Box 9021, Wilmington, DE 19809, USA
Phone: Toll-free in USA 1-888-721-3555
A Birding & Nature Tour
in the area of
and including Cozumel Island
in a Land of Mayans and Motmots,
other birds, butterflies,
among them hopefully the Jaguar
November 12-24, 2015
to be led by Armas Hill,
who has birded in Mexico & Central America
numerous times during the last 30 years
called the "clock bird", "pajaro reloj",
because it moves its long tailfeaters
back and forth like a pendulum
UNESCO BIOSPHERES, WHAT ARE THEY?
Of the 14 Biosphere Reserves in Mexico,
5 are in the Yucatan.
We visit 4 of them during this tour.
Established in 1968 by UNESCO
(the UN Educational, Scientific, & Cultural Organization),
the Biosphere project combines the protection of natural areas
and the conservation of the land for local people.
Each Biosphere has a CORE AREA
where human activity is kept to a bare minimum,
a BUFFER ZONE for non-destructive activities such as research,
and a TRANSITION ZONE where traditional land-use
and human settlement is permitted.
After a lull in the 1990s, Mexico's Biosphere program
has regained focus since 2000.
During this tour, the 4 Biosphere Reserves to be visited are:
Sian Ka'an, Calakmul, Rio Lagartos, & Isla Contoy.
Another species of Motmot in the Yucatan,
this is the Blue-crowned Motmot.
A List & Photo Gallery of Mexican Birds, in 3 parts:
Part #1: Tinamous to Shorebirds Part #2: Jaegers to Woodpeckers
Part #3: Manakins to Buntings
Birds of the Yucatan Birds of Cozumel Island
Mammals of Mexico (with some photos) Amphibians & Reptiles of Mexico (with some photos)
Butterflies of Mexico (with some photos) Marine Life of the Yucatan & Belize (with some photos)
Highlights of Previous FONT Tours in Mexico
An Overview of the Birds of the Yucatan follows the Itinerary below.
Thu, Nov. 12, '14:
Cancun, on Mexico's Yucatan
Peninsula. Our first overnight will be not far from the airport.
Birding, this day, for those who can arrive in the afternoon, will be nearby at
the Marin Botanical Garden. It's a nice
birding place, with native vegetation - and even so in the afternoon, as along
the paths, some small bird baths have been strategically placed at intervals,
drawing in birds for good viewing, such as: woodpeckers, woodcreepers,
becards, wrens, blackbirds, orioles, and tanagers.
Fri, Nov. 13:
In the morning, we'll take a ferry to the offshore 40-mile long island of Cozumel.
The word "Cozumel" is from a Mayan word meaning "Island of the Swallows".
But it's not swallows that we'll be seeking to observe there. Rather, it'll be some birds that live on that island but nowhere else in the world, each with the adjective Cozumel in their name: a Thrasher, a Vireo, and an Emerald (a hummingbird).
The Cozumel Vireo is a great little bird - a vireo with cinnamon cheeks and sides.
The Cozumel Emerald was at one time one of the subspecies of the Fork-tailed Emerald, a hummingbird that was widespread in Central America before it was split into 5 species. Of all of them, the male of the Cozumel Emerald has the longest tail.
The critically endangered Cozumel Thrasher is a long shot, for sure (there have been only a handful of sightings during the last decade), but we'll try, and in the process we'll see a number of the bird specialties of the Caribbean coast, such as the Black Catbird, Western Spindalis, Caribbean Elaenia, and Yucatan Vireo. These will be nice birds to see and Cozumel Island will be a nice place to see them. Our first overnight on Cozumel.
Sat, Nov. 14:
A full-day on Cozumel Island, observing birds, other nature, and seeing the island itself. In addition to the birds already mentioned as being on Cozumel, we'll see others of interest. There are, for example, some notable resident subspecies of birds on Cozumel including those of Great Curassow, Roadside Hawk, Yucatan Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Bright-rumped Attila, Yucatan Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Yellow Warbler, Rose-throated Tanager, Yellow-faced Grassquit, and Northern Cardinal.
The Western Spindalis (formerly Stripe-headed Tanager) on Cozumel, already noted, is also a notable endemic subspecies - one that's quite uncommon. The other subspecies occur in the Cayman Islands, Cuba, and the Bahamas. No where else does the species occur in Mexico.
