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Veracruz: River of Raptors

River of Raptors drawing  This special tour to the Veracruz region of Mexico features the “River of Raptors,” one of the great natural phenomenons on earth. We will participate in the worlds most spectacular hawkwatch, where single day counts have exceeded over 700,000 raptors, and the one-day record is 1.5 million!

The last dozen fall seasons; Pronatura hawk-counters have recorded over five million birds of prey. Besides enjoying this staggering spectacle of raptors, we will visit a variety of habitats and quaint villages, where local avifauna, raptors and North American migrants are enjoyed. This area ranks among the better places in the Americas to observe eastern and western passerine migrants and wintering birds side-by-side in the same locality. We can expect over 300 species, including over 30 species of raptors, a possible 20 species of hummingbirds and numerous endemics.

We will also get a chance to enjoy some of the local culture, when we visit the small town of La Antigua where Cortez established the first Spanish colony in 1520; the 13th century Totonacan ruins at Cempoala, built by a native people who were conquered by the Aztecs and later joined Cortez during the conquest of Mexico’s Tenotichtlan, as well as a visit to the Museo de Antropologia in Xalapa, famous for its collection of colossal heads of Olmecs dating back to 900 BC.

In the coastal lowlands we will visit La Mancha Biological Station, a research site with mangroves, a beautiful beach and small lakes. Local birds include Laughing and Aplomado Falcons, Zone-tailed and Black Hawks, with a chance for Boat-billed Heron. Las Barrancas is a vast grassland savannah that holds Double-striped Thick-knee, Common Tody-Flycatcher and Plain-breasted Ground-Dove and in areas of wet meadows Pinnated Bittern and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. On our way to Xalapa we visit the shade coffee plantation at El (Rancho) Mirador, where both Yellow-olive and Ochre-bellied Flycatcher and Olivaceous and Ivory-billed Woodcreeper are possible and the butterflies simply outstanding. Based out of Xalapa, we will visit the cloud forest at Macuiltepetl Ecological Park that holds the endemic Blue Mockingbird and White-naped Brush-Finch, Blue-crowned Motmot and several species of hummingbirds including Azure-crowned, Wedge-tailed and Rufous-tailed.

From this quaint colonial capitol in the mountains west of Cardel, we travel to a beautiful waterfall at Xico, famous for its beautiful scenery and excellent birding including Bat Falcons and swifts. Several areas of high-elevation pine forest/oak habitat, such as at Las Minas and La Joya, provide opportunities to observe the endemic Red Warbler, Dwarf Jay and Striped Sparrow, as well as Olive, Hermit and Golden-crowned Warblers. In past visits, large feeding flocks of mixed passerines, including Slate-throated Redstarts, Rufous-capped Warblers, Rufous-capped Brush Finch, Russet Nightingale-Thrush and dozens of other special birds provided very exciting birding opportunities.

We see a complete change of habitat around Perote, where the desert dominated by Joshua Trees and Agaves holds Scott’s Oriole, White-eared Hummingbird along with familiar Southwestern US species. At Catemaco we’ll bird the UNAM Biological Reserve – 800 acres of Primary forest where some of the typical tropical birds include Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari and Violaceous Trogan. Along the forest trail we hope to come across an ant swarm where birds such as Ant-Tanagers, Woodcreepers, Bright-rumped Attila and Stub-tailed Spadebills follow. Raptors in the open country include Bat Falcon and White Hawk.

In the afternoon we visit Laguna de Sontecomapan, a large coastal lagoon where we take a boat trip into the lagoon and then up one of the feeder streams. Here we see most aquatic species, as well as some tropical specialties such as Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Sungrebe, and maybe Grey-headed Kite. Our final morning will be spent at Nanciyaga and La Jungla. These are remnant patches of Rain Forest along the edge of Lake Catemaco, and a good location for many of the common tropical species such as Spot-breasted Wren, Blue-crowned Motmot, Red-lored Parrot and Long-tailed Hermit.

Focus: Birds, Butterflies, Culture, Photography

” The spectacle of thousands and thousands of raptors streaming and kettling overhead cannot be described in words. Every birder should experience this in Veracruz at least once in their lifetime.”                                 – Deborah B., Philadelphia, PA       Veracruz 2013

Robert Straub is the best guide I have ever worked with. He realy enjoys showing ‘his’ birds and ‘his’ chosen place to others.”     – Nathaniel W., Edinburgh, Scotland       Veracruz ABA tour 2009


  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)

    13 days / 12 nights



    $2800.00 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Veracruz City.


