Birds to watch 272

Puerto Vallarta Highway, Coastal Highway to Barra de Navidad Km 24

Combine birds, blooms, and beauty at one of North America's premier botanic gardens—now designated among the “Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Traveling For" by the North American Garden Tourism Conference (a program managed by the Canadian Garden Council) on this half day Birding in Mexico excursion).

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Bird List




- Popularity of this tour:  This tour is very popular with birding day trippers from Puerto Vallarta.  Birding in Mexico offers half day tours to this prime birding site, and they can be combined with either the Military Macaw Sanctuary or Las Juntas y Los Veranos, time permitting.

Short description: Started by Texan native Bob Price in 2004 and once a degraded scrape on a hillside in Cabo Corrientes, the now lushly foliated and welcoming Jardín Botánico Vallarta (Vallarta Botanic Garden) is a keystone natural landmark in Cabo Corrientes and a must see destination for any visitor to Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit!

According to the Garden’s publication, El Papelillo / The Leaflet —“The Vallarta Botanical Garden’s Preserve totals nearly 32 hectares (79 acres) and of this, almost 30 hectares (75 acres) are dedicated preserve lands— that’s over 90% of the property [covered in native forest]!”   

Highlight birds are those inhabiting the interface between three biomes here—the upper edge of the Sinaloan Thorn Forest, lower Encinal (Pine-Oak Woodland) and Riparian ecosystems associated with the still wild Rio Los Horcones which bisects this keystone wildlife sanctuary in Cabo Corrientes.  There are plans for the Garden to expand its preserve by 50% by 2021.


Seasonally common birds here include West Mexican Chachalaca, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Russet-crowned Motmot, Plain-capped Starthroat, Violet-crowned and Broad-billed hummingbirds, San Blas and Green jays, Ferruginous and Colima pygmy-owls, White-throated Thrush, Yellow-winged Cacique, Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and now Military Macaws have been documented occupying nest boxes strategically placed on natural pines at the highest extremities of the property for this very purpose! 

Even Black-and-White and Black hawk-eagles have been definitively identified soaring over the property, and camera traps have documented wild Jaguars mere kilometers away on the Rio Los Horcones!

To see a full listing of VBG’s rich birding potentialities, organized by habitat and seasonality, please press here

*Through your participation and entrance fees generated, Birding in Mexico will make a generous contribution to the Vallarta Botanic Garden to help it keep up its good work in Cabo Corrientes, and our dedication to conservation through ecotourism!  Thank you! 


Click on each activity to see more details

  • Diamond 1

    Private Pickup

    7:00a.m. sharp in Puerto Vallarta!

    Birding in Mexico (BIM) will cheerfully pick you up at either your hotel or a prearranged meeting point—usually the parking lot for Walmart / Sam’s Club off of Francisco Medina Ascencio—near the Liverpool Galleria across from the cruise ship terminal—then whisk you away to begin your wonderful birding adventure in paradise.  

    *Timings are approximate.  Please be punctual.  Casual window birding en route between each destination.  We may vary the order of places visited during this itinerary, depending on seasonality, tips from our regional birding friends and exciting discoveries from recent BIM / VBG outings.

  • Diamond 2

    Driving time between Vallarta and Today’s BIM Hotspot—Vallarta Botanic Garden—with brief stops at Los Arcos National Park and the Canyon of the Rio Los Horcones en route (30.9 kms / 60 minutes)


    After your private pickup utilizing a modern, high quality, air conditioned vehicle, we will follow coastal Highway #200 south from Vallarta, traveling through a beautiful array of still largely intact habitats.  We transit extensive deciduous Sinaloan Thorn Forest in the coastal lowlands—where the highway borders the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, passing by a small chain of islands known as Los Arcos National Park and Marine Reserve, where Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Blue-footed and Brown boobies, and Gray-breasted Martins may easily be seen—to reach Boca Tomatlan, located at the mouth of the Rio Los Horcones.  

    Knowing that the VBG officially opens at 9:00a.m., we will take the time to stop and scan for these and other interesting birds here.