Also there's also the "Cozumel Wren", a distinctive form of the House Wren.
All of the birds, noted here, are endemic subspecies that are found either only on Cozumel Island, or on Cozumel and the nearby, smaller Holbox Island. Among these, the curassow, like the aforementioned thrasher, may well be a long shot.
During our most-recent tour on Cozumel, what we did very well after dark were nighjars - seeing 3 species, the Yucatan Nightjar, the Yucatan Poorwill, and the Pauraque.
The Stygian Owl is said to occur on Cozumel island. Finding that would be even more of a prize!
Black Rail has been heard on Cozumel after dark. We'll be listening.
And there's even a species of mammal endemic to Cozumel, a Raccoon. It's called either the Cozumel Raccoon (for where it is, of course), or the Pygmy Raccoon (because it's smaller than the widespread Northern Raccoon - that is not on Cozumel).
At bodies of water and around the coast of the island, there will be a number of waterbirds, of various sorts.
For those who wish to see some of the fantastic marine life, under the surface of the sea at Cozumel, there will be opportunity to do so. A listing of some of the fish and other inhabitants of the coral reef follows this itinerary.
Our second overnight on Cozumel Island.
After the ferry crossing back to the Yucatan mainland, we'll travel just over an hour, inland, to a place called Coba, a Mayan site in the forest, that's been, for many, a favorite place for birding.
The ruins, at that location, are spread out in a "tropical forest" in which numerous birds reside (obvious among them are some that would also be described as "tropical", such as toucans, parrots, and oropendolas).
Among the "tropical animals" would be agoutis and coatis. One of the "tropical butterflies" would be the big, and brightly iridescent Blue Morpho.
The Mayan city at Coba was occupied from about 100 A.D. until the arrival of the Spanish. Its zenith was around 800 A.D. when most of the pyramids were built. The tallest of these is the looming Noboch Mul, resembling some of the temples at Tikal in Guatemala. It is taller than the highest structure in the renowned ruins of Chichen Itza, one of the more famous sites in the Yucatan. From the top of Noboch Mul, the forest can be seen stretching uninterrupted to the horizon.
Roland Wauer, in his book "A Naturalist in Mexico", said that "of all the Mayan sites that he was fortunate to visit and explore, his favorite was Coba". Partly, he said, that was due to the "mystery" of the place. Its human story is not really well known. But also, simply put, a reason for his so liking the place was "the birds". During a 2-day stay, he and his friends noted about 100 bird species.
Among them, they found the Mangrove Vireo to be "surprisingly common", and they observed what Wauer called, in his book, the "greenest of all the flycatchers", the Eye-ringed Flatbill.
The hotel where we'll stay at Coba is a nice one with very much a Mayan character to it. It's located at the edge of a small lake, where of course, there will be some waterbirds. And among those there, to be heard, and hopefully seen, would be the Ruddy Crake. Our first of two overnights at Coba.
Mon, Nov. 16:
When we're not birding and experiencing Coba, this day, we'll go, about an hour away, to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, where we will bird both on foot and from a boat. Sian Ka'an is a wonderful place. It's a large nature reserve, covering 1.3 million acres. Created in 1986 and made a World Heritage Site in 1987, Sian Ka'an is one of the largest protected areas in Mexico. It contains all of the principal ecosystems found in the Yucatan. About one-third of it is tropical forest. Another third is composed of both fresh and salt water marshes. The remaining third would be classified as marine environment, including a portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
The variety of flora & fauna at Sian Ka'an is wonderful. To give an idea of how "natural" the place is, it can be noted that all 5 species of Mexican wild cats occur: Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Margay, and Jaguarundi. And other larger mammals include: Tapir, Deer, and Monkeys.
More than 300 species of birds have been recorded in the reserve. Of course, during our time there we won't see every one of those species, but we will see a lot of them.
In this wild area, it's nice to note that 4 endangered species of Sea Turtles nest at night on the beaches. And In the lagoons, there are both manatees and crocodiles. (One of these is known for being "gentle"; the other not always so.)
Not many people live in this region. There are only about a thousand permanent inhabitants, mainly fishermen and subsistence farmers, who dwell in and near the village of Punta Allen.
We'll dwell, ourselves, again this night, back in the comfortable hotel, with Mayan character, at Coba.
