The unique geographic location of the Punta Mita peninsula offers a stunning and dramatic landscape – the Sierra Madre mountains plunge into the blue waters of the Bay of Banderas. Marine, bird and mammal life abounds around the Marietas Islands, a UNESCO protected archipelago. Estuaries eco systems flourish where river mouths meet the ocean. Drive inland from Punta Mita, and in just a few minutes you will reach the beautifully enchanting rainforest, that sweeps up into the lush mountains ranges. This rainforest is home to many creatures, great and small, including numerous rare and unusual birds that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Because of this abundance of feathered friends, bird watching is a big deal in Punta Mita. So popular in fact, that bird watching in Punta Mita has it’s own club.
The Punta Mita Birdwatcher’s Club was founded by Mark Witkin, exclusively for private villa owners. Mark is a Club Punta Mita Member, and an avid bird watcher and a renowned wildlife photographer. He has been bird watching in the Punta de Mita area for a number of years, long before Punta Mita was developed into the world class destination it is today. In addition to heading up the bird watching club, Mark leads bird watching tours in the region. Mark is also well known for his photography, which is not just limited to birds but includes many types of wildlife around this part of Mexico. The Punta Mita Birdwatchers Club meets several times throughout the season, wandering into the woods to check out the birds, butterflies and other wildlife gems. During the fall, the rainforest foliage is dense. In the spring the foliage is much drier, offering plentiful opportunities to see the mating and nesting behaviors of the various species.
According to Steve Howell, an ornithologist and bird watching tour guide, the Riviera Nayarit is the best place in the world to enjoy bird watching. Steve has been bird watching since he can remember. His expertise is underlined by the fact that he has been leading ornithologist expeditions for over 30 years in the area, he has published a number of books on this topic and he attests that San Blas (about 2 hours north of Punta Mita) is the best place in the world for bird watching enthusiasts.
The unique geography of Punta Mita creates an environment that allows for bountiful wildlife to mate and breed. The Bay Of Banderas provides a sheltered and warm breeding ground for fish and sea mammals such as turtles, whales, sting rays and dolphins. With such abundant marine life, it is only natural that bird life thrives as a result. Sitting in the middle of the Bay of Banderas is the nationally protected Marietas Islands, a popular nesting site of the blue-footed booby, a long winged sea bird with distinct blue feet. The mouths of rivers, such as a the Yelapa, Boca de Tomatlan, and Mismaloya also provide ideal conditions for marine and bird life to thrive. The wetlands, estuaries and mangrove lagoons are probably the wildest in Mexico. Bird watchers can observe a number of local specialties, as well as hundreds of migratory birds. Species include the bare-throated tiger heron, puaraquees, the mangrove warbler, mangrove vireo, the impressive boat-billed herron, northern potoos, purple gallinules and northern jacanas. Patient and lucky bird watchers might catch a glimpse of the the elusive rufous-necked wood rails and green kingfishers.
Heading inland, the range of habitats provides several distinct opportunities for bird species to breed and nest. Habitats include palm forests, thorn forests, arid scrub, tropical plantations and temperate cloud forest. Usually the most exciting collection of species comes from these environments, such as the elegant quail, the rufous bellied chachalaca, the crested guan and the elegant quail. At higher elevations, where pine and oak forests dominate wooded canyons, one can be rewarded with sightseeing’s of military or green macaws. Mountain forests feature the white-striped wood creeper, spotted wrens and brown backed solitaires. More rare sightings include the solitaire eagle and tiny bumblebee hummingbirds.
For true bird lovers, the wilderness around San Blas offers some of the most spectacular bird watching in the world. San Blas is located about two hours north of Puerto Vallarta, and boasts over 300 bird species. This number includes 25 Mexican endemics, which are species that cannot be found anywhere else except Mexico. When the Spaniards still ruled Mexico in the 1700’s, San Blas was the most important port on the Mexican Pacific coast. Today, the area is quite different. San Blas is a quiet fishing village, and has a reputation for being the most popular destination for bird watching in Mexico. Habitats here range from mangrove lagoons to palm forests and seasonal thorn forest. Its coastal location also offers opportunities for bird watching on seashore banks, estuaries and volcanic islands. Inland habitats vary from arid scrub and thorn forest to tropical deciduous forest and caducifolia forest with tropical plantations such as shaded coffee and mangos. Higher elevations include sub-perennial forests that morph into temperate cloud forest. Several exotic neotropic bird species as well as higher-elevation specialties live in these habitats and will make for a rewarding tour.
If you are considering a bird watching tour during your Punta Mita vacation, be sure to inquire with us, or your villa manager about tour options in the area.