    From Boca Tomatlan, the highway turns inland and ascends the dramatic canyon of the Rio Los Horcones, grading from thorn forest to montane tropical forest and encinal (pine-oak woodland).  

    This river is one of the only unobstructed, naturally flowing rivers remaining locally.  The small community of Las Juntas y Los Veranos sits atop this canyon and the Vallarta Botanic Garden lies a few kilometers beyond.  

    During our early morning drive, we can safely pull aside at a strategic turnoff to look for a haze of White-collared Swifts swirling above the highway, as our transit coincides with their early a.m. activities as they leave their roost site deep in the canyon each morning.  

    Military Macaws and Lilac-crowned Parrots are also frequent overhead while driving this route, so we will listen for and keep an eye out for their silhouettes in the sky while scanning for swifts and as we ascend the grade.

  • Diamond 3

    Arrival, Breakfast Snacks and first Comfort Stop at Today’s BIM Hotspot—Vallarta Botanic Garden


    After arrival we will bird the entrance road, which is one of the best places at the Garden to spot the endemic Gray-crowned Woodpecker and Golden-crowned Emerald, in addition to a plethora of more common birds of the dry tropical forest ecosystem. 

    Complimentary breakfast snacks will be provided to boost your energy levels while concurrently scanning an overview of the canyon of the Rio Los Horcones for birds first thing this morning.

    Usually this “continental breakfast” consists of yogurt, fruit, juices, granola bars and other nutritious options.  Cold, bottled fresh water and a selection of soft drinks—including diet alternatives—are also readily on tap.  Supplies are limited.  We apologize if your preferred flavor is not available.

    Restrooms are available on site at the VBG headquarters area.  

    *Approximate trail walking distance is 1-2 kilometers, and ranges from easy to moderate, and the pace is relaxed.

    *Timing is approximate and which trail we take or in which order may vary due to seasonality, weather, trail conditions and previous BIM experiences at VBG; we also reserve the right to alter the stated program for the better in the event that we learn of a special nearby birding opportunity or rarity.

  • Diamond 4

    Birding the Sendero Rio (River Trail)


    First up:  We will begin a loop trail by birding our way down an easily walkable escalera (stair case) to access the Rio Los Horcones and the Sendero Rio (River Trail), where commonly encountered birds of the riverside environment include Green Kingfisher, Black Phoebe and both Northern and Louisiana waterthrushes—all frequently seen in season.  It is along this stretch where we also have our best chances of sighting the endemic Colima Pygmy-Owl and possibilities to glass a snazzy Fan-tailed Warbler and other more common neotropical resident birds.

  • Diamond 5

    Birding the Sendero Jaguar (Jaguar Trail):


    Continuing along the Rio Los Horcones, we’ll ascend a series of switchbacks, birding all the while, to explore the infrequently birded Jaguar Trail—home to shier understory species such as Russet-crowned Motmot and canopy birds like the Bright-rumped Attila, etc. 

    This loop eventually returns us to the VBG Headquarters where we began our hike, just in time to make a comfort stop, browse the gift shop, then watch and photograph the comical activities of a constellation of fluttering, colorful birds attracted by the VBG’s scheduled 11a.m. bird feeding session.  

    Comfortable seating and tables are available, and clients should feel welcome to order some refreshments and snacks for themselves, as well, all on the house, courtesy BIM!

  • Diamond 6

    Scheduled fruit feeder restocking attracts both birds and birders to the VBG’s Bird Feeding Station:


    Well established fruit and nectar feeders maintained by the VBG for years now regularly attract a plethora of exciting regional birds, all of which are conditioned to expect a literal smorgasbord of high quality fruit and hard boiled eggs fit for a king.  

    West Mexican Chachalaca (endemic); White-tipped Dove, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (endemic); Green and San Blas (endemic) jays; White-throated Thrush and Yellow-winged Cacique, are all regulars at the station and can be easily seen and photographed from above, while you stand comfortably shaded on the cheerful first story verandah of Restaurante Hacienda del Oro enjoying the frenzied antics of the fearless birds below you!  

