9-Day Mexico Birding Tour
This wonderful birding tour takes place in the southwest of the Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca. Home to over 700 species in a variety of habitats, making Mexico the richest of all the states in terms of its birds!
This tour can be booked as a private guided birding tour
Next group tour departure dates: To be confirimed
Full Itinerary: Mexico Birding
Arrival in Oaxaca City
Welcome to magical Mexico!
You are in one of the six “cradles of civilization” on Earth, a place that can trace its origins back to 8,000 BC! Mexico’s history is a rich tapestry of ancient indigenous people, Spanish colonial rule and a distinct modern identity. It has the world’s 15th largest economy, was the 6th most visited country in the world in 2018 and is often identified as an emerging power. From a cultural perspective, Mexico ranks 1st in the Americas and 7th in the world for number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Importantly for us birders it is also one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, ranking as high as 5th in natural biodiversity. With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home to an incredible 10 to 12% of the world’s biodiversity!
You will arrive from your international destination via the Oaxaca-Xoxocotlan Airport, located only a few kilometres south of the city centre of Oaxaca City. You will be met by a company representative and transferred to our comfortable hotel.
The attractive city of Oaxaca (its full name is actually Oaxaca de Juárez, but most people just use the shortened “Oaxaca”) is located in the Central Valleys region of the state of Oaxaca, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín, Oaxaca’s sentinel hill. The city has an average elevation of about 1,555 metres (5,102 ft) above sea level. It has numerous colonial-era structures as well as significant archaeological sites and elements of the continuing native Zapotec and Mixtec cultures. The city, together with the nearby archaeological site of Monte Albán, was designated in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The state of Oaxaca (officially called the Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca) is one of the most biologically diverse states in Mexico, ranking in the top 3, along with Chiapas and Veracruz, for numbers of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, plants and birds. Oaxaca has one of the most rugged terrains in Mexico, with mountain ranges that abruptly fall into the sea. Between these mountains are mostly narrow valleys, canyons and ravines.
If you have time today it might be a good idea to walk around the city (or take one of the city’s famous tuk-tuks to get around) and see some of its wonderful architecture, many parks and cultural history. Some of the top spots to visit include the Plaza de la Constitución, or Zócalo, the State Government Palace, several museums, the green garden area of Alameda de León, the Macedonio Alcalá tourist corridor, the Oaxaca Cathedral, also referred to as Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, excellent markets, the church and former monastery of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, and many, many others.
While spending time marvelling at the sights and sounds of Oaxaca, remember to look out for some of our avian friends. Some of the first birds you could put on your Mexico list (or even your life list!) include Cedar Waxwing, Inca and White-winged Dove, Rufous-backed and Clay-coloured Thrush, Berylline Hummingbird, Grey Silky-flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee and many others.
At dinner we will get our first taste of the local cuisine. Oaxaca has long been considered “Mexico’s culinary capital”, and the gastronomical delights here truly rival anything in Latin America. The most notable aspect of Oaxacan cuisine is its variety of moles, which are a type of complex sauce, always served over something and never eaten alone. Like the rest of Mexican cuisine, Oaxacan food is based on staples such as corn, beans and chilli peppers, but there is a great variety of other ingredients and food preparations due to the influence of the state’s varied geography and indigenous cultures. If you are feeling adventurous, why not order some chapulines? It is a dish of grasshoppers (from the genus Sphenarium) that are toasted in a pan and seasoned with garlic, salt and lime juice. It is considered a delicacy in Oaxaca and is sold at local sports and culture events. Try it!
After dinner we will get a good night’s sleep at our comfortable hotel, our home for the next 4 nights. Rest up, tomorrow we really start birding!
We will have an early start today with breakfast in the hotel. We have to try some huevos motuleños! It is a fried tortilla topped with black beans, fried eggs, sauce, plantains and some form of meat. Yummy!
Over the next 3 days we will bird the wonderful areas surrounding Oaxaca City. We normally plan certain areas for specific days, but this could change depending on recent sighting reports or local weather conditions. But rest assured we will cover all the hotspots in search of this region’s top birds!
