Monarchs at El Rosario by Nick Wall.
Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo and Slaty Vireo by Brian Field. Just two of the many good-looking birds which can be seen in Mexico.
Millions of Monarch butterflies during the northern winter and many other butterflies including swallowtails and heliconians.
Endemics Some, not all, of the species listed below are possible.
Widespread 14 White-naped Swift (the largest swift in the world), Curve-winged Sabrewing, Bumblebee Hummingbird, Cinereous (Mexican Barred) Owl, White-striped Woodcreeper, Spotted Wren, Blue Mockingbird, Aztec Thrush, Russet Nightingale-thrush, Rufous-backed Thrush, Collared Towhee, Striped Sparrow, Hooded Yellowthroat and Red Warbler.
Central 5 Mexican (King) Rail, Strickland’s Woodpecker, Ultramarine Jay, Black-backed Oriole and Black-polled Yellowthroat (small range).
West 33 Western Thicket Tinamou, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Eared Poorwill, Mexican Hermit, Short-crested Coquette (small range), Golden-crowned Emerald, White-tailed Hummingbird (small range), Mexican Woodnymph, Mexican Squirrel-cuckoo, Colima Pygmy-owl, Balsas Screech-owl, Citreoline Trogon, Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Lilac-crowned Amazon, Mexican Parrotlet, Thick-billed Parrot, Western Grey-collared Becard, Flammulated Flycatcher, Golden Greenlet (Vireo), Sinaloa Crow, Black-throated Magpie-jay, San Blas Jay, Sclater’s (Rufous-naped) Wren, Happy Wren, Sinaloa Wren, Green-striped Brush-finch (also central), Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow, Sierra Madre Sparrow (also central), Orange-breasted Bunting, Slate-blue Seedeater, Red-headed Tanager and Cinnamon-rumped (White-collared) Seedeater.
Southwest 25 West Mexican Chachalaca, Banded Quail, Long-tailed Wood-partridge, Spot-breasted Quail, White-fronted Swift, Dusky Hummingbird, Turquoise-crowned Hummingbird, Oaxaca (Blue-capped) Hummingbird, Cinnamon-sided (Green-fronted) Hummingbird, Beautiful Hummingbird, Wagler’s (Emerald) Toucanet, Grey-breasted Woodpecker, Pileated Flycatcher, Slaty Vireo, Dwarf Vireo, White-throated Jay, Boucard’s Wren, Ocellated Thrasher, Cinnamon-tailed Sparrow (small range), Black-chested Sparrow, Bridled Sparrow, White-throated Towhee, Oaxaca Sparrow, Fuertes’s (Orchard) Oriole (winter/east in summer) and Rose-bellied (Rosita’s) Bunting.
Lesser Roadrunner, Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, Mountain Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo, Grey Silky, Golden-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Chat and Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer. Also a chance of Hooded Grosbeak.
Red-billed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Reddish Egret, Boat-billed Heron, raptors including Crested Caracara, Limpkin, many shorebirds including Northern Jacana, Heermann's Gull, owls including Mottled, Northern Potoo, many hummingbirds, Coppery-tailed (Elegant) Trogon, Ringed, Belted and Green Kingfishers, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, many flycatchers including Buff-breasted and Vermilion, Masked Tityra, Black-capped Vireo, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, many wrens, American Dipper, nightingale thrushes, Olive and many other warblers including Grace's and Red-faced, Tropical Parula and Painted Redstart, Western and Flame-faced Tanagers, brush finches, many sparrows, orioles and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Also a chance of Blue-footed Booby, Military Macaw, Collared Forest Falcon, Rufous-necked Wood Rail and Rosy Thrush Tanager.
Humpback Whale (Jan-Mar), Spotted Dolphin. Also a chance of White-nosed Coati, Nine-banded Armadillo, Margay, and Hog-nosed and Hooded Skunks.
A great diversity of plants, from cacti through salvias to bromeliads.
Popocatepetl An almost perfectly symmetrical and still active volcanic cone near Mexico City, rising to 5426 m (17,800 ft).
Paricutin A volcano which erupted from a field in 1943 and reached 336 m (1102 ft) above ground in its first year, eventually rising to 424 m (1391 ft) above its surroundings and covering 25 sq km (10 sq miles) when it finished erupting in 1952.
Volcan de Fuego An active volcano, rising to 3860 m (12,664 ft), which regularly emits tall clouds of ash into the air.
There is so much more to Central Mexico than Monarch butterflies. The numerous spectacular birds include the endemic Red Warbler, here captured by Simon Colenutt.
The best time to see the Monarch butterflies is from January to March, especially February when they become more active on sunny days. January to March is also the best time for Humpback Whales and a good time for birds, although the peak time for birds is March-April when many species are breeding and therefore at their most active.
A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America by J Glassberg. Sunstreak Books, 2007.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America by S Howell and S Webb. OUP, 1995.
A Field Guide to Mexican Birds by R Tory Peterson and E Chalif. Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Where to watch birds in Mexico by S Howell. Helm, 1999.
Where to watch birds in Central America & the Caribbean by N Wheatley and D Brewer. Helm, 2001.
Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Central America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author and David Brewer. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.
Many trip reports, some for Central Mexico, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Central Mexico. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Central Mexico' below.
The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.
There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.
While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.
Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Central Mexico include the following.