North-east and Central Mexico, 17th - 24th May 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


by Oscar Carmona

I led a group of 6 people from the Dallas-Fort Worth area on a birding/history tour of NE and Central Mexico. About half the time was spent looking for birds and the other half was visiting museums and missions. The following is a report of the locations visited, birds seen, hotels we stayed at, and restaurants we ate at. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

May 17th We departed from Harlingen at 8:00 a.m. in a 15 passenger van rented from Advantage Car Rental in Harlingen and crossed over into Mexico at the Los Indios Free Trade Bridge, south of Harlingen/San Benito. The process of obtaining our visas and vehicle permit was pretty quick and painless. Within a matter of minutes we were on our way south.

Some of the species we saw en route between Harlingen and Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas included: Cattle Egret, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Gray Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Crested Caracara, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Franklin's Gull, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Couch's Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Barn Swallow, Tamaulipas Crow, Chihuahuan Raven, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Altamira Oriole, and House Sparrow. We stopped in Ciudad Victoria for lunch and made our way further south.

Just south of Victoria, we stopped off the road to bird a small side road where we saw: Greater Roadrunner, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Brown Jay, and Varied Bunting. The birds in this area appeared to be very hot as they were all panting. The owl in particular looked as though its head was separated from the rest of the body. Just down the road, we had a nice Blue-crowned Motmot fly in front of the vehicle.

We made a late afternoon stop at La Florida (Bocatoma), located just east of Gomez Farias. This area was full of people enjoying their weekend at this spot. Nevertheless, we saw a few birds around the grounds below the restaurant. These included Plain Chachalaca, Red-billed Pigeon, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Elegant Trogon, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Tamaulipas Crow, Clay-colored Robin, Yellow-winged Tanager, and Melodious Blackbird. The power line post just outside of Gomez Farias that usually has a Bat Falcon perched was vacant.

Just north of Valles we spotted a nice Aplomado Falcon flying alongside the van. Dinner at the Hotel Taninul restaurant. Overnight in Hotel Taninul, east of Cd. Valles, San Luis Potosi. Rooms were about $40.00 night and were pretty nice. The rooms have air conditioning, but the vents face upward and it was very hot and humid outside, so the sleeping was kind of uncomfortable.

May 18th We birded a bit in the morning on the grounds of the Hotel Taninul after a filling breakfast. Most visible were the flocks of Green and Aztec Parakeets screeching overhead. Birds seen on the grounds of the hotel included Boat-billed Heron, Muscovy, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Red-billed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Squirrel Cuckoo, Mourning Warbler, Melodious Blackbird, Brown Jay, Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Rose-throated Becard, Clay-colored Robin, Red-lored Parrot, Blue-crowned Motmot, Social Flycatcher, Blue Bunting.

We then headed south and made a brief stop at Xilitla to see what was hanging around at Las Pozas. Since it was late in the morning, we did not see much. We did see Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Brown-backed Solitaire (heard), Montezuma Oropendola, Scrub Euphonia, and Yellow-throated Euphonia. The drive from Xilitla to Huejutla was preet uneventful. We did see a nice Short-tailed Hawk (light phase) soaring above the highway.

Overnight in Hotel Oviedo in Huejutla, Hidlago. Dinner at a restaurant on the north side of the square. Restaurant options in this town were few and far between. It did have a pretty good supermarket. Rooms were pretty nice and clean with good air conditioning, ceiling fan, hot water, and television for $18.00 night for 2 twin beds.

May 19th We left Huejutla and made the one hour drive south to the Lontla pulloff, marked by a pretty visible sign. You park on the west side of the highway and walk down the path. The area is a really neat remnant of cloud forest. A 4 hour walk along the trail towards Lontla produced the following birds: Collared Forest Falcon, Crested Guan, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-faced Quail-Dove, White-bellied Emerald, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, Acorn Woodpecker, Smoky-Brown Woodpecker, Bronze-winged Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Azure-hooded Jay (very skittish), Gray-breasted Wood Wren, Slate-colored Solitaire, Brown-backed Solitaire, Black-headed Nightingale Thrush, White-throated Robin, Brown-capped Vireo, MacGillivray's Warbler, Golden-browed Warbler, Flame-colored Tanager, Common Bush Tanager, Chestnut-capped Brush Finch, and Hooded Grosbeak. In addition, we briefly saw a large raptor that flew overhead just above the trees that reminded me of an Ornate Hawk-Eagle. There were also several calls and songs that we heard that I am not familiar with. This area deserves at least 2-3 full days to see most of the birds that this area has to offer. Some species such as Scaled Antpitta, Unicolored Jay, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, and Ruddy Foliage Gleaner reach their northernmost range in this area.

We had lunch in Tlanchinol. The highly recommended Restaurant Mary Kay was closed, so we found the Restaurant San Judas Tadeo, located on the west side of the square in Tlanchinol. The food was excellent as was the service, and the beer was pretty cold. In town we saw Barn and N. Rough-winged Swallow as well as House Finch. We scouted out the Hotel Victoria in town. The rooms were pretty small and had no fan or air conditioning. Rooms ran for $10.00-$15.00 per night. Overnight in Hotel Oviedo in Huejutla, Hidlago.

May 20th We left Huejutla fairly early and birded along the way via Tamazunchale and Xilitla to Conca, Queretaro. A brief stop or two between Huejutla and Xilitla produced Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Gray Hawk, Red-billed Pigeon, Plain Chachalaca, Green Parakeet, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Green Jay, Brown Jay, Tamaulipas Crow, Northern Mockingbird, Black-headed Saltator, Altamira Oriole, Montezuma Oropendola, and Bronzed Cowbird.

