By Alberto Lobato
translated by Jennie Duberstein
When you hear Veracruz mentioned, you may imagine a tropical forest, perhaps large lagoons, and of course, the raptor migration. Nevertheless, central Veracruz, where I live, has other things, including pine forest, cloud forest, tropical forest, and mangroves.
And with all of this habitat, of course we have many, many birds.
In my city, Xalapa (pronounced Huh-LAH-puh), I can see a Barred Antshrike in one place, move 5 or 6 kilometers, and find a Chipping Sparrow! For me, the cloud forest is the best of all. It is impressive to arrive at 6am, when the air is full of humidity, and listen. You will start by hearing the sounds of frogs and crickets, followed by the strong call of the Bearded Wood-Partridge, breaking the silence. You may hear the Brown-backed Solitaire with its metallic song, and if you walk along the moss-filled trails, you can hear the shouting overhead calls of the White-crowned Parrot, locally known as “Loros Viejitos.” Afterwards, as you keep walking, look between the trees to see if you can spot the Gray-barred Wren (in the higher elevations), White-winged Tanager, or different woodcreepers and flycatchers.
In winter, when the migratory warblers show up, they mix with the resident species. You might see Golden-browed and Wilson’s warblers foraging together in the same flock, while you search for the very elusive Dwarf Jay.
But this is only in the cloud forest. The pine forests leave you with the smell of pine “floating over your nose” for several days! For strange reasons, I have never been able to bird well in those forests. The weather always seems to go bad when I want to go. But in the few times I have had the chance to bird there, it always has the feeling of pine, from the flocks of Bushtits and Mexican Chickadees, to the distant call of the Steller’s Jays, to the Red Crossbill flying, to the Hutton’s Vireos, to the Olive and Red warblers.
To wrap up this post, I will tell you about the tropical forest and the coast: scene of the biggest migration in the world, and not only raptors. Of course, millions of raptors pass through this region during their north-south migration. Over 25 species, numbering between 4 and 6 million individuals, make the journey each year. But did you know that thousands of Eastern Kingbirds and butterflies also come through, passing from Xalapa to La Mancha?
Veracruz has tropical forests and mangroves, and between these many kilometers of habitat you can find interesting species such as Mexican Sheartail, Black-headed Trogon, Audubon’s Oriole, Canivet’s Emerald, White-bellied Wren, Black-crowned Tityra, and much more. During the raptor migration, in September and October (right about this time of year), while the lines of raptors stream by heading south and the birders watch, in the coastal mangroves flies the Crane Hawk.
In the dry forest, during the night you can hear the call of the Short-eared Owl. In the shrublands you can find Botteri’s Sparrow, and in the lagoons the first migratory waterfowl begin to arrive.
This is just a little bit of what we have here.
Of course I have not mentioned many of our migratory and resident birds that I have seen with my binoculars—birders can find approximately 680 species of birds in Veracruz throughout the year. Perhaps I will write about some of them in a future post! Good Birding!
About the author: Alberto Lobato is a 16-year-old birder who was born in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. He has been birding since he was 5 years old and is an active member of the Xalapa Birding Club (Club de Observadores de Aves de Xalapa, or COAX). He has traveled with COAX to various parts of Mexico. In addition to birding, he is a musician, with an interest in traditional music. Alberto’s favorite bird is the Bearded Wood-Partridge.