Tue, Nov. 17:
After some morning birding, with Motmots and more, at Coba, we'll travel south, going again through the Sian Ka'an Reserve, and observing, along the way, the birds and whatever other nature we may see. In the afternoon, we'll be by a beautiful lake in the southern Yucatan that's called, in Spanish, Laguna Bacalar.
We'll overnight there, where there are some interesting birds of the night, including the Northern Potoo, the Vermiculated Screech Owl, and the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl.
The next morning, we'll hear, and maybe see, the Thicket Tinamou. When we visited this place during our most-recent Yucatan tour, we were treated to a flock of brightly-colored Red-legged Honeycreepers keeping company with certainly more drab Lesser Greenlets, and a Ruddy Woodcreeper at a nest - utilizing a hole in an old tree.
The first of two overnights by Lake Bacalar, with its beautiful blue water.
Wed, Nov. 18:
After some morning birding in forest and other habitats by Lake Bacalar, we'll travel to another area, just over an hour away, but quite different.
The dry habitat of forest and shrub, characteristic of the isolated Yucatan ecosystem, will gradually fade as we enter an area that's more green. The areas open fields and forests will be more lush, and there will be many birds.
A particular place that we'll visit is the Kohunlich Archeological Site, located just north of the Mexican border with Belize. The site is away from the highway, and away from people. There are very few visitors, but many Mayan ruin buffs consider the place to be one of their favorites. Besides being little-visited, it is in a beautiful setting among "jungle trees" and with particularly, a large number of Cohune Palms. Kohunlich is a great place to see neotropical birds, and other, diverse wildlife is also plentiful and easily-seen. The area has a high population density of Tapirs, large animals that can weigh as much as 600 pounds.
Our second overnight by Lake Bacalar.
Thu, Nov. 19:
This day we'll travel west to what may well may the most exciting region that we'll visit during the tour, a wild area in the interior of the base of the Yucatan, not far north, as the Ornate Hawk-Eagle or King Vulture would fly from the northern Guatemalan wilderness, due north from the famous Mayan site of Tikal. As a region, with very few people, but much wildlife (birds, and mammals, and reptiles & amphibians) this vast area of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, and the adjacent Mayan Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, is a tremendous expanse where birds such as the Ornate Hawk-Eagle and King Vulture can yet be found. And, if there's an area for Crested and Harpy Eagles in northern Central America, this is it. (We have seen Crested Eagle at Tikal, in Guatemala, a few years ago, and the Harpy Eagle occurred in southern Mexico historically, and this area is now wild enough, and protected, that it could again.)
We'll head west across the state line into Campeche. As we do, the forest will become thicker. It's the densest "jungle" of the Yucatan, in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.
The ruins, there, with the same name, are the largest and most remote in the Yucatan. While the best known of the Mayan sites in the Yucatan (places such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal), can, nowadays, be crowded with visitors, our experience at Calakmul will be very much the opposite, due to the remoteness of the place. In regard to birds in particular, and nature in general, there will be much for us to see.
The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve encompasses 1.7 million acres of "jungle", or tropical forest. We'll be staying, for 2 nights, just inside the park entrance, at a hotel with cabins decorated with "nature-inspired touches".
If we were to travel along the road from the entrance gate to the ruins (60 kilometers) without stopping, it would take just over an hour to get there. But we won't (go without stopping that is). There will be much to see.
Among the large creatures residing in the area, there are Ocellated Turkeys, Deer, Peccaries, Guans, and Currasows. Obvious in the trees would be Toucans and Trogons; in the sky, or perched, there should be an ample assortment of Raptors. After dark, when the Jaguars would roam, various Owls and Nightjars will be out & about.
During our most-recent tour traveling along the 60-kilometer road, mostly in the reserve, always in the forest, and without a single building along the way, we experienced a number of notable sightings, including:
A Slaty-breasted Tinamou walking in front of us, across the road (we heard many tinamous overall in the area).
a male Great Curassow also walking across the road,
numerous Ocellated Turkeys on the road,
and, by the road, birds included: Ruddy Quail-Dove, Blue Ground Dove, Pheasant Cuckoo, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Northern Royal Flycatcher, Long-billed Gnatwren, and Gray-throated Chat. At a pond near the road, we spend some wonderful time with an ever-so-tame American Pygmy Kingfisher.
