Friday, November 3, 2023


Chapala Birders Newsletter, November 2, 2023

Sightings this Month

There were 204 species reported for the lake area in October. This is a record high number of monthly species. The complete list is shown at the end of this newsletter.

We harvest this data from eBird reports. A few of these sightings are considered doubtful, for reasons ranging from a lack of knowledge of local species on the part of tourist visitors, to overly aggressive claims of sightings from experienced birders.

Unusual sightings in October:

  • Carlo Cuevas observed a Common Tern at Jocotepec.
  • Nicola Cendron recorded Yellow-eyed Junco at Mezcala Mountain.
  • James Hatfield photographed a Yellow-throated Warbler on the Ajijic malecon.
  • Kate and Carl Anderson photographed Grasshopper Sparrow in Riberas del Pilar.
  • Chris Lloyd saw White Ibis at Chapala.

Featured Bird: Peregrine Falcon

An adult Peregrine. Notice the heavy build of the wings. The name 'peregrine' means wandering. Expect it to move around outside of the nesting season.

The Peregrine Falcon is famous for the speed of its 'stoop' when it drops like a bomb at up 200 mph to knock out its chosen prey or grab it in its talons.

  • Typical prey consists of medium size birds like pigeons, ducks and song birds, as well as bats.
  • Predators of Peregrines include Gyrfalcons, Eagles and Great Horned Owls.
  • The nest is a shallow 'scrape' on a high cliff, where the female lays two to five eggs requiring 30 days incubation.
  • Various subspecies of Peregrine cover the globe. Most are migratory but a few are not.
  • Males and females look alike, but the male is only two thirds the size of the female.

Understanding Hawk Migration

The fourteen hawk species being photographed at Mezcala Mountain belong to the following families:

  • Falcons: Rapid fliers: (Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel)
  • Accipiters Small forest hawks: (Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk.)
  • Buteos: High-flying open country hawks: (Zone-tailed, Short-tailed, Broad-winged, Swainson's,)
  • Harriers: Low-flying open country hawks: (Northern Harrier)
  • Kites: Forest hawks of South America: (Hook-billed Kite, Double-toothed Kite).
  • Vultures: Carrion eaters: (Turkey Vulture).

We have five resident hawk species at Lake Chapala: Red-tailed Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Gray Hawk, White-tailed Kite and Black Vulture.

Flight Strategy

All Hawks have powerful wings, but only the Falcons are able to flap their wings all day.

Most hawks are designed for only short bursts of power. Their flight strategy is to soar on rising columns of warm air heated by the sun on the ground, followed by a rapid glide to the bottom of another thermal. This way hawks can travel a hundred miles in a day with little flapping of their wings, thus saving a lot of energy. Sometimes hawks are able to follow mountain ridges riding the updrafts caused by the sun warming the sides of the ridge.

Most hawks are afraid of migrating over water because there will be no thermals. Many hawks have drowned in the Great Lakes when they attempted a crossing and the wind changed against them.

Lake Chapala, fifty miles long and seven miles wide, with a mountain ridge on the northern edge, makes for an excellent collector for Hawks on migration, as they are able to ride the updrafts of the ridge to the far eastern end, and avoid flying over the lake.

Here is what we have seen in the last two months:

Upcoming Bird-walks and Trips

Our bird-walks are open to all those interested in birds, both beginners and experienced birders. Just bring binoculars. We always have knowledgeable birders on hand to identify the species. Note that we will try to limit most car trips to three vehicles and 14 people because larger convoys are hard to manage when trying to stop on country roads to look at the birds. If you are being given a ride, we suggest you make a contribution to your driver for gas and tolls (perhaps $150 pesos for a half day outing, $300 pesos for a day trip).

On Thursday November 9, we will meet at 8.00 am to hike a mile up the Allen Lloyd Trail which has lots of underbrush in which birds love to hide. Expect to see Blue Mockingbird and hear the Happy Wren. At about 10.00 we will head to Cafe Negro restaurant for breakfast and complete the bird list.

How to get to the trail head: Drive up the Libramiento a half mile (1km) from the traffic light at Walmart, then turn left (carefully) as for the new hospital (Ribera Medical Center), double back and drive up the left side of the hospital, keep going uphill another half mile, and park on the only street to your left.

