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Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca

Mexican Jay Aphelocoma wollweberi ©Alan Vernon - Wikimedia Website

Birding Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a large state is the south of Mexico, southeast from Mexico City and adjacent to Chiapas. Covering the southern half of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, it boasts a wide variety of habitats and is famous as a centre for endemic species. Its capital city - also named Oaxaca - is situated at 5000 ft. elevation in the broad valley of Oaxaca now much cultivated to agriculture. The primary endemics are found in brushy hillsides around the valley's edges (including Dwarf & Slaty Vireos, Oaxaca Sparrow, White-throated Towhee) or in patches of desert scrub (Grey-breasted Woodpecker, Beautiful Hummingbird, Boucard's Wren, Bridled Sparrow).

To the north of the capital are mountains covered in oaks at mid-elevations and then in pine forests at the crest; logging roads on Cerro San Felipe provide access to fine habitat for Dwarf Jay (often with moving flocks of the canopy-dwelling Grey-barred Wren) and a good selection of Montane hummingbirds.

The Madre del Sur separates the high Oaxacan valley from the Pacific coast lowlands on the Gulf of Tehuantepec; cloud forest at its crest has other specialties (e.g. the Oaxaca endemic Blue-capped Hummingbird). The Pacific coast lowlands are hot and dry but remnants of thorn scrub still hold West Mexican Chachalaca and Yellow-crowned Parrot. The delightful coastal fishing town of Puerto Angel lures tourists but also has breeding boobies on rocks offshore.

Oaxaca is comparatively well known with its own major avifaunal tome (Binford 1989). Even birders cannot fail to be impressed by the cultural heritage in the valley of Oaxaca. Yagul, the ruins of a very old village that includes an ancient stadium for a pre-Columbian ball game, is a famed birding locale for its desert scrub specialties. Monte Alban overlooks Oaxaca city and is the most impressive ruin, a major temple complex that served as the ceremonial centre at the height of the Zapotec culture. Brush around the site has nesting Pileated Flycatchers and White-throated Towhees. Only Mitla, another archaeological site with complex geometric mosaics, lacks birds to go with the culture, but it is on the way to brush at the eastern end of the valley which holds Blue Mockingbird and Ocellated Thrasher (especially around the Microondas Nueve Puntas towers).

Detailed directions to all these sites are in Howell (1999); older but still useful details are in Edwards (1968, 1985) and old issues of the now-defunct Mexican Birds Newsletter. Very specific information on threatened and endangered species (among them the Yellow-crowned Parrot & Blue-capped Hummingbird) are in Collar et al. (1992). Howell & Webb (1995) is the now-standard field guide. Artefacts and jewelled treasures from Monte Alban and other sites can be viewed in museums in Oaxaca city.

The city itself is full of little cafes and shops and very colourful painted walls. A special delight is the annual Night of the Radishes festival at Christmas time. Intricately carved radishes form dioramas in booth after booth around the central zocalo in an atmosphere that will remind Americans of county fairs. On Christmas itself there are parades through the city with much music and fireworks. A variety of birding tour companies offer Oaxaca at Christmastime packages but it is easily visited by individual birders using rental cars and hotels.

The contributors published their interesting Oaxaca records in Roberson & Carratello (1997). They recommend the Night of the Radishes [Noche de los Rábanos] highly as well as colourful local handicraft.


