Birding Oaxaca is a wonderful experience. Not only are there lots of birds in general, there are numerous regional specialties and endemics, many of which are real stunners like Slaty Vireo, Orange-breasted Bunting, and Red-breasted Chat. Add to that the striking scenery of the mountains and the Pacific coast, the outstanding cuisine, the rich and varied culture that includes some amazing archeological sites and world-renowned textiles and wood carvings, and you have a truly memorable destination! We invite you to join the American Birding Association as we visit this remarkable, enchanting place.
Our trip will cover two major areas–the Valley of Oaxaca and the Pacific Coast–and their surrounding mountains. Being based in just two comfortable hotels will allow us to see much of what makes this region special without an endless succession of lodging changes. For this trip, the ABA is partnering with our friend Eric Antonio Martínez of Mexico Birding Tours, which is based in Oaxaca. For our field trips we will break into small groups, each led by a mix of local and ABA guides. Evenings will see us reuniting at our hotels for dinner and socializing. Join us for what promises to be a spectacular visit to southwestern Mexico!
You will be met at the airport and transferred to your accommodations in the city, where we will be based for the next 5 nights. There is plenty to see and do around Oaxaca, which is known as one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. We’ll gather in the early evening for a welcome dinner and to discuss plans for our upcoming field trips.
Days 2 to 5: The Valley of Oaxaca and nearby mountains
We will split into several smaller groups for birding during the day and come together in the evenings for dinner. Each group will visit all birding spots over the course of the tour.
Areas we will cover:
1. Teotitlán del Valle
Located about 45 minutes east from Oaxaca city at the base of the eastern sierra, Teotitlán del Valle is surrounded by a variety of habitats, ranging from desert thornscrub through oak woodland and on up to pine and fir forests high in the mountains. We will bird the thornscrub and oak woodlands, as well as the arid pine-oak zones surrounding this quaint little town.
There are fascinating species in each one of the various habitat zones we will explore in this region. Among the highlights we will search for are West Mexican Chachalaca, Beautiful and Dusky hummingbirds, Pileated Flycatcher, Boucard’s Wren, Blue Mockingbird, Ocellated Thrasher, White-throated Towhee, and Oaxaca and Bridled sparrows. All are Mexican-endemic species, a few with ranges that do not extend beyond the borders of the state of Oaxaca!
Higher elevation forests and scrub, which we will encounter as we climb out of the valley, hold another set of species, including some more endemics. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Berylline Hummingbird, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Dwarf and Golden vireos, Gray Silky-flycatcher, Black-vented Oriole, and Gray-breasted Woodpecker will be on our list of species to watch for.
La Cumbre is an area of pine-oak forest located about 45 minutes north of Oaxaca City at about 9,000 feet, in the upper reaches of the Benito Juárez National Park. It is home to Dwarf Jay, Collared Towhee, Gray-barred Wren, Mountain Trogon, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, and the striking Red Warbler.
On the far side of the continental divide, the thick humid air of the Caribbean rises and falls back down as drizzle and rain in the higher elevations. Some of the best humid pine-oak forests and cloud forests in the area can easily be accessed here, where the exceptionally rare Dwarf Jay makes its home. The forested slopes play host to the remarkable Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, which we will put some effort into searching for. Aztec Thrush is rare and unpredictable, but if we are lucky we may enjoy this specialty, too.
We will also look for Mountain Trogon, White-striped and Spot-crowned woodcreepers, Rose-throated Becard, Greenish Elaenia, Greater Pewee, Tufted Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Hutton’s and Plumbeous vireos, Brown-backed Solitaire, Olive, Crescent-chested, Red, and Red-faced warblers, Painted and Slate-throated redstarts, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, and Collared Towhee!
Las Guacamayas is another area of scrub vegetation mixed with oak forest about 45 minutes northwest of Oaxaca city. Birding at about 6,000 feet, our main targets in this area include Ocellated Thrasher, Oaxaca Sparrow, Slaty Vireo, Elegant Euphonia, and Blue Mockingbird.
Monte Albán hosts some interesting species of birds, such as Ocellated Thrasher and Slaty Vireo, but it can be hard to pry one’s eyes away from the striking pyramids. This is the largest and most important pre-Columbian ruins site in the state.
Day 6: Transfer to the Pacific coast
Today we will take a brief flight from Oaxaca City over the Sierra de Miahuatlán to the Pacific coast, a distance of 270 km (~170 mi.). We’ll have the balance of the day for settling into our hotel in Huatulco which will be our base for the rest of our trip, as well as some initial birding and exploring.
Days 7 to 9: The Pacific coast and nearby mountains
Areas we will cover:
Our day will start in the tropical deciduous forest (also known as thorn forest), followed by a drive up to the town of Pluma Hidalgo. Some of the species possible on this day include the Oaxacan-ndemic Blue-capped Hummingbird, Wagler’s (Emerald) Toucanet, Mexican Hermit, Red-headed Tanager, and Golden Vireo. We will have lunch at a coffee finca (plantation), where we can sample shade grown coffee right where it is grown.
We will bird several trails in the low-elevation thorn forest near Huatulco for species such as Orange-breasted Bunting, Russet-crowned Motmot, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Citreoline Trogon, Happy Wren, and Red-breasted Chat. Each of these specialties is a great looking, boldly-patterned and/or brightly-colored gem.
The continental shelf extends only about 5 miles offshore in this part of Oaxaca, creating upwellings of food that make these waters great for many tropical pelagic species, such as Galápagos and Wedge-tailed shearwaters and Black and Least storm-petrels. There is even a chance for the rare, endemic Townsend’s Shearwater. Jaegers, boobies, and tropicbirds are found here regularly. Such a short trip from shore is a welcome contrast to the hours of travel required to reach such species from most ports.
Day 10- Departure from Huatulco’s international airport