On Tuesday November 14, we will meet at 8.00 am at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, (south-east corner), leaving immediately for the Rosa Amarilla Loop (60 minutes drive). Expect to see a variety of grassland birds and possibly a White-tailed Hawk. Bring refreshments for the morning and sandwiches for the 12.30 lunch stop. We will be back about 3.30 pm. You must reserve - email John at at least 2 days ahead indicating if you can bring a vehicle and can take others, or you would like to be a passenger. (We don't always have enough cars).

On Monday November 20, we will meet at 8.00 am at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, (south-east corner), leaving immediately for the El Tigre Loop (60 minutes drive). We will follow the route of the Rio de la Pasión and then ascend the mountain above Mazamitla. Bring refreshments for the morning and sandwiches for the 1.00 pm lunch stop. We will be back about 5.00 pm. You must reserve - email John at at least 2 days ahead indicating if you can bring a vehicle and can take others, or you would like to be a passenger. (We don't always have enough cars).

Birdwalk & Trip Reports

On October 6, we had a small group of birders out at El Bajio. We observed 35 species including Crested Caracara, Blue Mockingbird, Gray-silky Flycatcher, Stripe-headed Sparrow, Black-backed Oriole, Rufous-backed Robin and Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

On October 16, we went to Laguna Atotonilco at Villa Corona with eight birders. We managed to see a nice list of 68 species including Roseate Spoonbill, Black Tern, Western Sandpiper, Little Blue Heron, Osprey, Social Flycatcher, Wilson's Phalarope and Marsh Wren.

Monthly Sightings List

Here are the 204 species sighted around Lake Chapala in October:

Ani, groove-billed

Avocet, American

Becard, gray-collared (Ct)

Becard, rose-throated

Blackbird, yellow-headed

Brushfinch, rufous-capped

Bunting, blue (Mz)

Bunting, lazuli

Bunting, painted

Bunting, varied


Caracara, crested

Chat, yellow-breasted

Coot, American

Cormorant, neotropic

Cowbird, bronzed

Cowbird, brown-headed

Cuckoo, squirrel

Dove, common ground

Dove, Eurasian collared

Dove, Inca

Dove, mourning

Dove, white-tipped

Dove, white-winged

Dowitcher, long-billed

Duck, fulvous whistling

Duck, Mexican

Egret, great

Egret, snowy

Egret, western cattle

Elaenia, greenish

Falcon, peregrine (Mz)

Finch, house

Flycatcher, ash-throated

Flycatcher, dusky

Flycatcher, dusky-capped

Flycatcher, gray silky

Flycatcher, Hammond's

Flycatcher, least

Flycatcher, social

Flycatcher, vermilion

Flycatcher, western

Gallinule, common

Gnatcatcher, blue-gray

Goldfinch, lesser

Grackle, great-tailed

Grassquit, blue-black (Rp)

Grebe, pied-billed

Grosbeak, black-headed

Grosbeak, blue

Gull, herring (Ch)

Gull, laughing

Gull, ring-billed

Harrier, northern (Mz)

Hawk, broad-winged (Mz)

Hawk, common black (Mz)

Hawk, Cooper's (Mz)

Hawk, gray (Mz)

Hawk, red-tailed

Hawk, sharp-shinned (Mz)

Hawk, short-tailed (Mz)

Hawk, Swainson's (Mz)

Hawk, white-tailed

Hawk, zone-tailed

Heron, black-crowned night

Heron, great blue

Heron, green

Heron, little blue

Heron, tri-colored

Hummingbird, berylline

Hummingbird, black-chinned (Ch)

Hummingbird, broad-billed

Hummingbird, broad-tailed (Ct)

Hummingbird, calliope (Ct)

Hummingbird, lucifer(Mz)

Hummingbird, Rivoli's (Ct)

Hummingbird, ruby-throated

Hummingbird, rufous

Hummingbird, violet-crowned

Hummingbird, white-eared (Ct)

Ibis, white

Ibis, white-faced

Jacana, northern

Junco, yellow-eyed (Mz)

Kestrel, American


Kingbird, Cassin's

Kingbird, thick-billed

Kingbird, tropical

Kingbird, western

Kingfisher, belted

Kinglet, ruby-crowned

Kiskadee, great

Kite, hook-billed (Mz)

Kite, white-tailed

Merlin (Mz)

Mockingbird, blue

Mockingbird, northern

Motmot, russet-crowned

Nighthawk, lesser (Mz)

Nightjar, buff-collared (Av)

Oriole, black-backed

Oriole, black-vented

Oriole, Bullock's

Oriole, hooded

Oriole, orchard

Oriole, streak-backed


Owl, ferruginous pygmy

Owl, great horned

Parakeet, monk

Pelican, American white

Pewee, greater

Pewee, western wood

Pigeon, rock

Pipit, American

Plover, semipalmated (Ch)

