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Bird watching in Zihuatanejo

"The birds are tourists themselves, they breed in the wetlands in the Northwest US and Canada."

----Larry Abrams----

I have been watching the birds here in the winter off and on for the past three years and I'd like to share with you what I have seen. We stay up the hill on the La Ropa road so I can look down at the trees and also up on the mountainside besides spending a lot of time on the beach. The best place to start is probably over the water and then work inland

Everyone knows that large bird with the huge beak, the BROWN PELICAN, that flies back and forth over the water. They usually fly over La Ropa when the baitfish are close to shore. However, you can always see them when you're at the town beach. That other large brown bird with the white chest skimming low over the water is the BROWN BOOBY. There are two white birds that also fly back and forth, again when the baitfish are close. The one with the forked tail is a ROYAL TERN and the other is (I think,) a LAUGHING GULL. I sometimes see a pair of dark, duck-like birds, diving in the surf close to shore. These are NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS. Usually in the evening, you'll see SNOWY EGRETS and maybe a heron or two going home to their night roost in town. Three years ago I saw PINK FOOTED SHEARWATERS skimming low over the water. Over the rocks at the end of the beach towards town is where the GREY BREASTED MARTINS hang out. That highflying bird with the long forked tail is a FRIGATE BIRD.

Now on the beach itself, there are several wading birds that feed at the surfs edge. The usual one with the white wing stripe is the WILLET. Last year they did not show up until the first week in February, so the December, January tourists may not see them. In fact the birds are tourists themselves, they breed in the wetlands in the Northwest US and Canada. A couple of other visitors you might see are tiny 8 inch SANDERLINGS that breed up above the artic circle, and a WHIMBREL, a willet-size bird with a long down curved bill that breed in Alaska.

Now let's get to the birds that are land birds. Many of these are also visitors from the north so they may not be there until late in the season. One that you'll always see on the sand and in town looking for any food you leave, is a GREAT TAILED GRACKLE, a noisy 18 inch iridescent black bird with a long keel-shaped tail and golden yellow eyes. There are two other black birds, the YELLOW WINGED CACIQUE and a bird that looks just like the grackle, the GROOVE BILLED ANI. The ani has a black eye and a wedge shaped tail but is a few inches smaller.

The other birds I have seen from our balcony are as follows:

A small blue bird with an orange breast is an ORANGE BREASTED BUNTING.

A "blue jay" type bird with a very long tail is a WHITE THROATED MAPIE JAY.

Five HUMMINGBIRDS, the BLACKED CHINNED, BLUE THROATED, BROAD BILLED, CINNAMON, and WHITE EARED come to our flowering trees.

Besides the GREAT KISKADEE, there are 3 other KINGBIRDS, the CASSINS, TROPICAL and the WESTERN.

You could see both a RUFOUS BACKED ROBIN and a RUFOUS NAPED WREN.

I have several GOLDEN FRONTED WOODPECKERS and a half dozen STREAKED BACKED ORIOLES that visit our area almost every day.

The INCA DOVE and the PLAIN BREASTED GROUND DOVE are two other usual daily sights.

I have seen once or twice, a YELLOW EYED CITREOLINE TROGON, CARDINAL, BALTIMORE ORIOLE, FERRUGINOUS PYGMY OWL, BROWN CREASTED FLYCATCHER, and last but not least, a good old regular AMERICAN ROBIN.

To see some of the soaring birds, I'll usually bird looking up the hill in the afternoon with the sun behind me. There I have seen the BLACK VULTURE and the TURKEY VULTURE, a LAUGHING FALCON, WHITE TAILED HAWK, ZONED TAILED HAWK, and a pair of LILAC CROWNED PARROTS. Because there are so many winter residents, you'll need both a field guide to the birds of North America and a Mexican bird book if you want to go birding.

If you do some birding here and find other birds (or errors) I would love to have this information at lardor@voyager.net and lardor@yahoo.com.

November 2000

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