Free and Sovereign State of Yucatán
Yucatán is one of the 31 states of Mexico, located on the north of the Yucatán Peninsula. The Yucatan peninsula includes three states: Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo; all three modern states were formerly part of the larger historic state of Yucatán in the 19th century. The state capital of Yucatán is Mérida.
Yucatán borders the states of Campeche to the southwest, Quintana Roo to the east and southeast, and the Gulf of Mexico to the north and west. As a whole, the state is extremely flat with little or no topographic variation. The exception are the Puuc hills, located in the southern portion of the state.
The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the premier birding destinations in North America. Not only does it have 555 species of birds (more than half of Mexico’s 1050) but the birding is relatively easy both in terms of climate and terrain. Because of the popularity of the 'Riviera Maya': Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, flights are numerous and inexpensive from North America and Europe. The major birding areas are safely accessible by rental car on well-maintained roads. Excellent guides are available due to a twenty year old program of training established by Barbara Mackinnon. Multi day guided tours are available but are not necessary if you have a mildly adventurous spirit and do a bit of advance planning. There are wonderful bonuses to birding in the Yucatan. You can include Mayan Archeological sites such as Chichen Itza,Coba , Ek Balam and Calakmul as birding destinations. The majority of the Mayan sites are in pristine places and very productive birding spots.
The Yucatan peninsula’s location, climate and large variety of habitats are the reasons it is such a phenomenal birding destination. It is not only the variety of habitats but the extent and number of good birding areas. The states of Yucatan and Quintanna Roo have 17 Ramsar sites (internationally recognized wetlands of major importance). The Rio Lagartos Reserve is considered an especially important reserve for aquatic birds. The Mexican government has been a leader in creating Biosphere Reserves. On the peninsula there is Rio Lagartos (with American Flamingos and 395 species, the most of any of the reserves), Sian Ká an (Over a million acres of wilderness set aside to the south and west of Playa Del Carmen), Celestun and Calakmul (the most remote and pristine with ocellated turkeys in the midst of Mayan Ruins).
Birding here is by no means limited to the remarkable Bio Reserves. Any chance you have to take a walk is a birding opportunity wherever you happen to be on the peninsula. Cenotes and Petenes are always productive places as well as the Mayan archaeological sites with easy to hike paths. Traveling back roads will always yield sightings. The Yucatan depends primarily on tourism, ranching and agriculture. There is very little industry and most is environmentally clean assembly style factories. Even in the midst of the busy resorts you find many birds.
The Yucatan is not third world and travel is no more dangerous than in Europe or the USA. The roads are safe and well maintained and driving is easy. The internet is available in virtually every small town. Lodging ranges from remodelled haciendas and high end boutique hotels to simple and inexpensive local posadas and hotels. The food is fairly priced with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and great seafood. People here are friendly and somewhat shy but open to communication.
Come Visit! If you are open, friendly and patient and use local guides you will add to your lifetime lists of both birds and friends.
Guide - Rio Lagartos Adventures
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 555
Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)
Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve
The Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve, best known for its spectacular flocks of American Flamingos, makes for an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and gives you the perfect excuse to kick back, relax, and get back to nature…
Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve
In 1979, Mexico established the Rio Lagartos Bio-Reserve in the state of Yucatan.The reserve protects nearly 60,000hectares(150,000 acres) of forest,dunes, MANGROVES,estuaries and beaches. It includes the fishing villages of Rio Lagartos, San Felipe, Las Colorados and El Cuyo. 388 Bird species (residents and migratory) have been identified here along with 59 species of Mammals, and 80 species of Reptiles 99 species of Fish, 16 Amphibians and a rich and diverse Flora…
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Diego Nuñez- Rio Lagartos Adventures
Rio Lagartos is best place for birdwatching and birding tours on the Yucatan Penisula. If you are looking for a one-stop location to see as many birds as possible while visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, the Ría Lagartos Reserve tops the list with 394 birds -70% of all the birds reported for the region…
Explore the fascinating Maya World, refuge of great biodiversity, exhuberant jungles, the second largest coral reef in the World, natural springs ( cenotes ); the most important archeological sites of the ancient Maya and impressive colonial cities - This unique eco-tour is specially design for bird watchers. We will be able to visit the main protected areas in theYucatan peninsula such as Sianka`an, Holbox, Coba, and El Eden, as well as Guatemala and Belize rainforest. Mexico has around 1,040 different bird species, just in the Yucatan peninsula there are 509 different species in 62 families, from which 12 are endemic, with 4 subspecies, 2 morphos and 14 hipotetical registers. Belize and Guatemala have also more than 550 species of birds.
