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.
Apodidae (Swifts)

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

Small numbers mingled with the swallows over Cozumel, with others around Chichen Itza. This is an endemic subspecies, found only on the Yucatan peninsula.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

GREEN-BREASTED MANGO (Anthracothorax prevostii)

A few jousted with smaller Cozumel Emeralds around a pair of hummingbird feeders in El Cedral.

MEXICAN SHEARTAIL (Doricha eliza) [E]

Our first was a female that alternately foraged among some roadside flowers and rested on a wire fence. Then, while hunting bobwhite, we found a male perched on another barbed wire fence around a fallow farm field -- what a stunner!

COZUMEL EMERALD (Chlorostilbon forficatus) [E]

Multiple very satisfying encounters with this long-tailed endemic, including the male that gave us our final "send off" from the island, dancing around a bank of red flowers near the entrance to the sewage treatment plant. Males of this species are significantly longer-tailed than are the mainland's Canivet's Emerald.

CANIVET'S EMERALD (Chlorostilbon canivetii)

A glittering male foraged along the road in to Laguna Ocum, and we saw others along the Be-Ha track and around Celestun.

WEDGE-TAILED SABREWING (Campylopterus curvipennis)

One of these big, plain hummers came in to the mob tape Alex played while we birded in the forest at Punta Laguna.

WHITE-BELLIED EMERALD (Amazilia candida)

A few along the road in to Laguna Ocum, including one tangling repeatedly with a Buff-bellied Hummingbird.

BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia yucatanensis)

Best seen along the Laguna Ocum road, where we got a couple in the scopes -- including one sharing a tree with our first Roadside Hawk. We saw others along the San Simon road.


One foraged in a flowering tree near Lago Coba, and others did the same around Chichen Itza and Celestun.

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the stars of our visit to Lago Cobá was this secretive Spotted Rail, which we found after a long search of the lake's edges. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

SPOTTED RAIL (Pardirallus maculatus)

Woohoo! Our reward for carefully scanning the reedy edges of Lago Coba was a fabulous encounter with this shy denizen -- from about 10 feet away! It crept in without making a sound; fortunately, Alex saw its movement through the vegetation.

RUFOUS-NECKED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides axillaris)

It took some time (and more than a little patience) but we all finally got good looks at this mangrove specialist as it crept along the edge of the lagoon towards the Celestun bridge.

RUSSET-NAPED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides albiventris)

One of these big, showy rails stepped along the edges of various clumps of vegetation in a wet area across the road from Lago Coba -- great spotting, Angela! This used to be considered a subspecies of the former Gray-necked Wood-Rail.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

One paddled through a patch of vegetation floating on the surface of the Celestun estuary, seen as we headed back to base at the end of our boat trip.

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

A couple of adults preened along the edge of Lago Coba, showing their iridescent plumage to perfection in the early morning sunshine.

RUDDY CRAKE (Laterallus ruber)

We found our first four or five (they were tough to count!) along the edge of the road near the Cozumel sewage treatment plant. They darted out from the vegetation to chase an insect or two, then scuttled back into cover. We had much better views of others hunting or preening along the edge of Lago Coba; they were in the open for long minutes, giving us great opportunities for study -- or photographs!

Aramidae (Limpkin)

LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)

A half dozen or so worked the fringes of Lago Coba, striding along on their long legs, or resting (sometimes quietly, more often shouting occasionally) on horizontal branches near the water's edge.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Spotted Rail got a big thumbs up from the group. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Good numbers of these classy-looking shorebirds in various puddles around Celestun.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) [b]

Two snoozed on the beach in front of Alberto's restaurant, blending in perfectly with the bits of seaweed and debris that had washed up on the sand. These are winter visitors to Mexico.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus) [b]

A trio flashed back and forth over the water several times while we waited for lunch at Alberto's. This is another winter visitor.

Jacanidae (Jacanas)

NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa)

A couple of adults and several stripey-faced youngsters flitted back and forth between the ponds near Cozumel's sewage treatment plant, showing those flashy chartreuse wings.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) [b]

Little parties stood along the seawall on Cozumel, completely ignoring passersby.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) [b]

Bill spotted our first, huddled in a puddle near the shelter at El Cedral, and we found some additional scattered flocks around Celestun. This is a winter visitor to Mexico.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) [b]

A few seen bobbing along the edges of Laguna Celestun -- or flying stiff-winged above it. This is another winter visitor.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The rail was one of a number of species we found only at Lago Coba. Limpkins were another. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata) [b]

A few of these larger shorebirds strode among the stilts and flamingos in one of the shallow lagoons near the Celestun bridge, and we saw others in flight, where their flashy black and white wing pattern was eye-catching.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes) [b]

Small numbers hunted along the edges of the flooded lagoons around Celestun. Like all of the tour's shorebirds, this one is a winter visitor.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla) [b]

Regular around Cozumel and fairly abundant at Celestun. This is the "standard" gull of the tour.

