The Ultimate In Birding Tours

North America & The Caribbean

SOUTHERN MEXICO – The Ultimate itinerary in the region

Wednesday 1st March – Friday 17th March 2023

Leader: René Valdes

17 Days Group Size Limit 7
Friday 1st March – Sunday 17th March 2024

Leader: René Valdes

17 Days Group Size Limit 7


Birdquest’s Southern Mexico tours explore a fascinating part of North America that offers some truly awesome opportunities in one of the most exciting birding destinations on earth. Our ultimate Southern Mexico tour includes both Oaxaca and Chiapas (including legendary El Triunfo), as well as several other areas, producing a fantastic list of Mexican endemics and near-endemics. These include Beautiful and Slender Sheartails, Oaxaca and Cinnamon-sided Hummingbirds, Blue-throated Motmot, Belted Flycatcher, Unicoloured, Dwarf, Black-throated and White-throated Jays, and Giant, Sumichrast’s and Nava’s Wrens, not to mention the stunning Red-breasted Chat, Pink-headed and Red Warblers, and Orange-breasted and Rosita’s Buntings.

Mexico, land of the Mayas, Aztecs, Zapotecs and Conquistadores, is one of the most charismatic countries in the world. Sombreros, white-clad peons on a stubborn mule and siestas conjure up a sleepy image which disguises (as well as any Zapata-style moustache) a country rapidly entering the modern world, where good roads, accommodation and food are the norm. It is the second most populous and the third-largest country in Latin America, with an incredible variety of habitats ranging from steamy tropical lowland jungle and barren cactus-studded hills to refreshing pine forests and high alpine vegetation above the treeline. Over half of the country is at an altitude of over 3300ft (1000m) and much of that at over 6600ft (2000m), and more than 80% of this splendid nation is classified as having a semi-arid climate.

Mexico basically consists of a high central plateau flanked by an eastern and a western range of mountains set back from the coast. Mexico City, one of the largest conurbations on Earth with more than 20 million inhabitants, is located in a high inter-montane basin measuring only 30 miles (50 kilometres) across and was founded as Tenochtitlan under the militarist rule of the Aztecs. As well as experiencing cactus-covered plains and sleepy adobe villages dominated by white-painted churches, a Hollywood-inspired stereotype of Mexico over a hundred years ago, we shall visit modern cities, well preserved Zapotec sites inspiring awe for Mexico’s rich cultural history, tranquil oak and pine forests and fabulous mountains.

Mexico, both culturally and ornithologically, is a land of stark contrasts. A transitional zone between the temperate North American continent and the lush rainforests of Central America, Mexico’s position, physiography and contrasting habitats have produced an endemic-rich avifauna which, remarkably, is third only to Brazil and Peru amongst New World countries. Amazingly, no fewer than 213 species of birds are restricted to Mexico and northern Central America! Mexico is also the wintering ground of a splendid selection of colourful migrants from North America and the mixed warbler flocks are a real feature of its woods. This tour is designed to thoroughly explore the central and southwestern parts of the country, the richest region for birds in all Mexico, and our itinerary is the most comprehensive available for this endemic-rich part of the country.

Accommodations, food and roads are mainly of a good standard, making travelling and birding in Mexico a pleasure.

Our Southern Mexico tour starts in the state of Chiapas, in far southeastern Mexico. Breathtaking scenery at the El Sumidero Canyon near Tuxtla Gutierrez is augmented by the delightful Red-breasted Chat, the nomadic Slender Sheartail and the rare Belted Flycatcher, while not far away the striking but almost unknown endemic Nava’s Wren inhabits limestone karst outcrops. The sprightly, near-endemic Pink-headed Warbler is just one of our target species in the cool mountain forests surrounding the lovely town of San Cristobal de las Casas, where we will also keep our eyes open for gems like Blue-throated Motmot and Black-throated Jay.

The arid scrub of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and coastal Chiapas is home to Orange-breasted and Rosita’s Buntings, two of the most stunning of Mexico’s many endemic birds, and the amazing Giant Wren and the retiring Cinnamon-tailed (or Sumichrast’s) Sparrow are likewise found nowhere else.

