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Golden Gate ~ 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 500,000 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 250 species, including over 30 species of raptors, nearly 20 species of hummingbirds and numerous endemics. In the coastal lowlands we will visit La Mancha Biological Station, a research site with mangroves, a beautiful beach and small lagoons. Local birds include Laughing and Aplomado Falcons, Zone-tailed Hawk and both Common and Great Black Hawks, with a chance for Boat-billed Heron. Las Barrancas is a vast grassland savannah that holds Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Double-striped Thick-knee, Common Tody-Flycatcher and Plain-breasted Ground-Dove and, in areas of wet meadows, Pinnated Bittern. In the foothills near 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. 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 Berylline. We see a complete change of habitat above Xalapa, in the beautiful pine and pine-oak forests, where many of our endemic species will be found along with spectacular mixed flocks of warblers and other species. Focus: RAPTORS and other 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  
  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)

    10 days / 9 nights


    Dates & Cost

    $2500.00 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Veracruz City.


    NOTE: Your trip cost includes a donation to ProNatura, Mexico's premier conservation organization, who runs the hawk watch sites.


    Single Supplement

    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $295.00 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

  • Itinerary
  • Brief Itinerary

    Day 1: Arrive Veracruz airport and transfer to Cardel.
    Day 2: Birding and Hawk watching in Cardel area.
    Day 3: Birding and Hawk watching in Cardel area.
    Day 4: Morning in Cardel, but afternoon departure to Xalapa.
    Day 5: Birding Xalapa area.
    Day 6: Birding Xalapa area-highlands. Afternoon return to Cardel.
    Day 7: Birding and Hawk watching in Cardel area.
    Day 8: Birding and Hawk watching in Cardel area.
    Day 9: Early birding at Las Barrancas and Alvarado area. Afternoon to Veracruz City.
    Day 10: Flights home.



    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.
    Early mornings will include visits to Quiahuiztlan, a dry thorn and scrub habitat inhabited by the endemic subspecies of 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.

    Before heading to the hawkwatch for the afternoon, we will enjoy a boat trip in La Antigua to enjoy many wetland species. Late morning through late afternoon will be spent counting hawks as conditions allow. If poor conditions, we will explore other areas in search of raptors and many other good birds.

    Day 4, 5: Transfer to Xalapa, Parque Macquiltepetl and Xico Falls
    We transfer to Xalapa for 2 nights.

    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 6, 7, 8: Afternoon transfer to Cardel, La Joya, La Mancha; Playa Chalchihuecan
    Descending back into the coastal plain, our first stop is at La Joya, a small patch of pines and dense underbrush, where Collared Towhee, Rufous-capped Brushfinch, Russet Nightingale Thrush, Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed Siskin and the altitudinal migrant, Tufted Flycatcher are possible. Here the pines hold amazing mixed flocks, which may include the striking Red Warbler, Golden-browed and Crescent-chested Warblers.

    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.

    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, Pronatura's 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.
    Day 9: Transfer to (VERACRUZ CITY)
    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.

    In the afternoon we make our way to Veracruz City and finish our tour with a pleasant evening reminiscing about the trip in the beautiful and bustling Veracruz town square over a drink!
    Day 10: 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.



    The rooftop at the Bienvenido in Cardel (above) is also the hawk watch site.


    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 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 1999-2012


    List of Other Wildlife Species Seen of Previous Veracruz Trips 1999-2012


    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.