Avian Magnificence At Oaxaca

Posted On December 3, 2009 

Country Info

Mexico is located in the southern part of North America and is the fourteenth largest state in the world (with an area of nearly 2 million square kilometers). It has the United States in the north and Pacific Ocean in the south. In the south-west it has the Central American states of Guatemala and Belize as its neighbours. The Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico wash its shores in the east. Mexico is one of the 18 megadiverse countries in the world for it is home to some of the most diverse fauna and flora species in the world.

Common Info

Oaxaca is a constituent state of Mexico located at the southern most region of the country. The fifth largest state of Mexico with an area of 95,364 sqaure kilometres, Oaxaca is located in the west of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (short land distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean) and has Guerrero to the west, Pueblo to the northwest and Veracruz in the north, Chiapas to the east and Pacific Ocean in the south. Oaxaca is the historic home of the Zapotec and Mixtec people and has more number of indigenous languages than any other state in Mexico. The city is also home to a large number of colonial structures that attract tourists in large numbers. Capital of Oaxaca is Oaxaca City, which was declared a Unesco Heritage Site in 1987.

Geography of Oaxaca

Thanks to its location at the convergence of the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains, Oaxaca experiences a rugged and mountain terrain coupled with a temperate central valley. The diverse climate also supports the growth of a diverse avifauna in Oaxaca. Oaxaca has high peaks, hidden jungles, virgin beaches, deep caves, picturesque lagoons, waterfalls and luminous valleys.


Oaxaca has nearly 30,000 plant species and features seven of the nine types of vegetation found in Mexico. The region features wood plant species like cedar, mahogany and oak. The Chimpalas Rain Forest is also a significant part of the Oaxaca ecology.

Birding at Oaxaca

Among various attractions that Oaxaca features, birding would rank as one of the most popular. Oaxaca has the biggest bird reserve in Mexico with nearly 700 species (nearly 100 of which are endemic). Some of the places that have really contributed to the birding tourism at Oaxaca include:

  • Oaxaca Valley: A picturesque landscape surrounded by mountains is home to interesting bird species like Pileated Flycatcher, Ocellated Thrasher, Oaxaca Sparrow, Bridled Sparrow and the Beautiful and Dusky Hummingbird.
  • Cloud Forest: The rich pine/oak forest across Sierra Juarez is home to great many bird species like Aztec Bumblebee HummingbirdThrush, Bumblebee Hummingbird and Collared Towhee. From the high altitude cloud forests to the tropical evergreen forests on slope of Atlantic, one can witness some of the best bird varieties like Long-Tailed Wood Partridge, Azure Hooded Jay, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Sumichrast’s Wren and others.
  • Sierra Sur: The large tropical semi-deciduous forest found on the pacific slope of Oaxaca has some of the most beautiful avian inhabitants like Green Fronted Hummingbird, Wagler’s Toucanet, Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Great Swallow-tailed Swift and others.
  • Pacific Costal Lowlands: Rivers which drain the adjacent mountains form bays and lagoons that form excellent habitats for various bird species like Citroline Trogon, Golden Cheeked Woodpecker, Red Breasted Chat, Russet Crowned Motomot and others.
Other birds spotted in Oaxaca

There are several other bird species that can be spotted at Oaxaca, some of which are endemic to Mexico, like:

  • Dwarf Jays
  • Garnet-throated Hummers
  • Slaty Vireo
  • Blue Mockingbird
  • White-throated Towhee
  • Blue Bunting
  • Brown Booby
  • Colima Pygmy Owl
  • White-lored Gnatcatcher
  • Red headed Tanager
  • Rose-throated Becard
  • Masked Tytira
  • Greater Pewee
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Brown-backed Solitaire
Two week long birding trip at Oaxaca

A two-week long birding trip at Oaxaca can be planned in someway like this:

Day 1 at Oaxaca

After reaching the airport one can relax at the hotel at Oaxaca and prepare for the exhilarating birding trip that would start the next day. However, a little walk is always welcome to spot birds like Rufous-backed Robin and Dusky Hummingbird.

Day 2

One can take a visit at the Teotitlán del Valle village. Here first encounter with the endemic species like Ocellated Thrasher and Bridled and Oaxaca Sparrows is expected. However, glimpses of Dwarf Vireo, Boucard’s Wren, and Western Scrub-Jay can also be got during this trip. After birding all day, one can also shop in Teotitlán del Valle’s rug market. The hand-woven items here are quite exemplary.