The Calakmul ruins themselves (or at least some of them) were first uncovered in the 1930s. But it has been during the last decade or so that some excavation has been going on. Every year, recently, new discoveries have yielded more revelations about the city's former significance. Calakmul was designated a World Heritage Site in 2002. It is probably the biggest archeological zone in Mesoamerica (about 70 square kilometers). The site, although huge, is, of course, only partially restored. It will be a perfect area to us to explore and to bird, and that we will do.
Our first overnight at Calakmul. Also, at dusk and after dark this day, we'll do our first ride along the "60-kilometer road", looking for animals and listening for, and hopefully seeing, some nightbirds.
Fri, Nov. 20:
This will be a full-day of the exploration and birding in the remote Yucatan region of Calakmul. We'll do at least two trips along the 60-kilometer road "in the wilderness". It will be a day so special, to spend all of it, and into the night again, where nature is now much "as it was", and we can truly experience a pristine Neotropical natural environment. As we traveled the road, during our June '08 tour, at mid-day there was a constant procession of butterflies (mostly sulphurs, but also Blue Morphos and others). After dark, there were always bats, some large and some small. In the morning, the sounds of birds (the tinamous and many others) surrounded us. An assortment of mammals are in the forest, from various small opossums and a squirrel to large cats. Actually, 5 species of cats commonly live in the area: Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Margay, and Jaguarundi. Along the spectrum of creatures between the opossums and the cats, others in the region include: the rarely-seen Silky Anteater, the nocturnal Paca, Coatis, two species of Peccaries, two species of Deer, and two species of Monkeys. We saw both monkeys during our last tour: the Yucatan Howler Monkey and the Central American Spider Monkey.
Traveling the road, as we will, before & at dawn, in the morning and afternoon, and again after dark, should be productive. Our second overnight at Calakmul.
Sat, Nov. 21:
There will be yet another morning in the area of the Calakmul Reserve, and then we'll journey north in the Yucatan, seeing what we do along the way. Our overnight will be in Valladolid, as to be in position for our northern Yucatan birding the next morning.
Sun, Nov. 22:
In the morning, we go along a small road north to the Caribbean coast, with birds along the way such as Black-throated (or Yucatan) Bobwhite, Botteri's Sparrow, and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. Our destination will be Rio Lagartos, a small town by the water, where there is yet another Special Biosphere Reserve. We'll spend the afternoon birding there, along the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Along that coast, there's a long barrier island, with an inlet, lagoons, and marshes. Again, it's another very birdy spot.
The most famous of the birds there is the American Flamingo. There can be a large number of them - tens of thousands. Of course, the flamingoes won't be the only birds of interest in the area. As the habitat is different than many places where we would have been earlier in the tour, there will certainly be numerous "new birds of the tour" for us.
Particular targets would be the hummingbird known as the Mexican Sheartail and the Yucatan Wren (both endemics to Mexico restricted to this coast).
Other landbirds that we'd to see would include the Lesser Roadrunner, Zenaida Dove, and an isolated population of the White-lored Gnatcatcher.
During our visit to this area, there will be a boat-ride to get to places that we otherwise would not be able to reach.
When we did this boat-trip in 2008, we saw an large assortment of birds, including many long-legged waders (among them the "Great White Heron", Roseate Spoonbills, and Boat-billed Herons), shorebirds, (including Snowy Plover), pelicans (last time we saw both Brown & American White), Anhingas, cormorants, gulls, and terns of a few species (Gull-billed, Sandwich, Royal, and Least).
When we visit in March, there will be more gulls. At that time of year, in recent years, both Kelp and Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been seen there together.
During the last 4 years, Jabirus successfully nested in the area. In 2008, they raised two young.
Overnight near Rio Lagartos.
Mon, Nov. 23:
This day, after some early morning in the area of Rio Lagartos, we'll travel east to the Cancun area, where in the afternoon, we'll visit the Isla Contoy Bird Sanctuary. As its name indicates, its on an island - off the northeast corner of the Yucatan Peninsula. Not just a bird sanctuary, but Isla Contoy is yet another Special Biosphere Reserve. Many birds are there, including boobies, frigatebirds, terns, and various other seabirds.
It's a 2-hour boat-ride to the island, on which there's an observation tower, from which we'll see many of the birds. On the ground, we should see a lizard endemic to this one little island, the Barred Whiptail.
