Needing a break from winter in the UK, I spent two enjoyable weeks in mid-February 2015 birding around the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula. Having birded in Chiapas (Mexico), Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and California and Texas (USA), I had a fairly specific target list of birds I wished to see and opted to visit just four areas that supported these species: Isla Cozumel; Felipe Carrillo Puerto (Vigia Chico Road); Río Lagartos/Las Coloradas; and Puerto Morelos (Jardín Botánico Dr Alfredo Barrera Marín). I didn’t want to rush between more sites and had no inclination to venture further south than Felipe Carrillo Puerto as a trip to Belize and Guatemala is planned. Thus I did not go to Calakmul, where most bird tour groups go, to see additional species not present (e.g. tody motmot) or difficult to see (e.g. ocellated turkey) at the northern sites I visited. I mostly travelled by bus between birding sites (plus ferry crossings to/from Cozumel), ate well and stayed in fairly low-cost but pleasant accommodation; proprietors of guesthouses and small hotels readily gave a discount on the advertised walk-in price I found, without even asking. The total cost for the trip (including travel to Heathrow Airport from Norwich) came in at £1,100.
My report including travel, accommodation and birding details, is followed by annotated species lists of birds and mammals seen. Scientific names for species appearing in these lists are not generally included in the main text, exceptions being for clarity, names of some subspecies.
Flights to and from Cancún
In January I booked Aeromexico flights from London Heathrow to Cancún (Quintana Roo State) via Mexico City (c. 2h stopover in Mexico City; £557 return inc. taxes), departing 8 February and arriving back in England on 23 February.
Outbound: 8 Feb 2015; 22:30 - 08:24 (+1 day) (duration 16h 54 min) Heathrow - Cancún via Mexico City arrive 04:35 depart 06:10
Return: 22 Feb 2015; 18:26 - 15:55 (+1 day) (duration 14h 29 min) Cancún - Heathrow via Mexico City arrive 21:12 depart 23:35
The Heathrow - Mexico City legs (outbound and return) were in new Boeing 787s that were less than half full, thus plenty of room to stretch out and sleep. Transfer in Mexico City was quick and hassle-free as opposed to my experience of lengthy US customs if flying via the USA, where one also needs an ESTA (travel authorisation permit; US$14) even if only in transit. However, the outbound stopover in Mexico City was 1h 40 min longer than it should have been as the Cancún flight I should have been on was overbooked. I was put on the next flight (business class) and fortunatley had no pressing need to arrive on time.
I took the UK sterling equivalent of £300 of Mexican pesos and £400 of US dollars with me (rather more than I needed) plus my visa debit card for emergencies. The peso is usually written as ‘$’ but to avoid confusion I indicate as M$ and US dollars as US$. The exchange rate was about M$22 to £1 and US$1.45 to £1. For buying everyday items in shops and bus tickets (boletos) you will need pesos. The ferry fare across to Cozumel could be paid in M$ or US$. For larger payments, e.g. accommodation at hotels and guesthouses (posadas), people were happy to accept US$ as an alternative to M$ (but make sure that the exchange rate is reasonable).
I had no health problems. I drank only bottled water and used this for brushing teeth (1.5 litre bottle approx. M$12-16, a bit more in tourist areas and readily available even in villages).
Malaria is very low risk in northern Yucatán (and dengue absent) but mosquitoes (during the day especially) were annoying at some sites and abundant in the mangroves at Río Lagartos where I found use of repellent essential. I took a 50 ml plastic bottle of ‘extra strength Jungle Formula’ which was effective (with plenty left over for the next trip).
On 1 February 2015, a new Mexican time zone was created with clocks set forward 1 hour in Quintana Roo State (which includes Cozumel) ‘in order to boost the tourism sector by creating longer, lighter evenings’. Thus for example, when you are in Quintana Roo it gets light at around 07:00 local time and in neighbouring Yucatán State (e.g. Río Lagartos) 06:00, important to know if you are meeting someone to go out birding.
Travelling in Yucatán
I mostly used public buses (plush first class ADO buses and slower but fine MayaB and Noreste buses; good value) to travel between main birding sites, plus boat journeys to/from Cozumel and three short-distance (less than 10 km) taxi rides on the island. I also did some ad hoc short-distance (<5 km) hitching and at Río Lagartos I had a bicycle kindly lent to me for two days. Further travel details are included in the ‘Birding sites’ section.
Bird books and travel guide
I took the following publications for identification (1, 2), birding site information (3) and general Yucatán information (4):
1) A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America (Howell & Webb 1995). Although bulky worth taking, containing a wealth of information;
2) Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Dunn & Alderfer 2011). I took this primarily to identify wintering North American migrants; in Howell & Webb (1995) whilst such species are included in the text and their ranges mapped, most are not illustrated;
3) A Bird-finding Guide to Mexico (Howell 1999). I took the relevant pages; whilst a bit dated the sites I visited were pretty much as described, although the Vigia Chico Road is perhaps a little more disturbed;
4) The Rough Guide to The Yucatán (O’Neil & Fisher 2008). I picked up a second hand copy (£3.20). There are more recent versions (an update online: www.roughguides.com) and other guides available. It contains lots of information, the maps especially were useful for orientating oneself in towns, finding bus stations etc.
1) Isla Cozumel
Getting there: Upon exiting Cancún Airport (quiet and no touts hassling to take you to hotels etc.), outside the terminal building (turn right to the bus stops about 100 m distant) after a 10 min wait I caught the 11:45 ADO bus to Playa del Carmen (M$156.00; 50 min duration) from where the passenger ferries to Cozumel depart. There is at least one bus per hour to Playa, and in the opposite direction (north) many to Cancún; minibuses and taxis are also available. In Playa del Carmen from the ‘Main Bus Station’ situated close to the shore, it is a 5 min walk to the ferry jetty. (Note: there is a second bus station ‘ADO’ at the Avenida 20/Calle 12 junction; buses to Felipe Carrillo Puerto and further south go from here). At the jetty I purchased a ferry ticket (M$135.00 or US$12) for the next boat, departing at 14:00. Two companies operate ferries, UltraMar and Mexico Waterjets (prices the same, service equally as good). One boat goes per hour, running daily from 06:00 to 22:00. The crossing takes about 45 min, I saw a few brown pelicans, laughing gulls and a royal tern en route.
Accommodation: I stayed on Cozumel for four nights (9-12 February) at Hotel Edem (aka Hotel Posada Edem), Calle 2 Norte in San Miguel (www.hotelposadaedem.com.mx; email@example.com). From the passenger ferry jetty, the hotel is a 15 min walk (one block north up the main north-south running coast road, Avenida Rafael E. Melgar, and just over a block back from this). It is conveniently located opposite a taxi rank (ideal for transport to birding sites) and near a booking office (100 m up the road) where one can buy tickets for mainland buses. I had a room with a double bed, toilet, shower and ceiling fan (M$235/night). I was initially shown a more expensive one with a TV and A/C but it was a bit dingy and the temperature and humidity did not warrant A/C (and I didn’t want a TV). There were two other small hotels further up Calle 2 Norte and others scattered around town, with plenty of expensive options along the coastal strip.
Birding: I had a late afternoon stroll around the backstreets upon arrival and three full days birding during which I observed 80 species (plus pauraque heard only) excluding poor views of a caprimulgid (presumably lesser nighthawk or Yucatan nightjar) and an unidentified Contopus flycatcher. I was surprised at how pleasant Cozumel was, and in San Miguel (the sole town on the island) most buildings are only 2-3 storeys high with just a few unsightly monolithic hotels/condos along the west-facing seafront. There are several tree-lined roads/avenues (e.g. towards the airport), and many small gardens and scrubby and weedy plots that were quite birdy.
