Last Updated on February 23, 2020 by NWBirdTop
Visiting Mexico, you can see wonderfully interesting birds. So how do you identify birds common to parts of the Yucatan, like Cancun, Tulum, Progresso or Merida? I’ve got some pictures to help. Read on!
Today, as we watch the snow melt after a freak early spring snowstorm here in Maryland, I think back to our November visit to the Yucatan. Skies were sunny, the ocean was so very blue, temperatures were perfect and people were friendly and kind. Our trip revolved around family and wasn’t a birding expedition, but we still saw some cool birds in Mexico. I think of it as “birding around the edges.” Here are some of the birds we saw on our adventure in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
Note: On this trip, we saw birds in Cancun, Tulum, Progresso and Merida, all part of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. (We returned to the Yucatan the following summer and saw More Birds of Mexico.)
Birds Seen in Cancun
Our first stop in Mexico was Cancun. Here we spent our time at a hotel beach resort. The birds we saw in Cancun were the kinds of birds you might expect to see in such an area, but coming from the U.S., even “common birds” were fascinating to us.
Eurasian Collared Dove
This little beauty liked to sit on the thatched roof of one of the structures near our Cancun hotel’s pool. Eurasian Collared Doves remind me of the Mourning Doves we see up here in Maryland.
There was an active pair of Hooded Orioles up in the palm trees surrounding the pool. We could look right from our balcony into the tops of the palms. The orioles seemed to be finding something tasty in the trees, so they were often found there. All About Birds says Hooded Orioles have the nickname “palm-leaf oriole” because they like to nest in palm trees.
I must admit that this bird confused me for awhile. I thought it might be a Melodious Blackbird, common in this part of Mexico, but the eyes say “grackle” and not “blackbird.” I finally figured out that this browner bird, with a much shorter tail than her male counterpart, is actually a female Great-Tailed Grackle. Several of these noisy, bold birds hung out poolside. They would hop around on the balconies as well. We saw them all kinds of places on our trip as well as Cancun. (Note: You can check out a picture of a male Great-Tailed Grackle in the Merida section below.)
Note: While I’ve divided this list by where I saw them, many of the birds found below can also be seen in Cancun.
Birds Seen in Tulum
In Tulum, another area popular with tourists in Mexico, we stayed in a newly built townhouse that still had a lot of natural jungle/wooded area around it. This time we were not right on the beach. I tend to wake up earlier than everyone else, so I would get a cup of coffee and go up onto the roof to watch the local birds wake up. They moved around in the wooded area in back and the open neighborhood street area out front.
Each morning in Tulum, I watched a small group of of beautifully patterned Green Jays poking around out in front of the townhouses. This small neighborhood street had paved walks and gravel with small trees. Green Jays reminded me of our local Blue Jays in the way they interacted in their small group.
I also saw Yucatan Woodpeckers every day in this same residential area. They look very much like our Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and their behavior seemed similar. This one seemed to be finding some good bugs in this tree in a neighbor’s yard just across the street.
These beautifully colored flycatchers liked sitting up at the very top of the trees across from the Tulum townhouse in the early morning sun. Great Kiskadees loudly say, “kis-ka-dee!“
Here in Tulum, a small group of very active Yellow-Backed Orioles were also hanging out in front of the townhouses. They seemed less bold than the Jays but just as active.
Hiding in the trees behind the townhouse were a pair of Plain Chachalacas. These were the most unusual of the birds we saw. They were huge compared to the jays and orioles (22″ long.) It always amazes me how birds can disappear into trees. You can know they are there but still not see them. The Plain Chachalacas were like that.
This particular Tropical Kingbird was sitting on a tree in the ruins at Tulum, but we saw this type of flycatcher often in various locations throughout our Yucatan trip. Insects would be justified to be alarmed at that bill!
At a nearby Tulum beach, we watched large flocks of Sanderlings scurrying along the sand in the early evening.
Note: On our second trip to Mexico, we saw several other interesting birds in the Tulum area, including Yucatan Jays, Bronzed Cowbirds, Cave Swallows and Turquoise-Browed Motmots.