Whatever we see, it will be a wonderful way by which to end what should be a wonderful tour.
Overnight near the airport, south of Cancun.
Tue, Nov. 24:
From the Yucatan of Mexico, departure for home.
per person, based upon double-occupancy. Single
supplement (when applicable): $255
All overnight accommodations.
All meals: Nov 12 thru the am of Nov 24.
Drinks (other than alcoholic).
Transportation on land & water within Mexico.
A FONT birding guide familiar with the birds and localities.
International air fare to/from Mexico.
Airport departure tax.
Any items of a personal nature. Gratuities.
Focus On Nature Tours can arrange air travel, and would seek the best possible fares.
Deposit of US $500 required to register for this tour.
A Brief Overview of the Birds of the Yucatan Region of Mexico
(including Cozumel Island)
Cumulatively, about 540 species of birds, belonging to about 75 families, have been found in the Yucatan region of Mexico, within the 3 states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan.
Of these, nearly 60 are considered vagrants and occasional visitors. So, simply put, there are about 480 bird species that regularly occur in the area of Mexico's Yucatan.
The total of about 540 is approximately half of all the bird species that have been found in Mexico, and nearly 60% of the number of bird species that have been noted in the United States and Canada.
The diverse local bird fauna of the Yucatan is measurably enriched by the peninsula serving as a major thoroughfare for migratory birds as they head south in the fall and north in the spring. Many of those birds spread themselves out during the winter from southern Mexico to South America.
In all, nearly 220 bird species from the north have been noted in the Yucatan.
About 35 of them have been vagrants or only occasional visitors.
But nearly 130 of them overwinter in the Yucatan on a regular basis every year. (A few of these birds, such as the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, also have a year-round population that is resident in the Yucatan.)
Another group of northern migrants, numbering about 55 species, are predominantly transients, traveling through the peninsula. They rest and refuel before continuing on their journey.
However, again there are a few exceptions, as small populations of some of these spend the winter, while 2 species maintain small Yucatan breeding populations during the summer.
The high number of vagrants to the region is largely due to the combination of tropical storms and weather systems known as "northers" that occur during the peak of the fall migration in September and October. These weather conditions can, simply put, blow some birds off their normal course.
There are also some unique, but regular, summer avian visitors to the Yucatan region from the Caribbean area, including Sooty and Bridled Terns, Brown Noddy, and White-crowned Pigeon. They nest on offshore islands and atolls.
Other summer visitors to the Yucatan include several Flycatchers (such as the Piratic and the Sulphur-bellied), and a Vireo (the Yellow-green), that fly north from South America to nest during the northern hemisphere's spring and summer months.
In addition to all that's been noted, the Yucatan region has a nice number of endemic bird species (14, to be mentioned in the text that follows) and endemic subspecies (almost 100 of them!).
This endemism is due to the area's relatively late emergence from the sea and then isolation from the interior of the country.
Nearly endemic to the Yucatan are two bird species that are, for the most part, confined to the Yucatan Peninsula, but with small disjunct populations elsewhere.
These tow birds are the Yucatan Bobwhite and an interesting hummingbird known as the Mexican Sheartail. (More about these 2 species follows here in this narrative.)
When referring to the distribution of the Yucatan region's unique fauna, it is sometimes necessary to include part of the Peten region in northern Guatemala, and parts of nearby Belize, as some characteristic Yucatan wildlife occurs there as well.
Just 12 miles offshore from the northeast coast of the Yucatan, is Cozumel Island. That island is very interesting for its fauna & flora, with even more endemism. 3 endemic species of birds are found only on that small island:
the Cozumel Emerald (formerly part of the Fork-tailed Emerald, with the male having the longest forked tail of the 5 former subspecies, now species, in Central America),
the Cozumel Vireo (with its cinnamon cheeks and sides),
and the rarely-seen, and critically endangered Cozumel Thrasher.
Cozumel Island is also home to a particular Caribbean species of bird, the Western Spindalis, which occurs nowhere else in Mexico. The uncommon subspecies of that bird on Cozumel is endemic to the island.
As on a number of Caribbean islands, the Smooth-billed Ani has occurred for a long time on Cozumel. From there, however, it has recently spread to Yucatan mainland, where it is now along the coast, south of Puerto Morelos (We saw the species, during our June '08 FONT tour, just south of Tulum.)
