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Mountain West Birding Company Mexico: The Yucatán and Cozumel

Mexicos Yucatán Peninsula is famous for its spectacular Mayan ruins, warm climate, and delicious regional cuisine. It is also a notable center of bird endemism with species such as Yucatán Woodpecker, Cozumel Vireo, Black Catbird, and nearly a dozen more species!

American Flamingo
American Flamingo Rio Lagartos, 2014
Yucatan Jay
Yucatan Jay Puerto Morelos, 2015
Yucatan Nightjar
Yucatan Nightjar Rio Lagartos, 2014
Yucatan Vireo
Yucatan Vireo Cozumel, 2014
Black Catbird
Black Catbird Cozumel, 2014
Cozumel House Wren
Cozumel House Wren Cozumel, 2014
Laughing Falcon
Laughing Falcon Rio Lagartos, 2014
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Rio Lagartos, 2014
Black-headed Saltator
Black-headed Saltator Coba, 2014

January 11-17, 2020 

It was just easy and fun to spend a long day of birding with him. I came away from the experience wanting to go back.
Lesley M. “Custom Tour”, 2017

Details Mexico: The Yucatán and Cozumel

Most people think of Mexico for it's white sand beaches, warm Caribbean water, and bottomless pina coladas. But this tour will focus on the birds of the Yucatán Penninsula, where 3 major eco-regions collide with the Caribbean, central Mexico, and northern Central American species creating one of the most biodiverse regions in all of Mexico. Join me and our local expert Luis Kú Quiñones as we explore the varied habitats, and try to track down around 250 species during our week in the Yucatán!

Luis Kú Quiñones & Tim Avery


Mexico: The Yucatán and Cozumel Itinerary

Day 1 - Sat, Jan 11 Arrive in Cancun and Transfer to Puerto Morelos

Plan on arriving in Cancun no later than 4:00 PM today.  Our local contact will provide pickup at the airport between 4:00-5:00 PM.  If you arrive earlier in the day plan accordingly. If you arrive earlier int he week we can arrange a pickup around Cancun before 4:00 PM as well.

After the group has gathered we have a 30-minute drive south to Puerto Morelos where we will have dinner, go over the itinerary as a group and perhaps start things off with some light after dark owling.

Night in Puerto Morelos

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee Puerto Morelos, 2015

Day 2 - Sun, Jan 12 Reserva Toh: An Intor to the Yucatán

This morning we wake early for a 30-minute drive to Reserva Toh 25 kilometers inland for the Caribbean coast.  The reserve boasts an impressive bird list, and on any given morning 50+ species should be expected. We’ll spend the majority of the day in the interior here trying to track down some of the more sought after Yucatan endemics like Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Vireo, Yucatan Jay, Rose-throated Tanager, Black Catbird, and Orange Oriole--that’s nearly 1/2 of the endemics the Yucatan region has to offer! 

In the afternoon, we will return to Puerto Morelos to relax for the evening and perhaps enjoy some time at the beach before the sunset on our first full day birding in Mexico.

Night in Puerto Morelos

Yucatan Vireo
Yucatan Vireo Cozumel, 2014

Day 3 - Mon, Jan 13 Isla Cozumel Endemics

We’ll catch the first ferry to the island in the morning, and may encounter Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Royal Tern, or Laughing Gull during our crossing—but the real birding awaits us once we set foot on the island.  The main targets here include 4 endemics with the Cozumel Emerald and Cozumel Vireo being where we will focus our efforts.  If we missed Black Catbird or Yucatan Vireo yesterday we should pick these up here without much issue.  There is one other future potential split that we will focus on with the Cozumel House Wren.  Once you see this bird you'll understand why it should be its own distinctive species! During our visit we may spend time at the local golf course, the San Gervasio Ruins, and elsewhere on the island where the bird life is eerily similar to the mainland.  

Night in Puerto Morelos

Black Catbird
Black Catbird Cozumel, 2014

Day 4 - Tue, Jan 14 Zona Arqueologica de Coba and Chichén Itzá

Today we will visit 2 of the most well known archeological sites on the peninsula. White the day will center around Mayan ruins and history, there will be plenty of birds as well! Starting the morning off early we will visit Coba, focusing our effort around the lakes, with any luck we might pick up the elusive Spotted Rail or Ruddy Crake. Moving into the interior of the forest near the ruins we’ll shift our efforts to some real amazing species. With any luck we may track down the incredible Ocellated Turkey or Pheasant Cuckoo, or any of the 3 trogons routinely found here: Black-headed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, and Collared Trogon. This area is one of the best spots to locate Lesson’s Motmot and Turquoise-browed Motmot as well as a handful of amazaing woodcreepers

Moving northward, we'll visit Chichen Itza, the most iconic archeological site in Mexico. It was a major focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands from 600 to 1200 AD. The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles of the Northern Maya lowlands. The Maya name "Chichen Itza" means "At the mouth of the well of the Itza." While the birding here isn’t quite as incredible as Coba, a handful of specialties we’ll be looking for include: Cinnamon Hummingbird, Bat Falcon, White-fronted Parrot, and Scrub Euphonia.