There are four Cozumel endemics, the three ‘gettable’ ones i.e. Cozumel emerald, Cozumel wren (often considered a subspecies of house wren, Troglodytes aedon ssp. beani) and Cozumel vireo were all seen. Neither wren (some bird tours miss it) nor vireo were that easy but by the end of my second day I had observed several of each, well. The fourth endemic, Cozumel thrasher Toxostoma guttatum, is perhaps extinct as it has not been seen since 2004 (one near the golf course, with unconfirmed sightings in April 2006, and October and December 2007; Curry 2010). When walking through town I bumped into the local biologist (Rafael Chaćon) who had seen the thrasher in 2004. He considers that they are probably still about given the extensive scrub forest cover that persists. There are 14 endemic subspecies, listed below (‘abundance code’ in parentheses, following Curry 2010), of which I saw 10:
Cozumel great currasow Crax rubra griscomi (Critically endangered) – not seen. (Note: Rafael Chaćon had recently seen a pair in a remote part of the island; population size estimated at only 372 ± 155 individuals; Martínez-Morales et al. 2009).
Cozumel roadside hawk Buteo magnirostris gracilis (rare) – not seen.
Cozumel rufous-vented (Yucatan) woodpecker Melanerpes p. pygmaeus (abundant) – numerous observations, widespread.
Cozumel golden-fronted woodpecker M. aurifrons leei (abundant) – 1 at San Gervasio.
Cozumel bright-rumped attila Attila spadiceus cozumelae (common) – 1 at San Gervasio.
Cozumel Yucatan flycatcher Myiarchus yucatanensis lanyoni (uncommon) – 1 in San Miguel.
Cozumel black catbird Melanoptila (Dumetella) glabirostris cozumelana (abundant) – many observed, widespread.
Cozumel blue-grey gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea cozumelae (common) – many observed.
Cozumel rufous-browed peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis insularis (common) – 1 at San Gervasio.
Golden warbler Dendroica (Setophaga) petechia rufivertex (common) – numerous and widespread.
Cozumel western spindalis Spindalis zena benedicti (uncommon) – 3 along North Track; 3 on outskirts of San Miguel.
Cozumel rose-throated tanager Piranga roseogularis cozumelae (uncommon) – not seen.
Cozumel northern cardinal Cardinalis c. saturatus (common) – not seen.
Cozumel yellow-faced grassquit Tiaris olivacea intermedia (abundant) – many observed, widespread.
I saw one of my most wanted birds of the trip, Swainson’s warbler, at San Gervasio (see below) and Cozumel was a hotspot for wintering North American warblers generally, with 18 other species observed. My only real failure was not seeing rose-throated tanager that eluded me here and subsequently on the mainland.
Birding sites visited on Cozumel: Two main sites were visited, the ‘North Track’ (10 and 12 February) and ‘San Gervasio’ Mayan ruins archaeological site (11 February), both described in Howell, 1999.
North Track: Before dawn (06:30) from opposite Hotel Edem I took a taxi (M$90) to the north end of the coast road i.e. km 6.5 (about 100 m north of the Cozumel Country Club entrance), less than 15 min drive. From here I walked and birded along the scrub/tree-bordered, pot-holed track. There were lots of birds, over my two visits including: bat falcon (1 overflying at dawn), Cozumel emerald (2-3), Cozumel rufous-vented woodpecker (several), white-crowned pigeon (2-3), Cozumel vireo (2-3), Yucatan vireo (common), Cozumel wren (1), numerous golden and magnolia warblers, a prairie warbler and western spindalis (3). Bananaquits of the local race C. f. caboti were abundant (I did not see bananaquit on the mainland). At the sewage works (km 9.3; ruddy crake on track by entrance on second morning) I asked if I could walk around to look for birds - no problemo; it was a good spot for warblers (e.g. several American redstarts, yellow-throated and palm warblers and a single myrtle warbler). I did not see smooth-billed ani though a good location to see it (Howell 1999; in Mexico this species is pretty much restricted to Cozumel). Just beyond the works is an area of tall wet grassland with scattered dead trees (lots of common yellowthroats, and ruddy crakes calling). Beyond this the track runs for a further 2.5 km or so through woodland with numerous pools (highlights: 2-3 ruddy crakes, a sora, northern waterthrushes and several pygmy racoons) then mangroves and scrub (a locality for Cozumel northern cardinal; I did not see but it was midday and hot when I reached this area) to the shore. Just back from the shoreline there is a lookout tower, a good place for lunch.
San Gervasio: At 06:30 I got a taxi (M$100) to the San Gervasio access road junction at km 8.2 (see Howell 1999), a 20 min drive at most. (Note: the ‘G’ of Gervasio is pronounced as a hard guttural ‘H’). The archaeological site open from 08:00 to 15:45 (entry fee US$9.50; a bit pricey given that it is not a very large area but worth it if one can spend the day as there are lots of interesting things to see and it is a very pleasant area to bird). It is possible at first light (07:00) to start walking from the main road up the 4 km-long or so access road (bordered by woodland and several side tracks) to the site entrance. I asked the guard at the gatehouse if this was OK – he saw my binoculars and I suspect he has been asked before by other birders - a smile, he opened the gate and I was waved through. (Note: you pay your entry fee at the site entrance, not here). I saw many birds as I walked towards the ruins (e.g. merlin, Yucatan parrot, Cozumel vireo, a fine male prairie warbler, several palm warblers and northern beardless tyrannulets). I hitched the last 1 km with a passing member of staff as it was approaching 09:00 and I wanted to avoid ‘the crowds’. Despite several coach loads of tourists, it was easy to get away from most people and at times it seemed fairly deserted. Highlights included: Caribbean dove (4-5), Cozumel vireo, Swainson’s warbler, several worm-eating warblers (noisily foraging in dry leaves on branches just above the forest floor), numerous golden and hooded warblers, Cozumel wren (3-4), Cozumel bright-rumped attlia and a Cozumel rufous-browed peppershrike ineptly trying to catch a tree frog. The site has many iguanas and I saw a colubrid snake here also.
Around town: Around San Miguel on my first afternoon, I saw my only Cozumel Yucatan flycatcher and rose-breasted grosbeak of the trip, a green-breasted mango, Tennessee warbler, several magnolia, palm and black-and-white warblers, black catbirds, indigo buntings and yellow-faced grassquits etc. I also walked back from the North Track down Avenida Rafael E. Melgar (which has many bordering trees/shrubs) to town and the northern-most 3 km were productive with many warblers including singles (my only ones of the trip) of black-throated blue and Cape May warblers, and a Caribbean elainea (the latter high up in a fruiting tree with 3 western spindalis, a summer tanager, grey catbird and Tennessee warbler).
I popped into the Cozumel Country Club (golf course) as in big letters at the entrance it says ‘Open to the Public’ (and also ‘Audubon International sanctuary’). There is a large pool on the golf course on your left as you enter which had a selection of waterbirds (e.g. black-bellied whistling duck, American coot, common gallinule) and waders (i.e. black-winged stilt, spotted sandpiper, grey plover), most of these species I did not see elsewhere on the island (plus a large American crocodile). After about 20 min I was politely told by a golfer (course manager?) from the US (judging by accent) that it was not open to the public. I was apparently on a concrete track for golf buggies and not for pedestrians; I did indeed see a small sign (part obscured by vegetation) at the start of the track when I left that said ‘no cycling, jogging or walking’ (I think I was gazing up at a summer tanager and walked straight past it). Pedestrian members of public, I assume (the golfer was very vague on this), must walk down the road alongside the buggy track to the club house where one can buy a cup of coffee or (perversely) arrange a birding tour (I suspect both expensive), I was told.
2) Felipe Carrillo Puerto (Vigia Chico Road)
Getting there: On 13 February I caught the 09:00 ferry to Playa del Carmen, walked the 20 min to the ADO bus station (Avenida 20/Calle 12 junction), had breakfast and caught a bus to Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP), often just called Carrillo Puerto (M$145 purchased on Cozumel 2 days earlier; 2h 30 min). As you enter FCP from the north, do not get off (if travelling by bus) at the first small roundabout (glorieta), wait for the next larger one with the statue of a man in the middle. To the east of this (600 m) is the start of the Vigia Chico Road (VCR) as described in Howell, 1999.