Elsewhere in Mexico, Anis are the Groove-billed.
A number of interesting endemic subspecies of birds occur on Cozumel, including a distinctive form of the large Great Curassow, and a small version of the Roadside Hawk.
The curassow is critically endangered; the hawk is threatened.
Other interesting endemic subspecies on the island include:
the "Cozumel Wren" (a notably different form of the House Wren),
the "Golden Warbler" (conspecific with the Yellow Warbler, but with the male sporting a rufous cap),
and unique races of the Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
The last of these subspecies, the gnatcatcher, duskier that others of its ilk, was described in 1926 by Ludlow Griscom, a well-known birder/ornithologist from Massachusetts.
The rare local Cozumel race of the Great Curassow (referred to in the previous paragraph) is also named after Mr. Griscom, "Crax r. griscomi". It, by the way, is the only subspecies of that curassow, other than the nominate in Central America.
There are even more endemic subspecies on little Cozumel Island, including those of these:
Rose-throated Tanager (uncommon),
Golden-fronted and Yucatan Woodpeckers,
and the Black Catbird.
That of the Black Catbird was only recently described as such, just a few years ago.
The Cozumel subspecies of the Yellow-faced Grassquit and the Bananaquit are only on that island and on the nearby, smaller Holbox Island.
That subspecies of the Bananaquit has also, in recent years, been found along the Quintana Roo coast (that is, the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula), and on northern offshore cayes (or islands) in Belize, where it was unknown prior to the 1980s.
In all, the total number of bird species known to have occurred on Cozumel Island is well over 200.
A complete listing is elsewhere in this web-site: COZUMEL BIRDS
In addition to the 3 endemic bird species just noted as being on Cozumel Island (the Emerald, Vireo, & Thrasher), the other 11 endemic birds of the Yucatan region are:
Yucatan Amazon (or Parrot)
Yucatan (or Red-vented) Woodpecker
Yucatan Flycatcher (in the Myiarchus genus)
Yucatan Jay (with its bright, yellow legs)
Yucatan Wren (described as a species only as recently as 1934)
To this list, the Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow could be added, as it is a "quasi-endemic" of the Yucatan region, being a resident that breeds in that area, as well as in nearby Belize, northern Guatemala, and slightly further west in Mexico.
Mention has been made here, a couple paragraphs ago, to the Yucatan (or Black-throated) Bobwhite and to a hummingbird, endemic to Mexico, called the Mexican Sheartail.
Its name not withstanding, the Bobwhite is not truly endemic to the Yucatan, as a few disjunct populations have been found, including one in Honduras.
The Mexican Sheartail is another such species, with another separated, and in fact very isolated, population. In addition to being along the north coast of the Yucatan peninsula, close to the sea, it is also known to be in just a very small area, hundreds of kilometers to the west, in central Veracruz.
The northern Yucatan population of the Mexican Sheartail is found exclusively in a very narrow range that's only about 1 kilometer wide - mainly between mangroves and tropical deciduous forest. It has also been found to breed in gardens. That population of the species is considered "threatened".
The smaller Veracruz population of the Mexican Sheartail is in undisturbed, dry deciduous forest and overgrazed habitats at about 25 kilometers inland. That population is critically endangered.
In the northern Yucatan, the Mexican Sheartail has been observed feeding at flowers of Ipomoea, Justicia, and Helicteres guazumaefolia, and its diet is supplemented by small anthropods. The bird is often close to the ground.
Just offshore from the narrow range of the Mexican Sheartail in the northern Yucatan, there are flamingos, as many as thousands of them. They nest in the late spring and summer in and near the Rio Lagartos Special Biosphere Reserve. Many of them spend the winter a couple hundred or so kilometers to the west, as the flamingo would fly, at the Rio Celestun Special Bioshpere Reserve.
These birds have long attracted notice. Flamingos, in all likelihood this population, were recorded as being prominent members of the Aztec Emperor Montezuma's menagerie.
Although there are still thousands of them, conservationists take a special interest in the flamingos because their specialized habits make them vulnerable to drastic population declines. Their numbers have fluctuated in recent years.
The method by which they feed, that is dredging the bottom sediment of shallow lagoons and estuaries, makes the birds susceptible to toxics in the mud, such as the lead from leadshot used in shotguns.