In the Pacific lowlands and foothills around Puerto Angel, the semi-deciduous woodland holds three extremely localized endemics: Oaxaca (or Blue-capped) and Cinnamon-sided Hummingbirds, and the stunning little White-throated Jay. The offshore waters often produce Black Storm Petrel and Townsend’s Shearwater, together with an excellent selection of other pelagic species.

Continuing north, we shall explore the deserts and woods around the attractive city of Oaxaca. This is the richest area in the country for endemic birds, home to Beautiful Sheartail (or Beautiful Hummingbird), Dwarf Jay, Ocellated Thrasher, Collared Towhee and Bridled and Oaxaca Sparrows amongst others.

In the state of Veracruz, the pine-oak forests of the Sierra de Juarez should yield a rich crop of specialities, including Unicolored Jay, Slate-colored Solitaire and White-naped Brushfinch, while in the Cordoba area we will search limestone outcrops for the restricted-range Sumichrast’s Wren.

Our journey ends in the cool forests on the volcanic slopes just to the south of Mexico City. Here we shall search for the rare Sierra Madre Sparrow at one of only two known remaining localities. Striped Sparrow and Black-polled and Hooded Yellowthroats are amongst the other endemics likely here.

Birdquest has operated Southern Mexico tours since 1987.

Accommodation & Road Transport: During the main tour the hotels are mostly of good standard, occasionally of medium standard. Road transport is by minibus/passenger van and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Southern Mexico tour is mostly easy during the main tour, sometimes moderate. During the extension, it mostly ranges from easy to moderate.

Climate: Generally warm or hot, dry and sunny at lower altitudes, but much cooler in upland areas. Whilst overcast weather is quite regular, rain is infrequent at this season. It will be rather humid in the lowlands.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Southern Mexico tour are quite good.


  • Finding the gorgeous Belted Flycatcher, Bar-winged Oriole and the splendid Red-breasted Chat at the imposing El Sumidero Canyon with its 1000m high cliffs
  • Tracking down a secretive Singing Quail and a much-wanted Pheasant Cuckoo at the edge of the canyon
  • Seeking out loud-voiced, restricted-range Nava’s and Sumichrast’s Wrens in their unique limestone habitat
  • Taking in the the atmosphere of the colonial centre of San Cristobal de las Casas, the attractive capital of the state of Chiapas
  • Admiring the very attractive but very localized Pink-headed Warbler in the evergreen pine-oak woodland
  • Standing in awe at unbelievably-coloured Rosita’s and Orange-breasted Buntings in the scrubby woodland of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
  • Gazing at Russet-crowned Motmot and Citreoline Trogon in coastal woodland
  • Observing fabulous Giant Wrens and vociferous White-bellied Chachalacas in their tiny range
  • Waiting patiently at flowering heliconias for the smart Oaxaca Hummingbird to come in
  • Taking a boat off Puerto Angel to be surrounded by Green Turtles and Spinner Dolphins together with lots of seabirds including Black Storm Petrels and Nazca Boobies
  • Birding the cloud forest of Cerro San Felipe seeking out the diminutive Dwarf Jay, the terrific Red Warbler and the smart Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo
  • Strolling through desert studded with impressive organpipe cacti where Grey-breasted Woodpeckers and Bridled Sparrows thrive
  • Visiting the amazing Zapotec archaeological site of Monte Alban where Ocellated Thrasher, Thick-billed Kingbird and Canyon Wren dwell
  • Finding the tiny Bumblebee Hummingbird at flowerbanks in montane woodland
  • Listening to the ethereal, haunting song of the modestly-clad Slate-coloured Solitaire in the cloud forest
  • Scoping the dapper and very rare Sierra Madre Sparrow in its crispy bunch grass habitat at 3000m altitude just outside Mexico City
  • Looking at the very localized Strickland’s Woodpecker and the colonial Buff-breasted Flycatcher in open pine woodland
  • Locating rare Black-polled and Hooded Yellowthroats in the surroundings of Mexico City


