Wednesday, January 3, 2024


Chapala Birders Newsletter, January 2, 2024

Sightings last Month

There were 198 species reported for the lake area in December. The complete list is shown at the end of this newsletter.

Unusual observations in December:

  • Black-bellied Plover was seen by Thom Bravo at Cristiania Park in Chapala.
  • Red-breasted Merganser was photographed by Bob Forgie at the San Juan Cosala malecon.
  • Burrowing Owl was spotted by John Keeling at the Dike at the east end of the Lake.This is a new species for Lake Chapala. (See the article below.)
  • Herring Gull was reported by Jules Evens at the San Juan Cosala malecon.

Featured Bird: Burrowing Owl

An adult Burrowing Owl photographed by Nayarit birder Antonio Robles. This is a tiny bird that is not a good flier, but is happy to run fast to catch grasshoppers or lizards. As with other owls, prime hunting time is at dawn and dusk, but Burrowing Owls spend more time awake during the day than other owls.

  • Burrowing Owls are found from Canada to the tip of South America. Most are non-migratory, except those in the north.
  • They like short grass prairies and deserts,and equivalent places such as abandoned airfields.
  • They roost and nest in burrows made by other animals like prairie dogs and badgers.
  • The female lays about nine eggs in the burrow and sits them for four weeks, with food being delivered by the male. The chicks will fly four weeks after hatching.
  • Their food is predominantly insects including beetles and crickets, but lizards, mice and small birds are eaten when the opportunity is presented.
  • North American populations are in serious decline due to habitat loss from farming and human development. Local populations are increasing in Brasil where rain forests are being cut down.

Christmas Bird Count Report

The Christmas Bird Count for the Ajijic area yielded 160 species and for the Jamay/La Palma Dike area 112 species, both higher counts than in previous years, which we attribute to increased birding expertise on the part of our volunteer teams.

As usual the Caracol mountain trail team added 15 higher altitude species not seen at the lake level. These included Brown-backed Solitaire, Flame-colored Tanager, Acorn Woodpecker, Black-chinned Hummingbird and Red-faced Warbler.

Looking at the data of the 15 years of our Christmas Bird Counts, we see such great variability in numbers from year to year that we cannot easily identify any real trends in the size of the local bird populations.

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 Monday January 8, we will meet at 8.00 am at the Sculpture (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, south-east corner, opposite Restaurant Pranzo) leaving immediately for the Mezcala Mountain (40 minutes drive). We will park and then walk the one-mile (1.5 km) trail at the top. After a snack break at 11.00 we will return to Ajijic for 12.30. Other pick-up points can be arranged between Ajijic and Mezcala. If you plan on going, please email John at at least 2 days ahead indicating if you have a vehicle and if you can take passengers. High-clearance vehicles are recommended for the ascent on this trip.

On Thursday January 18, 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 Friday January 26, we will meet at 8.00 am at the trail head 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 you would 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.

Birdwalk & Trip Reports

On December 8 we had 17 birders out for a bird walk at Puerta Nueva on the west side of Ajijic. We managed to record 49 species along the street and at the lake, including Bullock's Oriole, Black-backed Oriole, Blue Mockingbird, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Loggerhead Shrike and 20 Monk Parakeet.

On December 28 we traveled to Villa Corona on Laguna Atonilco located at the north end of the Colima Rift Valley where we have come to expect Roseate Spoonbills. We identified Gray Hawk, Great Kiskadee, Chihuahuan Meadowlark, Wilson's Snipe, Woodstork and an unusual Brown Pelican in addition to the Spoonbills. Total species count was 56.

Monthly Sightings List

Here are the 198 species sighted around Lake Chapala in December:

Ani, groove-billed

Avocet, American

Blackbird, red-winged (Ch)

Blackbird, yellow-headed

Bunting, indigo

Bunting, lazuli

Bunting, painted

Bunting, varied



Caracara, crested

Chat, yellow-breasted (Dp,Sa)

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, Mexican

Duck, ring-necked

Duck, ruddy

Egret, great

Egret, snowy

Egret, western cattle

Elaenia, greenish

Finch, house

Flycatcher, ash-throated

Flycatcher, brown-crested (Ch)

Flycatcher, dusky (Sa)