Accommodation: I stayed for three nights (13-15 February, giving me two full days birding) at the Hotel Regina (Tel: 26-71229) located about 150 m west of the roundabout, south side of the road. I had a plush large room (far bigger than I needed) with two double beds, TV, A/C, shower and toilet (M$400/night). I avoided Faisan y Venado (mentioned in Howell 1999), as it had a restaurant downstairs and looked like it might be noisy. Hotel Regina is well located, with numerous nearby places to eat (note: many close early in the evening).
Birding: I left at 06:00 each morning (an hour before light, getting a takeout coffee at the Oxxo shop en route) returning at dusk. I saw a good selection of birds (98 spp. over the 2 days) plus calls only of a few species that I recognised (and undoubtedly many more that I did not). Before dawn at the start of the trail, ferruginous pygmy-owls (2) were easily seen (calling frequently), plus a fly-by mottled owl and frustratingly brief views of a (probable) Yucatan nightjar. Other birds over the two days included: wedge-tailed sabrewing (frequent), Yucatan jay (several noisy flocks), the distinctive Yucatán race of green jay (2), greenish elaenia (1), several white-browed and white-bellied wrens, stub-tailed spadebill (1 seen, numerous calling), blue-winged warbler (a male in a mixed-species flock), grey-throated chat (4) and green-backed sparrow (3: confiding but inconspicuous, creeping around on the forest floor). The second day was disappointing as only ivory-billed woodcreeper (laughing calls heard the previous day) was new for me and I failed to see a trio of ground dwellers, thicket tinamou (heard only), singing quail Dactylortyx thoracicus and Mexican antthrush Formicarius moniliger. A hunter on a motorbike who I’d met earlier in the morning, stopped on his return to show me a male great currasow that he had just shot (to eat) about 20 km up the track. I have seen this species in Costa Rica but would have liked to have seen (live ones) here. As on foot, I only made it 8 km up the track. I suspect that currasows and other ‘gamebirds’ have been mostly hunted out along this section that is fairly disturbed (a few people on bicycles, motorbikes and occasional cars passing by on both days) with numerous clearings/agricultural plots and a few small dwellings. If you have a car I would drive past the two pools (cenotes; pygmy kingfisher at the one just after km 6.3) and bird closer to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in order to (probably) improve one’s chances of seeing Cracids and Phasianids.
3) Río Lagartos/Las Coloradas
Getting there: On 16 February from the ADO bus station (behind FCP town plaza by the white clock tower) I caught the 09:30 MayaB bus (M$135) north via Validolid (a brief 10 min stop) to Tizimin town (arriving 12:55). In Tizimin, literally round the corner from the bus station I had arrived at (2 min walk), is a second similarly small bus station where I hopped on the 13:10 Noreste bus to Rio Lagartos (M$35; 51 km, 55 min duration).
Accommodation: I stayed in one of four guestrooms ($100 for 4 nights, a nice room with 2 double beds, TV, A/C, shower and toilet; cost/night dependent on number of people and how long you stay) by the ‘Restaurante Ría Maya’, west end of Calle 19, Río Lagartos. It is probably worth booking in advance although I didn’t. It is easy to find as the street numbers are signed and the bus station is at the other end of Calle 19. I ate at the Ría Maya (excellent grilled fish, rice and veg) with a great view over the estuary and mangroves. The establishment is run by Diego Antonio Nuñez Martínez, a local English-speaking expert birdguide who leads birding trips (firstname.lastname@example.org; www.riolagartosadventures.com; www.birdingyucatan.com,) and kindly lent me a bicycle.
Birding: On my first afternoon I saw a dinky female Mexican sheartail (perched in a garden close to my room) and then walked the 3 km to the road junction and turned east. About 150 m along in open scrub (north side of road) were at least nine Yucatan bobwhites. Next morning I teamed up with an American birding couple, Deb and Frank (who had a car; they asked if I would like to join them), which was enjoyable. I got them Yucatan bobwhite (location as previous day, here also calling ferruginous pygmy-owl, 3 orange orioles, 2 Yucatan wrens, and a grey-crowned yellowthroat responded well to Frank’s pishing) and we saw two lesser roadrunners at the Rancho San Salvador junction. After their departure, I walked down the road to the Peten Tucha forest trail (about 1 km further east), birds including a fine yellow-breasted chat (my first live one having found a road-kill the previous day) and two lesser yellow-headed vultures, and in the forest a northern bentbill. On 18 Feb I cycled eastwards, first birding along the Rancho San Salvador track (highlight a hook-billed kite), then gently along the main road the further 17 km to Las Coloradas saltpans. This was an excellent way to bird on the cool overcast day that I went but I would not recommend this if hot and sunny – get the bus or a taxi. I saw at the pans, amongst other things, seven Wilson’s plovers, three ghostly snowy plovers and a savannah sparrow. Of special note were two American pipits on Las Coloradas playing field/sports pitch (a rarity not recorded in the area previously). On my way back near the Peten Tucha trail, a collard forest-falcon flew across the road, clumsily ‘flopped’ into some shrubs, perched briefly and then disappeared into the forest. On my last day, Diego arranged a morning mangrove boat trip (06:30-09:30; cost US$50) specifically targeting, upon my request, rufous-necked wood-rail. I had a guide/boatman, a lad called Paco, who was resolute and knew the best spots to look, and we whizzed about and crept slowly along as appropriate on a small boat with an outboard. Although a bit windy (a cold northerly, blowing the previous night and day too) the trip was excellent, we saw two wood-rails and lots of other things, and it is always good to do some birding by boat.
4) Puerto Morelos (Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín)
Getting there: On 20 February I caught the 07:00 Noreste bus from Río Lagartos bus station to Tizimin (M$36; 55min). From Tizimin (at ADO bus station around the corner from the Noreste station) I caught a 08:30 MayaB bus to Puerto Morelos via Cancún (M$173; 5h 30 min). Buses to Puerto Morelos stop at the side of Highway 307 (main coast road) and I walked the 3 km east from here, down the road (Blvd. José María Morelos) which runs through mangroves/open water (to the south) and Typha swamp (north) into town. I saw a few bits and pieces (e.g. anhinga, belted kingfisher and a crocodile) and it looks excellent habitat but there are few good vantage points to view the area. One can get a taxi (M$20; several waiting near the bus stop) into town if one needs.
Accommodation: I stayed at Hotel Sevilla run by an amenable Spanish chap, Pepé, who speaks excellent English; it may be worth booking in advance: email@example.com. ($57 for 2 nights in a room with double bed, shower, toilet and TV. You can make your own coffee/tea/chocolate in the kitchen downstairs). I think you will struggle to find anywhere as good value elsewhere in town as it is touristy and most hotels (especially on the seafront) expensive. Hotel Sevilla is easy to find, coming down Blvd. José María Morelos, as you enter the town take the first left on Av. Niños Héroes (Oxxo shop on the corner) and the hotel is about 150 m along on your right. At night it was a bit noisy until 10 pm’ish from a band nearby playing mostly Beetles and Rolling Stones covers (and assorted other old rock hits like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’) both evenings, but it was quite entertaining and some renditions (though not of the best quality) had a certain charm. There is an excellent grocery opposite the hotel that sells freshly prepared fruit salads (perfect for breakfast).