Don Roberson & Rita Carratello

Monterey Bay, California



Number of Species

Number of bird species: 777

As at June 2018


Number of endemics: 2

(16 near endemics) Blue-capped Hummingbird Eupherusa cyanophrys Oaxaca Sparrow Aimophila notosticta

Useful Reading

A Distributional Survey of the Birds of the Mexican State of Oaxaca

Laurence C Binford | American Ornithologists' Union | 1989 | Paperback | 418 pages, 31 figs |

ISBN: 0943610540

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds and Birding in Central Oaxaca

By John M Forcey | Buteo Books | 2009 | Paperback | 76 pages, maps |

ISBN: #188081

Buy this book from NHBS.com


Abbreviations Key

NP Benito Juárez


Satellite View

The Benito Juárez National Park is in the Valles Centrales Region of Oaxaca, Mexico, and includes parts of the municipalities of San Felipe Tejalapam and San Andres Huayapan. The southern boundary of the park is about 5 kilometers north of the City of Oaxaca. The park was established in 1937 during the presidency of General Lazaro Cardenas del Rio, and is named after President Benito Juárez, who was a native of Oaxaca

NP Huatulco


Satellite View

In the low lands of the park, there are 9,000 species of plants (about 50% of the species are reported throughout the country) in the forest and mangroves in the coastal belt. Fauna species have been identified as 264, which includes armadillos and white-tailed deer. Bird species are counted at 701, which include hummingbirds, pelicans and hawks. The reptile species are counted to be 470, which include Black Iguana, salamanders and snakes. Dolphins, whales and turtles are sighted species off the coast line, out of the identified 100 amphibian species.

NP Lagunas de Chacahua


Satellite View

Birds such as storks, herons, wild ducks, blue-winged teals, pelicans, and spoonbills can be found here. Three species of turtles also visit the park to lay their eggs.

Guides & Tour Operators

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Tour Operator

…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. There are coastal dunes, mangroves, savannas, lowland and highland cloud and rain forests, deserts. Mexico is one of main biological diversity hotspots with 1,040 different species of birds, of which many are endemic…

Eric Antonio Martinez


Recommendation from a Fatbirder use April 2013:
Birding with Eric Antonio Martinez Last week three of us, father, mother and daughter, from Portland, Oregon were visiting in Oaxaca City. We went on a birding day trip with Eric Antonio Martinez. He is the founder of Mexico Birding a co-op made up of local birding guides from around Mexico, they offer day trips as well as tours lasting from several days to a month. Eric mailto:mirmidons_1987@yahoo.com is based in Oaxaca but guides all over southern Mexico. Eric is Zapotec born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle where he still lives. He is a university graduate who studied field biology and specializes in ornithology. He is also a federally licensed guide with impeccable English. In addition to his expertise in birding, he is extremely knowledgeable about the ecology, geology and culture of the region. He is helpful, flexible, accommodating and very open. We recommend him highly.

Oaxaca Birding Tours


Guide Roque Antonio Santiago of Cuauhtemoc #5 Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, C.P 70420 - mailto:oaxaca_sparrow@hotmail.com

Solipaso - Sonoran Audubon Oaxaca Birding

Tour Operator

This tour to the incredibly diverse state of Oaxaca Mexico has been especially desgned for Sonoran Audubon members. This will mark the third year that Solipaso has teamed up with members of Sonoran Audubon to explore an interesting corner of Mexico…

Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

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.

2008 [01 January] - Michael Retter


… We followed some muffled whistles and discovered that a Rufous-backed Robin had set up a territory in the hotel! The local and vibrantly crimson race of House Finch also paraded around for all to see…

2009 [03 March] - Michael Retter


…Generally, it was quiet this morning, but we did find four of the aforementioned endemics: White-throated Towhee, Boucard’s Wren, Gray- breasted Woodpecker, and the awesome Slaty Vireo…

2010 [January] - Michael Retter


…Here we saw most of the region’s associated dry-forest endemics, like Gray-breasted Woodpecker, Bridled Sparrow, and Ocellated Thrasher…

2011 [January] - Megan Crewe

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…Top of the list was the Ocellated Thrasher we found -- rather unexpectedly -- when we stopped for a look at a Western Scrub-Jay; he sang from a nearby bush, giving us a great chance to study him in the scopes. Then there was the "eye candy" Red Warbler that flicked through bushes right beside our picnic lunch spot. And the Northern (Mountain) Pygmy- Owl that tooted from a mossy oak while a swirling mob of agitated hummingbirds, warblers and vireos swarmed around it. A stunning male Mountain Trogon sat, jewel-like, on a low branch….

