Boa and Turquoise-browed Motmot


Yucatan Peninsula - Jun 2007
by Henry Detwiler

Suzanne, Becky, Adriana, Gaby, and I spent five days in Cancun and the surrounding area looking at ruins, monkeys, cenotes, and of course, birds.  
90 species--bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.   

We arrived late on Tuesday night and settled into our hotel room overlooking the Caribbean.  After a leisurely buffet breakfast the next morning, we drove down the coast to our first stop, the botanical gardens at Puerto Morelos.

Dreams Resort, Cancun

Iguana at Botanical Gardens

We spent the afternoon back at the resort, playing in the ocean, watching Magnificent Frigatebirds and Sooty Terns, and sampling the fine cuisine

Here we found our first ruins, and saw what they looked like before they were  excavated.  We saw some fine iguanas, and got our first look at the birds, too.  Here were Altamira & Orange Orioles, Banaquits, Yucatan Flycatchers, and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers.

Unexcavated Mayan Ruin at Botanical Gardens

Chichen Itza

Along the rock walls and among the rocks, we found lots of iguanas.  In the forested areas were many Clay-colored Robins and our first Turquoise-browed Motmots.


The next day we left early for Chichen Itza, the magnificent ruins in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula.  We got there before the hoards of tourists arrived, and were greeted by lots of birds in the parking lot: Caribbean  Doves and Ruddy Ground-Doves, Social & other Flycatchers, Great Kiskadees, and lots of orioles.

Chichen Itza ball court

The ruins were awesome, but tourists were no longer allowed to climb on any of the pyramids.  Some of the friezes depicted scenes of jaguars, snakes, and eagles eating hearts.  Vendors plied their wares along most of the paths, and especially along the ancient road to the sacred cenote (limestone sinkhole).  Here we saw many motmots and lots of feeding Cave Swallows.

Chichen Itza

Ikkil Cenote

At Gran Cenote you could swim into the caverns and look up at giant fruit bats.

One of the highlights of the trip was swimming in these cenotes.  We visited three of them, and really liked both the Ikkil and Gran Cenotes. The water was clear and cool, and at Ikkil you could jump or dive off a stairway built against the wall. 

Girls at Gran Cenote

Howler Monkey

On Saturday morning we drove even farther afield to Punta Laguna, where we hiked several trails in search of monkeys and birds.  We never did hear the fantastic cries of the howler monkeys, but we did spot three of them lounging on the top of a ceiba tree.

A chattering call drew our attention to this spectacular Black-headed Trogon. It continued to call even as we all looked at it through our binoculars.  Spot-breasted Wrens  called from the brush while vireos sang from the tree-tops. In addition to the birds, the trails were alive with insects, lizards, bromeliads and other epiphytes.

Black-headed Trogon

Owl Butterfly, Punta Laguna

One of these large and beautiful owl butterflies actually landed on Suzanne's pants.  In several places we also saw the cryptically marked bark-loving butterfly pictured below.  We also saw Zebra and Erato Heliconians, two bright and striking species. 

Butterfly, Puerto Morelos

I spent Sunday morning birding with Luis Ku west of Puerto Morelos.  He took me through some fine habitat, albeit damaged by Hurricane Wilma, and we saw lots of great birds.  Some of the better sights were the many Rose-throated Tanagers, White-bellied Emeralds, Yucatan Woodpeckers, Bentbills, a multitude of flycatchers & vireos, and this shedding Grasshopper.  Luis was very happy to see a Flame-colored Tanager, a montane bird only rarely seen during migration.


Rose-throated Tanager

From the top of the "zip-lining" tower at the Puma Cenote, we finally got good looks at the male Rose-throated Tanager.  Back along the main road, Luis called in this Violaceous Trogon.

Violaceous Trogon

Turquoise-browed Motmot

One of the spectacular birds that was new for me on this trip was the Turquoise-browed Motmot.  At the Puma Cenote we watched this individual feeding actively.  As we were walking away from the area, I heard a brief squawk, and looked around some trees to see what had made the noise.  To our amazement, a boa had snatched the motmot, and was commencing to suffocate it.

We each snapped quite a few photos, Luis with his cell phone, and I with my Canon SLR.  It was a memorable way to end our birding trip together.

Boa and Turquoise-browed Motmot

Boa and Turquoise-browed Motmot

While I was out birding with Luis, the girls were enjoying the "Dolphin Experience" back at the hotel.  The vacation ended all too soon the next morning, when we flew back to San Diego, collected the car, and drove home to Yuma.

Yucatan Peninsula, 21-25 June 2007
Species Latin
Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens
Great Egret Ardea alba
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Green Heron Butorides virescens
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla
Elegant Tern Sterna elegans
Least Tern Sterna antillarum
Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Scaled Pigeon Patagioenas speciosa
Red-billed Pigeon Patagioenas flavirostris
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
Ruddy Ground-Dove Columbina talpacoti
Blue Ground-Dove Claravis pretiosa
Caribbean Dove Leptotila jamaicensis
Olive-throated Parakeet Aratinga nana
White-fronted Parrot Amazona albifrons
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana
Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostris
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium brasilianum
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing Campylopterus curvipennis
Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila
White-bellied Emerald Agyrtria candida
Black-headed Trogon Trogon melanocephalus
Violaceous Trogon Trogon violaceus
Blue-crowned Motmot Momotus momota
Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa
Yucatan Woodpecker Melanerpes pygmaeus
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus
Ruddy Woodcreeper Dendrocincla homochroa
Barred Woodcreeper Dend. Certhia
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigaster
Barred Antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Elaenia flavogaster
Northern Bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare
Yellow-olive Flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens
Species Latin
Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus
Bright-rumped Attila Attila spadiceus
Yucatan Flycatcher Myiarchus yucatanensis
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Myiodynastes luteiventris
Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius
Couch's Kingbird Tyrannus couchii
Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata
Black-crowned Tityra Tityra inquisitor
Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva
Spot-breasted Wren Thryothorus maculipectus
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus
White-browed Wren Thryothorus albinucha
Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus
Tropical Gnatcatcher Polioptila plumbea
Green Jay Cyanocorax yncas
Brown Jay Cyanocorax morio
Yucatan Jay Cyanocorax yucatanicus
Yellow-green Vireo Vireo flavoviridis
Black-whiskered Vireo Vireo altiloquus
Yucatan Vireo Vireo magister
Lesser Greenlet Hylophilus decurtatus
Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager Habia rubica
Red-throated Ant-Tanager Habia fuscicauda
Rose-throated Tanager Piranga roseogularis
Flame-colored Tanager Piranga bidentata
Scrub Euphonia Euphonia affinis
Yellow-throated Euphonia Euphonia hirundinacea
Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus
Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivacea
Green-backed Sparrow Arremonops chloronotus
Grayish Saltator Saltator coerulescens
Black-headed Saltator Saltator atriceps
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Blue Bunting Cyanocompsa parellina
Melodious Blackbird Dives dives
Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus
Orange Oriole Icterus auratus
Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus
Black-cowled Oriole Icterus prosthemelas
Yellow-billed Cacique Amblycercus holosericeus

Photos Henry Detwiler