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.

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

    | By Laurence C Binford | American Ornithologists' Union | 1989 | Paperback | 418 pages, 31 figs | ISBN: 9780943610542 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Birds and Birding in Central Oaxaca

    ByJohn M Forcey

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Benito Juárez

    InformationSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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
  • 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 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 -
  • 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
  • ecoTOURS

    Tour Operator
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 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 [03 March] - Stephen & Sandra Brauning

    PDF Report
    We traveled to Oaxaca in March 2017 from our home in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, for a birding trip, eager to increase our Mexico life list. Our time was limited to one week, after which we had a retreat at a beach resort in Puerto Escondido.
  • 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...
  • 2018 [11 November] - Ivan Phillipsen

    Oaxaca is Mexico's most biodiverse state. On this tour, we explored several ecosystems to find birds, wildlife, and plants. We also got to experience the fascinating culture of Oaxaca.
  • 2019 [03 March] - Nick Athanas

    PDF Report
    March in much of the Northern Hemisphere was rather dreary, but in southern Mexico we enjoyed day after day of warm, sunny days and cool, pleasant evenings – it was a wonderful and bird-filled reprieve from winter for the whole group including me. The tour visited the dry Oaxaca Valley (rich in culture as well as endemics), the high mountains surrounding it, lush cloudforest and rainforest on the Gulf slope, and dry forest along the Pacific.
  • 2021 [10 October] - Perg Abbot

    PDF Report
    ...After time at the ruins, we went to the nearby small restaurant of our driver Rafael’s wife, the Casa de Mami, and here enjoyed some for the most delicious food of the trip. She was ready for us with various dishes to try. Most memorable was the Mola Coloradito, but also delicious was the fresh guacamole, salsas, various meats and sweets. It was a highlight to enjoy this meal and feel so welcome by the family. In the afternoon after a short break back at the hotel, we went to a city park in Oaxaca, Parque Juarez (El Llano), a good spot for birds with large trees creating a greenspace. Right out of the bus we spied a flock of forty-plus Gray Silky Flycatchers, noisy and feeing in the larger trees. We walked about, finding Summer Tanager, Inca Dove, Nashville and Yellow warblers, and our first endemic, the Dusky Hummingbird...
  • 2022 [08 August] - Peg Abbott

    PDF Report
    ...A highlight later on in the morning was seeing Collared Towhee, a very showy and personable endemic. As the group continued up the road into lush pine forests. Eric heard Dwarf Jays and called out to the driver, “Stop”. Everyone jumped out right into a bird explosion which included Gray-Barred Wren, about nine Dwarf Jays, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, and Hairy Woodpecker. A few had quick view of Montezuma Quail, always an elusive one, and inspired by the bird party, stayed to bird this tall pine area for a while. Lunch was enjoyed mid-day in the company of Blue-throated Mountain Gem, and both Rivoli’s and Whiteeared Hummingbirds. Delicious hot chocolate hit the spot...
  • 2022 [10 October] - Michael Marsden

    PDF Report
    ... The place was full of birds! On the ground and in the low bushes surrounding the cabins could be seen Yellow-eyed Juncos, Whitethroated Thrushes, American Robins, Russet Nightingale-Thrushes, White-throated Towhees, Slate-throated Redstarts and Crescent-chested Warblers, while the endemic Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer and Common Chlorospingus, could be seen among the flowering plants. In the trees above were Brown-backed Solitaires, Gray-Silky Flycatchers, Pine Flycatchers, Steller’s Jays, Red Warblers and four new species for the trip: Mountain Trogon, Brown Creeper, Mexican Chickadee and the endemic White-throated Jay. Monique also saw a Spotted Towhee and Hassam found a White-breasted Nuthatch while Donna came across a Mottled Owl...
Places to Stay

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 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.
  • 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 F
Photographers & Artists
  • Bird Photographer - Manuel Grosselet

    Some really excellent photographs including several endemics

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