Birding: On 21 Feb, commencing at 06:00 (with a takeout coffee from Oxxo) I birded up Blvd. José María Morelos to Highway 307 and along the 1 km stretch of highway south to the Jardín Botánico. It opens at 08:00 and as it was a bit early when I arrived, I crossed the highway and birded down a road opposite (a big mustard-yellow arch at its beginning). Amongst other things, a fruiting tree and flowering trees here, held several orange, hooded and yellow-backed orioles, and rose-throated becards, with a few plain chachalacas in nearby scrub. The Jardín Botánico opened promptly (entry US$6.50) and I stayed until 15:30 (it closes at 16:00). I saw lots of birds including: a cluster of 25 Vaux’s swifts huddled down the side of a well, several green jays, Caribbean dove, white-browed and white-bellied wrens and masked tityras, my only black-crowned tityra of the trip, and red-crowned and red-throated ant-tanagers, but failed in my quest to see rose-throated tanager (reported as common here, Howell 1999). The next morning (before getting the bus to the airport) I walked down a quiet backroad in PM, northwards to check out a mangrove boardwalk (indicated as by the ‘Ceiba del Mar’ in my Rough Guide, but now renamed ‘Desire Hotel’). The boardwalk was defunct but I saw a few interesting things including black catbirds, a pair of ospreys with a nest on the mast at the north end of town, and an exceptionally bright palm warbler on the beach.
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Species order follows Howell and Webb, 1995. Contemporary, widely accepted vernacular and scientific names are used, mostly following Gill & Donsker (Eds.) (2014). Where these are notably different, the names used in Howell and Webb are indicated in parentheses or mentioned as a note in the species text. Many recent species splits are highlighted but this is not an exhaustive synthesis of such taxonomic changes.
Key: Coz = Isla Cozumel; FCP = Felipe Carrillo Puerto (Vigia Chico Road); LC = Las Coloradas; PM = Puerto Morelos/Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marin; RL = Río Lagartos
[ ] = species heard only; ? = identity uncertain
[Thicket tinamou Crypturellus cinnamomeus – FCP: several heard, especially vocal at dawn. I got very close to two calling individuals but failed to see either as in dense undergrowth].
Pied-billed grebe Podilymbus podiceps – RL: 1 in roadside wetland (9 km east of RL junction).
American white pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos – RL/LC: up to approx. 50 daily in estuary and overflying.
Brown pelican P. occidentalis – Coz: 1-2 along coast; Playa del Carmen: 3-4 around jetty; RL/LC: up to approx. 50 daily.
Double-crested cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus – Coz: 2 individuals offshore; Playa del Carmen: 1 offshore; RL: common around estuary.
Neotropic cormorant P. brasilianus – PM: at least 2 in mangroves behind town; RL: several daily (my observations suggested less common than double-crested but I didn’t pay much attention to cormorants).
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga – PM: 1 (viewed from the wooden tower at north end of the Jardín Botánico) perched in a dead tree in the extensive marsh south of the town.
Magnificent frigatebird Fregata magnificens – many observations at coastal localities.
Bare-throated tiger-heron Tigrisoma mexicanum – RL: I put no effort into seeing this species (as seen before) but saw 1 in a pond c. 10 km south of the village. They are fairly guaranteed if one takes a mangrove boat trip (with Diego Nuñez), and one may encounter them in roadside pools or see them from the bridge (km 12.8) along the road to LC.
Great blue heron Ardea herodias – RL/LC: 2-5 daily around mangroves/in larger pools.
Great egret Egretta alba – Coz: 1 overflying North Track, 1 golf course; RL/LC: a few each day (maximum approx. 20).
Snowy egret E. thula – Coz: 1 golf course; RL/LC: 2-3 each day.
Little blue heron E. caerula – RL/LC: up to around 10 a day.
Tricolored heron E. tricolor – RL/LC: up to around 10 a day.
Western cattle egret Bubulcus ibis – Coz: 5 by the sewage works; PM: 1; RL: 1-2; occasional in livestock-grazed ‘savannah’.
Green heron Butoroides virescens – Coz: 1 golf course; PM: 1 at edge of mangroves; RL: a few around mangroves (10+ during boat trip) and roadside pools.
Yellow-crowned night heron Nycticorax violaceus – RL: 2 adults and 2 immatures around mangroves during boat trip.
Boat-billed heron Cochlearius cochlearius – RL: a few seen poorly in mangroves south of village; pair on stick nest in mangrove tree in a pool at km 11, south side of road to LC.
White ibis Eudocimus albus – RL: 1-2 most days, a maximum count of 10.
Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus – RL: 1 adult in pool (at approx. km 9).
Roseate spoonbill Platalea ajaja – Coz: 3 overflying North Track; RL: 1 overflying.
Wood stork Mycteria americana – RL: 1-3 overflying each day.
American flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber – RL: about 40 or so daily; LC: distant flock of 12 at saltpans.
Black-bellied whistling-duck Dendrocygna autumnalis – Coz: flock of approx. 10 overflying North Track at dawn and 10 on golf course; RL: flock of 6 overflying at dawn.
Blue-winged teal Anas discors – FCP: 4 (2 male, 2 female) on large cenote; RL: several small mixed-sex flocks (up to 25 individuals per day) on roadside pools/wetlands.
Black vulture Coragyps atratus – common and widespread.
Turkey vulture Cathartes aura – common and widespread.
Lesser yellow-headed vulture C. burrovianus – PM and RL: 2-5 daily, but after I had observed this species well I didn’t look at vultures much. I had views of several flying close and low thus their distinctive head colouration and bright white upper primary feather shafts were clearly visible. I also saw one adult on the ground feeding on the carcass of a road-kill racoon, despite its smaller size it was dominant over two adult turkey vultures present.
Western osprey Pandion haliaetus – Coz: 1; PM: pair with a nest on the large metal mast at the north end of town; LC/RL: 1-2 daily.
Hook-billed kite Chondrohierax unicinatus – RL: immature in flight approx. 11 km east of the village.
Crane hawk Geranospiza caerulescens – RL: singles on two days.
Common black hawk Buteogallus anthracinus – RL: 1 over village, 1 by bridge over river (km 12.8 km).
Grey hawk Buteo nitidus – 4 or 5 scattered sightings of individuals perched by roadsides.
Roadside hawk B. magnirostris – a few scattered sightings mostly of birds perched by roadsides, excellent views of perched immature at FCP.
Short-tailed hawk B. brachyurus – FCP: 1 adult (light morph) soaring high and spectacular steep and long, fast stoop.
White-tailed hawk B. albicaudatus – RL: 2 adults on one day.
Zone-tailed hawk B. albonotatus – RL: 2-3 each day hunting low (harrier-like) and soaring high (turkey vulture-like).
Red-tailed hawk B. jamaicensis – 1 soaring immature between PM and Playa del Carmen.
Crested caracara Caracara plancus – RL/LC: up to 6 each day, often loafing around roads.
Laughing falcon Herpetotheres cachinnans – RL: 1 (seen from bus) perched on telegraph pole approx. 10 km south of village.
Collard forest-falcon Micraster semitorquatus – RL: 1 along road near start of Peten Tucha trail; a perched raptor being mobbed by small passerines on the trail seen poorly as it flew off was probably this species.
Merlin Falco columbarius – Coz: 1 pale female/immature flew up from the ground along the San Gervasio access road; RL: 1 female/immature overflying 1 km south of the village.
Bat falcon F. rufigularis – Coz: 1 over North Track at dawn (a rare species on Cozumel).
Peregrine F. peregrinus – LC: 1 at saltpans; RL: 1 perched in mangroves during boat trip.
Plain chachalaca Ortalis vetula – FCP: several heard one morning; PM: groups of 4 and 6 in scrub along roads close to the Jardín Botánico, and several by football pitches W of town.
Great currasow Crax rubra – FCP: on 15/2/15, a hunter on the Vigia Chico Road showed me a male currasow he had just shot approximately 20 km up the track (see main text for further discussion).
Yucatan bobwhite Colinus nigrogularis - RL: flock of at least 9 on two consecutive days around road juction (eastside) 3 km south of village.
Ruddy crake Laterallus ruber – Coz: North Track, 1 in pool at start of wet woodland (NE of sewage works), 2 (in very rapid chase) in the same pool two days later, plus a confiding individual on the track just beyond the works entrance; several calling birds on both visits.
Rufous-necked wood-rail Aramides axillaris – RL: 2 foraging on mud along edge of mangroves viewed from boat, one of which observed very well at close distance; intense deep grey-blue patch on the upper back/base of neck. My favourite bird of the trip.