    Single Supplement

    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $325.00 will be assessed


    What is Included / Not Included

    Included in the cost are all accommodations, meals, transportation, boat rides and entrance fees , from Veracruz City.

    Not included in the cost are alcoholic drinks, tips and items of a personal nature.




    $500.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Registration Form


    How to Book

    In order to hold your space, you must complete the Registration Form found on-line, and submit it to us on-line, or download a copy and mail it to us, along with a $500.00 deposit per participant.


    Final Payment

    Full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date


  • Itinerary
  • Brief Itinerary

    Day 1: Arrive in Veracruz City; Transfer to Cardel

    Day 2 & 3: Cardel, La Antigua and Rio Escondido

    Day 4, 5 & 6: Transfer to Xalapa; El Mirador, Parque Macquiltepetl and Las Minas

    Day 7, 8 & 9: Transfer to Cardel; La Joya, La Mancha; Playa Chalchiuecan

    Day 10 & 11: Transfer to Catemaco; Las Barrancas, Alvarado wetlands, UNAM Biological Station and Laguna de Sontecomapan

    Day 12: Nanciyaga and La Jungla; Transfer to Veracruz

    Day 13: Early morning departure from Veracruz City



    Day 1: Arrival at Veracruz Airport. Transfer to Cardel

    Upon your mid-day arrival in Veracruz City you will transfer to Cardel. The remainder of the day will be spent relaxing and hawk watching from the rooftop of our hotel. 3 nights in Cardel.


    Day 2 & 3: Cardel, La Antigua and Rio Escondido.

    Our mornings will include visits to La Catalana, a dry thorn and scrub habitat inhabited by Rufous-naped Wren and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, and Playa Juan Angel where Aplomado Falcons can be seeing hunting along the coastal dunes; Fork-tailed Flycatchers are in the open fields; Collared Plovers are found along the beach and Collared Forest-Falcons are often heard calling from deep in the forest.


    Day 4, 5 & 6: Transfer to Xalapa; El Mirador, Parque Macquiltepetl and Las Minas.

    We transfer to Xalapa for 3 nights. On the way we visit a wonderful coffee plantation with a stunning array of species including Blue-crowned Motmot, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Wedge tailed Sabrewing, Common Brush Tanager, White-winged Tanager and both Olivaceous and Ivory-billed Woodcreeper as well as colorful butterflies such as Goldman's Mapwings, morphos and Malachites. - On our final morning we'll visit Las Minas, a dramatic canyon set among the high plateau of central Mexico. Here the pines hold the striking Red Warbler, Golden-browed and Crescent-chested Warbler, Grey Silkys, Mountain Trogon and the endemic Striped Sparrow. From here we continue to the foothills of the Cofre de Perote to Los Humeros, where the beautiful and unique desert habitat dominated by Joshua Trees and Agave's holds Scott's Oriole, Western Scrub Jay and White-eared Hummingbird.


    Day 7, 8 & 9: Transfer to Cardel; La Joya, La Mancha; Playa Chalchiuecan. Descending back into the coastal plain, our first stop is at La Joya, a small patch of pines and dense underbrush similar to Las Minas, where Collared Towhee, Rufous-capped Brushfinch, Russet Nightingale Thrush, Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed Siskin and the altitudinal migrant, Tufted Flycatcher are possible. We keep in touch with the hawk counters and hope to be in the right place at the right time to catch the "River of Raptors", which often is at Chichicaxtle, Pronaturaxs inland site during the mid to late afternoon hours. - For a change of pace we will visit the ruins at Cempoala, where we learn the traditions of the Totonacas and of their encounters with the Spaniards and also visit a field at dusk to witness a million Davy's Naked-backed and Ghost-faced Bats leave their cave!


    Day 10 & 11: Transfer to Catemaco; Las Barrancas, Alvarado wetlands, UNAM Biological Station and Laguna de Sontecomapan.

