Mexico | Birding the Ruins of the Yucatán

Mexico | Birding the Ruins of the Yucatán

About this trip

Pack your binoculars and embark on an intense birding adventure to the environmentally diverse Yucatán Peninsula. Witness native birds soar above the stunning ruins of Oxtankah, Chicanná, Calakmul, Hochob, Uxmal, and other archaeological sites on this journey through the Maya world. Heads will turn at every point of this expedition as you look for a rainbow array of birds including hummingbirds, parrots, tanagers, toucans, raptors, and many more. From trail hikes to boat rides, birders will have an opportunity to participate in a variety of outdoor activities while exploring the history of the Maya and the birds that inhabit the ruins of this ancient civilization.

Highlights

  • Embark on a boat ride on Bacalar Lagoon, nicknamed the "Lake of Seven Colors" for its different shades of blue, and look for herons, egrets, jacanas, and other waders.
  • Seek out species endemic to the peninsula's north coast, such as the Yucatan Wren and Mexican Sheartail.
  • Learn about Maya history and culture at a variety of archaeological sites representing different periods and architectural styles.
  • Watch overhead for soaring raptors, such as Hook-billed and Gray-headed Kites, Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, and the magnificent King Vulture at Calakmul archaeological site.
  • Go birding by boat among the marshes and mangroves of the Celestun River, where you may see American Pygmy Kingfisher and, from November to February, flocks of American Flamingo. 
11 Travelers

$2,775

Land Cost

Group size

Book 10 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

13 Travelers

$2,575

Land Cost

Group size

Book 12 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

Cozumel

Day 1

Upon arrival at the Cozumel International Airport, after clearing customs and collecting your luggage, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Attend an orientation meeting and have dinner at the hotel.

Elevation - Sea level

Dinner included
Overnight at Casa Mexicana

Cozumel

Day 2

This morning, set out for birding at the San Gervasio archaeological site on the north side of the island. The site, whose pre Columbian name means "flat rock in the place of the swallows," was once a Maya religious center and administrative seat for the entire island. Watch for species like the Yucatan Vireo, Yucatan Woodpecker, Bananaquit, Cozumel Emerald, Green breasted Mango, Ruddy Ground Dove, Mangrove Cuckoo, and Cozumel Wren. Have lunch at a local restaurant. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring and birding the southern end of the island. Later, return to the hotel with time to freshen up before a presentation on the birds of Cozumel and extinct species, followed by dinner.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Casa Mexicana

Chetumal

Day 3

Begin the day with early morning birding around the hotel gardens. After breakfast, check out and take the ferry from the pier in Cozumel to Playa del Carmen on the mainland; from there, continue south to Sijil Noh Ha a series of lagoons at Sian Ka'an, a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated along the coast, this reserve is a mix of tropical forest, mangroves, savanna, and wetlands with an impressive bird list numbering more than 300 species. Potential sightings include Ocellated Turkey, Jabiru, Great Curassow, Roseate Spoonbill, Gray headed Chat, Orange Oriole, Scaled Pigeon, Yucatan Parrot, Bananaquit, Red legged Honeycreeper, Rose throated Tanager, Gray headed Tanager, Snail Kite, and 15 heron species, plus wildlife such as howler and spider monkeys, tapirs, crocodiles, margays, and ocelots. Have lunch in the nearby town of Felipe Carrillo. After lunch, birding along the trails of the lagoon watching for Red lored Parrot, Groove billed Ani, Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Vireo, Black headed Trogon, Pale billed Woodpecker, and Red crowned Ant Tanager, among others. Continue to the hotel for check in and dinner. Arrive at the hotel around 5 pm.

Elevation 33 feet

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Fiesta Inn

Chetumal

Day 4

After breakfast, transfer to the Archaeological site of Oxtankah, located north of the city of Chetumal. This is the largest Mayan site found at the bay of Chetumal, a site that is immersed of the tropical Caribbean forest. Some of the species that we may see here include Brown hooded Parrot, White crowned Parrot, Lineated Woodpecker, Plain Chachalaca, Purple Gallinule, Pale billed Woodpecker, Royal Flycatcher, Green Kingfisher, Greenish Elaenia, Boat billed Flycatcher, Stub tailed Spadebill, Collared Trogon, Black headed Trogon, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, and Blue Ground Dove. Have lunch in a local restaurant and then take a boat ride around Bacalar Lagoon known as the "Lake of Seven Colors" due to its different shades of blue. During the ride, you may see Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Neotropic Cormorant, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, Lesser Yellow headed Vulture, and White fronted Parrot. Return to the pier and visit the colonial Fort of San Felipe for more birding. Return to the hotel for time at leisure to relax or watch for avian visitors in the hotel gardens. This evening, attend a lecture on birding in the Yucatán before dinner at the hotel.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Fiesta Inn

