A bit like their human counterparts, after a summer of flying, flirting, mating, and watching their young grow up in the USA and Canada, over 4 billion birds of over 350 species fatten themselves up and head out for a holiday south, with about 200 spending the season in Yucatán.
One of the most remarkable is the tiny 3.5g ruby throated hummingbird. With one of the highest metabolisms of any animal, these birds fly for over 20 hours and 950 kilometers, through the night, across the Gulf of México. They are of exceptional importance due to their unique ability to pollinate plants that other pollinators can’t reach.
Migrating birds face perilous conditions and nearly a quarter die during the journey. Humans add to the danger through habitat destruction, hunting, and light pollution, which can disorient birds resulting in fatal collisions with buildings at night.
This migration is hugely important to our local economy, fast becoming one of Yucatán’s biggest ecotourism hits. With the region being home to over half of all the bird species found in México, Yucatán is extremely attractive to birders and birding is a perfect activity for social distancing.
While the famous flamingos are already on almost every visitor’s agenda, there are so many more exciting birding opportunities available. Many birders come to spot regionally endemic species such as the perfectly named Yucatán jay and the charismatic ocellated turkey, but it’s the chance to see birds from both the east and west of the USA and Canada, all visiting at once, that makes birding in Yucatán so special.
There aren’t many places that are better for birding than the 60,000-hectare Ria Celestún Biosphere Reserve, serving as both a wintering site and the first stop along the route south for migratory birds. A paradise for birds and bird lovers alike, threatened migratory species such as the piping plover, snowy plover, and wood thrush can be spotted through the winter.
Backyard birding in Yucatán is easy too, and if you want to participate in international birding activities from home, it’s simple with the Ebird app, which is free and allows anyone to take part in one of the biggest biodiversity research projects in the world. You can also help to protect migratory birds in Yucatán by supporting Proyecto Santa María, our only multi-species avian rescue and rehab.
Editorial by Colette Kase and Jamal Andrewin Bohn
Photography by Isias Morataya, Bill Drennon, and Cherrie Pitillo
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