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April 1996

by Clive Harris

I spent a weekend in Mexico City on a recent business trip (April 9 - 17), and managed to fit in a few hours birding at the Desierto de Los Leones. I thought I'd post this for others who might be in a similar predicament, as the location visited is easily accessible by public transport, and is close to the city (and also because I had a lot of trouble getting information on birding locations round Mexico City).

Background information

The Desierto de los Leones is not actually a desert - its a pine/deciduous forest which is now a national park. There is an abandoned monastery inside the grounds of the park. I think the altitude is approx. 9000 feet.

To get there I took a bus from the Observatorio metro station (in the south) to "la caseta", or the toll station on the highway (took about 30 minutes). From there you cross a bridge over the highway and are at the bottom of the access road (approx 3 km long, or 2 miles) to the park. If that sounds confusing, if you ask for a ticket to the Desierto de los Leones, they will sell you a ticket to "la caseta" and point you to the right bus. You can of course get there from many other destinations in the city. To get back you simply hail a bus at the stop on the other side of the road. There are buses and taxis that take you up the 3 km to the start of the park but I walked up (there is a sidewalk all the way) and did most of my birding on the access road.

I went on a Saturday. The park is probably a lot more crowded on Sunday. In total the trip took about 7 hours, of which about 2 were traveling time.

The birds:

Although I didn't see a large number of birds, I got good looks at quite a few of them. (* indicates a life bird for me)

I saw:

Magnificent Hummingbird*
Gray-barred Wren*
House Wren
Bushtit (black-eared)
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Mexican Chickadee*
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Steller's Jay
Red Warbler*
Golden-browed Warbler*
Crescent-chested Warbler* (great looks at these last three)
Slate-throated Whitestart*
Hermit Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler
Black-headed Grosbeak*
Yellow-eyed Junco*
Rufous-capped Brush-finch*
Green-striped Brush-finch*
House Sparrow (naturally near the picnic areas in the park).

There were also singing Brown-backed Solitaires (although I didn't see one), and quite a few birds that unfortunately fell into the category of "the ones that got away", including several Empids.

I turned round after about 3 km within the park itself. It's possible that different birds could be found higher up, or further in to the forest (I essentially concentrated on the edges). I'd quite happily go back for some more Red Warblers!

PS I spent about an hour birding Chapultepec Park the next day. Not so much variety, but did have:

Black-crowned Night Heron (nesting, I think)
Green Heron
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Bewick's Wren
Am. Robin
Wilson's and Nashville Warblers
Great-tailed Grackles

and some Oropendolas that I never saw well enough to identify.

Clive Harris
Brookmont, Md