Mexico (Cancun, Coba, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos) 17th March – 30th March 2005

Published by David Ousey (davidousey AT

Participants: David Ousey



Family holiday in Playacar at Viva Wyndham Azteca Hotel, which was excellent in ever part, food, accommodation etc.

The Mayan people are friendly and interested in the birds and just a wave and greeting seem to help if you came across anyone in the outback.


Went on a few trips from the hotel, which allowed a little time for birding, e.g. Cancun (speed boat and snorkelling). Coba (walk around ruins and stop on route).

Used moped on trip to Cozumel, (cheap and fun). Taxis used which can be a little expensive if going any distance, but are clean and reliable. Push bikes available at most hotels and they are free.


"A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America"
Steve N G Howell and Sophie Webb

"Mexican Birds"
Roger Tory Peterson/Edward L Chalif

"Field Guide to the Birds of North America"
National Geographic Society


17.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
18.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
19.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
20.03.05 Cozumel Island (Circular Tour)
21.03.05 Rest Day Beach
22.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
23.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
23.03.05 Cancun- Airport-Mangroves-Golf Course
24.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone- Highway Area
25.03.05 Coba and Stopping point
26.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone- Highway Area
27.03.05 Puerto Morelos
27.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
28.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
29.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
30.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone

As you will no doubt observe I spent a lot of time in and around Playacar area, rising every morning at first light. The birding up to about 9-00am was excellent and it just shows what you can find on your own "local patch". Using a push bike got me to the edges of the town and across the highway where the birding was a little less disturbed by the numerous joggers etc. All in all an excellent area to get to grips with some of Mexico’s more common birds.

Having arrived the night before and feeling fully rested, I began my search for birds at 6-00am. New birds in a new country are always exciting and my first species was Great Tailed Grackle which was displaying and calling. On the beach Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans passed almost constantly, Laughing Gull’s were abundant. Outside the hotel a few Plain Chachalaca called and chased each other around, hirundines hawked over a small pool on the golf course, including:- Vaux`s Swift, Grey Breasted Martin and a few Ridgeway’s Rough Winged Swallow’s. In the forested areas, Masked Tityra, Rose Throated Becard, Clay Coloured Thrush, Rufous Browed Peppershrike, Yellow Winged Tanager and Ovenbird made up the highlights. Various species of oriole seemed to be quite abundant, with Yellow Throated and Hooded Warbler also fairly common. The birds of the more open areas included, Tropical Mockingbird, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Yucatan Jay, Melodious Blackbird, White fronted Parrot and White Winged Dove. In the afternoon a cycle ride to the large golf course pool revealed, Spotted Sandpiper, Olivaceous Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Blue Winged Teal, Black Bellied Whistling Duck, Redhead, Ring Necked Duck, American Coot, Red Billed Pigeon, Mangrove Swallow, Black Catbird and American Redstart.

Early morning start 6-00am around Playacar, watching Green Backed Heron and a solitary White Ibis fly into the large golf course pool area and begin feeding. Two Greater Yellowlegs, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Black Headed Trogon and a truly amazing Turquoise Browed Motmot with a few Golden Fronted Woodpeckers also seen in the area. A small wooded area revealed Rufous Breasted Spinetail, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Throated Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart and a very smart Summer Tanager completed the morning bird watch. A late afternoon walk along the beach past the hotels in a southerly direction revealed Aztec Parakeet, Social Flycatcher, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Sandwich Tern, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Double Crested Cormorant and lots of Royal Tern’s passing north.

Going out early and into the outer parts of Playacar/Playa del Carmen was well worth the effort, watching three Yellow Crowned Night Heron’s presumably going to roost, Common and Ruddy Ground Dove and the local Feral Doves were seen. In the more forested area’s a Yucatan Flycatcher and the amazing Boat Billed Flycatcher, Black Headed Saltator and the ever wary Yellow Billed Cacique and Gray Catbird were added. In the smaller bushy areas Yellow, Prothonotary, Black and White and Magnolia Warblers were seen. In the afternoon the large golf course pool held Least Grebe, American White Pelican, Little Blue Heron, Lesser Scaup, Black Necked Stilt, and at least sixty Least sandpiper. In the evening a flock of 100+ Lesser Scaup passed north offshore.