Plover, snowy (Ch)

Raven, common

Redstart, American

Robin, American (Ct)

Robin, rufous-backed

Sandpiper, Baird's

Sandpiper, least

Sandpiper, spotted

Sandpiper, western (Ch)

Seedeater, cinnamon-rumped

Shoveler, northern

Shrike, loggerhead

Siskin, pine (R)

Solitaire, brown-backed

Sparrow, chipping

Sparrow, clay-colored

Sparrow, grasshopper (Rp)

Sparrow, house

Sparrow, lark

Sparrow, Lincoln's

Sparrow, rusty-crowned ground

Sparrow, savannah

Sparrow, stripe-headed

Sparrow, vesper

Starthroat, plain-capped (Ch)

Stilt, black-necked

Swallow, bank (Ch)

Swallow, barn

Swallow, cliff

Swallow, northern rough-winged

Swallow, tree

Swallow, violet-green

Swift, Vaux's (Ch)

Swift, white-throated (Ct)

Tanager, hepatic

Tanager, summer

Tanager, western

Teal, blue-winged

Teal, cinnamon

Teal, green-winged

Tern, common (Jo)

Tern, Forster's

Tern, Royal (Tu)

Thrasher, curve-billed

Thrush, hermit

Thrush, orange-billed nightingale

Towhee, canyon

Towhee, green-tailed

Towhee, spotted (Cv)

Trogon, mountain (Cv)

Tyrannulet, northern beardless

Violetear, Mexican

Vireo, golden

Vireo, plumbeous

Vireo, warbling

Vulture, black

Vulture, turkey

Warbler, black and white

Warbler, black-throated gray

Warbler, Grace's

Warbler, hermit

Warbler, Lucy's

Warbler, MacGillivray's

Warbler, Nashville

Warbler, orange-crowned

Warbler, red-faced

Warbler, rufous-capped

Warbler, Townsend's

Warbler, Virginia's

Warbler, Wilson's

Warbler, yellow

Warbler, yellow-rumped

Warbler, yellow-throated

Willet (Ch)

Woodpecker, acorn (Cv)

Woodpecker, golden-fronted

Woodpecker, ladder-backed

Wren, Bewick's

Wren, canyon

Wren, happy

Wren, house (Mz)

Wren, marsh

Wren, Sinaloa (Ch)

Wren, spotted

Yellowlegs, greater

Yellowlegs, lesser

Yellowthroat, common

Sighting Location codes:

Ac - Ajijic: La Cristina & El Bajio

At - Trails above Ajijic

Av - Ajijic village

Ca - Lake Cajititlan & marsh

Ch - Chapala

Ct - Caracol Trail & Int'l School

Cu - Chapala Haciendas & UofG

Cv - Cerro Viejo

Dm - Dike: Jamay to Malteraña

Dp - Dike: Maltaraña to La Palma

Hv - Hidden Valley oak forest

Ja - Jamay

La - La Cañada & Hidden Valley

Jo - Jocotepec

Ld - Lerma & Duero rivers

Mz - Mezcala

Oc - Ocotlan

Pe - Petatan area

Ps - Pumping Station & Santa Cruz

Pt - San Pedro Tesistan

Pz - San Pedro Itzican/Poncitlan

Ra - Rosa Amarilla loop

Rc - Santa Rosa & Carnero dam

Rp - Riberas del Pilar & canyon

Sa - San Antonio & Allen Lloyd Trail

Sc - San Juan Cosala

Sn - San Nicholas & Golf Club

Tz - Tizapan canyon

Te - San Juan Tecomatlan

Tr - Potrerillos & Las Trojes & Chupinaya

Tu - Tuxcueca & San Luis Soyatlan

Xt - Ixtlahuacan & Las Campanillas

What is the "Lake Chapala Area"?

We define it as the whole area of the lake plus all land within 15km (or 7 miles) of the edge of the lake.

Lake Chapala Birders is an informal group of bird observers led by John and Rosemary Keeling.

Illustrated color folders showing our common birds are once again available for $200 pesos at Diane Pearl's Gallery, 11 am to 4 pm, Santa Margarita #23, at the east end of Riberas del Pilar. Also available from John Keeling.

We like to hear of bird sightings at:

Check our website:
There you will find our newsletters, illustrations of our birds and advice on buying binoculars, books and birding apps.