  • Diamond 7

    Enjoy Lunch (for BIM’s full and half-day options), a Comfort Stop, and Independent Exploration of VBG, followed by exciting Bonus Birding Opportunities for our full-day participants:


    After exploring the VBG’s bird rich trail system, our appetites whetted from the birding excitement of the morning, we have the fantastic option of having lunch and refreshments at VBG’s open-air Hacienda del Oro restaurant, replete with several active hummingbird feeders hanging from its eves, while taking in the majestic view of the Preserve’s verdant hillsides and canyon of the Rio Los Horcones below us, while we compile our checklist for the day.

    Plain-capped Starthroat, Broad-billed, Ruby-throated and Violet-crowned hummingbirds are the most common seasonal regulars at VBGs hummingbird feeders.

    12:30p.m.-1:00p.m.—You will have 30 minutes of independent exploration to enjoy the VBG’s cultivated plantings, their Holstein Tropical Plant House, Orchid, Cactus and Bromeliad Houses, etc., before we reconvene.

    Half-day groups return to Vallarta at 1:00p.m. while the full-day groups will go on to explore the nearby Military Macaw Sanctuary before making their way back to Puerto Vallarta.

  • Diamond 8

    The Military Macaw Reserve for Full-Day Groups (10 kms / 25 mins):


    Those participating on the full-day option will have the fortuitous opportunity to visit this private rancho turned grassroots conservation area for the endangered Military Macaw—replete with both natural and artificial nesting boxes designed by Jorge Novoa of Las Juntas y Los Veranos — nestled in the refreshing, pine-clad highlands of Cabo Corrientes. 

    Once we arrive at the parking area for the Sanctuary, we will be welcomed by the friendly warden, Francisco Espino, then set off on a 300 m walk on a well-maintained, gravely trail to reach a macaw observation blind overlooking half a dozen nest boxes where the almost incomprehensible, once in a lifetime sight of several pairs of wild Military Macaws is the rule not the exception!  Have your cameras at the ready!

    The prevailing habitat and elevation (617 m / 2025’) here is quite different from that on the VBG’s property (396 m /1300’ elevation).  

    Enjoy the refreshing springtime climate and gentle breezes among the pines and oaks, as you watch for nesting Military Macaws and highland birds like resident Rose-throated becards, Greater Pewee, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Brown-backed Solitaire, Grace’s and Rufous-capped warblers; endemic Lilac-crowned Parrot, Colima Pygmy-Owl and Golden Vireo; in addition to migratory Black-throated Gray, Wilson’s warblers and Painted Redstarts, etc. 

    For a full list of birds recorded at the reserve please press here

    *Through your participation on this option, Birding in Mexico will make a generous contribution to the reserve, in keeping with our dedication to conservation through ecotourism.  Thank you! 

  • Diamond 9

    Repatriation to your Hotel, Pickup Point or Home (41 kms / 65 mins):


    Upon completion of todays Birding in Mexico adventure, each participant will be cordially returned to their original pickup point, with pleasure, and it is our sincere hope that you’ll return to that point very pleased and richer for today’s BIM experience at BVG.

