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Free and Sovereign State of Tamaulipas

Mangrove Warbler
Mangrove Warbler Setophaga petechia ©Rolando Chavez Website

Tamaulipas is a birder’s and a butterfly watcher’s paradise. The junction of two biogeographic regions –the Nearctic and the Neotropical – accounts in part for its rich biodiversity. The other part is explained by the presence of three great land areas – the Great North American Plains, the Coastal Golf Plains and the Sierra Madre Oriental. All of these things, plus the local guides and friendliness of its people, make Tamaulipas an ideal place for nature watchers coming to find neo-tropical bird and butterfly species not found further north.

Two major areas are recommended for finding neotropical species:

Ciudad Victoria Birding Routes

Ciudad Victoria is the capital of the State of Tamaulipas. A town with good hotels and restaurants, medical services and all the commodities of a city yet it is still very close to wonderful birding and butterfly watching areas. For this reason it has been known for years as the “Birding Capital”. Most interesting routes around Ciudad Victoria include:

* Rio Corona, located only 40 km (65 miles) north of Ciudad Victoria, is the northernmost Neotropical River. Taking the road that borders this river on its way to the town of Santa Engracia you will most probably find Blue-crowned Motmot, Elegant Trogon, Red-crowned Parrot and Brown Jay. If you visit the park named Salto del Tigre you will add Ringed, Belted and Green Kingfishers.

* Cañon El Novillo, Troncones and La libertad are excellent birding spots around Cidudad Victoria. Here you might find Common Back-Hawk, Elegant Motomot, Yellow-headed Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Magnificent Hummingbird, Blue-throated Hummingbird and Social Flycatcher. If you like butterflies this is a good place to find Creamy Stripestreak, Carousing Metalmark, Superb Cycadian, Variable Swallowtail and Hermit Skipper

* The town of Jaumave, located only 40 minutes form the capital of the state is a must, especially from October through January when the Military Macaws fly over this picturesque town and feed on the pecan trees on its three plazas or “squares”. If you come back to Ciudad Victoria using the Old road you can visit Balcon de Montezuma, an archaeological site surrounded by interesting endemics bird species like the Bronze-winged Woodpecker and Tamaulipas Pygmy Owl.

* Lake Guerrero Dam will add the aquatic species like Muscovy Duck, Lineated Woodpecker, Thicket Tinamou and Green Jay to your list of birds.

If you want to visit “Balneario La Florida”, follow the signs to this place. La Florida is usually a less visited place, especially on weekends during the summer or Mexican holidays; you might want to try this instead of Bocatoma. If you like butterflies in this area you can find Ruddy Daggerwing, Montezuma Cattleheart, Silver Emperor, Pavon Emperor, Shining Blue-skipper, Starred Skipper, Dark Mylon, Black Hairstreak, Damo Hairstreak, Intense-blue Hairstreak, Tropical Greenstreak, Ardys Crescent, Huastecan Crescent and Pointer Sister

* Gomez Farias is a neat little town which is one of the entrance doors to the reserve. Some comfortable lodging options can be found there that are a good option in the winter since they don’t have air conditioning. Birding in the garden of Hostal Casa de Piedra can be a delight; some species include Squirrel Cuckoo, Azure-crowned Hummingbird and Melodius Balckbird.

* Going up the mountain to Alta Cima requires a high clearance vehicle. If you don’t have one you can hire 4x4 transportation service at the Plaza in Gomez Farias. The trip to Alta Cima is about 1 hour if you don’t stop, but you will love to stop every now and then to bird on the road and find spectacular species species like Bat Falcon, Ornate Hawk-Ealge and Solitary Eagle.

* Once in Alta Cima you will be delighted by Blue Mockingbird, Crimson-Collared Grosbeak, Mountain Trogon, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush and Spot-breasted Wren. While there you can have lunch at La Fe Restaurant and buy T-shrits embroidered by hand with your favorite bird.

