Free and Sovereign State of Baja California

Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna ©Don Des Jardin Website
Birding Baja California

Baja California, properly called Lower California in English, is the northernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the ‘Northern Territory of Baja California’. It has an area of 71,576 km2 (27,636 sq mi), or 3.57% of the land mass of Mexico and comprises the northern half of the Baja California peninsula, north of the 28th parallel. The state is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by Sonora, the U.S. State of Arizona, and the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez), and on the south by Baja California Sur. Its northern limit is the U.S. state of California.

Baja California is the twelfth state by area in Mexico. Its geography ranks from beaches to forests and deserts. The backbone of the state is the Sierra de Baja California; where the Picacho Del Diablo, the highest point of the peninsula, is located. This mountain range effectively divides the weather patterns in the state. In the northwest, the weather is semi-dry, mediterranean. In the narrow center, the weather changes to be more humid due to altitude. It is in this area where a few valleys can be found, such as the Valle de Guadalupe, the major wine producer area in Mexico. To the east of the mountain range, the Sonoran Desert dominates the landscape. In the south, the weather becomes drier and gives place to the Vizcaino Desert. The state is also home to numerous islands in both of its shores. In fact, the westernmost point in Mexico, the Guadalupe Island, is part of Baja California. The Coronado, Todos Santos and Cedros Islands are also on the Pacific Shore. On the Gulf of California, the biggest island is the Angel De La Guarda, separated from the peninsula by the deep and narrow Canal de Ballenas.

The flora of Baja California are strongly related to those of Southern coastal California. Common trees are the Jeffrey Pine, Sugar Pine and Pinon Pine. Understory species include Manzanita. Fauna include a variety of reptiles including the Western fence lizard, which is at the southern extent of its range.

Baja California has two sea shores. It borders the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Gulf of California to the east. Even though the state is not large in area, its geography is very diverse. The Sierra de Baja California (also known as the Peninsular Ranges) runs in the middle of the state with different denominations. The two most important are the Sierra de Juarez and the Sierra de San Pedro Martir. These ranges are home to forests similar to those in Southern California.The Picacho del Diablo is the highest peak in the whole peninsula, offering spectacular views of the Gulf of California. Lying in between these mountain ranges, there are some valleys that are suitable for agriculture such as the Valle de Guadalupe and the Valle de Ojos Negros. The mild weather makes this area excellent for the production of citrus fruits and grapes. This area is also rich in minerals. The mountain range gets closer to the Gulf of California towards the south of the state and the western slope becomes wider, forming the Llanos del Berrendo in the border with Baja California Sur.The cool winds from the Pacific Ocean and the cold California Current make the weather along the northwestern coast pleasant year round. The coastal cities of Playas de Rosarito and Ensenada have the one of the nicest weather patterns in the whole Mexico. But due to the California current, rains from the north barely reach the peninsula and this makes the weather drier towards the south. The area becomes a desert south of El Rosario River. This desert, however, is rich in succulents such as the Cardon, Boojum tree, Ocotillo and others. These plants can flourish in part due to the coastal fog. Driving along MX-1 provides a good view of this area.There are numerous islands on the Pacific shore. Guadalupe Island is the remote outpost to the west and it is home to big colonies of sea lions. In Cedros Island there is a small community living mostly on fishing. The Todos Santos Islands, in front of Ensenada, are popular with surfers offering some of the highest waves worldwide.To the east, the Sonoran Desert enters the state from both California and Sonora. Some of the highest temperatures in Mexico are recorded in or nearby the Mexicali Valley in the northeast. However, with irrigation from the Colorado River, this area has become truly an agricultural center. The Cerro Prieto geothermical province is nearby Mexicali as well; producing about 80% of the electricity consumed in the state and enough more to export to California. The Laguna Salada, a saline lake below the sea level lying in between the rugged Sierra de Juarez and the Sierra de los Cucapah, is also in the vicinity of Mexicali. The highest mountain in the Sierra de los Cucapah is the Cerro del Centinela or Mount Signal.The state is also blessed with numerous beaches on its east coast. Fishing and touristic towns such as San Felipe and Bahia de Los Angeles are a major attraction for people in search of adventure, nice beaches and fresh fish. The area south of San Felipe is basically undeveloped and pristine beaches can be found in many bays. All of the islands in the Gulf of California, on the Baja California side, belong to the municipality of Mexicali.The main source of water in the state are the Colorado River, which empties in the Gulf of California, and the Tijuana River, serving the cities of Mexicali and Tijuana. The rest of the state depends mostly on wells and a few dams.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 543

    (As at June 2018 for whole peninsula)
  • Number of endemics: 7

    Guadalupe Storm-petrel Hydrobates macrodactylus Guadalupe Murrelet Synthliboramphus hypoleucus Yellow-footed Gull Larus livens Guadalupe Caracara Caracara lutosa Xantus's Hummingbird Hylocharis xantusii Belding's Yellowthroat Geothlypis beldingi & Gray Thrasher Toxostoma cinereum
Useful Reading

  • Mexico Field Guides: Baja California

    | (Sea of Cortez - Pacific Coast: Sea and Shore Birds) By Robert Dean | Rainforest Publications | 2002 | Unbound | 2 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781888538366 Buy this book from

Abbreviations Key

  • NP 1857 Constitution

    Facebook PageSatellite View
    The 185 Constitution National Park is in the Sierra de Juárez, mountain range, approximately 45 miles east of Ensenada. Within its 5,009 hectares (12,400 acres); is one of interior Baja California's few semi-permanent bodies of water, Laguna Hanson…
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Los Cabos

    Tour Operator
    Los Cabos is home of 3 endemics and more than 100 other migrants and resident birds for you to enjoy, you can experience all of these in only 1/2 a day tour. add the endemic yellow footed gull making a day tour. We are locals , have more than 20 years experience in tours and programs, active learning, tourism and recreation by putting people in touch with Natural and Cultural heritage.
  • Cedros Outdoor

    Tour Operator
    Few know that the San Benitos islands not only have a few endemic species of terrestrial birds, but that they are nesting grounds of more than 2 million seabirds of 10 species…
Trip Reports
  • 2016 [04 April] - Kathie Claydon - Southern California, Baja and Panama

    Report 11-night voyage down the Pacific coast of Baja peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez.
  • 2018 [01 January] - Rob Gordijn & Helen Rijkes

    PDF Report
    After visiting Yucatan in 2008 we decided to come back to Mexico but this time bird the Western part of the country.We hired a car in Mexico City and birded the main West Mexico sites (around the cities of Mazatlan, San Blas, PuertoVallarta and Colima) and as an addition we extended the trip to Baja California and added some places around MexicoCity
  • 2022 [03 March] - Greg Smith - Sea of Cortez

    PDF Report
    Annotated list
Other Links
  • Aves de Baja California

    A site to learn and share information about the wild birds of Baja California peninsula...
  • Baja Birding

    Locations, reports, sightings etc

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