Bird Watch List

** The number of birds per trip may change

1.  Vallarta Botanic Garden:

  • a. Resident Neotropical Species:  Thicket Tinamou; Crested Guan; Red-billed Pigeon,  Inca, White-winged and White-tipped doves; Groove-billed Ani and Squirrel Cuckoo; White-collared and Vaux’s swifts; Plain-capped Starthroat, Broad-billed, Violet-crowned, Berylline and Cinnamon hummingbirds; Black Hawk-Eagle, Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle, Great Black Hawk, Gray, Short-tailed and Zone-tailed hawks; Russet-crowned Motmot; Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl; Green Kingfisher; Acorn Woodpecker; Pale-billed and Lineated woodpeckers; Collared Forest-Falcon and Laughing Falcon; Orange-fronted Parakeet and Military Macaw; Ivory-billed Woodcreeper; Masked Tityra, Rose-throated Becard, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Greater Pewee, Black Phoebe, Nutting’s, Boat-billed and Social flycatchers; Great Kiskadee, Tropical and Thick-billed Kingbirds; Green Jay; White-throated Thrush; Scrub (Goldman’s) Euphonia; Rosy Thrush-Tanager; Stripe-headed Sparrow; Yellow-winged Cacique, Black-vented and Streak-backed orioles; Fan-tailed Warbler; Blue and Varied buntings; and Grayish Saltator, etc. 
  • b.  Mexican Endemics:  West Mexican Chachalaca; Mexican Hermit, Golden-crowned Emerald and Mexican Woodnymph; Colima Pygmy-Owl; Golden-cheeked and Gray-crowned woodpeckers; Lilac-crowned Parrot; Golden Vireo;  San Blas Jay; Happy and Sinaloa wrens; Blue Mockingbird; Rufous-backed Robin; Black-headed Siskin; Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow; Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater, etc. 
  • c.  Migratory species, winter:  Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Belted Kingfisher; Least and Pacific-slope Flycatchers; Black-capped, Bell’s, Plumbeous and Warbling vireos; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; Swainson’s Thrush; Yellow-breasted Chat; Louisiana and Northern waterthrushes, Black-and-White, Nashville, MacGillivray’s warblers, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Yellow and Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) warblers, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler; Summer and Western tanagers; Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli, Indigo and Painted buntings, etc.
  • d.  Migratory species, summer: Brown-crested Flycatcher; Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher; Yellow-green Vireo, etc.

2. Military Macaw Sanctuary at Rancho Sanctuario: 

  • a. Resident Neotropical Species: White-tipped Dove; Squirrel Cuckoo; Common Black and Gray hawks; Elegant Trogon; Russet-crowned Motmot; Orange-fronted Parakeet and Military Macaw; Ivory-billed Woodpecker; Masked Tityra, Gray-collared and Rose-throated becards; Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Greater Pewee, Bright-rumped Attila, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher and Thick-billed Kingbird; Green Jay; Brown-backed Solitaire and White-throated Thrush;  Scrub (Goldman’s) Euphonia; Yellow-winged Cacique and Streak-backed Oriole; Grace’s and Rufous-capped warblers; and Yellow Grosbeak, etc. 
  • b.  Mexican Endemics: West Mexican Chachalaca; Lilac-crowned Parrot; Colima Pygmy-Owl; Golden Vireo; San Blas Jay; Happy Wren, etc. 
  • c.  Migratory species, winter:  Pacific-slope Flycatcher;  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; Black-and-White, Nashville, Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s), Yellow-throated, Black-throated Gray, and Wilson’s warblers and Painted Redstart; Summer Tanager, etc. 
  • d.  Miscellaneous species of interest:  Military Macaw and Common Raven.

1.  Jardín Botánico Vallarta (Vallarta Botanic Garden—272 species):

2.  Rancho El Santuario (81 species):


The most important birds of the zone

Bird map


Click on each question to see more details

  • Diamond 1

    Recommended footwear for today’s excursion?

    All-terrain shoes with ankle support are generally recommended for today’s outing;  tennis shoes are also acceptable—especially in the lowlands en route to VBG—if you do not have high-top footwear.  We highly recommend the former due to possibly rough, rutted, rocky or slippery surfaces—especially while hiking up the moderately steep Jaguar Trail at VBG in the canyon of the Rio Los Horcones.  

    *Walking conditions may vary, dependent on recent weather conditions. 

  • Diamond 2

    What kind and Color of Clothes should I Wear?

    Lightweight clothing—especially light weight slacks—with neutral or earth tone colors (no bright colors or whites please, as they may alert the area’s shy, sharp-eyed birds to our presence, and they may fly away prematurely without giving us reasonably close or prolonged looks, which would be a shame).  Short sleeve shirts are fine. 

    Please also don a hat or cap with a visor or brim (again, no bright colors or whites), to avoid glare, water reflections and sunburn.