Sora Porzana carolina – Coz: North Track, 1 adult in pool in which I had just seen my first ruddy crake.
Common gallinule Gallinula galeata – Coz: 3 on golf course; RL: 1’s and 2’s in roadside pools. (Note: a fairly recent split from Eurasian moorhen G. chloropus).
American coot Fulica americana – Coz: about 30 on the golf course/in pool; RL: a few on roadside pools/wetlands.
Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola – Coz: 3 around the golf course pool; LC: 3 on beach and about 10 at the saltpans; RL: 5 during boat trip.
Snowy plover Charadrius nivosus – LC: 3 on the saltpans of the ghostly pale Gulf Coast tenuirostris, associating with semipalmated plovers. (Note: a fairly recent New World split from Kentish plover C. alexandrinus).
Wilson’s plover C. wilsonia – LC: 1 with 6 ruddy turnstones on an exposed mud spit on one saltpan, and 6 (1 male, 5 female) in a loose flock on an adjacent, mostly dry, saltpan.
Semipalmated plover C. semipalmatus – LC: approximately 25 at the saltpans.
Killdeer C. vociferous – LC: 2 on playing field/football pitch; RL: 1’s and 2’s on roadside pools.
American oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus – RL: 1 on exposed mud in estuary.
Black-necked stilt Himatopus mexicanus – RL/LC: several individuals each day.
Northern jacana Jacana spinosa – Coz: about 10 around the sewage works; RL: numerous observations around roadside wetlands.
Greater yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca – RL/LC: 1’s and 2’s daily.
Lesser yellowlegs T. flavipes – RL/LC: 1’s and 2’s daily.
Solitary sandpiper T. solitaria – RL/LC: 1-3 daily.
Willet T. semipalmata (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) – RL/LC: seen daily with largest numbers (approx. 50) seen around mudflats in RL lagoon during boat trip. (Note: now placed in the genus Tringa; the two subspecies Eastern willet T. e. semipalmata and Western willet T. e. inornata are sometimes afforded species status).
Spotted sandpiper Actitis macularia – Coz: 5 around golf course pool; RL/LC: mostly 2-5 daily but with more (approx. 15) seen during the boat trip.
Hudsonian whimbrel Numenius (phaeopus) hudsonius – RL: 3 on mud around mangroves during the boat trip. (Note: a recent spilt from Eurasian Whimbrel N. phaeopus).
Long-billed curlew N. americanus – RL: 1 during boat trip.
Marbled godwit Limosa fedoa – RL: up to approx. 30 on mud at low tide in main lagoon.
Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres – Coz: 5 on rocky shore just north of passenger ferry jetty; Playa del Carmen: 1 on jetty; LC: at least 6 on saltpans.
Western sandpiper Calidris mauri – LC: approx. 10 on saltpans.
Least sandpiper C. minutilla – LC: approx. 10 on saltpans; RL – 5 on roadside wetland.
Wilson’s (common) snipe Gallinago delictata – Coz: North Track, 1 flushed on mangrove edge; RL: 1.
Laughing gull Larus atricilla – Coz: maximum count of 40 on small jetty N of San Miguel; Playa del Carmen: approx. 30 around passenger ferry jetty; RL: common (150+ daily).
Ring-billed gull Larus delawarensis – RL: 2
American herring gull L. smithsonianus – LC: approx. 70 (a flock of mostly adults and 1st winters); RL: approx. 50 during boat trip. (Note: split from L. argentatus, ‘European herring gull’).
Gull-billed tern Geochelidon (Sterna) nilotica – LC: 4 over salt pans.
Caspian tern Hydroprogne (Sterna) caspia – LC: 1 on saltpans; RL: 2 at main lagoon.
Royal tern Thalasseus (Sterna) maxima – Coz: 1’s and 2’s along coast; LC: 10 on saltpans; RL: approx. 20 during boat trip.
Cabot’s tern Thalasseus (Sterna) acuflavidus – RL: 1-2 daily fishing in main lagoon (Note: split from Sandwich tern T. sandvicensis).
Black skimmer Rynchops niger – RL: seen daily, largest flock counted 37 individuals.
Feral pigeon Columba livia – small numbers around towns and villages.
White-crowned pigeon Patagioenas (Columba) leucocephala – Coz: 1-4 daily.
Red-billed pigeon Patagioenas (Columba) flavirostris – a few at FCP, PM and RL.
Eurasian collared dove Streptopelia decaocto – a recent and widespread colonist, frequent in towns and larger villages. On Cozumel common in San Miguel. (Note: this species is not mentioned in Howell & Webb 1995).
White-winged dove Zenaida (Columba) asiatica – common and widespread.
Zenaida dove Z. (Columba) aurita – LC/RL: 2-4 seen daily, usually in flight.
Common ground-dove Columbina passerina – widespread, not as numerous as ruddy ground-dove (I soon stopped looking carefully enough to distinguish between them).
Ruddy ground-dove C. talpacoti – widespread and common.
White-tipped dove Leptotila verreauxi – fairly common in wooded areas on mainland.
Caribbean dove L. jamaicensis – Coz: 1-4 daily; FCP: 1-2 each day; PM: at least 1 in the Jardín Botánico. Most were observed walking on, or flying up from forest floor (a bit wary). The combination of pale blue-grey crown, pinkish nape and contrastingly paler (white) ear-coverts distinguish this species from the similar, pale pink-headed, white-tipped dove.
Aztec parakeet Aratinga astec – on the mainland a common, noisy and conspicuous species usually seen in rapid flight in small flocks.
White-fronted parrot Amazona albifrons – small numbers at FCP, PM and RL; in pairs and small noisy flocks. I often did not distinguish more distant birds from Yucatan parrot.
Yucatan parrot A. xantholora – Coz: 2 vocal pairs along road to San Gervasio; small numbers at FCP and RL; often in pairs and noisy, especially soon after dawn.
Squirrel cuckoo Piaya cayana – 1-3 appeared most days in wooded areas of mainland sites.
Lesser roadrunner Geococcyx velox – RL: 2 on one morning around the Rancho San Salvador junction (described in Howell 1999), one basking in a bush (at about 2 m above ground-level) and another on a drystone wall, an hour or so after sunrise.
Groove-billed ani Crotophaga sulcirostris – numerous small flocks on mainland. On Cozumel I looked for this and smooth-billed ani C. ani (which in the Mexican part of its range is restricted to Cozumel and the east Yucatán coast, the latter where rarely seen) around the sewage works but saw neither.
Ferruginous pygmy-owl Glaucidium brasilianum – FCP: 2 calling individuals perched fairly conspicuously in small trees along the start of the Vigia Chico Road (plus 2 more calling nearby) just before dawn, with another mid-morning further along the track; RL: singles heard each morning 3 km south of the village, just east of the road junction.
Mottled owl Strix virgata – FCP: 1 fly-by before dawn along the Vigia Chico Road near the school (km 1.4).
Lesser nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis – RL: 1 hawking high in the air at early dusk (still quite light, sun just setting) over arid scrubland 3 km south of the village.
[Paraque Nyctidromus aibicollis – Numerous individuals heard calling (usually for a 15 min period around dawn and dusk) at all sites (including 1 over Hotel Edem, Cozumel) except PM].
? Yucatan nightjar Caprimulgus badius – FCP: poor flight views of probably this species pre-dawn along the Vigia Chico Road near the school (km 1.4). I did not hear Yucatan nightjar or Yucatan poorwill Nyctiphrynus yucatanicus calling. Despite being out before dawn on almost all days, with a couple of evening forays, I did poorly for nocturnal species.
Vaux’s swift Chaetura vauxi – Coz: 3 (assumed this species as C. pelagica is a passage migrant in the region) near the sewage works; PM: at the Jardín Botánico in the late morning an intriguing sight of approx. 25 clustered tightly together plus 6 others close by, about 3 m down on the wall of a well, ‘squeaking’.
