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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Best spots for birding this winter in and around Mérida

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Parrots can be spotted all over Mérida especially early in the morning. They are fairly easy to spot as they are quite loud. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Birdwatching is enjoyed by millions of people across the world, and there are few places better to engage in this relaxing activity than the Yucatán Peninsula.

The region is home to an extremely wide variety of birds endemic to the region, as well as migratory species.

The rose-breasted grosbeak is likely to pay you a visit in your garden in northern Yucatán if you set up a couple of bird feeders. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But in all honestly, one of the major factors that get in the way of enjoying this activity tends to be the peninsula’s heat and humidity, which make spending prolonged periods of time outside (and without a cold drink in hand) rather punishing. 

A woodpecker and flycatcher pose together for a photo. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But fortunately during the winter months, usually starting in late November, the temperatures tend to decrease significantly, making birding expeditions all the more enjoyable.

Birds have long been admired in Mexico and have been featured in the works of art of several Mesoamerican cultures. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

This being said, it is still a good idea to apply plenty of sunblock and get out nice and early to avoid the warmest periods of the day and enjoy the wee hours of the morning when wildlife springs to life.  

Dozens of bird species such as cormorants can be spotted regularly on Yucatán’s long coastline. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

But even if you are not feeling like making your way deep into the countryside there are still plenty of fantastic areas to catch a glimpse of some of Yucatán’s most beautiful species.

Mérida’s Acuaparque

Drone shot of Mérida’s Acuaparque after a particularly heavy rain. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Link to Mérida’s Acuaparque on Google Maps

This manmade lake in the far west of town is perhaps the best place in the entire city to view aquatic birds. Because the park is open 24 hours a day you can show up as early as you like and enjoy that magical early morning light. 

Mérida’s Aquaparque is one of the few spots in town where you can reliably spot water birds. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The Acuaparque has good facilities including bathrooms, and park rangers, though keep in mind that going very late at night is probably not good idea and would make spotting birds difficult.

A Northern Jaracana spreads its wings as it runs along lily pads in Mérida’s Aquaparque. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Dzibilchaltún

The first rays of light begin to project through the temple’s doorway during the autumn equinox in Dzibilchaltún. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Link to Dzibilchaltún on Google Maps

Fifteen minutes north of Mérida is the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltún. Aside from its fascinating Mayan monuments, the site and surrounding town are teeming with wildlife. This is in part thanks to several cenotes in the area which attract a large number of animals, including birds. 

To attract hummingbirds to your yard offer them a source of water, hang red feeders and plant bright-colored flowers. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

As the archaeological park does not open until 8 a.m. it is a good idea to explore the surrounding countryside before making your way in. There are plenty of interesting abandoned haciendas with nooks and crannies perfect for smaller birds, so make sure to keep an eye out. 

Woodpeckers are abundant in Yucatán, though quite a bit smaller than many species found in the US and Canada. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Progreso

From the docks, it’s often possible to see a wide range of exotic birds, including pink flamingos. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Link to Progreso on Google Maps

Anyone interested in catching a glimpse of flamingos knows that Celestun and Rio Lagartos are among the best places in the world to do so. But with a little luck, you are likely to spot these majestic pink birds a little closer to home.

The best way to see flamingos in large numbers is to take a boat tour around the mangroves of Yucatán’s coast. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Flamingos can be spotted in Progreso along several locations, sometimes even including the highway. But to maximize your chances, look out for one of the many lookouts or miradores in the area. 

One of the nicest things about La Ría Progreso is just how close it is to Mérida, as well as the fact that there is no need to haul out your own kayak. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

But even if you don’t get to see any flamingos, the trip will still surely be worth it as egrets, hummingbirds, cormorants, pelicans, and dozens of other species can reliably be seen in the area — especially early in the morning. 

Parque Eco-arqueologico del Poniente

Mérida’s Parque Eco-arqueologico del Poniente is one of the city’s largest parks and like Dzibilchaltún is also home to ancient Mayan structures. 

Link to Parque Eco-arqueologico del Poniente on Google Maps.

Yucatán is overflowing with wildlife, especially birds. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The park features several paths, some of which are fairly narrow and perfect for birders looking to catch a glimpse of a mot-mot or flycatcher. Because the area surrounding the park has long been used as a quarry it often floods when it rains, which in turn attracts all sorts of species that would otherwise not be seen in this part of town. 

Pair of Yucatán Jays. Only males of the species have yellow beaks. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Parque de la Ibérica

Several species of birds can only be seen in Yucatán during the migratory season further north. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Link to Parque de la Ibérica on Google Maps

Despite being located near downtown, this large park full of vegetation is usually fairly quiet and great for urban birding. Because its gates don’t open until 8 a.m. this should give you plenty of time to take a leisurely walk from Mérida’s downtown, all the while keeping your eyes open for feathered friends.  

A social flycatcher having breakfast at Mérida’s Parque de la Ibérica. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Do you have any favorite spots in and around town for birding that we missed? Let us know at carlosrosado@roofcatmedia.com and maybe we will feature them in the future.

Check out some of our past features on birding and wildlife in the Yucatán here.

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