Caught the early ferry across to Cozumel Island and hired a moped for the day (don’t forget a credit card and some form of I.D and a driving license) Headed through Cozumel Town pausing to check out any suspicious looking hummingbirds along the way and located Cozumel Emerald. Lots of Black and Turkey Vultures in and around the town area. I headed out to the Hotel Presidente area and quite near to the hotel found a pair of Blue Bunting along with Yucatan Woodpecker. The house in the clearing mentioned in other reports had a male American Redstart, in full plumage, which allowed me to watch this stunning bird down to 6` away. The constant barking of dogs drove me away from what obviously is a good spot! Further on amongst the half built houses Cozumel Vireo was seen, then another quite stunning bird a Bananquit. Yellow Faced Grassquit, Caribbean Dove, Zenaida Dove and finally a Purple Martin swooped down in front of me to take a well earned drink from a small pool near the Hotel Presidente. Out towards Punta Sur a Brown Crested Flycatcher, Olive Sparrows, Green Breasted Mango were seen. At the reserve at Punta Sur I was informed that the terns/noddies had not yet returned so a little walk around the buildings revealed a few Bananquit. The ride up the east coast was one of my many excellent memories of Mexico, mile after mile of white sandy beaches and the Caribbean Sea, not many birds but you can’t have everything. Near to the turn off to the ruins at Santa Rita the other type of Yellow Warbler was seen, Golden Warbler. All in all quite a day on Cozumel but it would be better to stay on the island to get an even earlier start.

Rest day spent on beach, only a couple of Ring Billed gulls out of the ordinary.

22.03.05 (a.m.)
Very early start,5-30am into the forested area were Sulphur Rumped Flycatcher, White Tipped Dove,Yellow Throated Vireo, Mangrove Vireo were seen. In the open area’s it seemed like there had been a "fall" of wood warblers with American Redstart, Yellow Throated, Prothonotary,Magnolia,and Hooded Warbler`s present in good numbers along with a good number of the ground loving Ovenbird. The oriole’s present were Hooded, Altamira, Yellow Backed and a single Orange Oriole completed a fine morning’s bird watch.

The late afternoon walk to the large golf course pool revealed Blue Black Grassquit in an area about to be built on. A fine Anhinga along with a Northern Jacana, Black Bellied Plover with lots of hirundines (many more than normal) including many Barn Swallows. On the walk back to our hotel I stopped to look at a small party of Yucatan Jay’s and two Brown Jay’s appeared in a tree at the side of me what luck!

Not many new species in and around Playacar today, except an Eastern Pewee that sat still whilst I checked the identification points! With a supporting cast of Black Throated Green Warbler, Masked Tityra, Turquoise Browed Motmot, Black Headed Trogon, you can’t really feel disappointed. My family and I were going on a boat trip in and around Cancun; we passed the airport and a very interesting area which had a small flock of American Flamingo and a few Roseate Spoonbills. We paused just outside Cancun and saw Herring Gull and the sky was literally filled with Magnificent Frigatebirds. In the mangroves a very obliging Common Black Hawk perched and good close up views obtained. A single dark phase Reddish Egret, a few White Ibis and a light phase Great Blue Heron hunting in the shallows, made up an interesting trip along with the snorkelling and my wife’s new found ability to drive a speedboat!
An Osprey flew over the large inland lake as we were about to set of back to Playacar, and on the way home Roadside Hawk and Hook Billed Kite were seen.