  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Tuxtla Gutierrez.
  • Day 2: El Sumidero canyon. Overnight at Tuxtla Gutierrez.
  • Day 3: Tuxtla Gutierrez region, then drive to San Cristobal de las Casas.
  • Day 4: San Cristobal de las Casas area.
  • Day 5: Drive to Isthmus of Tehuantepec, then continue to Arriaga.
  • Day 6: Puerto Arista area, then drive to Tehuantepec.
  • Day 7: Tehuantepec area, then drive to Puerto Angel.
  • Day 8: Puerto Angel and Sierra Madre del Sur, including pelagic boat trip.
  • Day 9: Puerto Angel area, then drive to Oaxaca.
  • Days 10-11: Oaxaca area.
  • Day 12: Drive to Tuxtepec. Visit Sierra de Juarez.
  • Day 13: Sierra de Juarez. Overnight at Tuxtepec.
  • Day 14: Sierra de Juarez, then drive to Cordobá.
  • Day 15: Cordobá area, then drive to Mexico City.
  • Day 16: Mexico City region.
  • Day 17: Mexico City region. Late afternoon tour end at airport.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2023: £5850, $6890, €6750, AUD9850. Tuxtla Guttierez/Mexico City.
2024: provisional £5850, $6890, €6750, AUD9850. Tuxtla Guttierez/Mexico City.

Single Supplement: 2023: £810, $960, €940, AUD1370.
Single Supplement: 2024: £810, $960, €940, AUD1370.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.


Southern Mexico: Day 1  Our tour begins this evening at our hotel in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas State, where we will spend two nights. (Airport transfers will be provided.)

Southern Mexico: Day 2  The great canyon of El Sumidero, just north of Tuxtla, is an awe-inspiring sight. As we gaze down at the Rio Grijalva, far below, we may hear the sound of some distant songbird carried up to us by the wind or we may see a Short-tailed Hawk join the vultures soaring against the massive 1000m (roughly 3300ft) cliffs.

The main ornithological attractions of the area lie along the road which bisects the woods of the canyon rim. At lower altitudes, we find bamboo-cloaked dry thorn bush, which changes to evergreen woodland at higher elevations.

A series of rare and localized regional endemics are to be found in this wonderful place. The elegant Belted Flycatcher and Bar-winged Oriole can regularly be found here, but most prized of all is the gorgeous Red-breasted Chat. Actually a warbler, a good view of this skulking slate, white and red bird moving quietly through the thorny bush, tail cocked, is ample reward for a persistent search. The handsome Blue-and-white Mockingbird is another skulker, but fortunately, a proud singer, which may well help us find it. The delightful Fan-tailed Warbler is usually encountered near army ant swarms, where it will feed, undisturbed by our presence, on the insects that have been flushed by the marauding ants. Its intricate tail movements will remind us of Asian fantails. The fabulous Slender Sheartail is one of the great prizes here. At this time of year their favourite flowers are available and so we have a good chance of getting good looks at this lovely, but often unobtrusive hummingbird. Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallows sometimes perch on overhead wires and the inconspicuous Flammulated Flycatcher betrays its presence with its piercing song.

Other restricted-range specialities of the area include the raucous Plain Chachalaca, the smart Highland Guan (which betrays its presence by its loud whistles), the near-endemic Buff-collared Nightjar, Canivet’s Emerald, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, the impressive Great Swallow-tailed Swift, Couch’s Kingbird and Olive Sparrow.

At this time of year, the widely-distributed but usually very hard to see Pheasant Cuckoo relentlessly utters its call from the patches of evergreen forest and hopefully, we will be able to feast our eyes on this much-wanted species.

Other widespread species include Brown Pelican (here far away from its more typical coastal habitat), Black and Turkey Vultures, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Bobwhite, Inca and White-tipped Doves, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared and Vaux’s Swifts, Buff-bellied and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Plain-capped Starthroat, Gartered and Collared Trogons, Velasquez’s Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Greenish Elaenia, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Dusky-capped, Brown-crested, Sulphur-bellied, Boat-billed and Social Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Violet-green Barn and Cave Swallows, the secretive Banded and Cabanis’s (or Plain) Wrens, Swainson’s and Clay-colored Thrushes, Tropical Mockingbird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Black-and-white, Tennessee, Magnolia and Wilson’s Warblers, American Redstart, Scrub and Yellow-throated Euphonias, Western Tanager, the amazing Yellow Grosbeak, appealing Varied and Blue Buntings, Rusty Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle and Bronzed Cowbird.

Southern Mexico: Day 3  This morning we will visit an area of limestone karst habitat where we stand a good chance of finding the most enigmatic of Mexico’s 32 species of wrens. The striking Nava’s Wren favours bare limestone rocks, pinnacles and small cliffs, infested with an impenetrable tangle of vines and trees. Its beautiful and far-carrying song will lure us inside this amazing habitat where, with a bit of luck, we will be able to admire this little-known endemic at close range as it clambers over rocks before disappearing into its strange environment.

Other species we may well find here include the very localized endemic Long-tailed Sabrewing, as well as Grey-headed Dove, Stripe-throated Hermit, Stripe-tailed and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Blackburnian and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Bananaquit, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Red-throated Ant Tanager, Black-faced Grosbeak and Yellow-faced Grassquit.

Later we will drive to the lovely town of San Cristobal de las Casas for a two nights stay in the highlands of Chiapas.

Southern Mexico: Day 4  San Cristobal de las Casas is situated at an altitude of 2100m (roughly 6900ft) in a pine-clad mountain valley and was founded in 1528. It exudes a distinctive colonial atmosphere with its arcaded palaces, red-tiled dwellings with charming patios and many old churches. The colourful craftwork markets are famous and the area is inhabited by several Indian tribes with eloquent names like Tenejapan, Chamulan and Zinacanteco. The whole region has long been neglected by the Mexican government and this led to an independence movement that has come to terms with the Mexican government only relatively recently. There is still a strong military presence in the area.

The main habitat here is mixed evergreen pine-oak woodland, interspersed with small fields and brushy flower banks. This habitat is home to a series of exciting regional endemics. Far-carrying low hoots will betray the presence of the shy Blue-throated Motmot, but the prize bird here is the extraordinary Pink-headed Warbler. This near-threatened gem of a bird is confined to Chiapas and adjoining Guatemala and has recently declined quite dramatically. Rufous-collared Thrushes lead an unassuming existence and the tiny Rufous-browed Wren will call from the dense undergrowth, while if we are in luck we will encounter a group of Black-throated Jays sneaking through the canopy. We will also keep an eye open for Black-capped Swallows, which are sometimes to be seen perched on overhead wires. Mixed warbler flocks very occasionally hold the rare Golden-cheeked Warbler, which migrates here from its breeding haunts in central Texas. Another good bird hear is Olive Warbler, nowadays a monotypic bird family.

If we are really lucky we will find White-breasted Hawk or Black-capped Siskin, both of which are regional endemics.

Birds of wider distribution we are likely to encounter in the San Cristobal area include White-throated Swift, Northern Flicker (of the distinctive Guatemalan race, sometimes split as Guatemalan Flicker), Greater Pewee, Band-backed Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Thrush, Nashville, Townsend’s and Hermit Warblers, Slate-throated Whitestart, Common Bush Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow and Black-headed Siskin.

Nocturnal outings may produce goodies like the regional-endemic Bearded Screech-Owl, the responsive Mottled Owl and, if the goddess of birders will allow, the very rarely seen Unspotted Saw-whet Owl.

Southern Mexico: Day 5  We will set out early today in order to be in the hill country of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec fairly early in the day. Here we will search the tangled vegetation of the foothill gullies for two of Mexico’s most dazzling endemics.

The Orange-breasted Bunting, whose shimmering turquoise upperparts, bright yellow-green cap and golden underparts have to be seen to be believed, is a true Mexican gem. Every bit as good as Orange-breasted Bunting, and with a tiny range, is the fabulous Rosita’s (or Rose-bellied) Bunting. The male is a vivid blue bird with a shocking pink belly, and seeing, admiring and enjoying this spectacular avian jewel will no doubt be yet another of the highlights of this remarkable tour.