The valleys that surround Oaxaca City contain mostly scrub vegetation, but also pine and thorn forests, and hosts some of the most amazing species of birds, including many endemics. The beautiful area of Teotitlán del Valle (very well known for its textiles, especially colourful rugs) is one we will definitely visit, including the famous Teotitlán road. Another hotspot here is the Piedra Azul reservoir. Interestingly, according to historians, these valleys could be the site where corn (maize) was first cultivated anywhere in the world!
Today we will look for special endemic species such as Bridled and Oaxaca Sparrow, Boucard’s Wren, Dusky Hummingbird, Beautiful Sheartail, Grey-breasted Woodpecker, White-throated Towhee, White-striped Woodcreeper, Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater, and our first chances for the stunning Collared Towhee. Other species include Crested Caracara, Least Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Great and Snowy Egret, Great and Little Blue Heron, American Coot, Spotted, Solitary and Least Sandpiper, Killdeer, Black and Turkey Vulture, Acorn Woodpecker, Black-vented Oriole, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cassin’s and Thick-billed Kingbird, Painted Whitestart, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Elegant Euphonia, Pileated, Nutting’s, Ash-throated, Vermilion and Social Flycatcher, Bridled Titmouse, American Bushtit and many more.
Driving around the Oaxaca valleys also look out for fields of cultivated agave. These succelent plants, sometimes called “century plants”, are most famous for producing a spirit called mezcal; one of the best-known forms of mezcal is of course the famous drink of tequila. You have to try a top quality, locally grown one during your time on this trip!
After our exciting day in the surrounding valleys we will return to our hotel in Oaxaca City. We will get together for dinner and to update our lists, and then head off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
We again start our day with breakfast at the hotel, after which we head out for another exciting day of birding.
The mountains north of Oaxaca City is an area of humid pine oak forest at about 2,750 metres (9,000 ft) above sea level. This area can be quite foggy and rainy, but with a bit of luck we will have some great success in these scenic forests. This area of forest is also the upper part of the Benito Juárez National Park and home to some incredible species. The park was established in 1937 and honours President Benito Juárez, who was a native of Oaxaca, and served as Mexico’s leader from 1858 to 1872. The park ranges from 1,650 to 3,050 meters (5,400 to 10,000 feet) above sea level and contains pine and oak forests in the upper reaches of the mountains, as well as scrub oaks and tropical deciduous forest lower down in the canyons. The park is very popular with local downhill mountain bikers, but we are here for the birds!
Some of the target species that we will look for today include the incredibly striking Red Warbler, the rare and vulnerable (IUCN RedList 2017) Dwarf Jay, endemic Collared Towhee, endemic Grey-Barred Wren, gorgeous Mountain Trogon, near-endemic Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo and endemic Russet Nightingale-Thrush.
Other fantastic species we could see today include Northern Pygmy Owl, Long-tailed Wood Partridge, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, White-eared Hummingbird, Mexican Violetear, Steller’s Jay, Aztec, Black and Hermit Thrush, Brown-backed Solitaire, Strong-billed, White-striped and Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Brown Creeper, Yellow-eyed Junco, Greenish Elaenia, Rose-throated Becard, Tufted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Cassin’s and Thick-billed Kingbird, Hutton’s and Plumbeous Vireo, Mexican Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, American Bushtit, Olive, Golden-browed, Wilson’s, Crescent-chested and Red-faced Warbler, Painted and Slate-throated Whitestart, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch and many others.
We will head back to Oaxaca City in the late afternoon or early evening. We then get together for dinner and some socialising after another great day of birding in the Oaxaca region.
We will enjoy some breakfast and then head out on our day’s excursion.
On the menu today is another area of scrub vegetation mixed with oak forest about 45 minutes northwest of Oaxaca City at about 1,850 metres (6,000 ft) above sea level. There is a winding dirt route that leads up the community of Arroyo Guacamaya that is normally especially productive.
The main targets in this area include the range-restricted Ocellated Thrasher, Blue Mockingbird, Steller’s Jay, White-eared Hummingbird, Elegant Euphonia, Slaty Vireo, Oaxaca Sparrow, Hepatic Tanager, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Grey Silky-flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Rufous-capped Brushfinch and many others.
If there is time on one of the evenings for some owling in the area close to the city, we could be lucky enough to see species like Mottled, Flammulated and Fulvous Owl, Whiskered Screech Owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will and others.
