West Mexico: Sierra Madre to Thorn Forest: Jan 12—22, 2018

Register NowTour Details

Price: To Be Announced.
Departs: Puerto Vallarta
Tour Limit: 12
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
Download Previous Itinerary (2010): PDF (101 KB)

Tour Leaders


Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local cr...


Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 68 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have t...

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Register for this Tour

Register for this tour by phone (800/328-VENT or 512/328-5221), or by downloading a tour registration form. Signed and completed forms can be faxed, mailed, or scanned and emailed to the VENT office.

Cinnamon Hummingbird

Cinnamon Hummingbird— Photo: Brian Gibbons


We begin our tour with a stay at the comfortable Rancho Primavera, a well-appointed guest ranch just south of Puerto Vallarta and a hospitable base for explorations of diverse habitats rich in endemic birds. During the second half of our tour we will explore the highland pine oak zone of the Sierra Madre Occidental, rising above Puerto Vallarta.

Western Mexico has one of the highest rates of endemism in North America, and the foothill region of the Sierra Madre Occidental is one of the better areas to observe a good cross section of Mexican species. Our West Mexico tour is designed to be a comfortable and inexpensive introduction to the West Mexican avifauna. The accommodations at Rancho Primavera are comfortable, the food is delicious, and the grounds are awash in birds.

Our trip will focus on at least three distinct habitat types. We will explore coastal areas for herons, shorebirds, and waterfowl. The most unique habitat type is the West Mexican thorn forest, and many of the endemic species that we will seek most ardently make their homes here. This dry forest type can be surprisingly difficult to bird and is home to a number of secretive and inconspicuous species. However, with endemic species like Citreoline Trogon and Red-breasted Chat to tempt us, persistence is sure to pay off. While there are many beautiful birds in the thorn forest, we will search for the exquisite Orange-breasted Bunting until we’ve soaked in all the orange, yellows, blues, and greens of this fine endemic. The ranch itself is set in the foothills, where thorn forest gives way to pine oak forest, and one begins to see species such as Acorn Woodpecker and Grace’s Warbler, as well as specialties like Military Macaw and various hummingbirds.

Orange-breasted Bunting

Orange-breasted Bunting— Photo: Brian Gibbons


After exploring the thorn forest and lower elevation habitats around Rancho Primavera, we will go birding in the Sierra Madre Occidental. The moist canyons and the pine oak forests teem with North American migrants wintering alongside a variety of great Mexican birds. A Long-tailed Wood-Partridge might creep out onto the road, while Mountain Trogons call from fir trees. The higher elevations and moister habitats will enable us to seek another ten Mexican endemics, as well as a host of other fantastic birds like Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo. Our base for these explorations will be the charming colonial town of San Sebastian del Oeste. With its cobbled streets and colonial facades, San Sebastian is from another era. Endemics of this area include Bumblebee Hummingbird, Mexican Woodnymph, Gray-crowned Woodpecker, White-striped Woodcreeper, Green-striped and Rufous-capped brushfinches, Red-headed Tanager, and many more.

We expect our bird list to top 250 species, of which more than 30 should be Mexican endemics, and 60 or more will be lifers for those who have not previously ventured “south of the border.”

Very comfortable accommodations and excellent food; easy to moderate terrain, elevations to about 7,500 feet in the Sierra Madre (lodging at 4,500 feet), where we will spend four nights; midday breaks most days; dusty and sometimes bumpy van rides to reach birding locations; hot to mild, dry climate, chilly mornings with a shower possible in the mountains.