endemic birds of the Yucatan Peninsula in the vicinity of five spectacular Mayan sites



"The whole itinerary was very well paced and we enjoyed the mixture of birds and history. All of the hotels were excellent.... The whole trip was a tonic. Thank you very much indeed."......  Mr and Mrs L, Huddersfield, January 2007





There's so much more to the Yucatan Peninsula than the famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Coba, Calakmul, Palenque and Uxmal. Lush tropical forests, coastal wetlands teeming with life, impenetrable thorn scrub, and beautiful beaches combine to make the Yucatan a premier bird-tour destination. The beauty of it all is that some of the best preserved habitats are found alongside the most spectacular ruins.


Many species found here occur nowhere else in the world. Ocellated Turkey, Yucatan Bobwhite, Lesser Roadrunner, Yucatan Poorwill, Yucatan Nightjar, Yucatan Jay and Mexican Sheartail are the most highly sought. Add to these, colourful North American migrants, typical Mexican birds and exotic rainforest species and itís not surprising to learn that during this trip we can expect to see over two hundred and fifty species.


Our journey begins with three nights at a lakeside hotel at Coba, where forest birds can be found alongside the famous Nohoch Mul pyramid. From there we travel south, spending two nights at Calakmul. On day six we will drive to Palenque, spending three nights surrounded by tropical rainforest and some of the most impressive ruins in the region. We will then head back north, with three nights at both Uxmal and Chichen Itza. In each location we will stay at hotels very close to the ruins, avoiding long drives and enabling us to visit before the heat of the day builds up.





On arrival at Cancun we will transfer to Coba, our base for the first three nights.


Our hotel is situated by Coba Lake and we can birdwatch from the hotelís own jetty for kingfishers, Anhinga, Ruddy Crake and Limpkin. There are also plenty of crocodiles and turtles to watch.


Three sets of excavated ruins are connected by wide forest trails. It is one of the more reliable sites to see the near endemic Rose-throated Tanager.


Some of the more common birds include Least Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Belted Kingfisher, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Hooded Oriole, Limpkin, Black-headed Trogon, Groove-billed Ani, Common Yellowthroat and Melodious Blackbird.



The largest and one of the most important of the Mayan sites, Calakmul stands deep in the jungle close to the Guatemalan border. We will spend two nights here, exploring the extensive forest which still retains small populations of Ocellated Turkey, Great Curassow and Crested Guan. Bat Falcons hunt from the tops of the pyramids, which break through the forest canopy. Yucatan Jay, Grey-throated Chat, Long-billed Gnatwren and Keel-billed Toucan add variety.



We will spend the next three nights at Palenque, one of the most spectacular pre-Columbian sites of the New World. The fabulous Mayan ruins are set on a hillside of lush forest overlooking a coastal plain.


A host of good species include Black Hawk-eagle, Brown-hooded, Red-lored and White-crowned Parrots and Long-tailed Hermit. Equally spectacular are the Collared Aracari, and Black-cheeked and Chestnut-coloured Woodpeckers.


At this time of year there will also be migrant North American wood-warblers such as Hooded, Wilsonís, Worm-eating and Kentucky Warblers. In addition, expect many tanagers along with honeycreepers, euphonias and Montezuma Oropendolas.


There will be an opportunity to explore the nearby savannah and highlands to search for a range of different species more suited to those habitats.


Our hotel has Black Howler Monkeys in the grounds, along with Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Keel-billed Toucan, Northern Potoo, Common Pauraque, Mottled Owl and Lesser Nighthawk.



On day nine we will drive to Uxmal. En route, we will visit the wetland site of Usumacinta, where vast marshes stretch either side of the road. Here we will find a great wildlife spectacle. Raptors occur in large numbers and include Black-collared Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, White-tailed Hawk and Crested Caracara. We should see hundreds of egrets, night herons and storks with the possibility of the huge Jabiru among them. Large flocks of wildfowl will include thousands of Blue-winged Teal and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.


As at all the sites, there is good birding in the hotel gardens. Hundreds of pairs of Cave Swallows nest in the ruins and Turquoise-browed Motmots can be easily observed.


The forest holds a good selection of Yucatan specialities including Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Bobwhite, White-browed Wren and Blue Bunting. Also found here are Common Pauraque, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Green Jay, Scrub Euphonia, Plain Chachalaca, Black-cowled and Altamira Orioles, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Yellow-billed Cacique, Singing Quail and Olive Sparrow.


We shall take a boat trip in the coastal mangroves at the Parque Natural Rio Celestun. There are bound to be some excellent photographic opportunities. Birds we can expect include Common Black Hawk, perched Magnificent Frigatebirds, American Pygmy Kingfisher, thousands of American Flamingos, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants, Anhinga, Roseate Spoonbill, Boat-billed Heron, Tricoloured Heron and Reddish Egret. Amongst the passerines will be Northern Waterthrush, Mangrove Warbler and Mangrove Vireo.



On day 12 we will move on to Chichen Itza in central Yucatan, our base for the final three nights. This is perhaps the most celebrated Mayan site and one of the most spectacular with its towering El Castillo pyramid and huge ball court. In the quiet corners of the ruins and in the gardens of our hotel where there are palms and fruit trees, birds are abundant, especially early and late in the day.


We hope to see Grey Hawk, Bat Falcon, Yucatan Swift, Cave Swallow, Collared Aracari, Masked Tityra, Lineated Woodpecker, Yellow-winged Tanager. Some of the truly special birds here include Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Canivetís Emerald, Yucatan Jay and the beautiful Orange Oriole. Ocellated Turkey, Turquoise-browed Motmot and Altamira Oriole can all be seen in the hotel grounds.


Whilst at Chichen Itza we will make a day trip to the coast at Rio Lagartos, where there is a mixture of coastal lagoons, mangrove swamps and dune scrub. We will have a boat trip in the afternoon. Here we can expect to see a long list of exciting birds including Brown and American White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Skimmer, Laughing Falcon, Crested Caracara, Yucatan Woodpecker and Vermilion Flycatcher. Specialities include the Yucatan Bobwhite, Lesser Roadrunner, Yucatan Wren and an endemic hummingbird, the Mexican Sheartail.


After some final birding on the last morning we have a short drive to Cancun, arriving in good time for our flight home.



Breakfast will usually be taken at 7am. On other days it will be taken later, to give us time to do a pre-breakfast walk. Due to the high mid-day temperatures we plan to do morning and evening excursions, with time off in-between to siesta. This is made all the easier as our hotels are very close to the birding sites. Basic fitness is all that is required. The Yucatan is very flat, but there will be a little uphill walking at Palenque.



Full-board accommodation is provided, with three nights at the Villa Arqueologica Coba, two nights at Chicanna Ecolodge, Calakmul, three nights in the Chan-Kah Resort Hotel, Palenque, three nights at the Villa Arqueologica Uxmal, and three nights at the Hacienda Chichen Resort, Chichen Itza. All accommodation is of a high standard and all rooms have en suite bathrooms. Lunches will normally be at the hotel.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leaders, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 29th, ending with lunch on 12th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-bus, two boat trips, site entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flights are from both Gatwick and Manchester, using the charter services of a major airline. Outbound flight departs late morning; return flight arrives back mid-morning.



15 nights including

one overnight flight:


Principal leader:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

16th October 2010):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:






29th Jan. to 13th Feb. 2011


John McLoughlin


8 clients with one leader




£2980 per person sharing


£3130 per person sharing








Green Jay



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