Flycatcher, dusky-capped

Flycatcher, gray silky

Flycatcher, Hammond's

Flycatcher, least

Flycatcher, social

Flycatcher, tufted (Ch

Flycatcher, vermilion

Flycatcher, western


Gallinule, common

Gnatcatcher, blue-gray

Goldfinch, lesser

Grackle, great-tailed

Grebe, Clark's

Grebe, eared

Grebe, least

Grebe, pied-billed

Grosbeak, black-headed

Grosbeak, blue

Gull, herring (Ch)

Gull, laughing

Gull, ring-billed

Harrier, northern

Hawk, Cooper's

Hawk, gray

Hawk, red-tailed

Hawk, sharp-shinned

Hawk, Swainson's (Ch)

Hawk, white-tailed (Jo)

Hawk, zone-tailed

Heron, black-crowned night

Heron, great blue (Ch0

Heron, green

Heron, little blue

Heron, tri-colored

Hummingbird, berylline

Hummingbird, black-chinned (Ch)

Hummingbird, broad-billed

Hummingbird, rufous (Ch)

Hummingbird, violet-crowned

Hummingbird, white-eared (Ch0

Ibis, white-faced

Jacana, northern

Kestrel, American


Kingbird, Cassin's

Kingbird, thick-billed

Kingbird, tropical

Kingbird, western

Kingfisher, belted

Kingfisher, green

Kinglet, ruby-crowned

Kiskadee, great

Kite, white-tailed

Merganser, red-breasted (Sc,Av)

Mockingbird, blue

Mockingbird, northern

Nightjar, buff-collared (Sa)

Oriole, black-backed

Oriole, black-vented

Oriole, Bullock's

Oriole, hooded

Oriole, orchard

Oriole, streak-backed

Osprey (Ch)

Owl, barn (Sa)

Owl, burrowing (Dp)

Owl, ferruginous pygmy (Sa)

Owl, great horned

Owl, spotted

Parakeet, monk

Pelican, American white

Pewee, greater

Phalarope, Wilson's

Phoebe, black

Phoebe, Say's

Pigeon, rock

Pintail, northern

Pipit, American (Ps,Ch)

Plover, black-bellied (Ch)

Plover, semipalmated

Rail, Aztec

Raven, common

Redstart, American (Dm,Ch)

Robin, rufous-backed

Sandpiper, least

Sandpiper, solitary (Ch)

Sandpiper, spotted

Sandpiper, stilt (Ch)

Sandpiper, western (Sc)

Scaup, lesser

Seedeater, cinnamon-rumped

Shoveler, northern

Shrike, loggerhead

Snipe, Wilson's

Solitaire, brown-backed (Ca)


Sparrow, chipping

Sparrow, clay-colored

Sparrow, house

Sparrow, lark

Sparrow, Lincoln's

Sparrow, rusty-crowned ground

Sparrow, savannah

Sparrow, stripe-headed

Starthroat, plain-capped (Av)

Stilt, black-necked

Swallow, bank (Ps)

Swallow, barn

Swallow, northern rough-winged

Swallow, tree

Swallow, violet-green

Tanager, flame-colored

Tanager, summer

Tanager, western

Teal, blue-winged

Teal, cinnamon

Teal, green-winged

Tern, Caspian

Tern, Forster's

Thrasher, curve-billed

Thrush, hermit

Thrush, orange-billed nightingale

Towhee, canyon

Towhee, green-tailed

Tyrannulet, northern beardless

Vireo, Cassin's

Vireo, golden

Vireo, Hutton's

Vireo, plumbeous

Vireo, warbling

Vulture, black

Vulture, turkey

Warbler, black and white

Warbler, black-throated gray

Warbler, hermit Ca)

Warbler, Lucy's

Warbler, MacGillivray's

Warbler, Nashville

Warbler, orange-crowned

Warbler, red-faced (Ca0

Warbler, rufous-capped

Warbler, Townsend's

Warbler, Virginia's

Warbler, Wilson's

Warbler, yellow

Warbler, yellow-rumped

Wigeon, American

Willet (Sc)

Woodpecker, acorn

Woodpecker, golden-fronted

Woodpecker, ladder-backed

Wren, Bewick's

Wren, canyon

Wren, happy

Wren, house

Wren, marsh

Wren, Sinaloa (Ch)

Wren, spotted

Yellowlegs, greater

Yellowlegs, lesser

Yellowthroat, common

Yellowthroat, gray-crowned (Sa)

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.