Wedge-tailed sabrewing Campylopterus curvipennis – FCP: a large, vocal (much deeper call than other hummers here) and fairly conspicuous hummingbird, often foraging low down (approx. 1.5 – 3 m height) with at least 10 observations daily along the Vigia Chico Road. The purple on the forehead was often tricky to see.
Green-breasted mango Anthracothorax prevostii – Coz: 2-4 daily, including in San Miguel; 1 observed hovering a few cm above the ground apparently drinking dew drops from plants.
Canivet’s emerald Chlorostilbon caniveti – FCP: several of these little stormers; RL: 2-3 along the Rancho San Salvador track.
Cozumel emerald C. forficatus – Coz: several seen daily; often observed nectar-feeding at a species of woody shrub with clusters of small (2 cm long) red or orange tubular flowers, at a height of 1-2 m above the ground.
White-bellied emerald Amazilia candida – FCP: up to 10 or so each day.
Buff-bellied hummingbird A. yucatanensis – PM: in the Jardín Botánico at least 1 male and probably several overlooked (as concentrating on other species).
Cinnamon hummingbird A. rutila – fairly common (10 or so daily) at most wooded mainland sites, foraging low down to mid-canopy, although only 1-2 seen daily at RL/LC.
Mexican sheartail Calothorax eliza – RL: my first observation of this north Yucatan coastal endemic was of a female perched in a garden across the street from my accommodation; subsequently small numbers (3-4) daily, including a couple of males having an aerial tussle.
Ruby-throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris – RL: 1 female in arid scrubland along the Rancho San Salvador track on two consecutive days (presumed the same individual)and an immature male (?) along the track.
Black-headed trogon Trogon melanocephalus – several at FCP and PM.
Gartered trogon T. caligatus – FCP: several; PM: 1-2 (Note: formerly treated as a subspecies of violaceous trogon T. violaceus, retained as such in HBW; Collar 2001).
Blue-diademed motmot Momotus lessonii – FCP: 1; PM: 2 in low canopy (Note: formerly considered conspecific with blue-crowned motmot M. momota; del Hoyo et al. 2014).
Turquoise-browed motmot Eumomota superciliosa – FCP: 1 perched silently in low canopy.
Collard aracari Pteroglossus torquatus – FCP: one flock of about 5 in mid-canopy on my first morning and at least 3 on the second day in the same area.
Keel-billed toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus – FCP: a noisy (croaking and squealing) flock of 7 passing through canopy over the Vigia Chico Road/junction with KM 6 side trail on one morning.
Pygmy kingfisher Chloroceryle aena – RL: 1 along the Peten Tucha trail in the mangroves came to check me out, and 1 low down, tucked under the mangroves by the concrete bridge about 1.5 km south of the village; FCP: 1 by a small pool at the edge of the large cenote (km 6.4) again seemed to fly in, to view me. Confiding and curious, they make little clicking sounds.
Belted kingfisher Ceryle alcyon – PM: 1 in open mangroves; RL: 1 overflying mangroves.
Yucatan woodpecker Melanerpes (Ceturus) pygmaeus – Coz: several observations at various localities of the endemic race M. p. pygmaeus; on the mainland the Yucatán Peninsula race M. p. rubricomus is common. (Note: forms a superspecies with M. rubricapillus, sometimes treated as conspecific but geographical isolation and minor morphological differences supports allospecies treatment; Winkler et al. 2013).
Velasque’s woodpecker Melanerpes santacruzi – Coz: 1 of the endemic race M. s. leei observed at San Gervasio (I suspect I heard several also). Common on the mainland, at RL several holes were noted in a wooden telegraph pole (3 km south of the village) with a woodpecker peering out of one. (Note: formerly treated as a subspecies of golden-fronted woodpecker M. (Centurus) aurifrons).
Golden-olive woodpecker Piculus rubiginosus – FCP: 1 in the forest.
Lineated woodpecker Drycopus lineatus – FCP: 2 in the forest.
Pale-billed woodpecker Campephilus guatemalensis – FCP: at least 3 making very loud and distinctive, hollow double-drum on isolated trees in a large clearing by the Vigia Chico Road.
Olivaceous woodcreeper Sittasomus griseicapillus – FCP: 2 singles, creeping up tree trunks.
Northern barred woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes certhia – FCP: 2 singles, ditto.
Ivory-billed woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigaster – FCP: 1 creeping up tree trunk and numerous laughing calls heard; PM: 1.
Barred antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus – FCP: 1 female on one morning in mid-canopy.
Northern beardless tyrannulet Camptostoma imberbe – Coz: 3 in tall scrub woodland bordering the San Gervasio access road and 1 by the North Track; FCP: 3+.
Greenish elaenia Myiopagis viridicata – FCP: 1 in low canopy; I thought this species might be tricky to distinguish from yellow-bellied elaenia but it wasn’t, the back is bright olive green and it is a much brighter bird overall, than yellow-bellied.
Caribbean elaenia Elaenia martinica – Coz: 1 high up in fruiting tree approx. 2 km south of the start of the North Track by the main coast road to San Miguel.
Yellow-bellied elaenia E. flavogaster – FCP: 3-4 in low canopy.
Northern bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare: RL: 1 along Peten Tucha trail in low canopy, emitting an odd, short, frog-like churr.
Slate-headed tody-flycatcher Todirostrum sylvia – FCP: several in low-mid canopy.
Yellow-olive flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens – FCP: 1.
Eye-ringed flatbill Rhynchocyclus brevirostris – FCP: 1 in low canopy.
Stub-tailed spadebill Platyrinchus cancrominus – FCP: 1 seen in open undergrowth at about 2 m height above the ground, and numerous calling throughout the day, on both days.
? Contopus sp. – Coz: on my first afternoon, perched in a garden in San Miguel I saw what appeared to be an immature Eastern pewee Contopus virens (Western C. sordidulus unlikely based on range) but this species is considered an autumn-spring transient migrant in the region (Howe & Webb 1995). Description: broad-based orange-pink lower mandible, the very tip of the lower mandible dark-tipped (tropical pewee C. cinereus rarely has a dusky-tipped lower mandible but perhaps it was this species); median and greater coverts tipped dull buff-orange (indicating an immature); pale yellow wash to belly, dull grey breast and brownish-grey upper parts. It did not call.
Tropical pewee C. cinereus – FCP: several around clearings.
Least flycatcher Empidonax minimus – FCP: 5 plus each day, frequently calling (fairly quiet but sharp liquid ‘whit’ or ‘blip’); RL: 1 or 2 daily.
Vermillion flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus – RL: 2-3 seen daily in open scrubland (but never any fully pink males).
Bright-rumped attila Attila spadiceus – Coz: 1 in woodland of the endemic race cozumelae at San Gervasio. (Note: A. s. flammulatus of SE Mexico, including the Yucatán Peninsula, and Guatemala, Belize and NC Honduras (Walther & de Juana 2004), is sometimes given species status ‘flammulated attila A. flammulatus’; I did not see it).
Yucatan flycatcher Myiachus yucatanensis – Coz: 1 (of the dark endemic race lanyoni) perched in roadside tree in San Miguel; FCP: 1-2; RL: 1 in tall scrub along the Rancho San Salvador track. Features for quick separation from other Myiachus in region are: obviously smaller than great and brown-crested; compared to the marginally smaller dusky-capped, mainland Yucatan flycatchers are paler- and rounder-headed (just a small bump on the rear of the crown at most). All individuals observed were silent (they become more vocal later in the spring; Diego Nuñez pers. comm. 2015).
Dusky-capped flycatcher M. tuberculifer – a few on the mainland.
Great crested flycatcher M. crinitus – FCP: 1 by agricutlural clearing; RL: 1 (both adults with very distinct peaked hind-crown and bright yellow belly).
Brown-crested flycatcher M. tyrannulus – FCP: fairly common; a few at other sites I think but I rapidly stopped looking closely at most Myiachus.