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

A couple of scruffy, grubby-looking youngsters flew past our boat during our Celestun lagoon trip.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

Several along the edge of the beach at Celestun, seen from our lunch tables at Los Pampanos and La Palapa.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

A few seen circling and diving as we waited in the long line for the Cozumel ferry. The black eye patches on this otherwise frosty-white species are distinctive.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

A handful of these large, orange-billed terns flapped along the tideline in Celestun, seen as we enjoyed lunches in our beachfront restaurants.

SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)

A few circled near the Cozumel ferry terminal and others flapped along the beach at Celestun. This pale tern lacks the eye patches of the Forster's Tern.

Ciconiidae (Storks)

WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

Dozens. Scores! Hundreds? The vast mixed flock of herons, egrets and storks we found in a roadside strip as we drove to Celestun was pretty much uncountable -- particularly as they flushed up into the mangroves when we stopped for a look. Fortunately, many of the storks settled atop the trees, giving us some great views.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw amazing numbers of Wood Storks, primarily in a huge flock among the mangroves before we reached Celestun, but also in the estuary itself. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)


Dozens hung in the skies over Cozumel, and others lurked menacingly over the Celestun estuary, occasionally dive-bombing down towards passing gulls, terns and cormorants.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

Particularly nice studies of a trio that circled overhead for long minutes at the north end of Cozumel. We saw another in flight at Lago Coba.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

Our best looks came at Ria Celestun, where we found a spreadeagled adult drying out in a mangrove near the road.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)

A few fished on Lago Coba, and others flew over or slipped into the estuary and sea off Celestun. The rounded, orange gular patch on this species helps to separate it from the smaller Neotropical Cormorant.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) [b]

A tight raft of these huge birds floated near our largest flamingo flock, with the whole group dipping their heads underwater at once as they paddled slowly along. This is another winter visitor.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

We saw a handful near the ferry terminals at each end of our crossing from Cozumel to the mainland, with others around Celestun.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis)

One huddled in the early morning sun on a log along the edge of Lago Coba.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We got up close and personal with several Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, particularly on our boat trip. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma mexicanum)

One with an injured foot checked out a wooden platform near the bridge into Celestun, and we saw others near where we started our search for the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

One along the back edge of Lago Coba, with others scattered around the lagoons and estuary of Celestun.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

A handful in scattered wetlands across the peninsula: at Cozumel's north end, Lago Coba, and around Celestun.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

A few on Cozumel, with many more around Celestun.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

Regular around Celestun, including a few still-white youngsters.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

Reasonably common around Celestun.

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

One charged around like a mad thing in a shallow pond near the town end of the Celestun bridge, chasing prey.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

Seen only on Cozumel this trip, which is unusual. We had a few around El Cedral, with others at the island's north end.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

A few peered intently into the shallows along the edges of Lago Coba and others did the same from mangrove roots at Ria Celestun.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

A youngster roosted low over the water in the shallow wetlands across the road from Lago Coba, and we found a few adults among the mangroves at Ria Celestun.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

A few adults at Lago Coba, with others around Celestun.

BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius)

We heard the monkey-like chatter of several as we searched for the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, and eventually spotted one -- perched and wide-eyed -- among the mangroves.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Wally Levernier snapped this nice shot of a pair of snuggling Ruddy Ground-Doves near Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

A dozen or so seen at the north end of Cozumel, mostly in flight, though we did spot one perched up atop a dead snag.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

Small numbers in flight around Celestun, with most seen while we searched for the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in Ria Celestun.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Abundant and ubiquitous, seen in big numbers every day of the tour -- including huge kettles swirling over the dry scrub between Celestun and Merida.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Another species seen daily, including a group roosting on a cell tower near El Cedral.

LESSER YELLOW-HEADED VULTURE (Cathartes burrovianus)

Several among the Turkey Vultures north of Celestun, including one that swooped low past us as we walked back from our bobwhite search, giving us fine views of its multicolored head.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

One flapped past us as we loaded into the vans our first morning on Cozumel and we saw others -- including a few carrying fish -- around the estuary at Celestun.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

GRAY-HEADED KITE (Leptodon cayanensis)

One soared high overhead as we birded along the road into Laguna Ocum -- great spotting Donnalynne! The paddle-shaped wings and dark body of this species are distinctive.

SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis)

A couple of youngsters hunted along the edge of Lago Coba, occasionally pulling large snails from the water and carrying them up to nearby manmade structures to eat.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Roadside Hawks certainly seem well-named, considering that's where we saw virtually all of ours. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

CRANE HAWK (Geranospiza caerulescens)

Those in Alex's van had a couple along the San Simon road -- one in flight over the trees, a second briefly perched near the road. Unfortunately, in both cases they'd moved out of view by the time Juan's van reached the spot.

COMMON BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus anthracinus)

Two sat on a pole right beside the bridge at Celestun, staying put even when we climbed out of the vans for a better view.

ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)

The most widespread of the tour's raptors, seen on more than half of the days -- typically right beside the road, as their name suggests. We had particularly nice looks at one calling from a leafless tree on the drive in to Laguna Ocum.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

An adult bird surveyed Lago Coba from a shaded branch, seen as we walked back towards where we'd parked -- nice spotting, Bill! We had another along the San Simon road.

SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo brachyurus)

One taunted us several times while we birded near the Cozumel sewage works; it flicked briefly into view, then dropped almost immediately back behind the trees. Then just before we left, it sailed past in full sunshine, giving us all a great chance to study it in flight.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

One seen soaring low over the road as we headed back to our hotel from our trip to Ria Celestun; it even gave us time to pile out of the vans for a better look.

Strigidae (Owls)

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

Arg! We had birds calling from close by on both sides of the San Simon road, but just couldn't spot either one. My kingdom for a thermal spotting scope!

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus) [*]

We heard the deep hoots of this big owl from deep on the (off-limits) grounds of the Hacienda Chichen. The subspecies mayensis is endemic to the Yucatan peninsula.

FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium brasilianum)

Multiple nice encounters with this feisty little owl, including one tooting from the tree right outside our Chichen hotel, riling up all the neighbors.

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We had multiple close encounters with feisty little Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

MOTTLED OWL (Ciccaba virgata)

Super views of one which perched in several different places beside the Vigia Chico cenote.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

GARTERED TROGON (Trogon caligatus)

One in the forest along the road into Sian Ka'an played a big hard-to-get on our first afternoon on the mainland.

Momotidae (Motmots)

LESSON'S MOTMOT (Momotus lessonii exiguus)

A couple near our Chichen hotel sat quietly for long minutes, giving us the chance to study them in the scopes. This was formerly considered to be a subspecies of the Blue-crowned Motmot, which has now been split into five distinct species.

TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT (Eumomota superciliosa)

Especially nice views of several in the big Guanacaste trees near the Mayaland Chichen hotel, with others along the Santa Teresa road.This might just be the handsomest of a handsome family.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)

One sat on the wires along the road near Lago Coba, its red belly gleaming in the early morning sunshine.

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) [b]

We spotted a couple of these winter visitors around Lago Coba -- a male sitting on a wire over the lake, and another (of undetermined sex) flashing low over the water at the far end.


One of these tiny kingfishers flashed in and landed near the boardwalk trail we walked on our Celestun boat trip.

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

One flew in and landed among the tangled roots as we worked our way through the "mangrove tunnel" on our Celestun boat trip. It took a bit of maneuvering -- and that ever helpful green dot -- but we got there in the end!

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The Turquoise-browed Motmot must surely be among the handsomest of a handsome family. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.
Ramphastidae (Toucans)

COLLARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus torquatus)

Common in the Chichen hotel zone, including some in the parking lot, where we'd gathered for pre-walk coffee and nibbles. The abundant fruits in the area were definitely attracting their attention.

KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Ramphastos sulfuratus) [*]

Drat! We were SO CLOSE to getting a look at a bird calling right near the road into Laguna Ocum, but it dropped out of view as soon as it saw us.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

YUCATAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes pygmaeus)

Best seen in a garden in El Cedral, where one posed for long minutes on a skinny tree, giving everybody the chance to check out its yellow nasal tufts in the scope. This is the smaller cousin of the next species.

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

Very, very common, with dozens seen on most days -- particularly in the Chichen hotel zone. The subspecies found in the Yucatan has red nasal tufts, which probably explains the "dubius" in its scientific name!

PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER (Campephilus guatemalensis) [*]

We heard the loud two-note drum of this big species several times along the road into Laguna Ocum.

LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus)

Regular throughout -- though sometimes only heard -- with especially nice views of a pair working low in small trees in the Chichen hotel zone. The black and white lines across their face help to separate this from the previous species.

GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus)

One in the parking lot of the Chichen hotel where we had our breakfast showed very nicely in the early-morning light; golden-olive is certainly a good description! We also heard its distinctive shriek, which is quite different than the call of the tour's other woodpeckers.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

COLLARED FOREST-FALCON (Micrastur semitorquatus) [*]

Arg! We heard this secretive forest species on SIX (!!!) different days, but never laid eyes on a single one. Sorry Joe!

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We saw four species of kingfisher on this trip, including this Ringed Kingfisher -- the New World largest kingfisher. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.

LAUGHING FALCON (Herpetotheres cachinnans) [*]

We heard one calling from the other side of the Vigia Chico cenote as dusk fell over the forest.

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

A male hunted from telephone wires (until we drove past, then he moved to a tree) along the San Simon road.

BAT FALCON (Falco rufigularis)

One sat up right at the top of a dead snag near the massive ball court at Chichen Itza, then later flashed over the crowded plaza, screaming as it went.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

WHITE-FRONTED PARROT (Amazona albifrons)

Abundant throughout, seen in good numbers on most days of the tour. The birds in the big Guanacaste outside our Chichen hotel gave us especially nice views.


Seen most often in flight, where their smaller size and long, pointed tails help to identify them. We did spot a few perched birds along the road near the Cozumel sewage plant, which allowed us to get good views of their big white eye rings.

Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)

BARRED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus doliatus)

Lovely views of a singing male -- whose whole body quivered with his efforts -- along the road in to Laguna Ocum, with another on the track out to the Vigia Chico cenote later the same day.

Formicariidae (Antthrushes)

BLACK-FACED ANTTHRUSH (MAYAN) (Formicarius analis moniliger) [*]

We heard the distinctive chirrup call of this reclusive species as we waited for dusk to fall at the Vigia Chico cenote.

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Getting some close views of Collared Aracaris was good fun. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.
Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)

OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER (GRAYISH) (Sittasomus griseicapillus gracileus)

One of these small, two-toned woodcreepers crawled up a trunk near the road out to the Vigia Chico cenote, seen by some in Juan's van that day. This "species" is, in reality, undoubtedly a species complex; birds from different regions are considerably different in plumage and song.

IVORY-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster)

Our first was part of the big, mixed flock that came in to the owl "mob" at Punta Laguna. We had even better looks at another in the Chichen hotel zone the following day.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA (Tityra inquisitor)

A male atop a tree along the road in to Laguna Ocum got one of our roadside stops off to a good start. This is usually the less common of the tour's tityras.

MASKED TITYRA (Tityra semifasciata)

A pair in the Chichen hotel zone, seen on our morning walk there.

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

A female flicked through a huge spreading Guanacaste tree on the grounds of Mayaland Chichen, seen as we worked our way down to that lodge for breakfast.

Oxyruncidae (Sharpbill, Royal Flycatcher, and Allies)

ROYAL FLYCATCHER (NORTHERN) (Onychorhynchus coronatus mexicanus)

Wow! One of these uncommon flycatchers flitted in to perch along the trail at Laguna Ocum, giving us super looks at its distinctively shaped head. Sadly, its spectacular crest remained unopened.

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Of course, the Yucatan is famous for more than just birds. Remnants of formerly powerful Mayan cities are everywhere. This is the El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza, part of our fascinating guided tour. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

STUB-TAILED SPADEBILL (Platyrinchus cancrominus)

A couple along the road in to Laguna Ocum proved singularly unobliging, showing very well for some and not at all for others. But we all certainly heard the soft little three-note call of this forest species.

NORTHERN BENTBILL (Oncostoma cinereigulare)

Our first was a flitty little bird along the road in to Laguna Ocum, but we had much better views of another with a mixed flock that responded to Alex's owl imitation at Punta Laguna. The bill shape of this little flycatcher is certainly distinctive!

COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum)

These handsome little birds were seen each day around Celestun, several times in close association with Yucatan Gnatcatchers.

EYE-RINGED FLATBILL (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris)

One flicked through the mid-height branches around us at Punta Laguna, part of a big mixed flock -- great spotting, Denis! This is certainly a well-named species.

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

Recorded on half the days of the tour, though much more frequently heard than seen. We did catch up with a few hunting along the road to Laguna Ocum, with others at Punta Laguna.


One singing loudly (well, loudly for a little Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, anyway) from the start of the road down to Alberto's beach proved very obliging, sitting for long minutes in the same place, which let us ogle him in the scopes. This species is named for its lack of rictal bristles at the base of its bill.

GREENISH ELAENIA (GREENISH) (Myiopagis viridicata placens)

One along the road to Laguna Ocum was missed by some. Fortunately, we caught up with another in the Chichen hotel zone, and a very cooperative bird along the Be-Ha track. Given the very different vocalizations of this "species" across its huge range, it's probably actually a complex of several similarly-plumaged but distinct species.

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This male Barred Antshrike put plenty of effort into his song; his whole body quivered! Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)

Regular in open areas on Cozumel, including a pair in a field across the road from our soggy shelter in El Cedral, and others near the sewage plant on the island's north end.

CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica)

One along the road out to Alberto's restaurant on Cozumel, keeping close company with a flashier Western Spindalis.

TROPICAL PEWEE (Contopus cinereus)

Scattered individuals hunted from tall weeds (or short trees) along the San Simon road on each of our visits. This species is shorter-winged than the migrant Eastern Wood-Pewee is.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus) [b]

A common and widespread winter visitor, seen most days of the tour -- typically hunting from a low perch along a road (like the track down to Alberto's beach or the road through the Chichen hotel district).

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

A pair near Chunchucmil kept us entertained until the Lesser Roadrunner popped up on its wall.

BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA (Attila spadiceus)

Our first was a surprisingly gray bird along Alberto's beach road on Cozumel. We saw a more "normally-plumaged" (for Mexico) bird on the track in to Laguna Ocum.

YUCATAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus yucatanensis)

A calling bird along the Laguna Ocum road gave us some great views of its distinctive undertail pattern -- dark with only a narrow edge of rust on the inner web of its outer tail feather (i.e. a skinny rusty stripe right in the center of its undertail).

