Yucatan Peninsula - Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche states

2 to 8 January 2009


I was going down to Mérida for the International Biogeography Symposium and wanted to do some birding beforehand, as I had never been to the Yucatan before. A grad school friend, Elena Tartaglia, has recently become interested in birding and decided to accompany me for about a week of birding and sightseeing. We birded most of the time, but in a somewhat leisurely manner, not trying at all for nightbirds and never targeting specific species.

Overall, it was a very successful trip, we recorded ~140 species in 6 days of birding. I chose the bird highlights as BAT FALCON, ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE, KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN, OCELLATED TURKEY, and TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT. Mammal highlights were Spider Monkey, Black Howler, Collared Peccary, and White-lipped Peccary. Other notable birds included GREAT CURASSOW, IVORY-BILLED WOODCREEPER, LAUGHING FALCON, PLAIN XENOPS, FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER, PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER, BRIGHT-RUMPED ATTILA, BLACK-HEADED and VIOLACEOUS TROGONS, KING VULTURE, COLLARED ARACARI, YUCATAN JAY, and CARIBBEAN FLAMINGO. American and Morelet's Crocodiles were also highly enjoyable to see.


Locations:

Rio Lagartos - we took a boat trip here the first morning. I didn't study the trip reports closely enough, (nor did I have Howell's site guide), so we missed some birds we could have found. We took a boat trip purchased from the tourism building at the waterfront, 750 pesos for the two of us. The highlight here was the CARIBBEAN FLAMINGOS. We also saw quite a few raptor species during the drive from Mérida to Rio Lagartos, especially after we turned north on 295.

Felipe Carrillo Puerto - we birded this area the second morning and weren't overly impressed. There were some birds, but it wasn't great birding as far as I was concerned. Perhaps we didn't go far enough down the road, but we did bird at one of the ponds mentioned in another trip report.

Calakmul - this was easily our favorite location during the trip, including great encounters with BAT FALCON, ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE, both monkeys, both peccaries, and the spectacular ruins. Very highly recommended.

Tulum - I recommend avoiding these very touristy ruins. We made the mistake of arriving mid-morning, but after having been to Calakmul we found this site very disappointing and over-run with people. It sounded really nice in the guide book, but after having been to Calakmul, we weren't prepared for the huge numbers of people and no opportunity for shade.

Cobá - Close to Tulum and certainly recommended. The gate opens at 7 (our Frommer's guidebook said 8), get there early before everyone else shows up. If you trip and fall on the path when leaving, try to roll out of the way before you get trampled or crushed by bike tires.


Hotels
Name LocationPriceNotesWireless Internet
Hotel El Faisan y El VenadoFelipe Carrillo Puerto$50 USD/nightTwo nights, two different rooms. One had a toilet seat (#14), one did not (#25). Overall fine, restaurant at the hotel was fine.No
Hotel Puerta CalakmulEntrance road to Calakmul$140 USD/nightNice, no hot water. Restaurant good, but maybe a little expensiveYes
Villas Arqueologicas CobáCobá$90 USD/nightNice place. Recommended. Food was good at their restaurantYes

Aside from two nights in Mérida at the beginning and end, and one night at Cobá, I booked the hotels through Juan Ojeda (juan.ojeda@cablered.net.mx). He very quickly and efficiently made reservations for us on very short notice, and is highly recommended if your Spanish is not good enough for phone reservations. The night in Cobá I booked through this website.


General Wisdom:

We took the free (libre) roads the whole time and had no problems. They are a little slow with the topes (speedbumps) in towns, but I can't imagine having a better drive on the toll roads. This probably only applies during daylight.

We saw quite a few birds while actually driving (2 of our 3 TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOTS, KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN, LAUGHING FALCON, ZONE-TAILED HAWK) or pulled off alongside the road at random locations (KING VULTURE, FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER, VERMILION FLYCATCHER). Perhaps this is another argument for taking the free roads.

Another trip report was concerned about gasoline getting into and out of Calakmul twice. We had no problem at all, and have the following statistic to help: we drove from Xpujil to the hotel (Hotel Puerta Calakmul), to the ruins, back to the hotel, to the ruins, and then all of the way back to Bacalar and it took 32 liters of gasoline (about two-thirds of our very small car's tank). I don't think that fuel should be a problem, even if you don't fill up at Xpujil.

Hotel Laguna has a very nice restaurant with a great view of the laguna. It is just a few kilometers south of Bacalar on the east side of the road, and is highly recommended.

Hotel Puerta Calakmul: expensive ($140 USD per night when booked through Juan Ojeda), but very nice. We had 2 OCELLATED TURKEYS walk right by our cabana immediately after arriving in the evening. The showers are cold. They have a nice restaurant open from 6 pm until 9 pm. If you aren't going to be eating in the evening, you should tell them. Elena and I decided to skip eating at the restaurant the second evening and eventually (about 9:20), someone came around to see if we were coming to eat. We felt bad that they had been waiting on us.

Yes, there are towns with myriad difficult to decipher one way streets. Tizimin was problematic, but we figured it out without getting too lost. All I can recommend is keeping your bearings on which way you are going versus which way you want to go.

I don't recommend driving at night, at least on the free roads. Random people biking/walking without any sort of reflectors, vehicles with bright white lights facing backwards, etc., make it dangerous and not very enjoyable. It can be done, but should be minimized if possible.

Most commonly observed birds (most often observed first): Tropical/Couch's Kingbird, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Tropical Mockingbird, Roadside Hawk, Brown Jay, Great-tailed Grackle, Groove-billed Ani, White-eyed Vireo, Great Blue Heron, Great Kiskadee, Yucatan Jay, American Redstart, and Social Flycatcher.


