Birdwatching Destinations, Camping, Mexico, Ornithology

Birdwatching and Hot Springs of Ixtlan in Sierra de Vallejo Compostela, Nayarit, Mexico

If you happen to be in the Puerto Vallarta area on the west coast of Mexico and you’re up for a day of birdwatching, or birding as some like to call it, you might want to consider this day trip.

So, if you’re in Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias, Sayulita, or San Pancho, the hot springs of Ixtlan would be a great place to stop for a picnic lunch after a morning of birdwatching.  

hot springs of ixtlan mexico

Cool off in the shaded natural hot springs (agues terminals), enjoy some delicious Mexican food, and then bird your way back to your home away from home.

Before we introduce you to some of the magnificent feathered friends of the area, let’s consider the route you could take.

The hot springs are in the old Sierra de Vallejo Madre mountains, land of beautiful green landscapes, exotic plants, and home of the elusive jaguar.  All of this, and of course, the birds, will make for a wonderful  tropical adventure, and only two kilometers from the town of Nuevo Ixtlán.  We’ve chronicled all of this in a video you will find down at the bottom of this post, but first we want to tell you all about it, in our own words.

map of sierra vallejo madre mountains

Take federal highway 200 to Altavista, about 10 minutes past the town of La Peñita and turn right.  Travel on the cement road for about 3 km where the road becomes a dirt road and keep going to the fork.  Here you turn left to Altavista, which can be seen in the jungle on the side of the mountain.  Turn right and head for the town of Nuevo Ixtlan.  

The sign directing you to the the hot springs can’t be missed.  Keep in mind that you will be listening for, and watching for birds on either side of the roadway, but the hot springs sign is large, and should be no problem to see.

Birds of the area

With great cameras, binoculars, and scopes, enjoy these fine feathered friends …

Yellow Winged Vireo

Yellow winged vireo

With its olive green underparts and black striped wings, the male and female work together to construct the nest and feed the young.  Look for them in the undergrowth or tall second growth trees and bushes.  They are small and they move quickly, so be ready.  Maybe you will hear their nasal nit sounds or high slurs.  They are feeding on spiders and other insects that don’t move fast enough.  Vireos sometimes hang out with flocks of warblers.


Black-throated Magpie Jay

Black-throated magpie jay

This is a large bird with a very long tail, which measures half of its total length.  It makes a lot of noise, and it is usually seen in pairs or a group.  It likes to hunt for seeds, nuts, insects, and baby birds.  It is an elegant flyer and flies with wide-spread blue tail feathers, graduated and tipped in white.  This is a sturdy bird with strong legs, formidable black crest and strong beak.  Look for it on the Pacific slopes of north west Mexico.


Chachalaca

Chachalaca

This bird resembles a large chicken.  It is very noisy and likes to be with other chachalacas.  If they are near by, you will know it.  They aren’t afraid of humans, so you might be able to get rather close for the perfect photo.  They are ravenous, and if you have a vegetable garden that you don’t want stripped of its tomatoes, radishes, and melons, you had better install a scarecrow.


Black-Headed Trogen

Black Headed Trogon

What a natural beauty!  The trogon flies through the open woodlands and if you’re lucky, you might see one resting low in the bushes in the sunshine, to appreciate the iridescent blue-green and golden-green plumage.  It might be its call of a series of “clucks” that will get your attention.  With a perfect stubby short beak, and blue ringed eyes, bright yellow belly and white blocks on the inner black wings, the black throated trogon is more social than its cousins.  He likes to be in a group of about a dozen.  Look out termites, because, this trogon is moving in.


Pygmy Owl

Pygmy Owl

This nocturnal owlet hunts insects and small prey such as crickets and beetles.  It sometimes can be hunting in the daylight hours.  If you know how to whistle in short spurts, give it a call, and it might come by.  The Pygmy owl sits in a tree and searches for food.  Then,  it will quickly  dart out and snatch its prey with its sharp talons.


Golden-cheeked Woodpecker

den-cheeked woodpecker

These year-round residents of Mexico live in semi-humid forests or open areas with clumps of trees, foraging for beetles, ants, fruits and seeds, either alone or in pairs.  The distinctive golden cheek patch,  and the black eye patch, are sure fire indicators that that bird flitting around the middle to top layer of the trees is the golden-cheeked woodpecker.


Violet Crowned Hummingbird

violet crowned hummingbird

This larger sized hummingbird likes to hover in the shady mid- level of tall trees like capo and figs, catching small insects in flight.  It will hover over a beautiful coloured flower extending its long beak into the petal, and then use its long tongue to extract the nectar.  The female will build her nest in a deciduous tree in a forked twig about 20 feet off the ground.   She will use plant fibres and spider webs to build it, and then line the inside with plant down for extra comfort.  She uses lichens to camouflage the outside.  Listen for her squeaky, repetitive call.  Hummers are very curious and clever.

If you are lucky, and maybe have past experiences with birdwatching, you should be able to add 10 new birds to your on-going list.  Good luck and have fun.

Luis Morales is a bird scientist who lives in the village of San Pancho.  He would love to hear from you.  Check his birdwatching tours out at … birdingsanpancho.net

Check out this recent birding trip organized by Luis Morales –

Other birds in this area that you might want to watch for are …

  1.  Russet Crowned Motmot
  2.  Thick Bellied Kingbird
  3.  Cricket Warbler or Longtailed Warbler
  4.  Squirrel Cuckoo
  5.  Yellow Crowned Ant Tanager
  6.  White Winged Dove
  7.  Streaked Black Owl

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