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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 for endemic birds, with more than 14 species such as Orange Oriole, Black Catbird, Black-throated Bobwhite, Yellow-lored Parrot, Yucatan Woodpecker, and Cozumel Vireo.

American Flamingo
American Flamingo Rio Lagartos, 2014
Turquoise-browed Motmot
Turquoise-browed Motmot Reserva Toh, 2020
Linneated Woodpecker
Linneated Woodpecker Reserva Toh, 2020
Yucatan Nightjar
Yucatan Nightjar Rio Lagartos, 2014
Russet-naped Wood-Rail
Russet-naped Wood-Rail Rio Lagartos, 2020
Yucatan Vireo
Yucatan Vireo Cozumel, 2014
Scrub Euphonia
Scrub Euphonia Rio Lagartos, 2020
Cozumel House Wren
Cozumel House Wren Cozumel, 2014
Collared Trogon
Collared Trogon Muyil, 2020
Laughing Falcon
Laughing Falcon Rio Lagartos, 2014

January 16-24, 2021 

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

6 of 8 Spaces Available

Mexico: The Yucatán and Cozumel Itinerary

Day 1 - Sat, Jan 16 Arrive in Cancun and Transfer to Puerto Morelos

Plan on arriving in Cancun no later than 5:00 PM today.  Our local contact will provide pickup at the airport between 2:00-5:00 PM.  If you plan to arrive earlier in the week and stay in Cancun, we can provide a transfer at an additional cost as well.

After the group has gathered we have a 30-minute drive south to Puerto Morelos where we will have 30-45 minutes to catch a few seabirds from our hotel patio before dinner. Species like Magnificent Frigatebird, Royal Tern, Brown Pelican, and Laughing Gull will be some of the first we encounter! During dinner we will go over the itinerary as a group and perhaps do some light owling for Middle American Screech-Owl, Black-and-white Owl, and Mottled Owl.

Night in Puerto Morelos

Magnificent Frigatebird
Magnificent Frigatebird Puerto Morelos, 2020

Day 2 - Sun, Jan 17 Reserva Toh: Cenotes & Endemics

This morning we wake early for a 30-minute drive to Reserva Toh 25 kilometers inland for the Caribbean coast for a little pre-dawn owling. We will have light snacks for the early birding followed by a full brunch at a priavte reserve in the jungle after our birding. 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 Yucatán endemics like Yucatán Woodpecker, Rose-throated Tanager, and Orange Oriole. Other highlights here might include Turquoise-browed Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Green-backed Sparrow, and Gray-throated Chat

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

Gray-throated Chat
Gray-throated Chat Reserva Toh, 2020

Day 3 - Mon, Jan 18 Isla Cozumel Endemics

We’ll catch the 7:00 AM ferry to Cozumel Island this morning which takes about 45 minutes. The main targets here include 4 endemics with the Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Vireo, Black Catbird and Yucatán Vireo all possible.  Aside from the classified endemics, the island hosts a number of island subspecies found nowhere else like Cozumel House Wren, Banaquit, Western Spindalis, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and the "Golden" subspecies of the Yellow Warbler. We'll spend most of the morning visiting several sites on the island, before having a late lunch, and catching the 3:00 PM ferry back to the mainland.  Today will end up being a long day as we have a 3-hour drive to Rio Lagartos for the night. We'll have dinner upon arriving, before calling it a night.

Night in Rio Lagartos

Cozumel Vireo
Cozumel Vireo Cozumel, 2020

Day 4 - Tue, Jan 19 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

During the heat of the day we will take a break that allows you to explore the small Pueblo (town), watch the hummingbird feeders at our hotel, go fising with a local guide, or take a siesta in your room! After dinner we'll board boats in the dark to seek out the endemic Yucatán Nighjar that calls the mangroves here home. The boat ride offers a unique experience as bioluminescence in the water is set off by our boats passing. All in all this is a can't miss part of the tour!

Night in Rio Lagartos

American Flamingo
American Flamingo Rio Lagartos, 2020

Day 5 - Wed, Jan 20 Chichén Itzá

While the title for today is the most iconic archeologicla site in Mexico, it is just a small portion of today's activity. We will start things off in Rio Lagartos, focusing on the birds of the scrub forest and degraded farms just inland from the coast. The scrub lined back roads are where we’ll come across the more subtle specialty birds here. Endemics like Yucatán Wren should be picked up, while it is possible to find the Yucatán 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. 

Following a lare breakfast we will make our wayt to Chichén Itzá, 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 is slower a handful of specialties we’ll be looking for include: Bat Falcon, Yellow-winged Tanager, and Blue-gray Tanager.

Late in the afternoon we’ll transfer 2 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 Yucatán Poorwill call this area home, while Common Pauraque and Northern Potoo are also present. This area also represents the best location in the Yucatán for Mottled Owl and Middle American Screech-Owl.