    We discourage your wearing of shorts, skirts, bathing attire, or cutoff shirts that expose the mid-rift while on hikes or other outings due to the possible presence of biting insects and to avoid injuries if you stumble.   

    Weather—especially during the summer Monsoon season—is variable according to altitude. We may visit varying habitats and elevations on this excursion, ranging form Sea Level to 373 m / 1225’ at VBG and 617 m / 2025’ at Rancho Sanctuario. 

    Tropical weather is unpredictable at best, so be prepared for any contingency, knowing that at any time of year the weather can turn surprisingly wicked.  Please carry a light duty windbreaker and a fleece to provide comfort during a sudden downpour, especially during the summer monsoon season.

  • Diamond 3

    Sun Protection?

    YES.  Puerto Vallarta, its beaches and surrounding highlands are famous for their clear skies and sunny conditions.  This is the “tropical sun” however, so those unaccustomed, beware!  We will often be exposed to direct sunlight throughout most of the trip, except while riding in the vehicle, viewing birds coming to the bird feeding station at VBG, or eating at Restaurant La Hacienda de Oro (VBG).  

    We recommended using sun screen with a minimum Sun Protection Factor of 30 (preferably 50 SPF or higher for lighter complexions) on your face and other exposed skin surfaces to avoiding sunburns, especially in the coastal environments we will be visiting by foot or vehicle.

  • Diamond 4

    Insect Repellent?

    YES.  Jejenes or “no-see-ums” are a possibility during still mornings, especially during the wet season, but mosquitos are not too much of a problem during the dry season (November-May).  

    Insect repellents containing DEET will vastly improve your outdoor comfort on this expedition.  

    Biting insects can seem almost absent on most of our regional expeditions, and for most of the daylight hours, but can appear unexpectedly, so be prepared by arming yourself with both knowledge and technology.  

    To be sure to avoid being bitten by black flies (i.e., “Jejenes" or “No-See-Ums”) or Mosquitoes, we recommended that you carry repellent with DEET as its active ingredient, applying it liberally on an impromptu basis to counter these blood suckers, while spraying your pant cuffs and socks for chiggers before every outing, regardless of the season.

    You’ll be glad you did, especially during the wet season (June-October)!

    Where chiggers are concerned—chiggers like and are spread by livestock—and livestock may be present in our area of coverage (but not at VBG), you may not even realize you’ve been bitten until 12-24 hours after exposure if you do not preempt by spraying your socks, shoes and pant cuffs; if you don’t and you are bitten (painless and unseen at first) it will be too late and the resultant delayed itching can be formidable. 

    Thankfully, chiggers are harmless and it’s easy to avoid chigger bites by applying repellents containing DEET, and spraying them liberally, as suggested, onto your pant cuffs, socks and shoes before every outing, regardless of the season.

    We recommend a repellent that is sprayable via a non-aerosol propellent, since the pump style repellents may leak inside your daypack, potentially ruining your food, camera gear, or other often expensive equipment carried.  Roll-on-style repellents do not efficiently cover your skin’s surface, nor your pant cuffs or socks, so you are discouraged from using them in favor of a propelled spray.

  • Diamond 5

    Bring your Camera Gear and Binoculars

    It is assumed you have your own binoculars, as this is requisite to fully enjoy our outings!

    If you are also an avid bird and / or wildlife photographer, BIM offers select Bird Photography Expeditions with world renowned photographer, writer, lecturer and bird tour leader Greg R. Homel, throughout Mexico… and the world, for that matter. 

    Please inquire if you are interested in learning more about our bird and wildlife photography-oriented expeditions, or take a look at our website.   

    Our day trips—unless otherwise specified as bird photography-centric—are focused on birding specifically, and photography as an exciting sidebar.  

    Vallarta Botanic Garden has scheduled feeding times for its bird feeder site, which provides excellent opportunities for bird photographers to photograph many normally furtive or canopy species with ease and below eye-level at its feeders.  

    Regardless of the venue, all tour participants should consider themselves encouraged to bring their cameras and practice this enjoyable pastime during any excursion.  