Great kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus – a few around coastal sites i.e. PM and RL/LC.
Boat-billed flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua – FCP, PM: several observations, usually in pairs and calling loudly.
Social flycatcher Myiozetetes similis – common on the mainland, noisy and conspicuous.
Tropical kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus – common throughout, often perched conspicuously on roadside telegraph/power wires and dead branches.
Couch’s kingbird T. couchii – FCP: 2 foraging around agricultural clearing alongside Vigia Chico Road; noticeably smaller billed than tropical kingbird but I suspect I may have over-looked it at other sites.
Grey-collard becard Pachyramphus major - FCP: female along the Vigia Chico Road.
Rose-throated becard P. algaiae – FCP: several; PM: 5+ in the Jardín Botánico and along the roadsides outside (e.g. 10 or so in fruiting and flowering trees); both sexes, displaying a variety of plumages, including several males with deep pink throats.
Masked tityra Tityra semifasciata – FCP: 2-3 males each day; PM: 3 Jardín Botánico, usually seen in or near fruiting trees.
Black-crowned tityra T. inquisitor – PM: 1 female in fruiting tree in the Jardín Botánico.
Grey-breasted martin Progne chalybea – FCP: several in town; RL: several small flocks.
Mangrove swallow Tachycineta albilinea – RL: a few (I think I may have overlooked a few tree swallows T. bicolor).
? Northern rough-winged swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis – several probably observed (from the bus) along the coast road between Cancun and Play del Carmen.
Ridgway’s rough-winged swallow S. ridgwayi – FCP: about 10 over town plaza with possibles elsewhere on mainland but not seen well enough to distinguish from northern (Note: S. ridgwayi is often considered conspecific with S. serripennis e.g. Gill & Donsker 2014).
Barn swallow Hirundo rustica – RL: 1 over village (race erythrogaster with buffy-rufous underparts). (Note: Howell & Webb map wintering range in the Yucatán as further south).
Cave swallow H. fulva – RL: 2 briefly over village on first day. I wish I had seen these better (H. f. citata present in the Yucatán) as I did not see any others.
Green jay Cyanocorax yncas – FCP: 2, and PM: several in the Jardín Botánico, all of the distinctive Yucatán Peninsula yellow-eyed and yellow-bellied race C. y. maya. (Note: green jay races fall into two groups, the Central American ‘luxuosus group’ and the South American Andes ‘nominate group’ (dos Anjos 2009). They are sometimes afforded species status; in Central American ‘green jay’ becoming C. luxuosus and the more southerly known as ‘Inca jay’ C. yncas).
Brown jay C. morio – FCP and PM: fairly common, usually in noisy gangs.
Yucatan jay C. yucatanicus – FCP: several small flocks (4-7 birds) of adults and immatures.
Yucatan wren Campylorhynchus yucatanicus – RL: several of these big wrens each day in arid scrub, vocal (making some very strange unwren-like sounds) and conspicuous.
Spot-breasted wren Thryothorus maculipectus – FCP: once I had worked out the call, common in the forest undergrowth but tricky to see well (as most wrens were); PM: a few.
White-browed wren T. ludovicianus – FCP: several; PM: 1.
White-bellied wren Uropsila leucogastra – FCP: several; PM: 2-3.
Cozumel wren Troglodytes beani – Coz: 3 or 4 at San Gervasio (2 confiding, seen closely and well) around the ruins and 1 briefly along North Track in scrub. (Note: often considered conspecific with house wren T. aedon; southern house wren T. a. musculus is widespread on the mainland where 'frequent to common', Howell & Webb 1995, but I saw none).
Long-billed gnatwren Ramphocaenus melanurus – FCP: several low in canopy/understorey.
Blue-grey gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea – Coz: common (endemic race P. c. cozumelae); common on the mainland. (Note: I suspect I may have overlooked tropical gnatcatcher P. plumbea at FCP assuming that they were all blue-greys).
Wood thrush Catharus mustelinus – PM: 2 in the Jardín Botánico on the forest floor.
Clay-coloured thrush Turdus grayi – FCP: 1 Vigia Chico Road, 1 by bus station; PM: 1-2.
Grey catbird Dumetella carolinensis – Coz: 1-4 daily; FCP: 3-5 daily; PM: 1 by mangroves N of town, 1 opposite Hotel Sevilla; RL: 1-2 daily.
Black catbird D. glabirostris – Coz: common; FCP: 1’s and 2’s foraging on forest floor; PM: 3-4 in the Jardín Botánico, 2 N of town in mangroves. (Note: endemic to Cozumel and the Yucatán Peninsula; easy to see on Cozumel, less conspicuous on the mainland).
Tropical mockingbird Mimus gilvus – common and widespread, including on Cozumel.
American pipit Anthus rubescens – LC: 2 walking/foraging in short grass on the village playing field/football pitch, both with a rich buff-pink flush to underparts, a gorget of heavy streaking on breast, streaked flanks and dark blackish-pink legs. A new species for the Río Largartos-Las Colorados area (Diego Nuñez pers. comm. 2015).
White-eyed vireo Vireo griseus – common and widespread, including on Cozumel.
Mangrove vireo V. pallens – RL: a few singles observed in dry scrub (not seen in mangroves although this habitat nearby).
Cozumel vireo V. bairdi – Coz: 2 in scrub woodland at San Gervasio, and 2 along the North Track of this very distinctive, island endemic vireo.
Yellow-throated vireo V. flavifrons – FCP: 1 each day; PM: 1 foraging in sub-canopy.
Yucatan vireo V. magister – common, confiding and widespread, many seen on Cozumel.
Lesser greenlet Hylophilus decurtatus – FCP: several 1’s and 2’s; PM: 2 pairs in sub-canopy.
Rufous-browed peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis – Coz: 1 San Gervasio (distinctive, dull endemic Cozumel race C. g. insularis) in low-canopy trying to catch a small tree frog that inflated itself, dropped to the forest floor and hopped away over the leaf litter with the bird following; the frog disappeared into the rootbase of a tree; FCP: 2-3 each day; PM: 3 in Jardín Botánico; RL: 2-3 Peten Tucha trail.
Blue-winged warbler Vermivora pinus – FCP: 1 adult male in a small mixed warbler flock (comprising single black-and-white, black-throated green and magnolia warblers, and an American redstart) in the mid-canopy.
Northern parula Parula (Setophaga) americana – FCP: 7-8 each day; RL: a few.
Yellow warbler Dendroica (Setophaga) petechia (‘aestiva’ group) – a winter migrant, very common and widespread, including on Cozumel.
‘Golden warbler’ D. (Setophaga) p. rufivertex – Coz: a common endemic resident race, males are easy to distinguish from (migrant) yellow warblers, having a chestnut crown patch and boldly streaked chest and flanks.
Magnolia warbler D. (Setophaga) magnolia – Coz: very common; common on the mainland.
Cape May warbler D. (Setophaga) tigerina – Coz: 1 (male coming into summer plumage with dark red streaking on ear coverts and a small reddish throat patch) perched low down in a small tree with very large orange flowers by roadside, 3 km north of San Miguel town.
Black-throated blue warbler D. (Setophaga) caerulescens – Coz: a single male in tree in a garden/waste ground about 4 km north of San Miguel town.
Yellow-rumped warbler D. (Setophaga) coronata – Coz: a single female ‘Myrtle warbler’ D. c. coronata at the sewage plant.
Black-throated green warbler D. (Setophaga) virens – small numbers throughout.
Yellow-throated warbler D. (Setophaga) dominica – Coz: several males, the sewage works area was a good place to see them.
Prairie warbler D. (Setophaga) discolor – Coz: 2 males; 1 in low in a small tree along the North Track, and the second (superb views) foraging on the verge along the San Gervasio access road.
Black-and-white warbler Mniotilta varia – small numbers, creeping around trunks and branches, widespread, including on Cozumel.