2012 [January] - Megan Crewe & Chris Benesh

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…A tiny Northern Pygmy-Owl tooted its challenges to the world, surrounding by an angry mob of warblers, vireos and hummingbirds. Three Long-tailed Wood-Partridges scrambled through a fruiting tree, looking for goodies. A horde of Gray-barred Wrens rooted through bromeliads and mosses on an oak's shaggy branches. Two Strong-billed Woodcreepers flashed back and forth across a logging track and crawled up a host of nearby tree trunks. A tiny Beautiful Hummingbird returned again and again to the same two perches…

2012 [March] - Christoph Moning & Gerlinde Taurer

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…decided for Oaxaca and Chiapas, which seemed great regions to see as many Mexican endemics as possible. Our travel started and ended at Mexico City, taking us in a wide loop through Oaxaca and Chiapas. In Chiapas we joined a group, to spend a couple of days in the reserve El Triunfo. Just before returning to Mexico, we decided spontaneously to drive up to Veracruz, to add another gem, Sumichrast’s Wren, to our already satisfactory list….

2013 [January] - Megan Crewe & Pepe Rojas

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…A jewel-bright Mountain Trogon called from a moss-draped branch. Gray-barred Wrens swarmed along branches, poking and prodding at bromeliads A Golden Vireo searched for bugs in nearby bushes. The brilliant scarlet flowers of the ubiquitous Coral Bean trees attracted hordes of Black-vented, Bullock's and Hooded orioles. A Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, his skulking habits momentarily overcome by hormones, sang from a perch in plain sight. A pair of Bridled Sparrows demonstrated the endearing wing-waving territorial display of the species…

2013 [March] - John C Kendall - Hautulco

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…We picked up all of the targets, including Townsend's, Wedge-tailed and Galapagos (Audubon's) Shearwater, and all 5 Booby species, including what appears to be a Nazca booby juvenile. We also saw a large pod of Spinner Dolphins and many turtles…

2015 [04 April] - Andrew Spencer - Oaxaca & Chiapas

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2016 [01 January] - Dan Lane


...Separated from other such habitats by elevation and more humid pine-oak forests on the slopes surrounding it, the valley has several species that are unique, including Oaxaca and Bridled sparrows, Boucard’s Wren, Ocellated Thrasher, White-throated Towhee, Beautiful Hummingbird, and Gray-breasted Woodpecker. Other west Mexican dry-habitat endemics are also present, such as the three vireos (Slaty, Golden, and Dwarf), Dusky Hummingbird, and Blue Mockingbird. The pine-oak forest on the slopes above are home to other endemics, particularly the very local Dwarf Jay, but also Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Collared Towhee, Rufous-capped Brushfinch, White-striped Woodcreeper, and Red Warbler. There is no shortage of birds to enjoy here...

2016 [02 February] - Pepe Rojas & Tom Johnson


Pepe and I were excited to share this adventure through the Oaxaca region with you. From the cool heights of Cerro San Felipe to the dry Pacific Slope and with all the good food and wonderful culture in between, we had an exciting week. With the exceptionally dry conditions, bird activity was a bit slower than average, but we persevered and made some memorable sightings of the fantastic birds that this area has to offer. Ocellated Thrasher, Slaty Vireo, Dwarf Jay, Russet-crowned Motmot... oh, the list of bird highlights is quite long.

2016 [03 March] - Jon Hornbuckle - Western Mexico


...We started birding by a small reservoir on the edge of town seeing Reddish Egret, Killdeer, Wilson’s Snipe, Say’s Phoebe and Curve-billed Thrasher. We continued up into the dry hills and soon found some superb Bridled Sparrows as well as Rufous-crowned and another Oaxaca feeding along the edge of the track. In the scrub we saw West Mexican Chachalacas, Grey-breasted Woodpecker, the Sumichrast race of Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Virginia’s and Black-throated Grey Warblers and Painted Redstart, but two singing Blue Mockingbirds remained in cover...

