Inauguration of the Oaxaca Bird Festival

Oaxaca, Mexico: Its Birds and Culture

by Jesús Antonio “Chucho” Moo Yam

June 23, 2024

Frequent Birding magazine contributor, Jesús Antonio “Chucho” Moo Yam, has recently been appointed Birding’s Latin America Correspondent. Look for his stories and updates on birding events and culture in his home country of Mexico and throughout Latin America in Birding as well as on the ABA website.

Multitudes of birders convened from Nov. 27 through Dec. 3, to exchange experiences, train in different workshops, and find lifers in one of the most biodiverse states in Mexico.

With approximately 776 species of birds in a country with a total of 1,024 species, Oaxaca began the Oaxaca Bird Festival 2023 for the seventh time, with hundreds of birders participating in the event. “We have the presence of 10 countries, including: Colombia, USA, Peru, Chile, and more, in addition to the presence of 130 cities in Mexico,” commented Karime Unda Harp, secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Biodiversity, Energy, and Sustainability.

The majority of the inhabitants of Oaxaca know little about the great diversity of birds in Oaxaca. “With the festival we mainly seek to find the point where an exchange can be made with various birders from Latin America, and that inspires Oaxacans to be able to learn and conserve the biocultural riches of the state of Oaxaca,” said Unda Harp.

During the bird festival there were various tour routes that began in the center of the state of Oaxaca, with a great calenda (a dance parade) through all the streets of the city center accompanied by dancers and musicians, until the closing in the north in the border area between the state of Puebla in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve (TCBR). Through these routes, attendees were able to visit archaeological zones, forests, and historical sites that are part of the Oaxacan heritage, which is shared with all visitors to understand how privileged it is to be an Oaxacan.

Birders gather at the inauguration of the 2023 Oaxaca Bird Festival. Photo © Jesús Antonio “Chucho” Moo Yam.

To find out what to do during the festival, Karime was asked about the activities. With so many interesting places to visit, it was good to have a plan. “We have work tables, environmental education workshops, exchange of experiences, photography contests, kite contests, bike-birding, and regular birding outings, all free. Access payments only have to be made in Indigenous communities to leave a local economic impact,” responded Unda Harp.

It is for that reason that Oaxaca is a beloved destination for birders due to its diversity in culture, food, clothing, mezcal, and, of course, birds. “This event is designed to position Oaxaca as a place dedicated to tourism and as Oaxacans to know the importance at the national level of the great wealth of birds in Oaxaca,” added Karime Unda Harp, who was instrumental in the organization of the festival and community members she supported.

While this festival takes place, one can observe the great impact this meeting has created in Mexico, since because it is a very long festival that occurs over many days, birders who did not know about it initially traveled to the city. Without a doubt, Oaxaca has many surprises for its residents and visitors from around the world who wish to learn more about its special birds.

Steller’s Jays from the Middle America group coronata have a distinct look and can be observed in high elevation forests in Oaxaca. Photo © Jesús Antonio “Chucho” Moo Yam.

Lesser Ground-Cuckoos are notoriously difficult to see, but there are good sites for them in Oaxaca. Photo © Jesús Antonio “Chucho” Moo Yam.

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From the Mayan community of Pomuch in the state of Campeche, Mexico, Jesús Antonio “Chucho” Moo Yam is a wildlife videographer, tour leader, and ornithologist. He created the first bird field guide for his home region when he was 18 years old. Currently he leads photographic expeditions and workshops in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador.