Free and Sovereign State of Yucatán

Black-headed Trogon Trogon melanocephalus ©Rolando Chavez Website
Birding 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.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 578

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

    Yucatan Nightjar Antrostomus badius Cozumel Emerald Chlorostilbon forficatus Yucatan Jay Cyanocorax yucatanicus Yucatan Wren Campylorhynchus yucatanicus Cozumel Thrasher Toxostoma guttatum Rose-throated Tanager Piranga roseogularis Orange Oriole Icterus auratus
Useful Reading

  • Mexico: Birds – Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche

    | By Robert Dean & Mark Wainwright | Rainforest Publications | 2012 | Unbound | 13 pages, colour illustrations, 1 colour map | ISBN: 9780984010745 Buy this book from
  • Wildlife of the Yucatan Peninsula

    | By David A Nuñez | David A Nuñez | 2012 | Paperback | 106 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9780615566467 Buy this book from

Abbreviations Key

  • BR Rio Lagartos

    InformationSatellite View
    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…
  • BR Ría Celestún

    InformationSatellite View
    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…
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Diego Nu

    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 R
  • Ecocolors

    Tour Operator
    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.
  • Ismael Navarro

    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

    Tour Operator
    Experience the natural beauty of the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve' with Rio Lagartos Adventures
  • ecoTOURS

Trip Reports
  • 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

    PDF Report
    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 [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

    PDF Report
    ...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 [02 February] - Gabor Orban

    PDF Report
    We saw our first endemic birds: Yucatan Jay, Orange Oriole and Rose-throated Tanager. Our list grew rapidly with Green and Brown Jays, Bronzed Cowbird, Hooded Oriole, Smooth-billed Ani, Mangrove and Yellow-throated Vireos, Grey-collared Becard, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Aztec (Olive-throated) Parakeets, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Great Kiskadee, musical Melodious Blackbird, Yellow-bellied and Social Flycatcher and a swift glimpse of a Squirrel Cuckoo.
  • 2016 [04 April] - Nick Crouch

    PDF Report
    ...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

    PDF Report
    ...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

    PDF Report
    ...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

    Annotated list
  • 2017 [11 November] - Chris Benesh & Cory Gregory

    The birding the next day continued to be outstanding. We found ourselves at the Campeche Road where we saw a Gartered Trogon overhead, a Canivet’s Emerald nicely perched, our first Yucatan Flycatcher swooped in, and White-bellied Wrens skulked through the thick brush. Even the ruins at Uxmal gave us a few firsts like Yellow-rumped Warbler, Cave Swallows, and a Great Black Hawk.
  • 2019 [01 January\ - Peter Collaerts

    PDF Report
    Yucatan has a lot of endemics and regional endemics, and on top of that, many North American wintering birds. We recorded 261 species, including all possible known endemics at the time. We did not see Yucatan Gnatcatcher, which was split from White-lored only a few months after our visit.
  • 2019 [06 June] - Ann Duff

    PDF Report
    The overall total number of bird species was 180 with 175 seen and 5 heard only. Mammals and butterflies were also recorded on this tour.
  • 2020 [03 March] - Brian Gibbons

    It’s hard to imagine the birds were the same—Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Hooded Warblers down for the winter, White-fronted Parrots screeching overhead, and motmots sedately taking in the scenes of thousands of Maya going about their daily lives. The birds haven’t changed, but civilizations have. From the unexcavated ruins at Sihunchen to the spectacular pyramids at Uxmal and Chichén Itza, we delighted in the birds and archaeology of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico...
  • 2022 [08 August] - v

    PDF Report
    I should start this trip report by making it clear that (as my wife kept telling me) this was not by any means a birding trip, it was actually our honeymoon – I thought it would be useful to other birders travelling to the area to read, to know what species to look out for with limited birding time!
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
Other Links
  • Birding Yucatan

    …a new website dedicated to birding in Rio Lagartos…
  • Yucatan Birds

    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
  • Anuario Ornitológico de Valladolid

    Blog about birds of Valladolid
  • 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...

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