We are well known for our custom tours with highly skilled leaders for small private groups. Some of our clients like to explore the seldom seen sites far from the usual tourist routes or combine, for example rarely visited sites with discovering the birds and other wildlife and natural history of the Mayan empire.
…In birding terms Mexico is a very rich country due to its geographical situation. There is a wide variety of habitats and ecosystems, which are home to a rich flora and fauna full of endemics….
A guide from Rio Lagartos, Yucatan who will guide and can pick up from Cancun etc…
Motmot Birding Tours
The Yucatan Peninsula with around 548 bird species is unique. This area is the most commonly visited by birders. The open setting makes birding easy with some spectacular concentrations and diversity of species where 80 per day could be identified. Such as: the Thicket Tinamou, Great Curassow, Ocellated Turkey, Black-throated Bobwhite, Lesser Yellow-Headed, Crane Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Barred Forest-Falcon, Ruddy Crake, Rufous-Necked Wood Rail, Spotted Rail, Yucatan Parrot,, Yucatan Poorwill, Yucatan Nightjar, Vermiculated Screech-Owl, Black Catbird, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Vireo, Mexican Ant-thrush, orange Oriole and so on. It is a wonderful birding and nature experience…
Rio Lagartos Adventures
Experience the natural beauty of the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve' with Rio Lagartos Adventures…
Sierra Nevada Avian Center
The Yucatan Peninsula is high on the list of unique destinations for birders because of the high bird diversity (540 species), which includes 18 endemic species (14 on the mainland and 4 on Isla Cozumel). The area is also known for spectacular Mayan ruins, warm climate, excellent cuisine, and great snorkeling. November is a good time to bird the peninsula because North American migrants are still passing through the area yet the summer rains are declining. On this tour we will visit habitats on the peninsula and Isla Cozumel that include dry forest, coastal scrub, lagoons, mangroves and tall humid forest.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2007 [02 February] - Lars Olausson & H-E Persson
…We had just reached the small wetland when it started to rain so we headed back. Best birds this morning were Blue Bunting. We had now realized that a rental car was a must for having any chance of morning birding. We had breakfast and then we started to negotiate prices with rental companies, discuss with each other and finally we agreed a Nissan from Hertz. Parking outside our hotel was impossible so we were told to use Walmart´s parking area, some ten minutes away from the hotel. Picked up the rest of the families and headed north to Puerto Moreles while the sky was clearing up and the sun began to dry the wet roads. Enjoyed the small village, had lunch and decided to search for the “cenote road” on our way back. No problem, we drove a few km along the road, found an area with low bushes and birded for half an hour. Highlight this afternoon Red-billed Pigeon…
2007 [02 February] - Michael Retter
… Northern Parula, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, and “Myrtle”, Black-throated Green, “Western” Palm, and Black-and-white Warblers made up the bulk, with small numbers of Lesser Greenlet, Bananaquit, and White-eyed Vireo. Roving flocks of Brown Jays screamed as they passed overhead, loosely associated with a nice mix of orioles: Altamira, Black-cowled, and Hooded. Green-backed Sparrows and Red-throated Ant-Tanagers called from the undergrowth…
2008 [01 January] - Michael Retter
…Then a Tennessee Warbler and a Northern Parula. By far the prize of the flock, a male Black-throated Blue Warbler then appeared and delighted for a good 10 minutes…
2009 [02 February] - Geoff Upton
This was primarily a family holiday with my wife Sarah and our 17-year olds Rachel and Joe. We chose the Yucatan peninsula because we could fly relatively cheaply from the UK to Cancun and because we thought there would be plenty of interest for everyone – for me this included the possibility of seeing some good birds. We weren’t disappointed…
2010 [02 February] - Michael Retter
…This allowed us close and prolonged views of exciting birds such as Gray-throated Chat (at right), Long- billed Gnatwren, and Black Catbird….