Night in Rio Lagartos

Black-headed Trogon
Black-headed Trogon Coba, 2014

Day 5 - Wed, Jan 15 The Flamingos of Rio Lagartos

Today we should see no shortage of American Flamingos. While the greatest concentrations of this species lie much further west, here at Rio Lagartos we should have great looks at this species while we scavenge for other specialty birds. The mangroves hold treasures like Mangrove Vireo and Mangrove Cuckoo. With a little searching we may uncover small numbers of Boat-billed Herons or even Russet-naped Wood-Rails. The scrub lined back roads are where we’ll come across the more subtle specialty birds here. Endemics like Yucatan Wren should be picked up, while it is possible to find the Yucatan Gnatcatcher. Lesser Roadrunner hunt from the small trees here, while Mexican Sheartail display on the barren limbs. Overhead Crested Caracara, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, or Laughing Falcon are possible. 

Late in the afternoon we’ll transfer 3.5 hours south across the peninsula to Felipe Carrillo Puerto for the night. After dinner we’ll spend several hours working on trying to track down various nocturnal birds found here. Endemic Yucatan Nightjar and Yucatan Poorwill call this area home, while Common Pauraque and Northern Potoo are also present. This area also represents the best location in the Yucatan for Mottled Owl and Middle American Screech-Owl.

Night in Felipe Carrillo Puerto

American Flamingo
American Flamingo Rio Lagartos, 2014

Day 6 - Thu, Jan 16 Felipe Carrillo Puerto & Camino Vigía Chico

This road through the jungle here boasts a location lists of more than 300 species, many of which we’ve already encountered, but providing backup opportunities for many before our time in the jungles comes to an end. While there are no guarantees some really amazing birds occur here, and you never know what you will end up seeing on a morning here. This location is the northern limit for many Central American specialty birds, with species like the unforgettable Great Curassow occurring here in small numbers (likelihood of seeing this bird is slim, but worth noting here). Other birds scurrying through the forest here include Black-throated Bobwhite and Singing Quail as well as Pale-Vented Pigeon, Scaled Pigeon, and Blue Ground Dove. Besides the more common songbirds we’ll encounter a handful of birds that could increase our trip total here include Crane Hawk, Collared Forest-Falcon, Black-faced Antthrush, Plain Xenops, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Long-billed Gnatwren, and if we’ve missed it so far this is our best location to see Blue Bunting

Night in Puerto Morelos

Black-throated Bobwhite
Black-throated Bobwhite Rio Lagartos, 2014

Day 7 - Fri, Jan 17 Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín

For our final morning in the Yucatan you are largely free to do what you want!  If there is anything we’ve missed that we have a reasonable chance at tracking down we may focus on that.  Otherwise, if the nearby botanical gardens are open, we will visit to see what birds are present. While the gardens aren’t overly impressive, they do provide a great opportunity for birding close to the hotel.  Ant swarms occasionally found here attract tanagers and woodcreepers, as well as jays and wrens. Great Black Hawk have been known to nest here in the past, and from time to time Spider Monkeys can be seen careening through the tree-tops.

After out early morning visit to the gardens, we’ll have several hours at the hotel to pack, shower, take a dip in the pool, or the warm waters of the Caribbean, before we transfer back to the airport after lunch for departing flights.

With our week on the peninsula we should walk away with around 250 species including more than a dozen birds found nowhere else on the planet.

End of Tour!

Great Black Hawk
Great Black Hawk Puerto Morelos, 2015

The Yucatán and Cozumel
Tour Options You can select Single or Double Occupancy

Sandwich Tern at Rio Lagartos

What’s Included Here’s what we’ll provide on this tour.

Professional Local Guides

Transportation on the Ground

Boat to Cozumel

6-nights accomodations

3 Meals/day and Water

All Entrance & Conservation Fees

Birds—we’ll find some birds

A Thoroughly Enjoyable Time

What’s Not Included Here’s what you’ll need to bring.

Flights to and from Tour

Alcoholic Drinks

Soft Drinks

Room Service & Additional Food


Phone Calls


Tips to Guides & Porters

Anything not mentioned

Ocellated Turkey

Endemic Birds 13 Species +

Cozumel Emerald

Cozumel Vireo

Ocellated Turkey

Yucatan Parrot

Yucatan Poorwill

Yucatan Nightjar

Yucatan Woodpecker

Yucatan Flycatcher

Orange Oriole

Yucatan Jay

Yucatan Wren

Black Catbird

Rose-throated Tanager

+ Several possible future regional splits, and Caribbean Specialties!