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer) [*]

The mournful descending whistle of this small Myiarchus was heard on a couple of days, but we never caught up with the singers.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

One in a treetop up the hill from our Uxmal hotel was a poor consolation prize for the out-of-view Collared Forest-Falcon that was taunting us.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

Common throughout, from our first day (around the shelter in El Cedral) to our last (hunting from roadside wires in Celestun). Their onomatopoeic calls were a regular part of the tour soundtrack.

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A Bright-rumped Attila shows off its namesake side. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua)

Our first were spotted in the big tree over the viewing platform at Vigia Chico cenote, but our best views probably came in the Chichen hotel district, where noisy pairs called from the trees. We had others around Uxmal. The lack of rust in their plumage, and their larger, heavier bills help to separate them from the previous species.

SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis)

Common and widespread on the mainland, including some noisy gangs around Lago Coba and lots in treetops along the San Simon road.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Abundant throughout, seen every day of the tour.

COUCH'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus couchii)

Best seen along the San Simon road, where their "ka-BREER" calls distinguished them from nearby Tropical Kingbirds, with others near our pit stop on route to Celestun, and around Celestun itself. These two species are best distinguished by voice.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)


Seen on most days, including one with a mixed flock along the road to Alberto's beach (the pale-bellied subspecies insularis, which is endemic to Cozumel) and a pair in one of the spreading Guanacaste trees in the Chichen hotel district (the yellow-bellied subspecies yucatanensis).

LESSER GREENLET (Pachysylvia decurtata)

A few of these little vireos along the road to Laguna Ocum, with others in the mixed flock at Punta Laguna.

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

Very common throughout, including one in nice comparison with the next species on the rough track in to Sian Ka'an -- and the same combination again on the road to Laguna Ocum. This is a winter visitor to the Yucatan peninsula.

MANGROVE VIREO (Vireo pallens)

Particularly nice views of one right in front of us on our first afternoon on the mainland, with another obliging pair along the road to Laguna Ocum. We heard the buzzy, repeated four-note song of this species on several other occasions: along the San Simon road, and around Ria Celestun.

COZUMEL VIREO (Vireo bairdi) [E]

Two of these handsome, butterscotch-colored endemics danced through the mid-canopy of trees along the road down to Alberto's beach, challenging us to keep up with them. It took a bit of patience, but we got there in the end!

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It's always fun to see "our" birds (like this Yellow-throated Vireo) in their winter digs. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

Regular throughout, including one with a mixed flock along the road to Alberto's beach and one with a pair of Mangrove Vireos in the mangroves at Ria Celestun.

YUCATAN VIREO (Vireo magister)

Two with a mixed flock along the road to Alberto's beach were a bit shy and retiring. This species is limited to the eastern edge of the Yucatan peninsula and offshore Caribbean islands.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio)

Big, raucous groups on half of our days on the mainland, including some perched up along the back edge of the Vigia Chico cenote (looking huge), others along the main trail at Punta Laguna and some shouting along the San Simon road.

GREEN JAY (Cyanocorax yncas)

Our first views came in the mixed flock at the Pemex gas station near Lago Coba, and we had others among the ruins at Chichen Itza, at Uxmal and along the San Simon road. The subspecies in the Yucatan (maya) has yellow eyes.

YUCATAN JAY (Cyanocorax yucatanicus)

Our first were some furtive birds along the rough track we birded on our first afternoon on the mainland, but our best views probably came at that Pemex gas station near Lago Coba, when a clown car's worth of birds flew -- one after another after another -- from the surrounding forest into a tree right near the restrooms. What a gorgeous species!

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Reasonably common on Cozumel, with others over the road to Laguna Ocum and the San Simon road. This is a winter visitor to the Yucatan peninsula.

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

Our best views came over Lago Coba, with others over the road to Laguna Ocum. Their dark-brown vent helps to separate this subspecies from their white-vented cousins.

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Early morning, Celestun. We'd just had awesome views of a pair of Common Black-Hawks! Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

MANGROVE SWALLOW (Tachycineta albilinea)

Great views of a handful roosting on one of the shelters over the water at Laguna Ocum with others around our vessels on the Celestun boat trip. Their white rump patch is a great field mark.

CAVE SWALLOW (Petrochelidon fulva)

A trio preened on wires over Lago Coba, giving us the chance to study them in the scopes.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

LONG-BILLED GNATWREN (Ramphocaenus melanurus)

It took a few birds, but I think we all got there in the end! The distinctively long bill of this little bird makes it look like it's carrying a toothpick.

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Singles with several mixed flocks on Cozumel (including a tailless bird near the shelter at El Cedral that looked quite a bit like a crombec) with others in the Chichen hotel district and along the San Simon road. This is a resident species in most of the Yucatan peninsula, with numbers supplemented by winter visitors from further north.

YUCATAN GNATCATCHER (Polioptila albiventris) [E]

Great views of these feisty little birds in scrubby bushes around Celestun. This endemic species was recently split from the White-lored Gnatcatcher.