Xpujil

Day 5

Check out after breakfast and head further inland toward Xpujil, stopping for birding en route at Caobas, tres Garantias, a beautiful forest situated on borders of Belize and Guatemala. Some target species here include Brown hooded Parrot, White crowned Parrot, Lineated Woodpecker, Plain Chachalaca, Purple Gallinule, Pale billed Woodpecker, Royal Flycatcher, Green Kingfisher, Greenish Elaenia, Boat billed Flycatcher, Stub tailed Spadebill, Collared Trogon, Black headed Trogon, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, and Blue Ground Dove. Continue to Xpujil for lunch and then transfer about four miles west to Chicanna Archeological site for a field trip in the ruins. This site was once the political, economic, and religious center of the area known today as Rio Bec. The site gets its name from its most famous building, the House of the Serpent Mouth. This temple is widely acknowledged to be the best-preserved Monster of the Earth facade temple in the entirety of Mesoamerica. A variety of warblers, tanagers, Keel bill Toucan, Collared- Aracary, hummingbirds, and raptors can be seen here. Check in at the hotel this afternoon with time for birding around the hotel's gardens. Be on the lookout for Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Russet naped Woodrail, and Thicket Tinamou.

Elevation 853 feet

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Chicanna Ecovillage Resort

Xpujil

Day 6

Rise early with a boxed breakfast for birding at Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Calakmul is within the largest contiguous tract of tropical forest outside the Amazon Basin Mesoamerica's 35 million acre Mayan Forest and provides refuge for many rare and endangered species. Within the reserve is the Calakmul archaeological site; the top of the complex's great pyramid offers a good vantage point to look for soaring raptors, such as Hook billed and Gray headed Kites, Hawk Eagles, and the magnificent King Vulture, which is the symbol of Calakmul. Other possibilities include regional endemic species such as the Ocellated Turkey and Rose throated Tanager, as well as vulnerable birds like the Great Curassow. Have a picnic lunch before returning to the hotel this afternoon for more birding around the hotel gardens.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Chicanna Ecovillage Resort

Uxmal

Day 7

After early morning birding, breakfast, and check out, proceed to the small but interesting Maya ruins at Hochob. Hochob is an excellent example of the Chenes architectural style, which flourished from about AD 100 to 1000 and is distinguished by smaller courtyards and ceremonial platforms and a lack of large pyramids. In the forests around Hochob you may be able to see Yucatan Bobwhite, Lesser Roadrunner, Indigo Bunting, Rose breasted Grosbeak, Ladder backed Woodpecker, Yucatan Woodpecker, Turquoise browed Motmot, Lesson's Motmot, and Fork tailed Flycatcher. Enjoy a picnic lunch on site and then continue the drive north to Uxmal. Check in at the hotel with time for birding around the grounds before dinner.

Elevation 177 feet

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Maya Uxmal

Uxmal

Day 8

Morning birding at Uxmal site. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most impressive and important Maya archeological sites in the Yucatan. Typical of the Puuc style, the buildings are low horizontal structures with courtyards that are richly decorated with detailed sculptures made from thousands of perfectly polished stones. The ruins are clustered into 15 groups that spread from north to south, and highlights include the Pyramid of the Magician with its Plaza of the Birds, the Ball Court, the Governor's Palace, and the Great Pyramid. In the afternoon, bird the grounds of Hacienda Yunku before returning to the hotel for dinner and a lecture on birding in the Yucatan.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Maya Uxmal

Celestun

Day 9

Begin the day with early morning birding, then have breakfast and check out. Depart for Celestun with a roadside stop for birding in the Chunchucmil community, where you may see Lesser Roadrunner, Russet naped Wood Rail, Northern Jacana, Squirrel Cuckoo, Caribbean Dove, and Blue black Grassquit, among others. Upon arrival, have lunch and check in at the hotel. There will be a chance to seek out some species that are endemic to the north coast, such as Yucatan Wren and Mexican Sheartail, as well as other species like Yucatan Bobwhite, Yucatan Woodpecker, Black Catbird, White lored Gnatcatcher, Buff bellied Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Mangrove Warbler, and Common Tody Flycatcher. Next, listen to a lecture on local flamingo conservation efforts. Dinner at the hotel.

Elevation 19 feet

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Don Gonzalo Hotel

Merida

Day 10

Early morning birding. After breakfast, take a boat ride down the Celestun River. Targets today include flamingos (November February), the elusive Rufous necked Wood Rail, Lesson's Motmot, Common Black Hawk, Yellow tailed Oriole, Roseate Spoonbill, Boat billed Heron, White Ibis, Yellow crowned Night Heron, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Bare throated Tiger Heron, and others. After lunch in town, travel to Merida and check in at the hotel. Enjoy a farewell dinner this evening.

Merida 33 feet

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Casa Balam

Depart

Day 11

After breakfast transfer to the Merida International Airport for return flights home.

Breakfast- included