2011 [01 January] - Brian & Isabel Eady
…After downloading a Clements “Yucatan Peninsular” checklist from “Avibase”, it became apparent that quite a few of the 546 bird species would not be new sightings for us, having previously visited Trinidad, Tobago and Costa Rica where we had picked up a total 261 of them. However it still left us with a sizeable number of species which could be available for us to swell our life list, and of course re- familiarise us with species we had seen before…
2011 [01 January] - J Kirby
…I took a week trip to Mexico from the 3rd to 9th of January. It was not a dedicated birding trip so I only spent two days birding. However, it was still very productive with 134 species seen….
2011 [05 May] - Val & Alan Greggains
…On this day we walked a mile or so north from the hotel and picked up Altamira Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Yucatan Jay and Ruby-throated Hummingbird in addition to the common species noted earlier. As expected there were far fewer birds in evidence than in January…
2012 [02 February] - John & Jo Tallon - Yucatan Peninsular
…This report should be read as a sequel to that of Brian & Isabel Eady from January 2011 (also hosted by Birdtours) as reading that gave us the inspiration for our own trip. Feeling the need for some winter sun we did some research over the Christmas holiday and thought Mexico seemed like a good option. As soon as we had seen the Eadys’ report we were convinced. Like them we have previously been to Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica so have some grounding in the birds of the region. (Since returning we have also read the report by Val and Alan Greggains who had been there at the same time as the Eadys and returned in April/May)…
2012 [03 March] - Mark Van Beirs
…We recorded 252 birds and 9 mammals on our wanderings through the scrub, dry woodlands and marshes of the states of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo. The combination of fairly easy birding, some great mammals, imposing archaeological sites and very enjoyable weather made for a perfect winter escape…
2013 [02 February] - Michael Retter
…We spent the afternoon out on the Ría Lagartos, among the mangroves, salt pans, and flocks of the intensely coral American Flamingos (below, with Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture). We also had nice views of a white morph reddish egret, some American Oystercatchers, and a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron….
2014 [02 February] - Allan Drewitt
…The Mexican Yucatan peninsula is a good location for a birding holiday and a great introduction to Mexican birds. There are around twenty species more-or-less restricted to the peninsula and many other specialities including several Caribbean species, not found elsewhere in Central America. The birding locations are all easy to reach with an ordinary saloon car, and travel to the area is quite economical as package holidays and cheap flights are available to the resorts around Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the east coast….
2015 [01 January] - Håkan Thorstensson - Yucatán Peninsula & Cozumel Island
Sites, diary and bird list
2015 [02 February] - David Alan Showler
...On my first afternoon I saw a dinky female Mexican sheartail (perched in a garden close to my room) and then walked the 3 km to the road junction and turned east. About 150 m along in open scrub (north side of road) were at least nine Yucatan bobwhites. Next morning I teamed up with an American birding couple, Deb and Frank (who had a car; they asked if I would like to join them), which was enjoyable. I got them Yucatan bobwhite (location as previous day, here also calling ferruginous pygmy-owl, 3 orange orioles, 2 Yucatan wrens, and a grey-crowned yellowthroat responded well to Frank’s pishing) and we saw two lesser roadrunners at the Rancho San Salvador junction.
2015 [03 March] - Mike Youdale
...More views of Yellow-backed, Orange and Hooded Orioles around the ruins kept us occupied, as did a beautiful Ruddy Ground Dove before our attention was led away by a small number of warblers feeding nearby. The first warbler we managed to see was a Palm Warbler, feeding on the short grass near the path. Yellow-rumped and Blackburnian Warblers also showed well
2015 [11 November] - Megan Edwards Crewe - Yucatan & Cozumel
Our Yucatan and Cozumel tour offers a lovely short break "south of the border," ranging across the entire width of the Yucatan peninsula as we visit some of the region's most famous Mayan ruins -- which also contain some of the peninsula's most sought-after birds. The weather was (for the most part) delightful, with little rain and generally pleasant temperatures. And the birding was most enjoyable...