The flamingos feed only in areas with very specific water conditions, which can change abruptly. That happened in 1988 when Hurricane Gilbert damaged some of the flamingos' prime feeding areas, causing them to seek other sites. Many died. Also, their nests on mudflats, are easy targets for egg and chick predators, such as raccoons and foxes.
Yet, the Mexican flamingo population is considered fairly healthy, having risen from a low of between 8,000 and 12,000 individuals in the 1970s (when the Rio Lagartos & Rio Celestun Reserves were created), to about 26,000 birds in the mid-1980s. Hurricane Gilbert (as noted, in 1988) was a setback to this population growth, but the flamingos have since recovered.
During the FONT tour in June 2008, we saw a number of flamingos. With adults, there were young birds.
At the edge of one flock of flamingos, a "Great White Heron" was walking in the shallow water. That bird is actually a white morph of the Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias occidentalis.
In that area of estuaries, mangroves, mudflats, and sandbars, we saw many waterbirds. Long-legged waders, in addition to American Flamingos and Great Blue Herons (both dark birds & the single one), included:
Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, Reddish Egrets (white birds), other white Egrets: the Snowy and the Great; also Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night heron, Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans, a flock (even in June) of American White Pelicans, Neotropic Cormorants, Anhinga, Laughing Gulls, and 4 species of Terns: Gull-billed, Sandwich, Royal, and Least. Also (even In June), we saw 10 species of shorebirds, including the Snowy Plover.
We learned that just a couple weeks prior to our being there, the Jabirus, that nested in the area, departed. They had raised 2 young, during their 4th year of year of nesting there. Yes, birds beget birds. Many bird species in that region are common. Jabirus, there, and anywhere in Mexico, are rare.
On sandbars where we saw terns, we learned that at another time of the year, there are gulls. And, among them, we were told, both Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Kelp Gulls have been seen together during recent years. That's interesting, of course, as Kelp Gulls are normally in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Lesser Black-backed Gull has, over time, been primarily a European breeding bird, wintering south to Africa.
It's also notable that the affinity that the coastal vegetation of the Yucatan Peninsula has with the Caribbean region provides habitat for a number of birds found nowhere else in Mexico, These include: Zenaida Dove, White-crowned Pigeon, Caribbean Elaenia, Yucatan Vireo, and Western Spindalis.
To that list, now, a bird that has recently arrived, can be added, the Shiny Cowbird.
Another bird of the Yucatan with an unusual distribution is the White-lored Gnatcatcher, found only along the north coast in the state of Yucatan. Otherwise, it inhabits parts of the west coast of Mexico, with most of its range further south in Central America.
Generally, most of these birds occur in areas of the Yucatan region that are protected. There are approximately 40 natural protected areas in the region, covering almost 9 million acres. These places include both terrestrial and marine habitats, and include both public and private reserves.
Additionally, 24 sites on the Yucatan Peninsula have been designated as "Important Bird Areas" (IBAs).
Also worth a mention, of course, are the 5 Biosphere Reserves in the Yucatan that have been established by the UN Educational, Scientific, & Cultural organization for both the protection of the natural areas and the conservation of land for local people.
All but 17 of the bird species that are included in the "Yucatan list" are to be found within natural protected areas in the region. And that's a lot of birds!
MORE ABOUT THE NATURE IN THE YUCATAN:
Regarding the JAGUAR: Itís the biggest predator in the New World, and needs a lot of space to roam. In the Yucatan, there's a good number of Jaguars, and others CATS too: JAGUARUNDI, MARGAY, OCELOT, and PUMA.
Regarding some of the LIFE in the SEA: The MESOAMERICAN CORAL REEF is 250 kilometers long, in the Yucatan of Mexico and to the south in Belize. It is the most extensive reef in the New World.
Some of the FISH of the REEF include: Atlantic Spadefish, Banded Butterfly Fish, Bar Jack, Blue-striped Grunt, Blue Tang, Dog Snapper, Foureye Butterfly Fish, French Grunt, Green Moray, Honey Damselfish, Nurse Shark, Queen Triggerfish, Schoolmaster, Sergeant Major, Smallmouth Grunt, Southern Stingray, Spanish Grunt, Spotfin Butterfly Fish, Spotted Drum, Trunkfish, White Grunt, Yellow Jack, Yellowtail Damselfish, Yellowtail Snapper.