Six day birding trip around the Yucatan Peninsula – September 2022.
This personalized birding trip was specially designed for Jonathan and Kip, a couple of well-travelled bird lovers who came to the Yucatan Peninsula in the look for birds, ruins, good food and relaxing times.
Our birding trip started in Merida, where I picked Jonathan and Kip at their hotel early and drove them for about 20 minutes to our birding destination, a road with pastures and a good portion of dry forest. It was a sunny morning and there was good bird activity, as we picked up quite a few good species including: Plain Chachalaca, Black-throated Bobwhite, Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Cattle Egret, White-tailed Hawk, Black-headed Trogon, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, White-fronted Parrot, Olive-throated Parakeet, Rose-throated Becard, Yucatan Jay, Purple Martin, Cliff Swallow, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Cinnamon-bellied Saltator.
Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula).
After a very good first stop, I told Jonathan and Kip, to make a quick visit to a place where a couple days ago, I saw a roosting Common Nighthawk, so we went there and found it.
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor).
Right after that, we went to the coast to look for some more endemics plus shorebirds and egrets for our trip list. Highlights from the coast included: American Flamingo, Mexican Sheartail, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-necked Stilt, Red Knot, Greater Yellowlegs, Marbled Godwit, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Black Skimmer, Magnificent Frigatebird, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, Mangrove Swallow, Yucatan Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Gray Hawk and Yellow Warbler.
After a successful morning birding, we went back to Mérida for lunch and a break. We had some great Yucatecan food and later in the day, we went back to the coast for more birds. This time we went to a road that goes across a swampy area with mangroves and a little savanna, we had great views of American Flamingos and saw lots of shorebirds. Highlights from the afternoon include: Blue-winged Teal, Groove-billed Ani, Killdeer, Stilt Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Double-crested Cormorant, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Merlin, Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird and Northern Waterthrush.
For our second day, we made a quick visit to an ecological park in Merida looking to grab some new birds for the trip before heading out to Valladolid. We saw something around 39 species in a couple hours of relaxed birding in the morning. Some highlights include: Least Grebe, Vaux’s Swift, Cinnamon Hummingbird, American Coot, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Roadside Hawk, White-fronted Parrot, Least Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, Cave Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, House Wren, Orchard Oriole, Common Yellowthroat, Blue-gray Tanager, Cinnamon-bellied Saltator.
Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris) in Mérida.
After that, we went back to the hotel to get ready for our two hour road trip. We arrived in Valladolid, went for Yucatecan food and then checked in at our hotel.
In the afternoon, we went birding to a place about 30 minutes from Valladolid. Some highlights for the afternoon include: White-bellied Emerald, Roadside Hawk, Gray Hawk, Yellow-lored Parrot, Olive-throated Parakeet, Rose-throated Becard, Northern Bentbill, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Brown Jay, Yucatan Jay, Spot-breasted Wren, Clay-colored Thrush, Olive Sparrow, Black-cowled Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Tennessee Warbler, Blue Bunting, Blue-black Grassquit and Black-headed Saltator.
For our third day, the plan was to start heading south so we could get to a different habitat and a different set of bird species. So we left Valladolid very early and we drove to Felipe Carrillo Puerto to visit a small reserve owned by local people where we did birding for a half day and also had a very good lunch made by the people in the reserve. Highlights included: Squirrel Cuckoo, White-bellied Emerald, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Black-headed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Masked Tityra, Gray-collared Becard, Royal Flycatcher, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Northern Bentbill, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Greenish Elaenia, Lesser Greenlet, Yellow-green Vireo, Mangrove Swallow, Scrub Euphonia, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Rose-throated Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Red-throated Ant-Tanager.
Stub-tailed Spadebill (Platyrinchus cancrominus) near Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
After our visit to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, we went to Bacalar to stay at a hotel right in front of the beautiful lagoon to relax and get ready for our next day. We didn’t do birding in the afternoon but Jonathan and Kip used their spare time to go for a swim and I surely enjoyed taking a nap.
View of the lagoon from our hotel "Bacalar Blue B7".
On the fourth day, we left Bacalar early and drove for about an hour to visit the Kohunlich Archaeological Site, one of the many ruins south in the Yucatan Peninsula that are not as crowded as the popular ones (we literally had the archaeological site for ourselves!). We started birding as soon as we got to the main road that takes you to the ruins before actually doing birding inside of them. First birds of the morning included: Least Grebe, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, White-collared Manakin, Brown Jay, Magnolia Warbler and a surprise Blue-black Grosbeak!
After our first stop, we went into the archaeological site for more birding and also to see the ruins. In a little more than 3 hours of walking around we saw about 52 bird species. Some of our highlights included: Scaled Pigeon, Red-billed Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Bicolored Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Black-headed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Bat Falcon, White-crowned Parrot, Ruddy Woodcreeper, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Masked Tityra, Royal Flycatcher, Northern Bentbill, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, Lesser Greenlet, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart and Yellow-throated Warbler.
