The golden eagle found on Mexico’s flag is Mexico’s national bird…
…but it is not seen on the coast of Oaxaca. Instead, the well-known Osprey (Aguila pescadora in Spanish or “fishing eagle”) is a common resident, although not abundant.
One of the very first things you will notice upon your arrival in Huatulco is the colorful abundance of wildlife. Mexico narrows into the Tehuantepec Isthmus and acts as a funnel for migration routes of northern wildlife moving towards their southern homes.
This tight flyway accounts for the huge variety and numbers of birds and animals we see in southern Mexico. Oaxaca is the 5th largest state and there are nearly 750 bird species here accounting for 70% of all the Mexican species. There are also hundreds of mammals and the most reptiles and amphibians in the country.
Here is migration in action on an interactive map from National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/03/bird-migration-interactive-maps/
Whether you are just starting your journey in birdwatching or you have been doing it for many years, be sure to get proper equipment. An online search can help you find:
- Guide book
- Notebook and pencil
- Organic bug repellent and sunscreen.
Nowadays our phones are not just phones; they can be many things. There are online applications that can substitute for heavy cameras, notebooks and guide books. Here are a few to explore:
- iNaturalist (AI identification)
- eBird (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
- Merlin (also Cornell, field guide)
- BirdsEye (database maps of recent sightings)
- iBirdPro (regional field guide)
Find an Experienced Guide or Tour
There are many guides and tours for both land and water. You can find them by searching online or on Facebook. Here are a few to get you started. I do, however, recommend asking around for recommendations before you settle on one. Prices will vary.
- Pedro Gasco – 958.116.7732
Pedro Gasco is an experienced nature guide. He lives in Pochutla and is a professor at ALPHA Language Center. His sustainable tourism programs support the development of educational programs relating to environmental awareness and the rescue of wildlife.
The programs and tours are customized to your interests and needs. They are always environmentally friendly, socially responsible and they integrate with the communities to support sustainable development. Do not hesitate to contact Pedro with your questions, he is happy to assist you to design a perfect bird watching experience.
- Paul Germain – 958.106.4765
Paul is a well-known birding expert who has lived near Mazunte in the forest along with the trees, birds and other wild things since 2008. He published Aves de las Lagunas Costeras de Oaxaca, Mexico (Birds of the Coastal Lagoons of Oaxaca, Mexico) by Paul Germain and Mateo Ruiz Bruce.
It is a beautiful photographic book including the shore birds. He has a Facebook page with more great photos. The book is available online on Mercado Libre and at various locations in Mazunte and along the coast. You can find Paul and his book every Sunday at the local Alternative Market or Mercado Alternativo Artesanal de la Region del Sol, Mazunte. The book price is $350 MXN pesos and he is happy to sign it. By visiting the market, you will also find more treasures and help the local producers. Fresh, local cheeses, greens, vegetarian tamales, Pluma coffee, and food stands can be found.
Although Paul no longer does tours, he says he is always happy to be contacted by people who want to get to know him, ask further questions, buy his book and have their copy signed and dedicated. He is a true wealth of information.
Cornelio Ramos Gabriel – 958.106.5749
Cornelio is a well-known bird guide. His tour company is dedicated to providing trips in Huatulco that primarily specialize in birdwatching and butterflies. Their emphasis is on professionalism, reliability and personal attention for individuals or small groups of all ages. Tours are structured to your personal situation. If you have special needs, they will offer flexibility and personal attention.
Explore Many Locations
Your Own Backyard
Put a simple bird bath in your yard and in about a week you will have many different species come to drink and bathe. A clay pan about 40 cm diameter x 5 cm deep filled with fresh water in a shady spot is a good plan. You will easily and comfortably learn to identify birds, because they come again and again. Especially during our dry season this will benefit both you and the feathered visitors.
As mentioned above, you can buy Paul Germain’s book online or at the Sunday Mazunte Organic Market. It will help you identify the typical waterfowl and raptors found in the coastal lagoons of Oaxaca. Most species are relatively easy to observe from a boat or while walking in open areas, such as beaches, estuaries and shores of the wetlands. Very close to Mazunte, you can explore the Ventanilla lagoon in a rowboat with the help of a local guide who is a member of the cooperative Lagarto Real.
Laguna Manialtepec is located 10 miles west of Puerto Escondido. During the rainy season, the Río Manialtepec breaks through its sandbar and the lagoon becomes a tidal estuary with hundreds of bird species. All seasons are excellent for bird watching. The lagoon is so big that most tours are done on motorboats. We recommend the guides of Lalo Ecotours.
Birds do not live in isolation. They are interconnected and interact with other living and non-living elements of nature. Pluma Hidalgo is a bird watcher’s paradise located in the mountains at an altitude of 800 – 1200 meters. The traditional Mexican shaded coffee plantations are important areas of biological richness. Our coffee fields are located in biodiverse, ecologically strategic areas of overlap between the tropical and temperate elements and of contact among the four main types of Mexican forests.
While you are in the area don’t forget to buy fresh coffee to take home!
Eco Archaeological Park of Copalita
The Eco Archaeological Park of Copalita contains several habitats alongside Zapotec remains estimated to be over 1000 years old. You can explore the Copalita River, the deciduous forest and the Pacific coastline. There are lookout points scattered all along well-constructed pathways. A guided daily tour (from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm) is $60 MXN pesos. But you are easily able to explore by yourself with the handy map from the reception desk.
Huatulco National Park
The newest and one of the largest parks in Oaxaca, this is a low elevation tropical deciduous forest. The park protects hundreds of rare and endangered species. Approximately 300 species of birds live in this area. It is free and open from 7 am to 6 pm every day of the week. There are many guided tours of the land, water and shore. Prices vary.
Birdwatching is a popular pastime along the Oaxacan coast. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced bird watcher, you can explore our amazing ecosystems while you make new friends, improve your health and possibly become a “citizen scientist” – if you help identify new or unusual species and provide important migratory information to the wildlife authorities.
We hope this information helps you discover more birds as you go about your day and helps you plan outings specifically designed to see more birds. Share your favorite bird from the Oaxaca coast in the comments!