The stunning Rosita’s Bunting is one of the many colourful species we should see in this bird-rich area. Photo: Steve Howell
This exciting tour focuses on one of the richest areas of bird endemism in Mexico: the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Beyond the endemics, the region’s unique blend of species reflects its location at the point where the Nearctic faunal realm meets the Neotropics. South of the isthmus, for example, there are no more chickadees or nuthatches, two bird families very much part of the temperate northern avifauna, but diversity shoots up in terms of antbirds and tyrant flycatchers, two families centered in the Neotropics.
We’ll start in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a modern city and the state capital of Chiapas, which lies within driving distance of habitats ranging from arid scrub to rain forest and humid pine-oak highlands. We’ll head next to Arriaga, on the Pacific side of the isthmus, and then move west and north to end in Oaxaca City, a time-honoured favourite of birders and travelers. Within a short distance of Oaxaca City, we’ll explore habitats ranging from cool montane forest to arid oak scrub, and we’ll experience some of the cultural diversity for which Oaxaca is famous. Birds along the route run the gamut from the elusive Lesser Ground-Cuckoo and Giant Wren (as big as a Dwarf Jay!) to the electrically-coloured Rosita’s Bunting and the little-known Nava’s Wren.
Day 1: The tour begins at 6 pm in the lobby of our Tuxtla Gutiérrez hotel. Night in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
Days 2-4: Just north of Tuxtla is the dramatic Sumidero Canyon National Park, where the Grijalva River cuts its exit from the central valley of Chiapas to drain eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll devote most of two days to this superb area, whose birds include Lesser Roadrunner, a variety of hummingbirds, Belted Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Red-breasted Chat, Yellow Grosbeak, the bamboo specialist Blue Seedeater, and the poorly known Bar-winged Oriole. We’ll also explore other areas in the vicinity of Tuxtla, among them Atlantic slope rainforests, where we may find the very local Nava’s Wren, and highland pine-oak forests, home to birds such as Black-throated Jay, Golden-browed Warbler, and Garnet-throated Hummingbird. We might even try to find the handsome Pink-headed Warber, if we’re very lucky! We’ll also visit the world-famous Tuxtla Gutiérrez zoo, where many of the birds and mammals roam freely in native forest: Great Curassows wander the trails and spider monkeys swing overhead. Nights in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
Day 5: This morning we’ll head inland to Arriaga, on the Pacific slope of the Isthmus, starting in some Atlantic Slope rainforest before winding down through foothills that are home to one of Mexico’s most localized endemics: Rosita’s Bunting, named in honour of the wife of François Sumichrast. Having seen this bird, one may conclude that if Rosita was as beautiful as her namesake, then Sumichrast was indeed a lucky man! Other birds in the area include Canivet’s Emerald and Stripe-headed Sparrow. Night in Arriaga.
Day 6: Today we’ll explore the nearby coastal lowlands, where birds include a good variety of wintering migrants as well as a suite of resident species such as the amazing Giant Wren, bounding flocks of Orange-chinned Parakeets, and handsome Spot-breasted Orioles. Numbers of waterbirds here can be spectacular, the lagoons dotted with spinning flocks of Wilson’s Phalaropes, blushes of Roseate Spoonbills, and blizzards of egrets. Night in Arriaga.
Day 7: This morning we’ll bird near Arriaga before heading to Tehuantepec after lunch. In the late afternoon we’ll look for Sumichrast’s Sparrow, a very local endemic named in honour of the pioneering French naturalist who resided on the isthmus for many years in the late 1800s. Other birds in this area include the secretive Lesser Ground-Cuckoo and the spectacular White-throated Magpie-Jay. Night in Tehuantepec.
Day 8: Today is a travel day as we make the spectacular drive through diverse cactus desert from the heat of Tehuantepec up to the temperate Oaxaca Valley. Birds change accordingly, from Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Rufous-naped Wren to Gray-breasted Woodpecker and White-throated Towhee. Often this is a good drive for hummingbirds, and we’ll look especially for the endemic Green-fronted Hummingbird. Night in Oaxaca.
Days 9-11: We’ll spend three days visiting habitats within an easy drive of our hotel, building an idea of the avifauna in a diversity of habitats at the southern end of the Nearctic region and finding a variety of little-known endemics. Birds around Oaxaca include Beautiful Hummingbird, Pileated Flycatcher, Mexican Chickadee, Dwarf Jay, Brown-backed Solitaire, Slaty and Dwarf Vireos, Red Warbler, and, of course, the very local Oaxaca Sparrow. Nights in Oaxaca City.
Day 12: The tour concludes this morning in Oaxaca City.
Updated: 17 November 2020