Make sure you hire a local birding guide. They are the ones that can help you locate the highlights of the moment. Nests for Ornate Hawk-Eagle and Stygian Owl have been located in the area.

* Going past Ocampo and towards Tula can pay off. As you are coming south toward Ciudad Mante on highway 85, take a road to the right that goes to Ocampo. This road takes you to the higher elevations, on a paved road! You need to be careful to find a place to park on the side of the road; heavy trucks drive on it constantly. There is a Dirt road going up to the right, about 30 minutes after you pass Ocampo. This road is a wonderful birding area. Here you will find Rufous-capped Warbler, Elegant Euphonia, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush and Brown-backed Solitaire. If you are a butterfly lover this road will yield some of the higher elevation species like Callidryas Leafwing, Stained Greenstreak, Mountain Greenstreak, Narrow-banded Dartwhite, Giant White, Arcius Swordtail and Eight-spotted Longtail to name a few species

Tour Operators and Trips

Birding and butterfly watching events have flourished over the past few years. All inclusive trips departing form the Texas Valley are offered to the two annual events in Tamaulipas that are hosted by local guides and international trip leaders.

* El Cielo Festivals are a joint effort with local communities to promote sustainable development and alternative sources of income after the banning of the logging industry. This project has included the training of locals as birding and butterfly watching guides. This maximizes the amount of species seen.

* El Cielo Nature Festival (3rd Annual). February 18-21, 2007. Takes place every year immediately following Brownsville International Birding Festival. This event offers all inclusive packages departing from McAllen, Harlingen, Weslaco and Brownsville. Birding and butterfly watching options are available every day.

Contact information: Sonia Ortiz elcielofestival@gmail.com Phone: 011-52(81)8378-5926

El Cielo Butterfly Festival (2nd Annual). November 1-5, 2006. Takes place every year the first weekend in November. This event offers all inclusive packages departing from McAllen, Harlingen, Weslaco and Brownsville.

Contact information: Sonia Ortiz as above

Local Birding and Butterfly watching guides.

If you plan to visit Tamaulipas on your own you might find it useful to hire a local guide. This can be achieved by contacting Sonia Ortiz

Top Sites

Alta Cima

Satellite View

Alta Cima is a cloud forest area around the town of Gomez Farias. It holds a number of specialities including several hummingbirds, trogons and parrots. Many areas can be birded from the road or short trails. It is also a great area for migration and holds many N American warblers etc.


Sonia Ortiz

El Cielo Festivals 2006



Useful Reading

Fieldguides, CDs etc.

For a selection of appropriate fieldguides and CDs etc see the general Mexico page of Fatbirder…


Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

El Cielo Biosphere Reserve


Satellite View

The El Cielo Biosphere (Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo in Spanish) is located in the southern part of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The biosphere protects the northernmost extension of tropical forest and cloud forest in Mexico. It has an area of 144,530 hectares (357,100 acres) (558 square miles) made up mostly of steep mountains rising from about 200 metres (660 ft) to a maximum altitude of more than 2,300 metres (7,500 ft).

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


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.

2002 [11 November] - Oscar Carmona - North-east Mexico


My wife and I spent 4 days birding and sightseeing in North-eastern Mexico from November 22nd to 26th, 2002. We drove to and spent some time at the Horsetail Falls/Cola de Caballo area near Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Gomez Farias, Tamaulipas, and the Xilitla, San Luis Potosi area. The roads were in good shape and the weather was excellent. Some areas were birdier than others. All in all, the trip was successful. Below is a detailed report for each day.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Hostal Casa de Piedra


When you visit El Cielo biosphere reserve, the Hostal Casa de Piedra, located in Gomez Farias, Tamaulipas, reserve main gate, offers you the best lodging and food service, with an ecotourist concept thought for all the people that wish to know, learn, enjoy and understand the Mexican wealthy bio-diversity. With all the comfort you deserve, you will be surrounded by the luxuriant vegetation of their exuberant gardens…

Hotel Mante - Ciudad Mante


mailto:hotel-mante@mante.com.mx 011-52 (831)233-9900