Raucous screams may reveal the presence of the endemic West Mexican Chachalaca, while the endemic Green-fronted Hummingbird and the endemic Sclater’s Wren also make a living here. Colourful endemic Citreoline Trogons and Russet-crowned Motmots perch stolidly in the sub-canopy. Other species we should encounter include Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, the spectacular, restricted-range White-throated Magpie-Jay and Streak-backed Oriole.

After this enjoyable interlude, we will continue to the small town of Arriaga for an overnight stay.

Southern Mexico: Day 6  In the varied habitats surrounding the small coastal village of Puerto Arista we will experience the birdiest day of the tour. Mangrove-lined lagoons, a wide sandy shore along the peaceful Pacific Ocean, wide mudflats bordering a meandering tidal arm, extensive groves of small thorny trees, spiny thickets, pastures, fields with brushy edges, copses of mangoes and huge ceibo trees offering shade to the small farms will allow us to notch up a bird list featuring both quality and quantity.

Before dawn, we will be waiting under an impressive kapok tree for the distinctive rather gruff call of the Pacific Screech Owl and hope to catch this tiny nocturnal critter in the beam of our spotlight. The dawn chorus here is dominated by the loud chattering of regional-endemic White-bellied Chachalacas and the chortling, rollicking song of the Giant Wren. The latter is endemic to a narrow coastal strip of the state of Chiapas, but luckily this impressive bird is quite common here and the noisy and showy family groups are a feature of this area. The White-bellied Chachalaca, here at the extreme western end of its area of distribution, is often hunted and so the birds keep a low profile deep in the thickets after their vociferous morning display is over. Boisterous and flashy regional-endemic Yellow-winged (or Mexican) Caciques flit through the flowering trees, where we also hope to see the localized Spot-breasted Oriole.

Other species we could well find in this habitat include White-tailed and Hook-billed Kites, Sharp-shinned, Grey, Harris’s, Crane and White-tailed Hawks, Laughing Falcon, Red-billed Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, Orange-fronted and Pacific Parakeets, White-fronted Parrot, Pauraque, Lesser Nighthawk, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, the endearing Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, the exquisite Painted Bunting, White-collared Seedeater, Melodious Blackbird, the attractive Orchard, Altamira and Baltimore Orioles, and Blue-black Grassquit.

Later in the morning, when bird activity has ebbed away with the increased heat, we will divert to the nearby coastal lagoons, where a rewarding assortment of waterbirds can be found, including American White Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Great Blue, Little Blue, Tricolored and Green Herons, Great, Snowy, Western Cattle and Reddish Egrets, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Blue-winged Teal, Western Osprey, Snail Kite, Northern Jacana, Grey (or Black-bellied), Semipalmated, Snowy and Wilson’s Plovers, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Western, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, Sanderling, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Gull-billed, Sandwich and Caspian Terns, Black Skimmer, Ringed, Belted and Green Kingfishers, Mangrove Swallow and Northern Waterthrush.

From the Arriaga region, we will travel westwards along the southern edge of the windswept Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the city of Tehuantepec, where we will overnight.

Southern Mexico: Day 7  The almost impenetrable, low, xerophytic, thorny scrub near Tehuantepec is home to the well-marked Cinnamon-tailed (or Sumichrast’s) Sparrow. Known only from this tiny corner of Mexico (just around the Oaxaca-Chiapas state border) this is an inveterate skulker inhabiting grassy edges in this restricted habitat. Doubleday’s Hummingbird is another endemic we may well encounter here amongst the flowering shrubs, and we will surely see some more Orange-breasted Buntings.

Other species we may well encounter include the charismatic Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, the enigmatic, regional-endemic Lesser Roadrunner, Grey-breasted Martin, Yellow Warbler and Stripe-headed Sparrow.