Up at 6.00am and another good birdwatch around the Playacar and highway area, a small flock of birds passed through a small wooded area and as I stood in the clearing, an Ivory Billed Woodcreeper passed by feeding and paying no attention to myself, it was a maximum of 5 feet away, quite stunning bird this one! Plenty of Black Catbirds around along with Rufous Breasted Spinetail, Social Flycatcher, Yellow Billed Cacique and an influx of Orchard Oriole had occurred? Also in amongst the flock of orioles was a Black Cowled Oriole, other birds of note were, Yucatan Vireo, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, and a small flock of Indigo Bunting’s made up the forested area bird list, a Louisiana Waterthrush was seen down to 10 feet and all ID points seen, Ovenbird also were seen in larger than normal numbers. Hooded, Magnolia and Yellow Warblers seemed to be everywhere and the cat’s chorus of Grey Catbirds rounded of the morning’s events.

Went on a trip to Coba stopping at a small refreshment area a couple of miles before the town. In a 15 minute break I managed to see a Northern Cardinal in with a small flock of Bronzed (Red Eyed) Cowbird’s, Zone Tailed Hawk, Groove Billed Ani, Wedge Tailed Sabrewing and Couch`s Kingbird. The ruins at Coba are fascinating and well worth the climb up, for a memorable view, but be very careful coming back down ,not for the faint hearted. In the forest it was a little late and very humid for any good birding, but despite this Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Clay Coloured Thrush, Yucatan Parrot, Tropical Pewee, Aztec Parakeet were seen. The lake, along with its crocodiles, looked promising but Limpkin was completely missed, I had been told by another birder that the species was present but still found Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron,Anhinga,Olivaceous Cormorant, Great Egret and a few Cave Swallows hawking around. Another stop, this time for lunch, with a little time for birding, I saw Boat Billed Flycatcher, Merlin, Caribbean Dove and lots of Black and Turkey Vultures but no sign of the King Vulture that had been reported in the area, all in all an excellent touristy trip.

Another early start, 6.00am, began with Spotted Sandpiper, Louisiana Waterthrush, again down to 8 feet away. In a weedy area near the sewage treatment works a couple of Green Backed Sparrow’s almost pecked at my feet. In the forested area, near a small clearing a Hook Billed Kite landed in a tree only 5 feet from me, I froze and enjoyed eyeball to eyeball contact with the bird for upwards of 30 seconds that was truly unforgettable! A Greenish Elaenia called and a White Browed Wren came into view, quite a job to see this species on your hands and knees, but good fun. Also seen on this day was Rufous Browed Peppershrike, White Collared Seedeater and then a Ruby Throated Hummingbird hovered just in front of me. A few Bank Swallows over the golf course pool.

As way of a change an early morning sea watch was made, I was not disappointed, when four Sooty Tern’s passed north offshore along with two Ring Billed Gull’s on the beach; a party of sixty Royal Tern’s also passed north. A trip to Puerto Morales to the botanical gardens had originally been my idea but it was Sunday and the gardens were closed! Not to be outdone, I had a good walk around the area and saw Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture, Yellow Olive Flycatcher, Dusky Capped Flycatcher, White bellied Wren and Black Headed Saltator. So don’t forget, check when things are open.

Only a couple more early mornings walks left to do around the Playacar area. A small pool on the golf course, nearer to Playa del Carmen, revealed up to twenty terrapins in it. The whole area is very popular with the local Agouti population; these rodents are fairly tolerant of people and are an attractive creature to watch. As I looked over the golf course a creature loped over the fairway, at best I can describe it was like an anteater, it had a snout and had a longish coat, has anybody got any idea’s? The bird of the day was without doubt a Squirrel Cuckoo that sat at the top of a small tree for a full two minutes, what a stunning bird! A few Cinnamon Hummingbirds around this area along with Mangrove Vireo, White Bellied Wren which fed about fifteen feet from the ground, then finally after much searching a Yellow Tailed Oriole. The other species seen of note included, Greenish Elaenia, Black Headed Saltator and a small flock of Indigo Bunting and many Vaux`s Swift over the golf course pool.

In a two hour bird watch around Playacar I managed to see forty-one species with White Eyed Vireo and Yellow Olive Flycatcher the main highlights, until, in amongst the Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow Throated and Yellow Warblers a Prairie Warbler showed itself at a short distance for a full five minutes, another cracking bird. A little later another Yellow Tailed Oriole was seen. Back at the small golf course pool a pair of Least Grebe came close to the shoreline and gave exceptional views, the another Louisiana Waterthrush was seen close up. Just above me in a small bush a Social Flycatcher was busy building its nest.