Mammals are not entirely forgotten on this trip! During our time around Oaxaca City we could see species like White-nosed Coati, White-tailed Deer, Central American Red Brocket, Hooded Skunk, Kinkajou, Mexican and Eastern Cottontail, Mexican Grey and Rock Squirrel, Osgood’s Mouse, Plateau and Mexican Deer Mouse, Zempoaltepec Vole and many species of bats if we move about at night. With lots of luck we could even glimpse one of the rarely seen wildcats like the iconic Puma or Near Threatened (IUCN RedList 2015) Margay.
After our exciting day we will return to the hotel in Oaxaca City to freshen up. Then we have dinner together while we update our lists and maybe show off our best photographs of the trip so far. Thereafter we head to our rooms for a good night’s rest.
Monte Albán and travel to the coast
We will start with another scrumptious breakfast and then check out of our hotel.
Today is a travelling day, but before we tackle the route to the coast, we will visit the world famous pre-Columbian archaeological site of Monte Albán, located about 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the city centre of Oaxaca City.
This truly amazing site has some interesting species of birds in its surrounding arid scrub, such as White-tailed Kite, Zone-tailed Hawk, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Blue Mockingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, Cassin’s Kingbird, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Pileated Flycatcher, Canyon and Rock Wren, White-collared Seedeater, Blue Grosbeak, Rufous-capped Warbler and many others. Sometimes the site even has some good endemics such as Ocellated Thrasher, Slaty and Golden Vireo, Black-vented Oriole and Dusky Hummingbird.
However, the main reason we are here is to see the impressive and well -preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Monte Albán (together with the historical centre of Oaxaca City). Besides being one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica (founded at around 500 BC), Monte Albán was the pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center for nearly a millennium!
After our sightseeing visit (the view over Oaxaca City from up here is amazing!) at Monte Albán we drive to the coast of Oaxaca province, heading south. We will cover a distance of about 270 kilometres (170 mi) but the winding road makes it a 8 hour drive We will make stops to stretch, use facilities, take small breaks and look out for birds during our scenic voyage in our comfortable vehicle.
Our destination is the gorgeous city of Huatulco on the Pacific coast.
We will go to our comfortable hotel (our home for the next 4 nights), check in and freshen up. Then we will have dinner and update our trip lists. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep; tomorrow we go searching for some very special birds.
Oaxaca coast (Huatulco)
We start our day with breakfast and coffee or tea in the hotel restaurant, and then set off.
As before at Oaxaca City, we have 3 full days set aside for birding in the Huatulco area. We will make specific decisions on which areas to visit on certain days taking into account local weather and recent bird sighting reports.
Huatulco (officially named Bahías de Huatulco, for the beautiful nine bays of the tourist area) is a pristinely clean resort town located where the foothills of the Madre del Sur mountains meet the Pacific ocean. Previously a coffee-growing area and home to at least 16 indigenous groups, Huatulco now offers world-class beaches, low-rise but top quality hotels, great seafood restaurants and lots of green zones; a great place for a holiday! It was envisaged that Huatulco would rival places like Cancún or Playa del Carmen, but luckily it is much more laid-back here!
On our first day here we could start low in the upper areas of tropical deciduous forest and drive up to about 1,500 metres (5,000 ft) in elevation, looking for different species as the altitude goes up.
Some of the fantastic species possible on this day include the Oaxaca endemic and endangered Oaxaca Hummingbird (it is found only in the Miahuatlán mountains of Oaxaca), near-endemic White-faced Quail-Dove, endemic Wagler’s Toucanet, endemic Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Green-fronted Hummingbird, endemic Mexican Hermit, Long-billed and Plain-capped Starthroat, endemic Golden-crowned Emerald, Audubon’s Oriole, endemic Red-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, stunning Red-legged Honeycreeper, Black-headed Saltator, White-throated Thrush, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Golden, Bell’s, Cassin’s and Plumbeous Vireo, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Varied and Painted Bunting, Golden-crowned Warbler and many others.
We will have lunch at a coffee finca where we can sample some excellent shade-grown arabica coffee, and drive back to our hotel with some birding on the way. We will have dinner and socialise into the evening, hopefully having ticked some more great birds.