2017 [01 January] - Ross Schaefer - Oaxaca & Chiapas


My Father and I just got back from a successful trip to the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico. The trip consisted of 8 full days birding, and we had a total list of around 281 species, depending on which taxonomy authority you use....

2017 [02 February] - Dan Lane & Cory Gregory


...The next day was an exploration into yet another different habitat; we headed towards the coast, down in elevation, to the KM 77 area. Hiking up the dry, desert wash put us in great position to see specialties like Russet-crowned Motmot, Green-fronted Hummingbird, Rufous-naped Wren, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Varied Bunting, and a great study between Ash-throated and Nutting’s flycatchers. Although breezy and warm, the visit to the radio towers on our return drive was interesting. We had our first taste of Ocellated Thrasher behavior (sneaky!), saw a few distant Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays, and a skulky Audubon’s Oriole....

2017 [04 April] - Nick Athanas - Oaxaca & Isthmus

PDF Report

...Orange-breasted and Rose-bellied Buntings, amazing wrens like Boucard’s and Giant, record numbers of Dwarf Jays, a fearsome Fulvous Owl that first seemed like it wasn’t going to come in and then suddenly did, numerous eye-popping orioles, superb sparrows including Bridled and Cinnamon-tailed, a completely unexpected Ocellated Quail, and the warblers, oh yes, the warblers!

2017 [12 December] - Dan Lane & Doug Gochfeld


...with several Mexican endemics, including our only Boucard’s Wrens of the tour, which put on quite a show, and our first Gray-breasted Woodpeckers and Dusky Hummingbirds. Blue-black Grassquit, a species we don’t usually encounter on the tour, was a surprise here, and we got good looks at several species of sparrow, including Lincoln’s, and our only Grasshopper and Vesper sparrows of the week...

Places to Stay

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Agua Azul la Villa


With its pristine palm-lined streets Huatulco is truly an unspoiled tropical paradise where 70% of the area has been designated as an ecological zone. Some of the popular activities here include: swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing as well as golf, white water rafting, bird watching and eco-tours.

Casa Adobe


Experience the vibrant life and colorful sights of Oaxaca. Sleep and relax away from the noise and pollution of city traffic. Enjoy the best of both worlds…

Hotel Santa Fe


We invite you to enjoy the 700 species of birds found in the richly biodiverse state of Oaxaca and explore the Costa Esmeralda while based in the luxuriant comfort of the Hotel Santa Fé. We offer quick access to exciting birding locations such as the lush mangrove forests of Manialtepec Lagoon where Boat-billed and Bare-throated Tiger Herons, and White-throated Parrots are common. Nearby Chacahua Lagoon National Park hosts nesting Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill, while the Colotepec River valley only 4 km from the Santa Fé is home to stunning Pacific slope endemics like White-throated Magpie Jay and Doubleday`s Hummingbird. Pelagic trips for Shearwaters and Storm Petrels also offer views of dolphin and turtle species at sea. A 2 hour drive to the 3,500 elevation brings you to the shade-grown coffee region of Nopala with beatiful tropical evergreen forest avian wonders like Emerald Toucanet and Blue Mockingbird…

Other Links

Oaxaca, Mexico - Wildlife and Nature


The state of Oaxaca is located in the southeast region of the Mexican Pacific with a population of about 3.4 million people. 32.5 percent of the population are indigenous peoples this being 53 percent of the total indigenous population in Mexico. Oaxaca is the 5th biggest state in Mexico and the state with most biodiversity. There are 8,400 registerded plant species, 736 bird species and 1,431 terrestrial vertebrate species. The state ranks high in areas of the world with the most endangered species…

Photographers & Artists

Bird Photographer - Manuel Grosselet


Some really excellent photographs including several endemics…