American redstart Setophaga ruticilla – common and widespread, including Cozumel.
Worm-eating warbler Helmitheros vermivorous – Coz: approx. 5 at San Gervasio; PM: 1; often forages just above the ground amongst dead leaves and pulls up bark on branches (listen for noisy rustling).
Swainson’s warbler H. swainsonii – Coz: 1 at San Gervasio near Ka’na Nah Templo after several hours searching appeared on forest floor, hopped up onto a low branch and had a look at me before quietly disappearing into the undergrowth.
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus – PM: 12+; FCP: several; RL: several along the Peten Tucha trail. Walks around on the forest floor often with tail cocked, most obvious at first light.
Northern waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis – Coz: common; PM: a few in mangroves and the Jardín Botánico; RL: a few seen along Peten Tucha trail, numerous calling in mangroves.
Common yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas – common on the mainland and Cozumel but a bit skulky, often in tall grassy areas and dense herbaceous cover, overgrown verges etc.
Grey-crowned yellowthroat Chamaethlypis poliocephala - RL: 4-5; skulking but respond well to pishing, emerging from tall grass cover.
Hooded warbler Wilsonia citrina – Coz: fairly common; PM approx. 10 (mostly males); FCP: several each day. Forages just above the woodland floor, often fanning tail.
Yellow-breasted chat Icteria virens – RL: my first sighting (16 Feb) was of a road-kill about 1 km south of the village along a stretch with dense mangrove swamp either side of the road; I saw (a live) one the next day low down at the edge of some evergreen scrub by a pool just beyond the Rancho San Salvador junction. Both individuals had quite rich green backs suggesting eastern I. v. virens.
Grey-throated chat Granatellus sallei – FCP: 3 males and a female; I thought these were going to be skulky but they weren’t; the female was in the mid-storey and males conspicuous in the low/mid canopy.
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola – Coz: abundant (race caboti); many singing and one carrying nesting material (very small twigs); I did not see this species on the mainland.
Scrub euphonia Euphonia affinis - PM: 1 female around mistletoe in a tree by the football pitches 3 km west of the town.
Yellow-throated euphonia E. hirundinacea – FCP: 5 males and a female on one day.
Western spindalis (stripe-headed tanager) Spindalis zena – Coz: 3 in low scrub along the North Track; 3 high in a fruiting tree by the coast road (about 3 km north of San Miguel) of the endemic Cozumel race S. z. benedicti. (Note: an essentially Caribbean species that does not occur on mainland Mexico).
Red-crowned ant-tanager Habia rubica – FCP: several vocal flocks in the forest understorey; PM: flock of 5 in the Jardín Botánico.
Red-throated ant-tanager H. fuscicauda – FCP: 2+ flocks and single female in the forest understorey; PM: flock of 4 in the Jardín Botánico.
Summer tanager Piranga rubra – Coz: 3; FCP: 2.
Greyish saltator Saltator coerulescens – FCP: my only observation of the trip were of two in the town plaza by the bus station.
Black-headed saltator S. atriceps – FCP: numerous noisy pairs and small flocks.
Northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis – RL: several singing males. I failed to see the endemic race saturatus on Cozumel (the mangrove and scrub area at the NE end of the North Track are a good locality for it; Rafael Chaćon pers. comm. 2015).
Rose-breasted grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus – Coz: a single female in San Miguel on my first afternoon was the only one I saw of this winter migrant.
Blue bunting Cyanocompsa parellina – FCP: a single male and female each day.
Blue grosbeak Passerina caerulea – PM: 1 male in scrub by football pitches 3 km west of the town.
Indigo bunting P. cyanea – fairly common and widespread; maximum count at PM of a flock of 32 on football pitch, 3 km west of town.
Green-backed sparrow Arremonops chloronatus – FCP: a pair (rich olive-green backs compared to duller-backed olive sparrow A. rufivirgatus) foraging inconspicuously on the forest floor along Vigia Chico Road, and a single unidentifield (possibly olive), foraging likewise.
Blue-black grassquit Volatinia jacarina – FCP: male in agricultural plot; RL: 1’s and 2’s.
White-collared seedeater Sporophila torqueola – Coz: a few in open grassy and weedy areas e.g. by the sewage works; FCP: several around agricultural plots.
Yellow-faced grassquit Tiaris olivacea – Coz: very common (endemic race T. o. intermedia).
Savannah sparrow Ammodramus sandwichensis – LC: a single in a small bush on a ridge separating two adjacent saltpans.
Red-winged blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus – RL: at the southern end of town 100-200 appeared to be roosting in roadside mangroves.
Melodius blackbird Dives dives – numerous observations on mainland, often in pairs and small flocks.
Great-tailed grackle Quiscalus mexicanus – common, noisy and conspicuous, especially around villages and towns.
Bronzed cowbird Molothrus aeneus – FCP: many roosting birds (150+) in small trees in town plaza; PM: 8 in the Jardín Botánico and several in mangroves north of town.
Black-cowled oriole Icterus dominicensis – PM: a pristine male, 3 km west of the town.
Orchard oriole I. spurius – RL: 3 single males feeding low down in bushes in arid scrubland.
Hooded oriole I. cucullatus – widespread and probably the most frequent of the orioles encountered, including a few on Cozumel.
Yellow-backed oriole I. chrysater – fairly common and widespread on the mainland.
Orange oriole I. auratus – RL: at least 3 (including 2 bright males); PM: at least 2 in flowering tree opposite the Jardín Botánico with hooded orioles.
Yellow-billed cacique Amblycercus holosericeus – PM: 2 singles foraging in the shady understorey in the Jardín Botánico, 1 in scrub along road opposite.
Over 120 mammal species have been recorded on the Yucatán Peninsula, the majority being small rodents and bats, with several species/subspecies endemic to Cozumel. There is a good guide to the region: Reid F.A. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico 2nd edition. Oxford University Press.
Cozumel has seven species/subspecies of endemic mammal (ASM 2015): Cozumel opossum Didelphis marsupialis cozumelae, Cozumel harvest mouse Reithrodontomys spectabilis, Cozumel rice rat Oryzomys couesi cozumelae, Cozumel deer mouse Peromyscus leucopus cozumelae, pygmy raccoon Procyon pygmaeus, dwarf coati Nasua nelsoni and pygmy collared peccary Pecari tajacu nanus (plus a dwarf fox Urocyon sp. that is possibly extinct; Gompper et al. 2006). Of these I saw three (and no other wild mammals other than numerous unidentified bats):
Pygmy racoon Procyon pygmaeus – North Track: 3 slowly crossing a few metres in front of me at the edge of wet forest just beyond the sewage plant, on my first visit; 1 in shallow pool where I saw ruddy crakes (one of which briefly followed the racoon), feeling with hands in mud around tree roots, on my second visit.
Dwarf coati Nasua nelsoni – San Gervasio: 2 amongst the ruins.
Pygmy collared peccary Pecari tajucu nanus – San Gervasio: 2 snuffling in the undergrowth.
Central American agouti Dasyprocta punctata – FCP: 1 in forest along the Vigia Chico Road; PM: 1 at dusk in woodland scrub 3 km west of the town and 4 in the Jardín Botánico.
Yucatan squirrel Scirus yucatanensis – PM: 3 mid-grey and 1 darker individual in the Jardín Botánico.
Eastern cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus – RL: 1 in arid scrubland.
Jaguarundi Felis yagouaroundi – RL: 1 walked quickly across the road in front of me at about 14:00 in the afternoon.
Grey fox Urocyon cinereoargentatus – LC: 1 trotting across coastal dunes.
Northern raccoon Procyon lotor – RL: 1 foraging (and many foot prints in mud) around mangroves; 1 road-kill (being eaten by lesser yellow-headed, black and turkey vultures and crested caracara).
White-nosed coati Nasua narica – PM: 4 in the Jardín Botánico.
Collard peccary Pecari tajucu – PM: 2 in the Jardín Botánico.