    Recommended equipment should include digital cameras with telephoto lenses equal to the equivalent of at least 400 mm or greater (in 35 mm terms) for your bird photography efforts to be worthwhile in the first place.  Tripods are not recommended on excursion, since it’s reasonable to assume they may interfere with other participants’ freedom of mobility and our logistics.  

    Most modern lenses and many of today’s cameras are equipped with motion countering technology, anyway, making a tripod unnecessary under the conditions we will be operating within.

    Please don’t forget to bring extra batteries and memory cards specific to your camera brand, as well.  

    Lens tissue should also be considered requisite to keep your lenses clean or to wipe incidental water or sea spray off of their (and your binoculars’) objective elements, as environmental conditions are unpredictable in the often wild regions we will be visiting.  If you do not have “lens cleaning tissues," don’t fret—in a pinch normal, one ply, unscented, napkins or toilet paper will work just as well as expensive lens tissue. 

    *Please inquire about loaner binoculars if you or one of your party does not have binoculars but would like to partake in this excursion.  We may have one or two available, free of charge, to lend you.  Apologies in advance if the loan binoculars are already claimed or unavailable for this tour.

  • Diamond 6

    What is this Expedition’s Level of Physical Difficulty?

    Walking conditions here range from EASY (primarily) to MODERATE throughout the excursion.

    Visitors on this lovely excursion will generally encounter easily negotiable trails and foot paths (some, steep with ruts, rocky stretches, wet or muddy conditions, depending on recent weather) near the VBG Visitor’s Center and the main botanical exhibits, grading to more moderately challenging walks along the Senderos Rio, Ficus and Jaguar (River, Fig and Jaguar Trails), etc.

    You should be prepared for any contingency with good cheer and a spirit of adventure, while being aware that if you have to answer the call of nature when we are far from facilities, you may be relegated to using what we affectionately call the “green latrine.”    

    There is up to a  600 m / 1968’ potential altitudinal gain on this excursion so you should be prepared for this, though our vehicle will be doing most of the “climbing” and overland travel for you.  

    Trails in the core section of Vallarta Botanic Garden are partially Wheelchair Accessible.  

    *Please inquire with us as to the potentialities for handicapped participants.

    If possible, we tend to adjust our walking pace to match the physical capabilities of each group.

    In the event that two leaders will accompany your group (which is not guaranteed), it is possible that we will split the group to accommodate clients of varying athletic capabilities.  

    If you have specific concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us in advance of your trip and we will do our best to provide you with accurate information pertinent to your specific needs, while advising you whether or not you would gain commensurately from the excursion you are contemplating.  

  • Diamond 7

    What is Included on my Tour?

    • • All Birding in Mexico excursions include one or more specialized, Government-certified (applicable to Alejandro Martinez, a Mexican Citizen, or other Mexican guides), bilingual guide(s) 
    • • Your guide(s) will carry their own private binoculars at all times during the tour, and where productive, a high quality spotting scope, as well 
    • • Complimentary Birding in Mexico checklists specific to the region will be handed out at your pickup point and an excellent regional field guide authored by Greg R. Homel will be offered for sale 
    • • Breakfast-snacks are included 
    • • Throughout this tour, all Vallarta Botanic Garden and other entrance fees, complimentary snacks, fruit, purified water, and soft drinks are provided with pleasure, as is lunch, if specified in the itinerary
    • • Private ground transportation with pickup and drop-off between Puerto Vallarta and all birding destinations is also included
    • • For your safety and wellbeing a First aid kit is carried on all Birding in Mexico excursions
    • • If you are not a Mexican Citizen, please carry a valid copy of or your actual Passport (or Passport Card) on all Birding in Mexico excursions, since occasional government or military  “Puestos” (road checks) may be encountered and require this.
    • Mexican Citizens should have a valid government-issued identification with them, as well  
    • Also it is wise to bring sufficient cash and your ATM card (please know your PIN), to cover unexpected expenses in the event of an emergency

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