2015 [March] - Clayton Burne
...Yucatan Flycatcher put in a quick performance, but White-lored Gnatcatcher displayed incredibly well, both males and females showing their characteristic field marks. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sat up on the electrical wires and we eventually had decent visuals of a vocalising White-eyed Vireo.
2016 [01 January] - Neil Gilbert
I picked the Yucatán Peninsula as my first foray to the tropics because it is easy and inexpensive to access. For the planning and preparation for this trip, I relied heavily on Howell’s field guide and birder’s guide as well as trip reports and eBird lists from the hotspots. I went with my good friend from college Joel Betts, who, though enthusiastic about birds, isn’t a seasoned lister, so our trip might look a bit different from that of a hardcore endemic-chaser.
2016 [03 March] - Mark Van Beirs
A totally crazy, thoroughly unafraid male Ocellated Turkey, brimming with testosterone, was the undisputed bird of the tour....
2016 [04 April] - Nick Crouch
...Tropical Mockingbird, Great Kiskadee, White-winged Dove, Clay-coloured Thrush and Yellow Warbler were all soon to become very familiar, and I also added Orange Oriole (my first Yucatan endemic), Yellow-throated Warbler and Plain Chachalaca. Another 20 minutes after breakfast added Social Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black-cowled, Orchard and Hooded Orioles, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, and the only Greyish Saltator of the trip....
2016 [08 August] - Ross & Melissa Gallardy
...The first morning I spent birding along this road involved heavy rain that would stop intermittently. In between the heavy bouts of rain I was still able to find Middle American Screech-Owl (before light), Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Collared Aracari, Stub-tailed Spadebill, and my only Grey-throated Chat of the trip...
2016 [09 September] - Nick Watmough
...Further down the road a feeding party included American Redstart and Hooded Warbler mixed in with Lesser Greenlet and Red-throated Ant Tanagers, whilst Northern Waterthrushes were common along the road edge. I headed further down the road and at around 5km the tracks leading to a couple of the small lakes referred to in the Howell book where I came across White-collared Seedeater. A nearby clearing yielded Roadside Hawk, Aztec Parakeet and White-bellied Wren....
2016 [11 November] - Chris Benesh & Alex Dzib - Yucatan & Cozumel
2017 [02 February] - Eustace Barnes
... Our night birding here gave us a Mottled Owl and a couple of Yucatan Poorwills giving a nice highlight ‘bundle’. At Calakmul we saw 33 Ocellated Turkeys, 4 Great Curassows and 5 Thicket Tinamous one morning! A mega ant swarm here gave us spectacular views of Rufous-naped Wood-Rail and Northern Royal Flycatcher amongst a mass of others jostling for poll position...
Places to Stay
Hacienda Chichen Resort and Yaxkin Spa
Green boutique hotel and Eco-Spa resort committed to sustainable tourism, offers birders a private Bird Refuge Retreat within its 300 hectares of Maya Jungle Reserve in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico; home of over 150 bird species including many Yucatan endemic birds. This unique hotel offers guests true Mayan cultural experiences and eco-cultural activities…
Hotel Tabasco Rio - Rio Lagartos
The Hotel Tabasco Rio in Rio Lagartos,Yucatan is located on the town square just 50 meters from the waterfront(malecon) it is a family owned and operated hotel that opened in 2007. It is modern and comfortable…
Ride Into Birdland
Bird photography travels in the Yucatan Peninsula on a classic BMW F650 motorcycle… A bilingual blog (English-Spanish) about bird photography and bird observation in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Created by writer-photographer Ivan Gabaldon...
…a new website dedicated to birding in Rio Lagartos…
Dan Mennill's Bird Songs of the Yucatan Peninsula
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is home to an amazing diversity of birds, yet the vocalizations of most resident birds have not been studied in detail. By recording the songs and calls of tropical birds and presenting an analysis of their vocalizations on this website I hope to accomplish three things…
Birdwatcher's Locations Guide to Birding in Mexico - Like many others have done, travel to the Yucatan Peninsula to experience excellent birdwatching and once here be sure to visit the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a fabulous location along the north coast of the state of Yucatan in the peninsula. Here you will enjoy world class birdwatching and have a better chance of seeing 2-4 endemic birds that are either hard or impossible in the forest sites elsewhere in the Yucatan….