Birding in Mazatlan, Mexico

by Cristel Wood, Demand Media

    Mazatlan, located on the western coast of Mexico, in the state of Sinaloa, is the third largest seaport on the western coast of the Americas (behind Los Angeles and Panama City). Because of Mazatlan's location, just south of the Tropic of Cancer and almost directly across from the tip of the Baja Peninsula, the city experiences mild weather, which draws tourists from around the world. In addition to a rich culture, Mazatlan offers numerous activities for adults and children alike; among these activities is the fascinating art of watching birds.

    Getting Started

    The first and most important thing to do once you get to Mazatlan is to find someone experienced with birdwatching in and around the city. Many cruise lines and tours offer birdwatching excursions (for a fee). You can also hire a birdwatching guide who can educate you as to the birdwatching hot spots near the city. Do not simply wander around looking for birds; not only is aimless wandering dangerous, but you most likely will also not find the birds you are looking for. Mazatlan also hosts an annual birdwatching festival in January and is home to the Tufted Jay Preserve.

    What to Bring

    Although birds can sometimes be located using only the naked eye, binoculars are highly recommended. You don't need a top-of-the-line pair of binoculars to enjoy your experience, and, in many cases, it's better to carry an inexpensive pair in case they are lost, stolen or damaged. You also want to bring along plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent on a birdwatching excursion near Mazatlan; the climate is warm, the weather is clear and the insects can be vicious. Keep a notebook handy to record your bird observations and, if possible, carry a camera. If you do carry a camera, turn off the flash and any shutter sounds to avoid scaring birds away. Most importantly, purchase a guide to Mexican birds to help you identify the birds you see.

    Birds to Look For

    Mazatlan and the area surrounding it serve as home to more than 500 species of birds; more species of birds exist near Mazaltan than anywhere else in Mexico due to the mild climate, the varying elevations and the combination of coastal and mountainous ecosystems. Near the water you can find pelicans, gulls, sandpipers, terns and oystercatchers; in nearby forests you can find ravens, crows, vultures, woodpeckers and various songbirds; and near waterways expect to see ducks, herons, shovelers, ibises and cormorants. There are also endangered species of birds about, such as the eared quetzal and the tufted jay, endemic to the area surrounding Mazatlan.

    Tips

    Research the birds you are expecting, or hoping, to see in Mazatlan with a resource such as a standard field guide. Know the birds' habitats, their colors and the shape of their silhouettes. Mazatlan contains a range of ecosystems, from beaches to forests, and birds are not always easy to spot just by their color or shape, so it's best to know as much about a bird as possible before seeking it out. In addition, keep in mind that Mazatlan is a unique city in a unique country; there are many fabulous experiences to be had, but you should also use caution. Learn a little Spanish, be polite to the people you encounter, clean up after yourself and never venture off alone to seek out birds. Above all, when you are seeking birds, be silent, patient and aware of your surroundings.

    About the Author

    Cristel Wood is a writer specializing in food, photography, gardening and video games. She holds an Associate of Arts from South Puget Sound Community College and has worked for her local Parks & Recreation department, Mt. Baker ski area, Vista Village Retirement Community and has taught ESL in Peru.

    Photo Credits

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