    The extensive Alvarado lagoon and wetlands is located on the expansive coastal plain south of Veracruz. Here amongst the wet savannah of Las Barrancas, Pinnated Bittern, Double-striped Thick-knee, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and Mangrove Swallow can be found. We'll also look for Common Tody Flycatcher nesting in a small patch of shrubs and hope to see Great Black-Hawk. The wetlands hold Snail Kite and Limpkin, and Black-collared Hawk are occasionally seen. At Catemaco we encounter lush tropical coastal open habitat and remnant patches of rain forest. Along the edges of forest we'll search for White Hawks and Bat Falcon, which can be seen chasing swallows. Colorful species such as Violaceous Trogons, Lineated Woodpecker, Black-cowled Oriole, Keel-billed Toucans and Collared Aracari's can be seen along side Smoky-brown and Golden-Olive Woodpecker; Black-headed Saltator's and Lesser Greenlets at the UNAM Biological Station. With luck we'll come across an ant swarm and the possibility of Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner, Ivory-billed or Barred Woodcreeper and Stub-tailed Spadebill. We take a leisurely afternoon boat ride through the Laguna de Sontecomapan where Violet Sabrewings can be seen nectaring on riverbank vines and three secretive species, the Sungrebe, the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and Pygmy Kingfisher are occasionally spotted. At our hotel, roosting Mottled Owls can often be found.


    Day 12: Nanciyaga and La Jungla; Transfer to Veracruz

    Our final morning of birding will be spent walking through the remnant tropical forest at La Jungla and Nanciyaga nature reserve, where the thick vegetation and tall trees hold both Spot-breasted and White-breasted Wood-Wrens, Little and Long-tailed Hermits, and in the past has produced a wide variety of warblers including Kentucky and Northern Waterthrush. The marsh around Lake Catemaco has traditionally been a great place to see Ruddy Crake. As we make our way to Veracruz, we'll stop along the gulf coast for some sea watching where Black Terns have been seen in large numbers as well as Parasitic Jaegers chasing Royal and Sandwich Terns. We finish our tour with a pleasant evening reminiscing about the trip in the beautiful and bustling Veracruz town square over a drink!


    Day 13: Early morning departure from Veracruz

  • Accommodations
  • Hotel Bienvenido, Cardel We have booked 3 star hotels, all with en-suite bathrooms.  All have air-conditioning with the exception of the Posada in Xalapa (cooler due to the higher elevation), which has ceiling fans. This is a very quaint 2-story hotel with a lovely small courtyard.



    Note: The Bienvenido in Cardel (above) falls below this standard. The rooftop at the Bienvenido is also the hawk watch site and the reason that we stay there.


    La-Finca-BINNS-copyThe La Finca (left) is located on Catemaco Lake and has rooms on two floors.


    Our final night will be in Veracruz at the Colonial, situated on the square and within walking distance of harbor, shops and nightlife.


  • Additional Info
  • Birds of MexicoRecommended Field Guide:

    A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America

    (Oxford University Press, 1995)

    by Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb




    This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.


    Keep up with the daily and seasonal veracruz-raptors-505x600-BINNS-IMG_3833-copy

    River of Raptors count data

    at the 2 sites in Veracruz.

    -   Cardel

    -   Chichicaxtle




    The weather along the coastal birding sites can be quite hot and humid with temperatures reaching the low 90’s. In the highlands outside of Xalapa daytime temperatures could dip down to the cool 40-50’s. Since our stay in Veracruz occurs at the end of the rainy season, we should not encounter too much rain and when it does rain it often lasts for only a portion of the day. Of course one can expect at least some rain in the cloud and rain forest!


    Walking / Terrain / Fitness:

    Walking will be at a slow pace, and no more than 2-5 miles a day. Please be aware that there will be walking/hiking over uneven terrain, occasionally slippery rocks, and pathways through woods in tropical heat in particular at Xalapa and Catemaco.

    You must be in good health and physically able to keep up with the group in the ordinary course of these field activities. There is a steady climb in the park at Xalapa along a smooth paved path, which culminates in a dirt path down into the caldera. The rest of the tour is likely to be on flatter ground.


  • Species Lists
  • List of Bird Species Seen of Previous Veracruz Trips 1999-2014


    List of Other Wildlife Species Seen of Previous Veracruz Trips 1999-2014


    Red Warbler Andrea Mondragón ccVeracruz is host to 31 Mexican endemics, including the Red Warbler (left), as well as 7 endemic subspecies.


    The Red Warbler is endemic to the pine-oak highlands north of the Isthmus. On our Veracruz tour we often find this stunning bird in mixed-species flocks at La Joya or Las Minas.