After birding here we will continue westwards to Puerto Angel for a two nights stay. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Southern Mexico: Day 8  During our time at Puerto Angel we will explore the nearby foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur where shade coffee groves provide an alternative environment for two endemic and extremely localized hummingbirds: the magnificent Oaxaca (or Blue-capped) Hummingbird and the attractive Cinnamon-sided Hummingbird. Other endemics in this area include Colima Pygmy Owl, Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Happy Wren and Golden Vireo. Additional species we may find today include Cooper’s, Broad-winged and Zone-tailed Hawks, Bright-rumped Attila, House Wren, Hepatic Tanager, the gorgeous Red-headed Tanager, Summer Tanager, and Greyish Saltator.

Further into the mountains, we will explore mixed pine-oak forest where the stunning little White-throated Jay, another extremely localized endemic, can sometimes be found making its way through the forest understorey.

We will also take a boat trip offshore in search of seabirds. Pink-footed Shearwater, Black Storm Petrel, Brown Booby and Magnificent Frigatebird are all regularly encountered and with a modicum of luck and the right weather conditions, we could encounter some of the scarcer species, which include the rare endemic Townsend’s Shearwater (which breeds on the remote Islas Revillagigedo), Galapagos Shearwater, Least Storm Petrel (a Mexican breeding endemic), Nazca Booby, Pomarine Jaeger, Franklin’s and Sabine’s Gulls, and Black, Royal and Common Terns.

Southern Mexico: Day 9  After some final birding in the Puerto Angel region we will climb up through the spectacular scenery of the Sierra Madre del Sur and continue to Oaxaca for a three nights stay.

Southern Mexico: Days 10-11  One’s first impression of Oaxaca is of a pleasant town of airy patios and pink arcades, famous for its Indian markets, surrounded by a desert plain amidst barren mountains. On closer examination, we find that this area was once the bed of a vast lake and careful irrigation by the Oaxaqueño farmers led to lush green vegetable and flower fields growing alongside desert cacti and scrub. Above the city, clear streams tumble down from pine-clad peaks.

The Oaxaca basin and the surrounding uplands are home to some rare and localized species: more Mexican endemics can be found in this area than anywhere else in the country. During our time here we will visit the undisturbed mixed pine-oak forests on Cerro San Felipe, looking for interesting endemics including Mexican Whip-poor-will, the rare Dwarf Jay, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Rufous-capped Brushfinch and the skulking Collared Towhee. In addition, we may well encounter Mountain Trogon, Pine Flycatcher, the stunning Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, the dazzling Crescent-chested Warbler and Black-vented Oriole, all of which are restricted to the highland forests of Mexico and northern Central America. The truly exquisite Red Warbler, with its shiny silver cheeks, eclipses even the brightest of its northern cousins and often travels with them in mixed flocks.

We will also search an area of dense thorn scrub and oak thickets for such endemics as Dusky and Beautiful Hummingbirds, the rare Pileated Flycatcher, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Boucard’s Wren, the unusual Ocellated Thrasher, Blue Mockingbird, White-throated Towhee and Oaxaca Sparrow.

In a desert area with many organpipe cacti, we will find the endemic Grey-breasted Woodpecker and the boldly marked and endearing Bridled Sparrow. Rocky outcrops and inspiring Zapotec ruins are inhabited by curious Canyon and Rock Wrens. A small lake often holds a nice selection of water-loving birds including Ruddy Duck, American Coot, Killdeer, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Black Phoebe and Buff-bellied (or American) Pipit.

Other specialities in this area include the near-endemic Thick-billed Kingbird, the strange-sounding, regional-endemic Brown-backed Solitaire and the near-endemic Audubon’s Oriole. If we are very fortunate we will even come across the outstanding and highly-prized endemic Aztec Thrush or the unpretentious, regional-endemic Grey-collared Becard.

Other more widespread species we may well encounter in this marvellous area include Northern Crested Caracara, Band-tailed Pigeon, Common Ground Dove, Mourning and White-winged Doves, Groove-billed Ani, the angry-looking Mountain Pygmy Owl, Rivoli’s (or Magnificent) Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Acorn and Hairy Woodpeckers, Vermilion and Ash-throated Flycatchers, Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds, Northern Raven, Steller’s Jay, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Plumbeous Vireo, Orange-crowned, Virginia’s, Audubon’s, Black-throated Grey and MacGillivray’s Warblers, the striking Golden-browed Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Lark and Lincoln’s Sparrows, and Scott’s and Hooded Orioles.