TROPICAL GNATCATCHER (WHITE-BROWED) (Polioptila plumbea superciliaris)

A pair seen with a mixed flock along the road to Laguna Ocum, where the male's dark cap and the pair's bold white eyebrows quickly distinguished them from any Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. This and several other subspecies in the same clade have now been split as a valid species: the White-browed Gnatcatcher.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

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

Our first, along the road down to Alberto's beach, was not very obliging. Fortunately, we found a far more cooperative bird that popped up into the open near the sewage treatment plant on our last morning on the island.

YUCATAN WREN (Campylorhynchus yucatanicus) [E]

Wonderfully showy pairs at several spots north of Celestun, including a pair pirouetting and allopreening on a fence post along the road. This species is restricted to a very narrow zone along the northern edge of the peninsula.

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Yucatan Wren is one of the region's showier endemics, often bouncing around right in the open. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.

SPOT-BREASTED WREN (Pheugopedius maculipectus)

As usual, we heard far more of these than we saw! Our first was a noisy but skulking pair along the road to Laguna Ocum. We found another pair along the main track into Punta Laguna, but they proved equally sneaky, crawling through the branches of a big tree over the path, but rarely staying in the open for long. The speckly belly of this dark wren is distinctive, and some saw it well.

WHITE-BELLIED WREN (Uropsila leucogastra)

Our best views came at Punta Laguna, where we found one low along the main track into the reserve. This Mexican endemic is relatively blank faced, with pale lores.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

BLACK CATBIRD (Melanoptila glabrirostris)

Abundant on Cozumel, where we had very satisfying views along the road to Alberto's restaurant and around El Cedral. They also proved reasonably common along the track to Laguna Ocum. This species is endemic to the Yucatan peninsula, found only in Mexico and the very northern edges of Guatemala and Belize.

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis) [b]

Most common on Cozumel, with scattered individuals elsewhere on the mainland. This is a winter visitor to the peninsula.


Common and ubiquitous, seen -- and heard -- every day of the tour.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina) [b*]

We heard the distinctive bubbling calls of this winter visitor on Cozumel (along Alberto's beach road), at Laguna Ocum and near the ant swarm at Punta Laguna.


Dozens flashed through the fruiting fig tree outside our Chichen hotel, alternately grabbing fruits and sitting quietly on branches, digesting.

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The subspecies of House Wren found on Cozumel (beani) is endemic, and may warrant species status. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

SCRUB EUPHONIA (Euphonia affinis)

A pair in in a mistletoe clump along the road to Laguna Ocum, with the male showing nicely the dark throat that distinguishes him from males of the next species.

YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia hirundinacea)

The more common of the two euphonias this trip, seen along the road to Laguna Ocum, at Punta Laguna and in the Chichen hotel district. Unlike the previous species, the yellow on the male's underside extends right up under his chin.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Those in Juan's car saw a pair along the road to El Cedral, when we waited out the rain by birding from the vehicles.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

OLIVE SPARROW (Arremonops rufivirgatus)

It took a bit of patience, but we finally rustled up one of these chunky birds along the edge of the San Simon road. The subspecies we saw was verticalis.

Spindalidae (Spindalises)

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

Fabulous views of this spiffy tanager along the road out to Alberto's, when we found a male which spent long minutes perched on the same branch. That gave everyone the chance for multiple scope looks.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-BILLED CACIQUE (Amblycercus holosericeus)

Two were among the mob of birds feasting above a boiling ant swarm near the start of the boardwalk trail at Laguna Ocum. It took a while to get everybody on the right birds -- those nearby Melodious Blackbirds weren't helping -- but we got there in the end! We heard others at Punta Laguna.

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Tropical Mockingbird is the southern equivalent of "our" mockingbird -- minus the flashy wing patch. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.

BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE (Icterus prosthemelas)

A pair in the big trees near the decrepit observation tower at Laguna Ocum -- good spotting Wally! We found others with the mixed flock at the Pemex station where we pit-stopped outside Coba.

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius) [b]

We found a few of these winter visitors in the trees around Lago Coba.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

Regular throughout, including a few in the gardens around El Cedral on Cozumel and others in flowering trees in the Chichen hotel zone. This species is smaller than the similarly-plumaged Altamira Oriole, and has a white, rather than orange, upper wingbar.

YELLOW-BACKED ORIOLE (Icterus chrysater)

One posed near the top of an open tree along the San Simon road, and we saw a couple of others around Celestun.

ORANGE ORIOLE (Icterus auratus)

Our first were rummaging in a flowering tree near the Pemex station outside of Coba, part of the big mixed flock we found there. We had others with mixed oriole flocks along the San Simon road. This species is endemic to the Yucatan peninsula.

ALTAMIRA ORIOLE (Icterus gularis)

Reasonably common across much of the peninsula, with especially nice looks at several near our Chichen hotel and along the San Simon road. This is easily the largest of the orioles we saw on this tour. Its broad orange wingbar helps to distinguish it from the smaller Hooded Oriole.

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

Small numbers in several places, with especially good studies of several mooching along the roadside near in the Chichen hotel district. Their red eyes and the thick "ruffed" neck of the males are distinctive.