Oaxaca coast (Huatulco)
Today we start with breakfast and some more good local coffee.
Today we could go birding in the low deciduous forest, visiting several trails near Huatulco or even parts of the Huatulco National Park. It covers 11,890 ha (29,400 acres) and boasts 9,000 plant species, almost 500 reptile species, many mammals and over 700 bird species. It was declared a protected area, then a national park in 1998 and later designated as part of a larger UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, as well as being a RAMSAR Wetland of Importance. The park has many different ecosystems, including tropical forests, dry forests, mangroves, coral reefs and wetlands. Apart from birding, there is also scuba diving, snorkeling, boat rides, hiking, biking and many other activities to choose from in and around the park.
We will spend our day in the area and look for species such as Thicket Tinamou (a possible future split into a full species of the occidentalis subspecies that occurs in this area), endemic West Mexican Chachalaca, Colima and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, White-tipped Dove, distinctive Lesser Ground Cuckoo, endemic Citreoline Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, monotypic Mexican Cacique, Golden-cheeked, Lineated, Ladder-backed and Pale-billed Woodpecker, endemic and endangered Lilac-crowned Amazon, Orange-fronted Parakeet, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Spot-breasted, Streak-backed and Altamira Oriole, Cinnamon and Broad-billed Hummingbird, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, endemic and striking Red-breasted Chat, Yellow-green Vireo, Olive Sparrow, endemic Flammulated Flycatcher, Sclater’s, Happy and Veracruz Wren (all 3 endemic), White-lored Gnatcatcher, Blue and Orange-breasted Bunting (both beautiful and the latter also endemic), Scrub Euphonia and American Yellow Warbler among many others.
Mammals are not forgotten around the Huatulco area, and we could see Northern Tamandua, a type of anteater, one of the most interesting mammals found along Oaxaca’s tropical Pacific coast. Others that we could see include Central American Red Brocket, Collared Peccary, White-nosed Coati, Northern Raccoon, endemic Pygmy Spotted Skunk, Nine-banded Armadillo, Spotted Paca, the critically endangered Mexican Black Agouti, Deppe’s and Mexican Grey Squirrel and Grey Four-eyed Opossum. A rare possibility is the beautiful Ocelot.
Reptiles are also plentiful on the Oaxaca coast, and we will almost certainly see iguanas, including Western Spinytail and Green Iguana, along with many lizards and even a few snakes.
After another great day we will return to our hotel to enjoy dinner and some relaxation time, so we are ready for another full day tomorrow. On one of the evenings we might squeeze in a session of owling, and species we could see include Pacific Screech Owl Buff-collared Nightjar.
Oaxaca coast (Huatulco)
Today we are going to see some great birds!
After breakfast we head to the seaside to board our vessel for a pelagic trip. If you have never done one of these in your life, this will be a highlight of your trip and something you will never forget!
The continental shelf in the Pacific ocean at Oaxaca is only about 5 miles out, so the area is a great spot for many tropical pelagic species such as Townsend’s, Galapagos, Wedge-tailed, Black-vented, Christmas and Pink-footed Shearwater, Black, Wedge-rumped and Least Storm Petrel, Red and Red-necked Phalarope, Royal, Black and Elegant Tern, Pomarine Jaeger, Red-billed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown, Nazca, Masked and Red-footed Booby, Brown Pelican and many more.
Interesting mammals that we could spot during our time on the ocean include several dolphin species like Risso’s, Rough-toothed and Bottlenose Dolphin. Other spectacular fauna species that occur here in good numbers include Giant Oceanic Manta Ray and Olive Ridley Turtle.
If there is time in the late afternoon we could go bird at a site nearby to make sure we clean up on all our target species for this area.
We will return to our accommodation to freshen up and then get together for our official Nature Travel Birding farewell dinner after an incredible Oaxaca birding tour. We will socialise into the evening, having made friends for life, and then head to bed for a good night’s sleep.
End of tour and Departure
We will start our day with breakfast and then say our farewells. We will also exchange e-mail addresses so we can all keep in contact in the future and even send each other some cool trip photos. We will say our goodbyes at the Huatulco International Airport, and everyone will depart on their homeward or onward flights.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at