We stopped for lunch in Xilitla and ate at Restaurant Cayo. I highly recommend this place for the excellent food. While sitting at our table, we watched a pair of Yellow-winged Tanagers tending to their nest in a nearby Palm. After lunch, we headed west to Jalpan, then north to Conca. Just east of Jalpan we birded along a side road that heads north. There was some pretty good birding at the start of this road in a weedy field. We saw White-tipped Dove, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Common Raven, MacGillivray's Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Varied Bunting, Canyon Towhee, White-collared Seedeater, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Bronzed Cowbird, and Audubon's Oriole.

We ate dinner up the road from the Hotel Mision Conca at Restaurant Los Arcos. The food was prepared in front of your eyes and was very economical. Overnight in Hotel Mision Conca, near Conca, Queretaro. The grounds at this hotel were nice and birdy, but the rooms cost about $90.00 night and were miserably hot. There were no fans or air conditioning.

May 21st We did a little bit of birding on the grounds of the Hotel Mision Conca and saw the following species: Black Vulture, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Couch's Kingbird, Rose-throated Becard, Masked Tityra, Green Jay, Tufted Titmouse, Clay-colored Robin, Great-tailed Grackle, Hooded Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Altamira Oriole, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

We departed the hotel and headed south to Jalpan, Queretaro, where we made several birding stops along the road. This road parallelled the Rio San Juan. This river was lined with large cypress trees and provided some pretty good birding. Species we saw along this road included: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-billed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Barn Swallow, Green Jay, Tufted Titmouse, Clay-colored Robin, Long-billed Thrasher, Yellow-green Vireo, Tropical Parula, Golden-crowned Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Olive Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Audubon's Oriole, Lesser Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

In Jalpan, we wandered around town to see some of the attractions (nice museum) and have some paletas de fruta. In the afternoon, we headed south en route to the city of Queretaro and made a few stops up high in the mountains. The temperature was really nice and was a welcome reflief from the heat we had experienced the past few days. These brief stops produced a nice variety of birds: Hairy Woodpecker, Steller's Jay, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Grey Silky, Crescent-chested Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Olive Warbler, and Yellow-eyed Junco.

We ate dinner at the Café 1810 across the street from the Hotel Meson de Santa Rosa in the pedestrian mall. This restaurant was great. The food was upscale, they had an extensive wine list, and live music. The ambience of this area was very nice. Overnight in Hotel Meson de Santa Rosa in Queretaro, Queretaro. This hotel was beautiful and the surrounding area was great to explore. Rooms were about $130.00 night and were worth every cent.

May 22nd Today was spent looking around Queretaro and driving north to San Luis Potosi. We did make some stops to see some historical areas, but did not see many birds. We did see Black-necked Stilt, Cassin's Kingbird, Vermilion Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, and Curve-billed Thrasher. Dinner at Pozzotolli, a pretty good Mexican chain restaurant located just north of the hotel. Overnight at Holiday Inn Don Quixote in San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosi.Rooms were about $85.00 night.

May 23rd We left San Luis Potosi and made our way north en route to Saltillo. We detoured and went to see Real de Catorce, an old silver mining town. You drive through a 2 mile long tunnel through a mountain in order to get there-quite an experience. We did see some good birds on the way there including Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Crested Caracara, Harris's Hawk, Greater Roadrunner, White-throated Swift, an unidentified hummer, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Kingbird, Chihuahuan Raven, Rock Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Crissal Thrasher, Phainopepla, Loggerhead Shrike, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Scott's Oriole, and House Finch.

We ate lunch at the Hotel Mesa de Abundancia in Real de Catorce. They had excellent pizzas and cold beer. We di not see very much on the way to Saltillo except for some Eurasian Collared Doves, Mourning Doves, Northern Flicker, Chihuahuan Raven, Northern Mockingbirds, and Curve-billed Thrashers. Overnight in Holiday Inn Ramos Arizpe in Saltillo, Coahuila. This hotel was noisy and they had screwed up on our reservations and gave us all smoking rooms, and at a higher rate.

May 24th We woke up early and headed to Los Lirios to bird the canyon between Saltillo and Santiago. This was one of our more productive birding days. We saw the following species from Los Lirios all the way to Horsetail Falls (Cola de Caballo): Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Band-tailed Pigeon, Red-billed Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, White-winged Dove, Maroon-fronted Parrot, White-throated Swift, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Lucifer Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Acorn Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Greater Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Say's Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Green Jay, Scrub Jay, Gray-breasted Jay, Common Raven, Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, Canyon Wren, Bewick's Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Brown-backed Solitaire, Clay-colored Robin, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Hutton's Vireo, Virginia's Warbler, Crescent-chested Warbler, Painted Redstart, Rufous-capped Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Flame-colored Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Rufous-capped Brush Finch, Canyon Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Yellow-eyed Junco, Great-tailed Grackle, Audubon's Oriole, Scott's Oriole, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

We had lunch in Santiago at Las Palomas, one of my favorite restaurants. We headed west to northwest to Monterrey and then north back to the United States. We saw a nice Zone-tailed Hawk and Short-tailed Hawk just outside of Santiago. North of Monterrey we saw a White-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Harris's Hawk, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Mourning Dove, Northern Mockingbird, and most of the usual suspects. We turned the vehicle permit in at the Pharr-Reynosa bridge with no problems.