Regular in the middle part of the tour, including a few with the antswarm at Laguna Ocum and a noisy pair in the big Guanacaste tree in front of our Chichen hotel.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Ubiquitous, seen in big numbers every day of the tour.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) [b]

Scattered individuals, including one with a Palm Warbler near the Cozumel sewage works, another along the rough track in to Sian Ka'an that we birded on our first afternoon on the mainland, and others around Lago Coba and Ria Celestun.

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"Our" birds often have quite different habits on their wintering grounds -- like this Yellow-throated Warbler scrounging for dog food practically at our feet! Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera) [b]

Alex and Donnalynne were the lucky ones who spotted this winter visitor as we climbed out of the vans at our first stop on Cozumel on our first morning.

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

Common and widespread, recorded on most days of the tour -- including one with the big mixed flock that responded to the "owl mob" (in reality Alex's magic recording) at Punta Laguna.

SWAINSON'S WARBLER (Limnothlypis swainsonii) [b*]

Well darn. We heard these swamp dwellers on three different days, but couldn't entice one out where we could see it.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina) [b]

A little group -- including a fair few youngsters -- worked in the dense vegetation near Alberto's restaurant, seen while we waited for lunch to be served. We saw others along the San Simon road on our second visit there.

GRAY-CROWNED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis poliocephala)

A couple in the swamp near Cozumel's sewage treatment plant popped up several times right near where we were standing, giving us brief but satisfying views. We saw another near Chunchucmil, while waiting for the Lesser Roadrunner to make another appearance.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) [b]

An adult male jumped through a brush pile across the road from the shelter in El Cedral (seen when the rain finally stopped) and others flitted through vegetation on Cozumel's north end. We saw a few more of these winter visitors around Lago Coba.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina) [b]

Singles in scattered locations, including a male dancing across a garbage pile along the road into Laguna Ocum, a female with the antswarm near the start of the trail there, and another male at the edge of the clearing where we later found our Mottled Owl.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) [b]

Regular throughout, typically as part of small mixed flocks. As usual, most were females or youngsters, with only a couple of full adult males seen.

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina) [b]

Denis spotted one high in a tree over a scruffy yard in El Cedral; unfortunately, it flicked to the back of the canopy, and disappeared.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana) [b]

Small numbers throughout, often with other small passerines in mixed flocks -- including one with some noisy Mangrove Vireos at Ria Celestun and a few others with a little warbler flock on the road to Alberto's restaurant.

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We saw three subspecies of Yellow Warbler, including the very distinctive "Mangrove" Yellow Warbler near Celestun. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia) [b]

Daily, generally with other warblers. One near the parking lot at our Chichen hotel entertained us (at least until the aracaris showed up) while we had our pre-breakfast coffee and "nibbles".

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) [b]

We found a few sprinkled around Lago Coba, and others north of Celestun. These "regular" Yellow Warblers are migrants from further north.

YELLOW WARBLER (MANGROVE) (Setophaga petechia bryanti)

Splendid views of several rusty-headed males (and some speckle-faced females or young males) in the mangroves around our boats at "Bird Island", on the Celestun estuary. These distinctive resident warblers are found in mangroves along both coasts in Mexico.

YELLOW WARBLER (GOLDEN) (Setophaga petechia rufivertex)

This subspecies is endemic to Cozumel, where it is reasonably common. Its yellow color is very saturated, and the male's chest stripes are especially thick and bold. We saw the distinctive chestnut cap of one male nicely along the road down to Alberto's beach.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens) [b]

A male flicked through the undergrowth along a path in Punta Laguna, part of a big mixed flock that swirled around us. Like most of the warblers on this tour, this is a winter visitor to the extreme eastern side of the Yucatan peninsula.

PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum) [b]

Regular in small numbers on the first few days of the tour, particularly on Cozumel. Their tail-wagging habit is a good behavioral field mark for the species.

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

One along the road down to Alberto's beach on Cozumel; they're typically less common on the island than the mainland.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica) [b]

One of the most widespread warblers of the tour, seen most days. They were particularly common on Cozumel -- including one hopping around on the ground practically at our feet in the thatched shelter in El Cedral.


Singles on most days, including one bright male along the road down to Alberto's beach on Cozumel.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED TANAGER (Piranga roseogularis)

We found our first pair along the rough track we walked our first afternoon on the mainland, but had even better looks at others along the road to Laguna Ocum the following morning. That broken white eye ring is distinctive -- and eye-catching. This handsome bird is endemic to the Yucatan peninsula.

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The Rose-throated Tanager is endemic to the Yucatan peninsula. Photo by participant Joe Suchecki.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) [b]

Seen nearly every day of the tour, including some quite showy birds sitting on wires on the drive to El Cedral and flitting through the trees around the Chichen hotel zone. This is a winter visitor to the Yucatan peninsula.


Seen in the bigger, wetter forests of the southern mainland, with especially nice views of those attending the ant swarm near the start of the boardwalk trail at Laguna Ocum. We also had a few along the buggy trail we birded on our first afternoon on the mainland, and others with the mixed flock at Punta Laguna.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus) [b]

An adult male sat facing us in the morning sun at the north end of Cozumel, but we had most of our sightings almost a week later along the San Simon road, where we found multiple groups of both males and females resting together in roadside bushes. This is yet another winter visitor.