Birds Seen in Progresso
The third place we stayed during out trip was the city of Merida. From there, we took a day trip to visit the town of Progresso. Here, there is a strip of restaurants and shops along the beach. Sitting at an outside restaurant table and then walking up to where the four-mile-long cruise ship pier meets the beach, we could watch all kinds of interesting birds.
Magnificent Frigatbirds are HUGE birds. They flew up high up and parallel to Progresso’s shoreline regularly during the hours we spent there. Impressive birds that soar gracefully, they caught my eye every time they flew past. The ones we saw were simply flying, but apparently they can be very aggressive about stealing food from other birds. (Note: I also saw frigatebird flying along Cancun’s beach as well.)
Another bird we saw a lot of in the waters of Progresso was the Brown Pelican. They were very busy diving repeatedly for fish down by the pier. They were fun to watch.
On and near Progresso’s pier, it seemed like almost every pole had a cormorant seated on it. At first I thought they might be Neotropical Cormorants, which can be found in this area as well. But the birds I could see were the Double-Crested Cormorants, like those we see up our way. (Note: We saw the neotropical variety on our second trip to Mexico.)
If you are near the ocean, it seems that there must be gulls somewhere around. This group of Laughing Gulls in Progresso seemed quite content to let me take their picture.
Mexico has Rock Pigeons just like we do, but I swear it seemed like there was more variety in the coloring of the Mexican birds. I thought the colors on this one were unusual but lovely.
Birds Seen in Merida
In Merida itself we were mostly doing city type things, but the small neighborhood park near where we were staying was very active with birds. On the first evening, a Barn Owl flew right over our heads and each morning we awakened to the sound of very vocal Melodious Blackbirds.
One day a Cinnamon Hummingbird took an interest in a flowered dress that was hanging on the line in the back yard of the house where we were staying. And every evening you could see Vaux’s Swifts zipping busily around in the skies over the area.
This Tropical Mockingbird was a regular at the house where we stayed and in the little park nearby. Here it was sitting tucked inside tree branches. But we often saw them perched on top of wires or poles or the very tops of trees looking out.
Ruddy Ground Dove
There were a variety of pigeons and doves at the park. The smallest was the Ruddy Ground Dove, who is sitting up on a wire here. They could also be seen poking around on the ground looking for seeds as their name suggests.
A bit bigger than the Ground Dove is the White-Winged Dove. We saw one in a tree behind the house and here again at the park. They are lovely birds.
Comparing Doves and Pigeons
This photo isn’t going to win awards but I think it is interesting. Look carefully near the middle left side of the photo. You’ll see a little brown Ruddy Ground Dove. At the middle nearer the top by the green hose, is a White-Winged Dove. And to the right are three much larger Rock Pigeons.
Sometimes when you see a bird in a field guide, you don’t get a real sense of their size. Here you can compare the three birds side by side.
Remember the female Great-Tailed Grackle we saw at poolside in Cancun? Here is a male Great-Tailed Grackle in the city park in Merida. That is one impressive tail!
More Mexican Birds
Birds Seen on Our Second Visit: We visited the Yucatan again the following summer and saw more cool birds. You can read about them in my More Birds of Mexico post.
Apps to ID Birds Seen in Mexico
During our ten days in Mexico’s Yucatan, I saw thirty-two species of birds while “birding around the edges.” A few were birds I’ve seen here in the States, but most were new to me. Seeing these birds, watching what they did and trying to identifying them was a lot of fun (and my obsession hopefully didn’t drive the people I was spending time with too very crazy!)
To figure out what they were, I used a variety of birding apps on my iPhone. You can learn about them in my Apps to ID Birds in Mexico post.
We loved Mexico and plan to visit again. And when we do, we’ll bring our binoculars, birding apps and cameras to document the birds that we see!
Learn More About Birds Seen in Mexico
All About Birds Website (The focus of this Cornell Lab of Ornithology website is birds seen in the U.S., but there is some overlap with Mexico where birds can be found in both countries.)
Neotropical Birds Online (This is another Cornell Lab website, this time focusing on Neotropical birds, including birds you might see in Mexico. The amount of information available on specific birds is often not as extensive as on the All About Birds website, but there is still interesting information to be found here about birds not included on the former’s site.)
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