Pace of Tour Fairly Relaxed but Steady

Generally, this tour follows a rather relaxed but steady pace. Quite often we will spend a longer amount of time birding a single location, often walking or driving short distances then spending a good deal of time observing. Therefore we will spend a greater amount of time in the field, but the actual pace will be fairly relaxed. There are several long drives between major locations that will provide chances to relax while we travel. Also, with around 12 hours of daylight, the days aren't too long and with limited nocturnal birding, evenings typically provide a nice chance to relax as well.

Rio Lagartos

Difficulty Easy

The combination of pace, terrain, climate, and observability make this tour fairly easy for just about anyone. There will be a fair amount of walking day-to-day (up to several miles at most), but it is mostly on well-maintained roads, tracks, or trails that are generally flat. A number of locations provide birding that is also generally pretty easy with open views of the canopy, or forest edges where birds may perch in the open.

Overall, this tour should provide a nice combination of a wonderful environment, and relaxed and easy birding with the potential for a large species list in a just a few days, and more than a dozen endemics.

Puerto Morelos Hotel

Accomodations Accommodations on this tour are basic and comfortable

We will be spending the majority of our stay at the Ojo de Agua Hote in Puerto Morelos. This hotel is modern and comfortable, with a refreshing pool overlooking the sea. All rooms have WiFi and TV with private bathrooms.

Our hotel in Rio Lagartos is more basic, but still comfortable at the Posada El Perico Marinero which is more typical of remote Central American villages. On the waterfront, the hotel overlooks the quaint estuary and quiet streets below.

In Felipe Carrillo Puerto we stay at the Turquesa Maya, with peaceful and comfortable accommodations in elegant and modern rooms, equipped with amenities such as flatscreen cable TV, kitchenette, and bathroom.

White-nosed Coati

Photography Birding 1st, Photography 2nd

This is a birding tour, with the focus on getting as many birds as possible, although casual photographers in the group will find some birds for photography. There may be some feeders on this tour, but most photography is on the fly as it and will always take second place to making sure everyone sees the bird. The best photography may be in Rio Lagartos, on Cozumal, and at Coba, where the easiest birding of the tour is typically found. None-the-less there will be plenty of photo opportunities on this tour.

Playa del Carmen

Climate The Yucatán is warm and humid in January

The Yucatan Peninsula is hot year-round. The two distinguishable seasons are the wet season and the dry season. The wet season usually starts in June and ends in October, making the dry season generally from November through May when we will be visiting.

The weather here in the dry season is much more desirable and pleasant for most tourists. The dry season is still hot, but much more tolerable than the wet season. During January the weather tends to be sunny, with temperatures hovering around 81ºF during the day and rarely dipping far below 65ºF at night.

It will be humid during our visit, but not untolerable. THe jungle sites are typically more humid, but also more shaded.

Rio Lagartos

Travel Requirements A valid passport is required

A valid passport or passport card is required for all U.S. citizens traveling beyond the Mexican border zone. Passports or passport cards are required for U.S. citizens 16 and older to re-enter the U.S. Mexican immigration may not accept washed, mutilated, or otherwise damaged passports, and require their carriers to return to the United States.

Tourist cards are required for longer visits for this tour. Tourist cards can be purchased at the airport. Travelers must keep their card with them at all times, since immigration federal officers have the right ask visitors to provide proof of their legal status at any time. Travelers without the proper documentation have occasionally been detained. It is also important to have passport and tourist card photocopies in case the originals are lost or stolen.

U.S. citizens must return their tourist card when they depart Mexico. Visitors who are unable to present their card may encounter significant delays and be asked to file a police report, pay fines, and obtain an exit visa.

What an amazing experience! We brought two of our kids out on a Flammulated Owl tour with Tim and it was amazing.
Niki J. “Flammulated Owling”, 2017
Himalayan Snowcock and Cassia Crossbill! Another trip with Tim, another success! These were the "big two" for this trip and Tim delivered in spades.
Paul K. “Most Wanted”, 2018
It is great to see a guide who gets excited about seeing the birds and at the same time cares about their welfare!
David D. “Multi-day Tour”, 2018
Tim is a fantastic guide so friendly and kind. He's funny too. I felt very comfortable on his tour which was sold out.
Melissa H. “Flammulated Owling”, 2018
This was my first experience with a guided bird trip and it could not have been better.
Robin C. “1/2 Day Tour”, 2017

What People
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