Night in Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Yucatán Wren
Yucatán Wren Rio Lagartos, 2020

Day 6 - Thu, Jan 21 Felipe Carrillo Puerto & Camino Vigía Chico

The road through the jungle here boasts a location list 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 any given day. We will focus our efforts on endemics like the Yellow-lored Parrot (a.k.a. Yucatan Parrot) and the Yucatan Flycatcher. Many Central American species reach their northern limits here and some possible finds might include Black-faced Antthrush, Barred Antshrike, Long-billed Gnatwren, Yellow-billed Cacique, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, and Blue Bunting.

We'll take a mid-day break before some light birding in the afternoon, dinner, and a second chance for nocturnal birds for anyone interested.

Night in Felipe Carrillo Puerto

Black-faced Antthrush
Black-faced Antthrush Camino Vigia Chico, 2020

Day 7 - Fri, Jan 22 Camino Vigía Chico & Muyil

We will give ourselves another morning at Camino Vigia Chico given the incredible birding possible here. With any luck we'll stumble onto something unexpected, or jsut something less expected like Scaled Pigeon, Blue Ground-Dove, Pheasant Cuckoo, or Pale-billed Woodpecker.

We'll continue north an hour to the ruins at Muyil where an intersting mix of possibilities makes this a worth while stop on our tour. Both Black-headed Trogon and Collared Trogon are possible, while Lesson's Motmot are known to nest here. One of the main draws is the chance for a variety of woodcreepers. On our last tour we hit the jackpot with 4 species: Olivaceous, Tawny-winged, Ruddy, and Ivory-billed Woodcreepers. Flocks of North American Wood Warblers are not uncommon here either--while enigmatic jungle flycatchers like Eye-ringed Flatbill and Yellow-olive Flycatcher are possible as well.

After a late lunch in Tulum, we'll head inland to Coba and take a short afternoon break before continuingour birding around the Lake here until dark. With any luck we will track down Ruddy Crake, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Puprle Gallinule, Limpkin, and Ringed Kingfisher. The lake acts as somewhat of a trap for other waterbirds ont he penninsula and rarities like Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (which we found on our 2020 tour) and Spotted Rail are possible.

After dinner we may do some owling nearby for those interested.

Night in Coba

Lesson's Motmot
Lesson's Motmot Muyil, 2020

Day 8 - Sat, Jan 23 Coba

Since we will have to wait for the archeological site to open we will spend the first couple hours of daylight birding around the lake, targeting anything we may have missed the previous evening. The morning light often allows for some great photo opportunities. Some of the more active morning species like Collared Aracari, Rose-throated Becard, and Black-cowled Oriole are all possible near town.

Once the site opens, we'll move into the interior of the forest near the ruins and 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

After lunch, we'll head back towards Cancun where we'll check into our hotel, then have our final dinner together, recapping the previous week of phenomenal birding

Night in Cancun

Collared Aracari
Collared Aracari Coba, 2020

Day 9 - Sun, Jan 24 Relax and Depart

This morning we will have breakfast together, before helping everyone find their way back to the airport for their respective flights home. For those with flights later in the day you could plan an outing for the morning, or just spend the day relaxing at the pool. We will provide transfers for everyone back to the airport 3-hours before their departure.

End of Tour

Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Rufous-browed Peppershrike The Yucatán, 2020

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

Private Room
per person
You'll have a room to yourself for the entire tour

Are you ready to go birding in The Yucatán and Cozumel?

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Bat Falcon at Chichen Itza

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

Professional Local Guides

Transportation on the Ground

Ferry to/from Cozumel

Morning and Night Boats in Rio Lagartos

8-nights accomodations

2-3 Meals/day and Water (some days we eat 2 large meals)

All Entrance & Conservation Fees (Chichen Itza, Coba, Muyil, El Cedral, Reserva Toh)

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

Are you ready to go birding in The Yucatán and Cozumel?

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Ocellated Turkey

Endemic Birds 14 Species +

Cozumel Emerald

Cozumel Vireo

Ocellated Turkey

Yucatan Parrot

Yucatan Poorwill

Yucatan Nightjar

Yucatan Woodpecker

Yucatan Flycatcher

Yucatan Gnatcatcher

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

In Puerto Morelos we will stay at Hacienda Morelos. This hotel is modern and comfortable, with a refreshing pool overlooking the sea. Convenient shopping and restauraunts are just a short walk down teh street. 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. All rooms have WiFi and TV with private bathrooms.

In Felipe Carrillo Puerto we stay at the Turquesa Maya, with peaceful, basic, and comfortable accommodations. All rooms have WiFi and TV with private bathrooms.

Our hotel in Coba will most likely be Hacienda Coba, but this is not yet set in stone. Another basic, and comfortable hotel--this off the beaten path location is serene, with wild surroundings. All rooms have WiFi and TV with private bathrooms.

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 this tour. Tourist cards are available on line before you travel, on the plane, and at the airport in Cancun. 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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