Scaled Pigeon (Patagioenas speciosa) at the Kohunlich Archaeological Site.
We arrived in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve after our half day birding in Kohunlich, so we went for lunch and a little break and in the afternoon we went birding again around the hotel grounds. The hotel where we always like to stay is surrounded by the forest of the Calakmul Reserve, so many birds move around the hotel during the day. Some of the highlights from our first afternoon in Calakmul included: White-bellied Emerald, Collared Aracari, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Yellow-lored Parrot, Olive-throated Parakeet, Black-crowned Tityra, Rose-throated Becard, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Brown Jay, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Scrub Euphonia, Hooded Oriole, Baltimore Oriole and Melodious Blackbird.
Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus) at the Chicanna Ecovillage Resort.
At night I also walked around looking for a famous Northern Potoo that has been using this hotel for quite a few years now, as soon as I found it I went to knock on the door of Jonathan and Kip so they could see this really cool bird.
For our next morning, we left the hotel very early to drive towards the Calakmul Archaeological Site, but not before a group of three Keel-billed Toucans made us stop right out of the entrance of our hotel! We had great views of those colorful birds feeding on the fruits of a Cecropia tree.
Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) outside the Chicanna Ecovillage Resort.
We got to the entrance of the ruins where we started driving slowly looking for our first Ocellated Turkeys. Once we found them, we kept driving until we got to the ruins, we parked the car and walked around the site. The Calakmul Archaeological Site is pretty unique around the Yucatan Peninsula, the dense forest surrounding it, no big cities nearby, monkeys moving around and when you’re in there, you never know what you’re going to see. So after walking for about 3 hours, we saw 56 bird species, two species of monkeys, one Gray Fox and a couple Yucatan Gray Squirrels.
Highlights from the Calakmul Ruins include: Squirrel Cuckoo, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Roadside Hawk, Keel-billed Toucan, Lineated Woodpecker, Bat Falcon, Olive-throated Parakeet, Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Masked Tityra, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, White-browed Gnatcatcher, Carolina (White-browed) Wren, White-bellied Wren, Green-backed Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, Montezuma Oropendola, Ovenbird, Blue-winged Warbler, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Gray-throated Chat, Blue Bunting and a surprise Black-billed Cuckoo!
We returned to our hotel for a well-deserved lunch and in the afternoon we went out birding around the hotel. The star of the afternoon was probably a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl that showed up a little bit for us, those little (but deadly) birds are always really cool to see. While the Owl was certainly a cool sighting, we saw about 40 bird species and got great views of most of them, some of the highlights included: Plain Chachalaca, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, White-bellied Emerald, Collared Aracari, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Olive-throated Parakeet, Black-crowned Tityra, Masked Tityra, Rose-throated Becard, Great-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Brown Jay, Green Jay, Yucatan Jay, Cave Swallow, Baltimore Oriole, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Rose-throated Tanager, Summer Tanager and Red-throated Ant-Tanager.
Olive-throated Parakeets (Eupsittula nana) at the Chicanna Ecovillage Resort.
At night, the Northern Potoo was still around.
For our last day together, we went to the Hormiguero Archaeological Site, another remote area with some of the most beautiful ruins (in my opinion) in the Yucatan Peninsula, the carvings on the main building are just incredible and the birding is just great. Before heading into the ruins, we made a few stops birding on the way to the archaeological site, where we came across quite a few nice birds, some of them included: Scaled Pigeon, White-bellied Emerald, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Black-headed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, White-crowned Parrot, Yellow-lored Parrot, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Royal Flycatcher, Greenish Elaenia, Eastern Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Yucatan Jay, Blue-winged Warbler, Northern Parula, Rose-throated Tanager, Blue Bunting and Black-headed Saltator.
Once inside the Archaeological Site, we did birding while also enjoyed the views and having the ruins for ourselves. Top birds from el Hormiguero Archaeological Site included: Squirrel Cuckoo, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Hook-billed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Bat Falcon, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Royal Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Lesser Greenlet, Yellow-throated Vireo, Brown Jay, Cliff Swallow, Spot-breasted Wren, Scrub Euphonia, Green-backed Sparrow, Black-and-white Warbler, Rose-throated Tanager, Blue Bunting.
Green-backed Sparrow (Arremonops chloronotus) at El Hormiguero Archaeological Site.
After our last morning of birding, we went back to the hotel for brunch and got ready to go to Tulum, where I was going to drop Jonathan and Kip before heading back to my hometown, Merida.
We finished the trip with about 209 bird species seen and heard.
The list of mammal species we saw while birding includes: Yucatan Gray Squirrel, Deppe’s Squirrel, Yucatan Black Howler Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey, Gray Fox, Central American Agouti.
Written by Luis Trinchan Guerra.