Mexico: Western

Visiting classic destinations in this endemic-rich region, we will target all endemics and near-endemics including the mega Tufted Jay, beautiful Red Warbler, Orange-breasted Bunting, Elegant Quail, Balsas Screech-Owl and Long-tailed Wood Partridge, amongst many more stunning Mexican and Central American species.

Next dates

27 March - 9 April 2024

Tour length: 14 days

Group size limit: 7


Daniel Aldana and local leader René Valdés

Guaranteed departure

15-28 February 2025

Tour length: 14 days

Group size limit: 8


Daniel Aldana and local leader René Valdés

Spaces available

NOTE: Despite current media coverage of the risky security situation in Mexico, this tour does not go to any areas which we consider unsafe. Ornis is committed to objectively reassessing the situation three months before this tour, then providing a full and immediate refund of deposit should the situation have changed and we decide to cancel (as per our Terms & Conditions).

Day 1: The tour starts at Manzanillo International Airport (ZLO) at midday. We will drive a short distance to our first birding site, close to Barra de Navidad. In the immediate vicinity of this locality lies some great patches of good forest, where we will look for our first West Mexican endemics like the cool San Blas Jays, beautiful Red-breasted Chat, Flammulated Flycatcher, Lilac-crowned Amazon, White-bellied Wren, Olive Sparrow, Golden-crowned Emerald, West Mexican Chachalaca amongst a wealth of other commoner but nonetheless interesting species. We will spend the night at Barra de Navidad.

Day 2: We will have a full morning in the Barra da Navidad area to find all specialties mentioned above, and explore nearby lagoons and scrubs where we might well find Rufous-necked Wood Rail or Spot-breasted Oriole. In the afternoon, we will continue our journey towards Colima, where we will spend the next two nights.

Day 3: In the area surrounding Colima, thorn-forest sites typical of the Balsas drainage will yield exciting endemics like the striking Black-chested Sparrow, Sclater’s Wren, Banded Quail, and at night the scarce Balsas Screech-Owl. One of the highlights of the whole trip will be watching the sublime Orange-breasted Bunting, which we have a very good chance of finding at this location. Other great birds may well include Lesser Ground Cuckoo or White-throated Magpie-Jay.

Day 4-5: An early start on Day 4 will see us reaching the scenic Nevado de Colima and its two famous volcanoes for two days of great birding! Endemics and near-endemics to be found here include Long-tailed Wood Partridge, the nomadic Aztec Thrush, rare Slaty and Dwarf Vireos, stunning Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Collared Towhee, Green-striped Brushfinch, Grey-barred Wren, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, our first jewel-like Red Warblers (here of the white-eared race), Mexican Violetear, Dickey’s (Audubon’s) Oriole, Pine and Buff-breasted Flycatchers amongst many others. A number of exciting night birds occur at this location, so we’ll have to make a special effort to have a good chance to find them all! They include the scarce Northern Saw-whet Owl, Whiskered Screech Owl, Stygian Owl, the near-endemic Mountain Pygmy Owl, Buff-collared Nightjar, Mexican Whip-poor-will and Eared Poorwill. Nights at Ciudad Guzman.

Day 6: After a final morning on Nevado de Colima, we will depart north towards San Blas. On the way, we’ll stop at several lagoons and look for Mexican Duck, the endemic Black-backed Oriole, the shy Aztec Rail and more widespread species like Clark’s Grebe and Yellow-headed Blackbird, amongst others. We will arrive at San Blas in the late afternoon, our base for the next four nights.

Day 7-8-9: We will have three full days to cover a number of sites around the idyllic fishing village of San Blas, all hosting a great number of endemic and striking species. We will be birding the pine-oak forests of Cerro San Juan and foothill woodlands, as well as the nearby lowlands, where Elegant Quail, Colima Pygmy Owl, Mexican Woodnymph, Mexican Hermit,  Calliope Hummingbird, Mexican Parrotlet, Collared Forest Falcon, Elegant and endemic Citreoline Trogons, Russet-crowned Motmots, Golden-cheeked and Grey-crowned Woodpeckers, Sinaloa and Spotted Wrens and West Mexican Euphonia should all feature. We will also make a special effort to find the monotypic Rosy Thrush-Tanager. There´s even a small chance to see the rare Greater Swallow-tailed Swift. After dark, we will be looking for nightbirds and have chances to see the cracking Eared Poorwill, Black-and-white and the rare Cinereous Owls. Several rivers flow into the sea here and create vast expanses of swamps, mangroves and seasonnal lagoons and host huge numbers of waterbirds including  American Avocets, Roseate Spoonbills and lots of migrant waders, including Stilt Sandpiper, and ducks. One evening, we will travel by boat through the mangroves to the delightful springs of La Tovara, where we might well find Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Mangrove Rail, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Boat-billed Heron and, after dark, the strange Northern Potoo and Common Pauraque.

Day 10: We will head northwards after some final morning birding, reaching the famous Durango Highway in time for our first session of birding there this afternoon. Along the way, we will make a stop in search of the Endangered and localized Sierra Madre Sparrow.

Day 11-12: Our two full days along the Durango Highway will be focused on finding some of Western Mexico’s most sought-after endemics in fabulous native pine forest. These include the fabulous Tufted Jay, which we will be looking for at la Reserva de la Chara Pinta. The quality of birding at this location is just outstanding, so we’ll allow enough time to connect with many great species like White-striped Woodcreeper, stunning Red and Red-faced Warblers, Red-headed Tanager and many more widespread birds like Blue-throated Mountaingem, endemic Bumblebee Hummingbird and near-endemic Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, near-endemic Pine Flycatcher, Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrow or the near-endemic Yellow-eyed Junco. In recent years, the mythical Eared Quetzal has become much easier to see, so we stand a good chance of connecting with this mega! Sadly, the once regular Sinaloa Martins have seemingly disappeared from the area. Some nightbirding might well produce Whiskered Screech Owl, Stygian Owl or Mexican Whip-Poorwill.

Day 13: We have timed our 2024 tour to coincide with a total solar eclipse occuring this morning (8th of April), and we will make sure to be in prime viewing position for this rare event! Following some final morning birding lower down the Durango Highway, we will continue to the foothills Mazatlan, well-adorned with fabulous thorn forest. We will spend some time here this afternoon, and during the course of the day we might well encounter the shy Lesser Roadrunner, endemic Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Golden-crowned Emerald,  huge Military Macaws, Mexican Parrotlet, Black-throated Magpie-Jays, the endemic Happy Wren, Fan-tailed Warbler, Black-capped and Golden Vireos, Red-breasted Chat, Pyrrhuloxia, and many more. We will spend the night in Mazatlan.

Day 14: We will have another morning birding in the vicinity of Mazatlan, looking for some scarce endemics like Elegant Quail and Purplish-backed Jay or any other species we would have missed the day before. We will then make our way to Mazatlan International Airport (MZT) where the tour will end this afternoon.

NOTE: Our local agent can assist any participants wishing to extend for four days to Baja California in search of Baja Pygmy Owl, Belding’s Yellowthroat, Xantu’s Hummingbird, Grey Thrasher, and Baird’s Junco (the latter requiring a strenuous multi-hour hike). Please let us know if this is of interest to you at the time of booking. 

Tour details

Cost: $ 5,600
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 750

Accommodation: All comfortable hotels.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy roadside and trail birding.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.