Species and Locations Table

Species RL FCP Clkml HotelHotel to ruins*Clkml ruins TulumCobá Mérida to RL* RL to FCP*FCP to CLKML*FCP to Tulum*
Great-tailed Grackle _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 1 _ 1 1
Groove-billed Ani _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _
Tropical Kingbird 1 _ _ _ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Tropical Mockingbird _ _ _ _ _ 1 1 1 1 1 1
Roadside Hawk _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ 1 _ 1 1
Grey Hawk _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _
Black Vulture 1 1 _ _ _ _ 1 1 1 1 1
Turkey Vulture 1 _ _ _ 1 _ 1 1 1 1 1
Altamira Oriole _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _
Zone-tailed Hawk _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _
White-tailed Hawk _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _
Ruddy Ground-Dove _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _
Laughing Gull 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Black Skimmer 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Sandwich Tern 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Brown Pelican 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
American White Pelican 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Royal Tern 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _
Caspian Tern 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Ruddy Turnstone 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Double-crested Cormorant 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Anhinga 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Neotropic Cormorant 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Great Blue Heron 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Snowy Egret 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Great Egret 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Little Blue Heron 1 _ _ 1 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Tricolored Heron 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Green Heron 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
White Ibis 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Common Black-Hawk 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Osprey 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Reddish Egret 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Wood Stork 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Magnificent Frigatebird 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _
Tree Swallow 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Caribbean Flamingo 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Ring-billed Gull 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Willet 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Sanderling 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Crocodile 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Black-necked Stilt 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Cattle Egret _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 1 1 _
Great Kiskadee _ _ _ _ 1 1 1 1 _ 1 _
Crested Caracara _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _
Red-winged Blackbird 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Raccoon 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Yucatan Jay _ 1 _ 1 _ 1 _ _ 1 1 _
Turquoise-browed Motmot _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _
Magnolia Warbler _ 1 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Brown Jay _ 1 _ 1 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Yellow-throated Euphonia _ 1 _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Squirrel Cuckoo _ 1 _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ 1 _
Limpkin _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
White-eyed Vireo _ 1 _ _ 1 1 1 _ _ 1 _
Rose-throated Tanager _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Black-throated Green Warbler _ 1 _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Black-and-white Warbler _ 1 _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Northern Parula _ 1 _ _ 1 1 1 _ _ _ _
American Redstart _ 1 _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Common Yellowthroat _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Collared Aracari _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Yucatan Woodpecker _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Lineated Woodpecker _ 1 _ 1 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Social Flycatcher _ 1 _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Lesser Greenlet _ 1 _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Black-headed Saltator _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Rufous-browed Peppershrike _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Red-billed Pigeon _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Rose-throated Becard _ 1 _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Mangrove Vireo _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Canivet's Emerald _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Tropical Gnatcatcher _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Grey Fox _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
King Vulture _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ 1 _
Blue Bunting _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
White-collared Seedeater _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Mangrove Swallow _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Wood Thrush _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
White-bellied Wren _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Ocellated Turkey _ _ 1 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Summer Tanager _ _ 1 _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Keel-billed Toucan _ _ _ 1 1 _ _ _ _ _ 1
Great Curassow _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Ruddy Woodcreeper _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Rufous Piha _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Least Grebe _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Violaceous Trogon _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Black-headed Trogon _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Bright-rumped Attila _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Masked Tityra _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Yellow-throated Warbler _ _ _ _ 1 1 1 _ _ _ _
Ovenbird _ _ _ _ 1 1 1 _ _ _ _
Worm-eating Warbler _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Golden-fronted Woodpecker _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Pale-billed Woodpecker _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
White-bellied Emerald _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Scrub Euphonia _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Plain Chachalaca _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Blue-winged Warbler _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
White-breasted Wood-Wren _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Laughing Falcon _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ 1
Black Howler Monkey _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Spider Monkey _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Collared Peccary _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Ornate Hawk-Eagle _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
White-lipped Peccary _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Plain Xenops _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Bat Falcon _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
White-crowned Parrot _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Golden-olive Woodpecker _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Hooded Warbler _ _ _ _ 1 _ 1 _ _ _ _
Great Black-Hawk _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
Boat-billed Flycatcher _ _ _ 1 1 _ _ _ _ _ _
American Coot _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Common Moorhen _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Northern Jacana _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Spotted Sandpiper _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Blue-winged Teal _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Green-winged Teal _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Greater Yellowlegs _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Belted Kingfisher _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Bronzed Cowbird _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Fork-tailed Flycatcher _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Vermilion Flycatcher _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Barn Swallow _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Northern Rough-winged Swallow _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _
Vaux's Swift _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ 1 _
Cinnamon Hummingbird _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _
Palm Warbler _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _
Cave Swallow _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _
Indigo Bunting _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _
Iguana _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _ _
White-winged Dove _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Pied-billed Grebe _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Yellow-winged Tanager _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Melodious Blackbird _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Painted Bunting _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Olivaceous Woodcreeper _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Grey Catbird _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Clay-colored Thrush _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Red-throated Ant-Tanager _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Blue-crowned Motmot _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
Yellow-throated Vireo _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 _ _ _ _
TOTAL 36 30 5 16 46 16 54 13 9 39 8
RL FCP Clkml HotelHotel to ruins*Clkml ruinsTulum CobáMérida to RL*RL to FCP*FCP to CLKML* FCP to Tulum*

Total birding time

3 hrs4 hrs0.5 hr6.5 hrs1.5 days1 hr7 hrs

Click here for more detailed species list in .xls format


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