GRAY-THROATED CHAT (Granatellus sallaei)

Lovely views of several males dancing around us along the road to Laguna Ocum; their rosy chests are certainly eye-catching! DNA studies have shown these former "warblers" aren't warblers after all.

BLUE BUNTING (MIDDLE AMERICA) (Cyanocompsa parellina parellina)

Unfortunately, the mobs of noisy students -- riding mountain bikes, yelling their way out to the cenote and generally just having a good time -- meant that the buntings that normally feed on the ground along the track at Laguna Ocum were decidedly less conspicuous. And decidedly harder to get a good look at! Fortunately a plain brown female along the Be-Ha track near Uxmal was more obliging.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

A big mixed group of this and the next species roosted in some tall reed grass along the Be-Ha track, with more dropping in regularly as dusk approached. This species is a winter visitor to the peninsula.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea) [b]

A few scrabbled along the edges of the road down to Alberto's beach and in El Cedral on Cozumel, with others (as mentioned above) on the Be-Ha track near Uxmal. This is another winter visitor.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus)

A few got a scope view of one in a distant flowering tree while we ate our "first breakfast" in scruffy San Simon. Unfortunately, it dropped out of the tree before everybody got a chance to see it.

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We saw -- and heard -- a party of Yucatan Howler Monkeys at Punta Laguna. Photo by participant Wally Levernier.


Our best views came near the visitor's center at Laguna Ocum, when we found a pair preening in a tree near the old observation tower. We saw others around the Chichen hotel district.

MORELET'S SEEDEATER (Sporophila morelleti morelleti)

Nice studies of several in the marshy area around the Cozumel sewage works, with others around Lago Coba. This is one of the species that resulted from the split of the former White-collared Seedeater.

BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola)

Regular on the first half of the trip, with especially nice views on Cozumel; the subspecies there -- caboti -- has a very clean white throat.


Common on Cozumel, including several birds rummaging in the grass along the highway at the start of our walk along the road down to Alberto's beach. We saw others around Lago Coba.

BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR (Saltator atriceps)

Our first were some noisily calling birds among the big mixed flock we found at the Pemex gas station near Lago Coba. We had super views of others in the flowering bougainvillea shrubs in the Chichen hotel district, plus a few along the Be-Ha track near Uxmal.

GRAYISH SALTATOR (Saltator coerulescens)

A pair in a flowering tree along the edge of Lago Coba were nicely obliging, allowing good views. This species has recently been split, and the subspecies we saw is now called Cinnamon-bellied Saltator -- Saltator grandis.


JAMAICAN FRUIT-EATING BAT (Artibeus jamaicensis)

These were the big bats we saw flying out at dusk on several evenings.


A troop crashed rather noisily through the treetops at Punta Leona, proving surprisingly adept at keeping largely out of view. Eventually, though, they had to cross some more open spaces, and one even sprawled out briefly on an open branch for a rest.


A singleton seen by most at Punta Laguna, not far from the previous species.

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The beautiful Vigia Chico cenote made a lovely backdrop as we waited for the sun to set on the night we found our Northern Potoo and Mottled Owl. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

YUCATAN SQUIRREL (Sciurus yucatanensis)

A couple scrambled around in trees near our Chichen hotel, and one dropped bits of shell on us as it worked its way into a big nut there. As its name suggests, this species is endemic to the peninsula.

CENTRAL AMERICAN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta punctata)

Single animals on three different days, always scuttling across an open track or roadway. These big, tailless rodents are at the bottom of the food chain -- and heavily hunted -- so are always rather wary.

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

Two, looking well-fed, rambled along the edge of the mangroves near the Celestun marina, seen as we headed towards our boat trip.

WHITE-NOSED COATI (Nasua narica)

A single animal (presumably a male, since females usually travel in groups) crept along the edge of the road near Ria Celestun, then crossed while most of us were distracted with our search for Rufous-necked Wood-Rail.

MARGAY (Felis wiedii)

Some in my van spotted one as it trotted across the Santa Teresa track in front of us as dusk approached on our afternoon visit there.


BLACK SPINY-TAILED IGUANA (Ctenosaura similis)

Quite common across much of the peninsula, seen daily on the latter half of the tour. This is also known as "Black Iguana".

STRIPED BASILISK (Basiliscus vittatus)

One hunted along the edge of Lago Coba. Other common names for this species include "Yellow-striped Basilisk" or "Brown Basilisk".

MORELET'S CROCODILE (Crocodylus moreleti)

One lounged along the edge of Lago Coba.

COMMON MEXICAN TREE FROG (Smilisca baudinii)

Singles on several days in the middle of the tour: in the Chichen hotel district, at Uxmal (where Angela and Wally found one near their room) and along the San Simon road.

Totals for the tour: 217 bird taxa and 8 mammal taxa