Day 3Monte Alban

Time to visit Monte Albán and Yagul. In Monte Albán, one can see some of the most fascinating native ruins that can be found in all of the Americas. Several endemic Mexican birds like the Rock and Canyon Wrens can be found in the hill slopes surrounding the city of Oaxaca. One can also spot White-throated Towhee, Blue Mockingbird, Gray Silky-flycatcher, Varied Bunting and Slaty Vireo. At Yagul, one can find the Gray-breasted Woodpecker and Beautiful Hummingbird. Black-vented Oriole, Rufous-capped Warbler, and the elusive Pileated Flycatcher may also appear.

Days 4 and 5

At Cerro San Felipe, the high humid pine/oak site. Here one can spot the endemic Dwarf Jay, along with other highland birds. Steller’s Jays, Gray-barred Wrens, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Red Warbler, Slate-throated Whitestart and Red WarblerLong-tailed Wood-Partridge are also rarely seen here.

Day 6

At Tuxtepec. One can take the road north of Cerro San Felipe towards the Gulf lowland town of Valle Nacional. If lucky, one can come across the Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Slate-coloured Solitaire, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia and Azure-crowned Jays.

Days 7-8

At Tuxtepec. Here one can explore the lowland rainforest and humid foothills surrounding Tuxtepec. Keel-billed Toucans are commonly seen here but chances are good to meet species like Green Shrike-Vireo, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-crested Coquette, Crimson-collared and Golden-hooded Tanagers. Pheasant Cuckoo, White Hawk and Sumichrast’s Wren can also be spotted here.

Day 9

Back at Oaxaca. One can birdwatch at the foothills and cloudforest on the way back to the hotel.

Day 10

At Sierra de Miahuatlán. Numerous endemic birds like Wagler’s Toucanet, White-throated Jay, Red-headed Tanager, Blue-capped Hummingbird can be seen. One can spend the night at the beach town of Puerto Ángel.

Day 11

Trip at the Pacific Ocean for viewing birds. Shearwaters (Townsend’s, Black-vented, Christmas, and Pink-footed), Strom-Petrels (Black, Least, and Wedge-tailed) are species to watch out for here. Red-billed Tropicbirds could be found cruising the offshore winds while Brown Boobies diving into the sea.

Day 12

At Puerto Ángel and Zipolite. Time to bird at the coastal Puerto Ángel and the famous beach town of Zipolite. Doubleday’s Hummingbird, Citreoline Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Happy Wren, White-throated Magpie-Jays, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Yellow-winged Caciques, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, and Orange-breasted Bunting can be found here.

Day 13

Back to Oaxaca. Birding at the Sierra Madre del Sur where Cinnamon-sided Hummingbird, West Mexican Chachalaca, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, and Hooded Yellowthroat.

Day 14


Other attractions at Oaxaca

It is not only the birds that make Oaxaca a popular tourist destination. Its impressive ruins, a bustling capital city with rich commerce and architecture, a pulsating native culture and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches make it Oaxaca an equally popular destination for the non-birders. Some of the non-birding attractions in Oaxaca are:

  • Archaeological sites like Guiengola, Monte, Huijatzoo and Monte Alban. The village called Teotitlán del Valle near Oaxaca City is one of the ancient human settlements in Mexico
  • The festival called ‘Guelaguetza’, Day of the Death, Noche de Rábanos and others
  • Handicrafts made of fabric, wool, clay, iron, precious metal and wood. Alebrijes, which are brightly coloured representations of imaginary animals made of copalillo wood are popular handicraft items found here.Tlacochahuaya
  • Temples, churches and monasteries like Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Cuilapan, Tlacochahuaya, Coixtlahuaca
How to reach Oaxaca

Oaxaca is 465 kilometres from Mexico City, the capital of Mexico and 455 kilometres from Veracruz. The town of Asuncion Nochixtlán, one of Oaxaca’s 25 district capitals and a popular transit point is just 85 kilometres from Oaxaca City.

Accommodation at Oaxaca

Oaxaca has several hotels and accommodation facilities ranging from five star, four star, three star to apartments.

  • Suites Casa Cid de León
  • Hotel de la Parra (both five stars)
  • Villa de Campo Apartments (three star)
  • La Casa de los Abuelos (apartment)
oaxaca birds

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