28 March - 3 April 1999
by Scott Roederer
This is a report on a trip my wife and I took to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo from March 28 to April 3, 1999. We relied on several reports from this web page in our planning and all were accurate and very helpful.
Ixtapa is a great place for a first Mexican birding trip, especially since you can do it on your own without hiring a guide. You’ll feel entirely safe in the resort area, and the experience will help you build the confidence to do other, more daring adventures, just as we have. In addition, there is plenty for non-birding family members to do: beach bumming, shopping, snorkeling, guided excursions, horseback riding, golf, and more.
We booked a package with Apple Vacations. By some fortune, we ended up at Pacifica Villa, a kind of townhouse resort built on the hill just south of the main beach in Ixtapa. Our room had a kitchenette, dining area, and small balcony overlooking the beach. An aerial tram takes you down to the beach.
The resort has been constructed to preserve the forest environment, and there is excellent birding on the grounds. Cost was about $895/person from Denver. Less expensive packages are available, but you’ll be staying in the highrise hotels in town. (You should still walk up to Pacifica Villa to bird.)
We’d only gone 20 feet from our door the first day when we found a Rufous-naped Wren, our first Mexican lifer of the trip. Other species on the grounds included Yellow-winged Caciques, Groove-billed Anis, Blue Buntings, Orange-breasted Buntings, Cinammon Hummingbirds, West Mexican Chachalacas, Black-vented and Streak-backed orioles, White-fronted Parrots, Ivory-billed Woodcreepers, Golden-cheeked Woodpeckers, and White-throated Magpie-Jays, one of my favorite birds of the trip. Another favorite was the Russet-crowned Motmot, a subtlely beautiful bird with a quixotic tail that will remind you that you’re not in Kansas (or Colorado, in our case)
We would get up early in the morning and walk the resort roads as they switchbacked down to the beach level. Along the beach early in morning, Brown Boobies would be working the surf lines just 75 to 100 feet away. We’d walk to the first highrise hotel and take the public beach access inland to the main street. A short walk north to the crafts market and then a turn east on a paved city street led us to the remnant forest mentioned in several
There is still wild woodlands on the right as you walk from town and the area on the left is mostly undeveloped land with residential streets providing access. There you’ll find palm/scrub habitat that attracts many species. Among the birds we saw in the forest and palm/scrub were Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Social Flycatcher, Lineated Woodpecker, Rufous-backed Robin, Grayish Saltator, Happy Wren, Painted Bunting, White-collared Seedeater, Tropical Kingbird, Spot-breasted Oriole, and San Blas Jay.
Our best find may have been the Lesser Ground-Cuckoo that we located in a thicket next to a townhouse complex. Citreoline Trogons were easy to locate. White-fronted Parrots and other species we saw on the resort grounds were also common.
Our days were spent walking the remant jungle and palm/scrub until noon or so. Then we’d return to the resort, eat, take a swim and/or a siesta, then bird the resort grounds later in the afternoon. We found new life birds every day but the last. Evenings were spent in town sampling as many of the excellent restaurants as we could in the week we had. It was simply a wonderful, relaxing way to spend time!
We did find a guide to take us out for the day. David (‘Dah-veed’) Otero is a marlin-boat captain in Zihuatanejo. We took a taxi from our hotel to Zihua (‘Zee-wa’) one day. The trip is a chance to visit an old fishing town and add a little authenticity to your Mexico trip. We were walking the wharf looking at hundreds of Magnificent Frigatebirds and a few Mangrove Swallows when David approached us asking if we wanted a tour of the bay to look for birds. We took him up on it and talked him into a trip to the rock islands in Ixtapa’s bay a few miles away. (The rocks were fairly disappointing for birds, although we had close views of Brown Boobies and Brown Pelicans.)
We had so much fun with him that we hired David to take us in his car for a land birding trip later in the week. David is not a birder, but he can take you to places where there are lots of birds. We spent a wonderful day afield with him and added several species to our list, including Stripe-headed Sparrow, Squirrel Cuckoo, Northern Jacana, Ruddy Ground-Dove, and Banded Quail, a very good find considering the constraints of our trip.
We left a bird book with David, and I’m sure he’s trying to learn his birds and find places to see them. He likes taking birders out. The day trip was rather expensive by Mexican standards, just over $100, because David must give up a day’s fishing trip. He speaks excellent English and is a very entertaining man, and we spent a great day in the Mexican countryside. We considered it well worth it.
I’ll be glad to provide David’s address and telephone number, if you’d like to contact him.
We certainly recommend Ixtapa, especially for your first birding trip to Mexico. All the Mexican people were cordial and friendly. The town is safe, as is the surrounding area we walked and birded. Knowing Spanish is not necessary, although it’s polite to know greetings and some generally helpful words. We found that the resort is frequented by Mexican families who drive down from Mexico City, and best of all, there were very, very few college students, even though we were there during spring break.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
West Mexican Chachalaca
Ruddy Ground Dove
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
White-throated Magpie Jay