Southern Mexico: Day 12  Today we will drive to the bustling little town of Tuxtepec for a two nights stay. We will have our first chance to explore the Sierra de Juarez this afternoon.

Southern Mexico: Day 13  On the Atlantic slope of the Sierra de Juarez a diversity of habitats range from lowland and montane rainforests through cloud forest to lovely mixed pine-oak woodland on the higher ridges. As a result of this diversity, a wide variety of birds can be expected, but we will, of course, focus on Mexican/Central American endemics and specialities.

Early in the morning, we may flush a shy White-faced Quail-Dove from the roadside or chance upon a secretive White-naped Brushfinch feeding at the edge of a track. The most characteristic sound of these forests is the ethereal, haunting song of the self-effacing Slate-colored Solitaire, but finding the songster itself can be quite tricky. The localized Unicolored Jay is often found in roving bands and we may also find the diminutive Dwarf Jay rummaging around in the pines.

Imitating the song of the Central American Pygmy Owl (a member of the Least Pygmy-Owl complex) often attracts mobbing passerines that may include Yellow-winged Tanager and the enchanting Blue-crowned Chlorophonia (both regional endemics), and hopefully also the owl itself. Tiny regional-endemic Bumblebee and Amethyst-throated Hummingbirds, as well as Berylline Hummingbirds, are attracted to the rich flower banks where we should also encounter regional-endemic Cinnamon-bellied Flower-piercers doing their thing. Other regional endemics we hope to find here include the shy Long-tailed Wood Partridge, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, the furtive Mayan (or Mexican) Antthrush and the large Grey-barred Wren.

Other species of more widespread distribution include the lovely White Hawk, Roadside and Red-tailed Hawks, Barred Forest Falcon, American Kestrel, Crested Guan, Brown-hooded Parrot, Striped Cuckoo, Chestnut-collared Swift, Long-tailed Hermit, Keel-billed Toucan, Smoky-brown and Golden-olive Woodpeckers, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous, Strong-billed, Spotted and Spot-crowned Woodcreepers, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Northern Tufted, Hammond’s, Olive-sided and Piratic Flycatchers, the pretty Rose-throated Becard, Spot-breasted Wren, noisy but unobtrusive White-breasted Wood Wren, Long-billed Gnatwren, the secretive Black-headed and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrushes, Hermit, Black and White-throated Thrushes, Blue-headed, Cassin’s and Warbling Vireos, Golden-crowned Warbler, Crimson-collared and White-winged Tanagers, Buff-throated and Black-headed Saltators, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks, Black-cowled Oriole and the retiring Yellow-billed Cacique.

Southern Mexico: Day 14  After some final birding in the Sierra de Juarez we will drive to Cordoba for an overnight stay.

Short stops at wetlands along the way may well produce Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Limpkin and Northern Jacana. We should arrive in Cordobá in time for some initial exploration.

Southern Mexico: Day 15  The area surrounding the town of Cordobá in the state of Veracruz is the centre of Mexico’s coffee-growing industry and it is here, on limestone outcrops where coffee is grown under shade trees, that we will be wanting to find the rare Sumichrast’s (or Slender-billed) Wren. This elusive endemic species is only known from karst outcroppings in central Veracruz and adjoining northern Oaxaca, where it plays hide and seek in the many nooks and crannies of this distinctive habitat.

The mournful calls of secretive Thicket Tinamous and the quavering whistles of cautious Singing Quails, both of which are regional endemics, emanate from the forested hills. We will keep an eye out for fruiting trees that are often visited by Red-lored Parrots, colourful Keel-billed Toucans, Emerald Toucanets (now restricted to Mexico and northern Central America after taxonomic revision), Collared Aracaris and feisty Montezuma Oropendolas, whilst the regional-endemic Curve-winged (or Wedge-tailed) Sabrewing and White-bellied Emerald flit about in flowering bushes.

Other species we hope to find here include such regional-endemics as Olive-throated Parakeet, Lesson’s (or Blue-diademed) Motmot, and Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, as well as White-crowned Parrot, Masked Tityra, the vociferous Brown Jay, the handsome Green Jay, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher and Tropical Parula.

