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



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


"It was such a good trip Ė birds, the Mayan sites, the excellent guided tour of Chichen Itza,

Hacienda Chichenís food at the end.... I could go on and on."......  Mr and Mrs H, Cambridge





click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up  -  easier to print  -  no photos



There's so much more to the Yucatan Peninsula than the famous coastal resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The regionís lush tropical forests, coastal wetlands, impenetrable thorn scrub, and beautiful beaches combine to make the Yucatan a premier bird-tour destination. The beauty of it all is that some of the best preserved habitats are found alongside some of the most spectacular ruins in the New World. Hidden in the forests are the amazingly well preserved remains of Mayan temples. On this tour we present you with a wonderful opportunity to visit Coba, Tulum, Calakmul, Palenque, Uxmal and the World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza.


The Yucatan is a region of high bird endemism, which means that many species found here occur nowhere else in the world. Ocellated Turkey, Yucatan Poorwill, Yucatan Nightjar, Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Woodpecker, Black Catbird, Grey-throated Chat, Rose-throated Tanager and Yucatan Flycatcher inhabit the forested zones, whilst in the scrub of the arid northwest resident specialities include Yucatan Bobwhite, Lesser Roadrunner, Yucatan Wren and Mexican Sheartail. Add to this a mix of colourful North American migrants, typical Mexican birds and exotic rainforest species and itís not surprising to learn that during this trip we can expect to see over 250 species.


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





On arrival at Cancun we will transfer to Coba, our base for the first two nights. Our hotel is situated by Coba Lake and we can birdwatch from the hotelís own jetty for kingfishers, Anhinga, Ruddy Crake and Limpkin. There are also plenty of Moreletís Crocodiles and various turtles to watch. Three sets of excavated ruins are connected by wide forest trails. It is one of the more reliable sites to see the near endemic Rose-throated Tanager. Some of the more common birds include Least Grebe, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Hooded Oriole, Limpkin, Black-headed Trogon, Groove-billed Ani, Common Yellowthroat and Melodious Blackbird.


On day 3 we will head to Calakmul, visiting the Mayan site of Tulum en route. The picturesque remains of a once great Mayan city sit on the cliffs overlooking the turquoise Caribbean. Over these beautiful waters rise Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns. Mangroves here are home to the endemic Black Catbird and Yucatan Vireo. Around the ruins we will search for Orange Orioles and Ridgewayís Rough-winged Swallows.



The largest and one of the most important of the Mayan sites, Calakmul stands deep in the jungle close to the Guatemalan border. We will spend three nights here, and will explore the extensive forest which still retains healthy populations of mammals. Birds such as Ocellated Turkey, Great Curassow, Thicket Tinamou and Crested Guan can all be found close to our very comfortable jungle lodge. Army ant swarms are a feature of the forest trails which lead to the ancient cityís magnificent pyramids. A host of birds follow the swarms including Mexican Antthrush, Barred Woodcreeper, Ovenbird, Green-backed Sparrow and Grey-breasted Chat. Bat Falcons hunt from the tops of the pyramids whilst Keel-billed Toucans call from the surrounding forest.



We will spend the next three nights at Palenque, at a forested resort hotel situated close to one of the most spectacular pre-Columbian sites of the New World. Amid the wonderful grounds we may find howler monkeys, otters and agoutis. By day the grounds hold Squirrel Cuckoo, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, Barred Antshrike and an array of hummingbirds, flycatchers, tanagers and American wood warblers. At night Northern Potoo, Lesser Nighthawk and Mottled Owl appear.


The ruins of Palenque are amongst the best preserved ancient structures in Meso-America. This fabulous site is set on a hillside of lush forest and the birdlife includes White Hawk, Black-cheeked and Chestnut-coloured Woodpeckers and the tiny Long-billed Gnatwren. There will be an opportunity to explore the nearby savannah to search for a range of different species associated with marshes and open grassland. These include Double-striped Thick-knee, Black-collared Hawk, Snail Kite, Acorn Woodpecker, Aztec Parakeet, Scissor-tailed and Vermilion Flycatchers.



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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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



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



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



All birdwatching excursions with expert leaders, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 23rd, ending with lunch on 9th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-bus, boat trip, site entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



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






15 nights including

one overnight flight:


Principal leader:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

10th November 2012):


Full Cost:





Single supplement:






23rd Feb. to 10th March 2013


John McLoughlin


Gabor Orban


12 clients with one leader and

a local guide



£3490 per person sharing


£3640 per person sharing


A ground only price is available. Please contact our office














click here to see the photographs in our Yucatan Album




a beautiful Green Jay



family of Bare throated Tiger Herons at Celestun


huge numbers of  Greater Flamingos winter at Celestun

the impressive ruins at Calakmul shrouded in forest

an inquisitive Ocellated Turkey at Calakmul



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