Up bright and early for my final morning’s birdwatch in this bird rich country and the three Yellow Crowned Night Heron’s going/coming to roost opened up the day’s list. A few Cattle Egrets were seen flying off to their feeding grounds. Close to the Xaman Ha bird sanctuary, four Groove Billed Ani fed on the ground chasing insects only ten feet away, not the nicest looking bird species! A Northern Bentbill showed itself in a small clearing along with a stunning male Rose Breasted Grosbeak. A small party of Yucatan Jay passed through the area. A few Golden Fronted Woodpeckers were also seen. Then, along with seven Prothonotary Warblers, a single Bananaquit , what an array of colour in such small space. A Scarlet Tanager in some form of moult was seen next it looked as though someone had splashed red paint on it, unusual. Prairie Warbler was seen again, now there were two! In my final morning I had seen an amazing seventy species.


In Mexico the only real time to do any birdwatching is the first few hours of daylight. It does get a little better as the sun dies down in the late afternoon though. I did not see or hear any owls or nightjars. Playacar is an excellent place to do some birding with a few trips to other areas just to break it up a bit. I was on a family holiday so I still managed to spend time with them. You can go virtually were you like in pursuit of the birds but, the golf course is well patrolled and is really a private site and yet it is open, just have respect for the golfers! Being on my own most of the time did help me to see more species.

Species Lists

Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus Common

White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos 3 on golf course pool

Brown Pelican Pelecanus occedentalis Common

Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus Common

Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus Common

Anhinga Anhinga anhinga Fairly common

Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magniicens Common

Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias Light and dark phases seen

Great Egret Egretta alba Fairly common

Snowy Egret Egretta thula Common

Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea 3 golf course pool

Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens Mangroves in Cancun

Cattle Egret Bulbulcus ibis Fairly common

Green Heron Butorides virescens Common

Yellow-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax violaceus 3, twice over Playacar

White Ibis Eudocimus albus 1 golf course pool

Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja Cancun mangroves

American Flamingo Phoenicopterus rubber Cancun mangroves

Black-bellied Whistling Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis Common

Blue-winged Teal Anas discors Common

Redhead Aythya Americana Single,golf course pool

Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris 2, golf course pool

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis Common

Black Vulture Coragyps atratus Common

Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura Common

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Cathartes burrovianus 1, Puerto Morales area

Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1, Cancun mangroves

Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus 2, Playa del Carmen

Common Black Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus 1, Cancun mangroves

Roadside Hawk Buteo magnirostris Fairly common

Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus Coba area

Merlin Falco columbarius 1, road to Coba

Plain Chachalaca Ortalis ventula Common

American Coot Fulica Americana Common

Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola 2, golf course pool

Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus Up to 4 on golf course pool

Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa Single on golf course pool

Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca 2 golf course pool

Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularis Common

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Common

Sanderling Calidris alba Common

Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla Common

Laughing Gull Larus atricilla Common

Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis 2 only on beach

Herring Gull Larus argentatus Seen twice on beach

Royal Tern Sterna maxima Common

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Fairly common

Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata 4 heading north

Red-billed Pigeon Columba flavirostris Seen occasionally

White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica Common

Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita Cozumel Island

Common Ground Dove Columbina passerine Seen occasionally

Ruddy Ground Dove Columbina talpacoti Common

White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi Seen occasionally

Caribbean Dove Leptotila jamiacensis Cozumel Island

Aztec Parakeet Aratinga astec Common

White-fronted Parrot Amazona albifrons Seen occasionally

Yucatan Parrot Amazona xantholora Common

Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana Single Playacar

Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostirs 4 in Playacar

Vaux`s Swift Chaetura vauxi Common

Wedge-tailed Sabrewing Campylopterus curvipennis Coba

Green Breasted Mango Anthracothorax prevostii Cozumel Island

Cozumel Emerald Chloristilbon forticatus Cozumel Island

Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila Fairly common

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris Single Playacar

Black-headed Trogon Trogon melanocephalus Fairly common

Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa 2 seen Playacar

Yucatan Woodpecker Centurus pygmaeus Seen Coz/Playacar

Golden-fronted Woodpecker Centurus aurifrons Common

Rufous-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis erythrothorax Single,Playacar

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigaster Single,Playacar

Northern Beardless Tyranulet Camptostoma imberbe Seen occasionally

Greenish Elaenia Myiopagis viridicata Seen occasionally

Northern Bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare Single,Playacar

Yellow Olive Flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens Seen twice, Playacar

Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher Myiobius sulphureipygius Single,Playacar

Eastern Pewee Contopus virens Single,Playacar

Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus Fairly common

Yucatan Flycatcher Myiarchus yucatanensis Cozumel Island

Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer Single, Playacar

Brown-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus Cozumel Island

Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus Common

Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua Coba area

Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similes Common

Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus Common

Couch`s Kingbird Tyrannus couchii Coba area

Rose-throated Becard Pachyramphus aglaiae Single, Playacar

Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata Seen twice Playacar

Purple Martin Progne subis Cozumel/Playacar

Grey-breasted Martin Prone chalybea Common

Mangrove Swallow Tachycineta albilinea Fairly common

Ridgeway’s R/W Swallow Stelgidopteryx ridgewayii Seen occasionally

Bank Swallow Riparia riparia Common

Cave Swallow Hirundo fulva Coba area

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Common

Brown Jay Cyanocorax morio 2 only,Playacar

Yucatan Jay Cyanocorax yucatanicus Common

White-browed Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus 2 only,Playacar

White-bellied Wren Uropsila leucogastra Single, Playacar

Blue Grey Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea Seen occasionally

Clay-coloured Thrush Turdus grayi Twice seen Playacar

Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis Common

Black Catbird Dumetella glabirostris Common

Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus Common

White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus Fairly common

Mangrove Vireo Vireo pallens Fairly common

Cozumel Vireo Vireo bairdi Cozumel only

Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons Single, Playacar

Yucatan Vireo Vireo magister Single, Playacar

Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis Two seen, Playacar

Northern Parula Parula Americana Common

Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia Common

Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia Common

Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica cornata Single, Playacar

Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens Two seen, Playacar

Yellow-throated Warbler Dendroica dominica Common

Prairie Warbler Dendroica discolour Single, Playacar

Black and White Warbler Mniotilta varia Common

American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla Fairly common

Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea Seen 3 times, Playacar

Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus Common

Louisiana Waterthrush Seiurus motacilla Seen 3 times, Playacar

Common Yellowthroat Geothylypis trichas Common

Hooded Warbler Wilsonia citrina Fairly common

Bananaquit Coereba flaveola Seen Playacar/Cozumel

Yellow-winged Tanager Thraupis abbas Two seen, Playacar

Summer Tanager Piranga rubra Fairly common

Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea Single, Playacar

Black-headed Saltator Saltator atriceps Common

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis 1 seen in Coba area

Rose Breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus Fairly common

Blue Bunting Cyanocompsa parellina Pair on Cozumel Island

Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea Common

Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus Fairly common

Green-backed Sparrow Arremonops chloronotus Two seen, Playacar

Blue Black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina Two seen, Playacar

White-collared Seedeater Sprophila torqueola Single, Playacar

Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivacea Two seen on Cozumel

Melodious Blackbird Dives dives Common

Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus Common

Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus 12 seen in Coba area

Black-cowled Oriole Icterus dominicensis Seen occasionally

Orchard Oriole Icterus spurious Common

Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus Common

Yellow-backed Oriole Icterus chrysater Single, Playacar area

Yellow-tailed Oriole Icterus mesomelas Seen occasionally

Orange Oriole Icterus auratus Seen occasionally

Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis Fairly common

Yellow Billed Cacique Cacicus melanicterus Seen occasionally