During the afternoon we will head for Mexico City, where we will stay at the southern edge of one of the largest cities on earth for two nights.

Southern Mexico: Day 16  The huge, bustling metropolis of Mexico City is situated at an altitude of around 2250m (7400ft) and is surrounded by cool pine forests which cling to the slopes of the many extinct and active volcanoes. The most famous of these, the mighty Popocatepetl (5452m or 17,887ft) can often be seen smoking threateningly in the far distance.

At this time of year, bird song enriches the crisp morning air, in marked contrast to the noisy urban bustle of the valley below. Underfoot are thick clumps of bunch grass covering uneven volcanic rock, interspersed with outcrops of sharp lava, and this is the home of two handsome endemic sparrows. The exceedingly rare Sierra Madre Sparrow is nowadays known only from a small area south of the capital and from an area in distant Durango. The buzzing song is the best clue as to the whereabouts of this small, secretive bird. The pot-bellied Striped Sparrow is a more conspicuous creature, often found in noisy groups, and we shall make a concerted effort to find both of these restricted-range species.

A mix of verdant pine-oak forests, brushy thickets and small fertile fields adds to the diversity of this interesting area which is home to several other Mexican specialities. The attractive but often unobtrusive Strickland’s Woodpecker is endemic to a tiny area of central Mexico. The fetching Buff-breasted Flycatcher is the most distinctive member of that nightmare genus Empidonax. This group of flycatchers is often considered to be the bane of New World birders because they can be so difficult to identify. Other regional endemics include White-eared Hummingbird and the attractive Grey Silky-flycatcher.

Amongst the many other species we may well encounter during our time in the area are Broad-billed and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Northern Flicker (of the red-shafted form), Dusky Flycatcher, Mexican Chickadee, American Bushtit, Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, American Robin, Curve-billed Thrasher, Hutton’s Vireo, Elegant (or Blue-hooded) Euphonia (usually found in mistletoe), Canyon and Spotted Towhees, Chipping Sparrow, Yellow-eyed Junco, Eastern Meadowlark, House Finch and Red (or Common) Crossbill.

We shall also visit a vast reedbed where the endemic Black-polled Yellowthroat can be found. It is known only from a few marshes in Mexico’s central belt, drainage of which now threatens the continuing survival of the species. With luck, we will be able to compare its head pattern with that of the Common Yellowthroat, which can also be found here.

These once extensive marshes were inhabited by the Slender-billed Grackle, a colonial icterid that was last observed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Unrelenting drainage of the Lerma marshes has led to the extirpation of this reed-loving species.

Secretive Soras forage along the reed edges, where Song Sparrows scratch in the soil. Flocks of Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds swoosh over the reeds and amongst them we will try to find the localized ‘Bicolored Blackbird’. The latter is usually considered to be a race of the more widespread Red-winged Blackbird but is a local breeding species that can easily be identified by the lack of a pale border to the red wing coverts in the male.

Other species of the area include Least, Pied-billed and Eared (or Black-necked) Grebes, Black-crowned Night Heron, White-faced Ibis, Mexican Duck, Northern Shoveler, Northern Harrier, Common Gallinule, Wilson’s Snipe, Horned Lark, Tree and Cliff Swallows, and Brown-headed Cowbird.

Southern Mexico: Day 17  This morning we will visit an area of natural arid oak scrub at the edge of Mexico City. Here we will try to locate the endemic Hooded Yellowthroat, which unlike most other members of the genus Geothlypis favours dry brushy habitat. Flowering trees and bushes sometimes attract Lucifer Hummingbirds and endemic Black-backed (or Abeille’s) Orioles, and we may also find the lovely, regional-endemic Rufous-capped Warbler, as well as Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, Rufous-crowned and Black-chinned Sparrows, Northern Cardinal, Bronzed Cowbird and Lesser Goldfinch.

Afterwards, we will head for Mexico City airport, where our Southern Mexico tour ends in the late afternoon.


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Other Mexico & United States birding tours by Birdquest include: