Bird watching in San Carlos and Guaymas, Sonora Mexico: discover local birding habitats and the birds that live there. One of the things that makes San Carlos so wonderful for birding is that we have desert birds, salt water birds and lots of migratory birds that stop in and use our estuary “bird motels” on their way south in the fall and north in the spring. So places don’t move but they can seem new as different birds check in.
If you head into the estuaries, desert, mountains and along the ocean-shore, these are some of the many birds you can find:
- Roseate Spoonbills
- Blue-footed boobies
- Varied Bunting, Lazuli Bunting
- Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks
- Heron: Green, Blue, Little Blue, Tri-colored and Yellow and Black-crowned Night Herons
- Grebe: least, eared
- Orioles: Hooded Orioles
- Cactus Wrens
- Cardinals: Northern Cardinals
- Craveri’s Murrelet
- Long-billed Curlew
- Tern: Caspian, Royal, Elegant and Forster’s
- Black-necked Stilt
- American Kestrel
- Egret: Reddish
- Pelican: Pacific Brown
- Warblers: Wilson´s, Mangrove, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated
- Crested Cara Cara
- Greater Roadrunner
- Doves: white-winged
- Vermilion Flycatchers
- Magnificent Frigatebird
- … and so many more
Locations for Bird Watching in San Carlos
- The ocean shores
- Piedras Pintas (a good place for the Green-tailed Towhee)
- San Francisco Beach
- check out San Carlos beaches for more ideas
- The desert
- Estuary Soldado by Pilar
- The little estuary by the Esterito Cafe
- The El Palmar and Paradiso settlement ponds. This series of three settlement ponds for the San Carlos Plaza Hotel is located a little west of the hotel and about ⅓ mile north. Turn right at the cattle crossing sign. The road is rough and clearance is required.
- Country Club Settlement Ponds. To reach the pond, go through the gate to the Country Club (the roads are public, you will have no trouble entering). Go past 3 topes and park where you can and walk in (south towards Beltrones).
- The trees throughout the country club
- Settlement ponds behind Marina Seca
- Miramar Estuary
- Empalme Estuary
- Rancho Ojo is on the road to the Rancho Ojo de Agua. To get to it, you drive to La Manga and then take the road north and keep going towards the mountains. It is right on the road and is a cistern of water and a couple of grassy wet spots for the cattle that roam that area.
- Champs Pond. After it rains, it’s a little spot of water between Champs on the east and Triana condos on the west. It is overflow from rains and birds love to take advantage of water holes in the desert. Lark Sparrows, Short-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer, and Semipalmated Plovers, Vermilion Flycatchers and Least Sandpipers.
- Nacapule Canyon
- Boat trip: San Nicholas Rock, the Island, Honeymoon Island (Brown pelicans nesting), all along the shore
Supplies for Bird Watching in San Carlos
- Binoculars. Binoculars are your most important tool in birding and a good pair will greatly increase your enjoyment. Mary uses Swift Audubons 8.5 x 44 ($300 USD). Consider also a spotting scope.
- bug spray
- sun protection: spray, hat
- folding chair
- bird book, bird app on smart phone (see list below)
Birding Resources for San Carlos Bird Watching
- iBird Pro (on Google Play and iTunes)
- Audubon’s guides to North American Birds
- Sibley’s app (on Google Play and iTunes)
- The Cornell Lab Merlin ID Help app (on Google Play and iTunes)
- National Geographic’s “Field Guide to the Birds of North America”
- before you head out, check San Carlos Weather
Thank you to by Dave Verner and Mary Tannehill for their birding contributions and for leading the weekly bird watching outings. For more info on the outings, checkout the newsletter. In the winter months, the group usually meets once a week at the Esterito Cafe in the Bahia. Photos by Fred Gaunt, Darwin Parks and others.
Bird Watching in San Carlos: types of birds
Pacific Brown Pelican
This is a common bird around here but it is one worth knowing more about because it is actually very special. Fred’s photo taken this last week is of a Brown Pelican in breeding plumage. Males and Females both have the same plumage.
According to Sibley´s Birds of North America, the Brown Pelican is one of only two pelicans that dive for fish. That big ole’ bill can hold 4.5 pounds of fish at one time! The average pelican will eat 4 – 4.25 pounds of fish a day. That puts the Gulf of California hard at work producing all that fish, because there are a lot of pelicans around.
The other pelican around here (also spectacular) is the White Pelican and it does not dive. The Brown can dive from up to 60 feet above the water and often completely submerges. They will dive bomb in groups after fish and somehow manage to not hit each other. The pelican dives at speeds of 60 mph (100 kmh) on the average dive, and they have air pockets in their heads to soften the repeated shocks of a lifetime of diving for fish.
Although they look rather gangly as they sit around on land, the Brown Pelican is a very graceful flyer. You will often see them flying in a line only inches above the water. They remind me of a navy fighter squadron. They are also a very social bird – with each other and other birds too. You never seem to see them fighting over territory or being just grumpy. Herrman´s Gulls will often pick a Brown Pelican to hang with hoping to steal the food he catches. I have yet to see them actually get any but they must because they keep doing it and the Brown doesn´t seem to mind. He just ignores them. Being in breeding colors means, of course, that they are breeding. They breed in colonies on the little islands in the Sea. According to Birdpedia, ´They are highly sensitive to disturbances by humans and may abandon their nest if stressed.¨ So please obey the Mexican regulation that prohibits accessing any Sea of Cortez islands without a special permit.
The brown pelican is a long-lived bird, with a life span of 30 – 35 years. The brown pelican in the Western states develop a yellow buffy head, along with a red area around the mouth during breeding season. The East coast birds lack this color change, even though they are both brown pelicans.
The black and white American Oystercatcher has bright yellow eyes and a very bright red bill and hangs out at the beach. The oystercatcher lives here all year.
This large, boldly patterned bird, is conspicuous along ocean shores. True to its name, it is specialized in feeding on oysters, clams, and mussels. The American Oystercatchers use their long, bladelike, brightly colored bills to catch shellfish unawares, seizing them before they can close up. You’ll notice that these birds frequently walk or run along the shoreline, rather than fly. Their bird calls sound like loud, whistled “wheeps”. I have found that I almost always see the Oystercatchers in pairs and, according to the literature, they are monogamous.
October is an exciting month in the world of birds. Although migration starts as early as late July in some parts of North America, in San Carlos and Northern Mexico, October is the month that things start to really roll.
Normally throughout the summer, I will have a steady stream of broadbills at the bird feeder. But come October, the broadbills are joined by Costa’s and Black chinned.
I’ve even have had one or two Violet crowned hummers show up. You can identify these fairly simple birds by a very white belly and throat area, plus the violet crown in good light.
The beautiful Varied Bunting lives year round south of us but only summers here in San Carlos. You may not see it if you stay in town because, according to iBird Pro, they spend most of their time concealed in dense desert brush, coming into view only when the male sings from the top of a bush. Our experience has been at the settlement ponds where we have seen both the male and female come to drink and take baths. However, once they do that they quickly disappear. The Varied Bunting will be found in your guides to North American Birds because it goes into a little bit of Texas and Arizona but it is mostly occurs across Mexico and south to Guatemala. It eats seeds and insects and forages in low, dense vegetation and on the ground. I hope if you are still here that you are able to see it. It is very special.
At the Country Club, we saw ten Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. This bird is not just a duck. The name is actually Whistling-Duck and besides Mexico, they are not commonly seen in the US except for Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and a small area in Arizona. Although they are not considered a migratory duck, they do move about some and ours are mainly here in the summer.
We first saw them this week. IBird Pro says the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is quite unique among ducks because they are strongly monogamous. Pairs often stay together for many years and both parents share all tasks involved with the raising of the young including sitting on the eggs in the nest. We noticed the pairings when observing them at the Country Club Pond. They are very beautiful as you can see from the images.
We usually see the Green Heron from the Esterito Cafe or occasionally at Estero Soldado or the Miramar Estuary. It is solitary, somewhat secretive and blends in perfectly with its background. Since it tends to crouch in shadows waiting for fish to swim by, it can be difficult to spot. I was very surprised to see it at the El Palmar settlement ponds because there are no fish. There were a number of insects hovering over the water and I could definitely see him catching something but could not tell what. It is easiest to see it at dusk and dawn, and Wikipedia describes it as nocturnal and preferring to be in sheltered areas in the daytime. All of which makes my sighting at El Palmar around 9:30am and in clear view rather strange. Another very interesting fact about the Green Heron is that they sometimes drop food, insects, or other small objects on the water’s surface to attract fish. Wikipedia says this makes them one of the few tool-using species and one of the most intelligent of the bird species.
When the cattle are not there, the birds move right in. We saw many Northern Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxia, Hooded Orioles, Bronzed Cowbirds, Yellow Warblers, Verdin, etc. However we only saw the female of the beautiful bird I had seen two days before: the Western Tanager, my Bird of the Week.
The Western Tanager is migrating through our area. They winter south of us and then move north – some of them as far north as the Northwest Territories in Canada. I like the way allaboutbirds.org described the bird. The author, Stephen Parsons, said: “A clear look at a male Western Tanager is like looking at a flame: an orange-red head, brilliant yellow body, and coal-black wings.” The WT is a mountain bird and lives in open woods all over the west. However, when it is migrating, Western Tanagers are less picky. They hang out in “forest, woodland, scrub, and partly open habitats as well as human-made environments such as orchards, parks, gardens, and suburban areas”, according to allaboutbirds.org. If you are trying to attract them to your area, iBird Pro says to try Safflower, Apple Slices, Suet, Millet, Peanut Kernels and Fruit
This is not a bird universally loved by all. In fact, many people are very put off by its breeding and nesting habits. Maybe not so much the breeding because it does that pretty much like every bird, but the nesting is something else entirely.
Bronzed Cowbirds, like their close relative the Brown-headed Cowbird, do not actually build nests. Nor do they sit on a nest. Nor do they raise their young. They are called nest parasites. What they do is lay 8 or 10 eggs, one each usually but sometimes more, in the nests of other birds. They particularly like Oriole nests, but will also use the nests of Northern Cardinals and Mockingbirds in this area. They are counting on the nesting instincts of the other breeds to kick in and allow the egg(s) to remain and even feed the hatchling after it breaks out of the egg. Apparently, they are very successful because their conservation status is listed as “least concern.”
What I find particularly interesting about the Bronzed Cowbird is its neck ruff. While we watched one the other day, it constantly was fluffing out the feathers on its neck (see photo on right). I read that this can be part of its breeding activity but the bird we were watching was not courting but just feeding along the ground (in an area frequented by cows, hence the name). I think it might also be an alarm mechanism but did not see that mentioned in the sources I looked at. This bird either lives here full time or summers here, depending on your bird guide source. My experience has been that we usually see it in spring. They have a bright red eye.
Little Blue Heron
The viewing we had this week was far different than the normal slate blue of the adult. That is because we saw a juvenile Little Blue and it wasn´t blue at all, it was white (pictured on left). As you can see from the photos, there is a big difference between the adult and juvenile.
The Little Blue Heron is one of my favorite herons and is a year-round resident here. It is petite compared to the other Egrets and Herons, and the blue is like no other. It is more intensely blue than the Great Blue Heron (pictured on right) which is actually grayish and it has a lovely blue bill that turns into black towards the tip. Some guides describe its color as slate, but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.org site describes it as “a small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples.” Isn´t that a lovely description?
The white juvenile is about the same size as the Snowy Egret (black legs, black bill and bright yellow feet) and according to Cornell, “White little blue herons often mingle with snowy egrets. These young birds actually catch more fish when in the presence of the snowy egret and also gain a measure of protection from predators when they mix into flocks of white herons.” Our little guy, however, was all by himself.
The Pyrrhuloxia and the Northern Cardinals are very active all around San Carlos in spring. Quite often the Pyrrhuloxia is mistaken for the Female Northern Cardinal, and they do look very similar.
Both are large crested Finches. The Pyrrhuloxia has a much more limited range and only ventures into Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the US. When you are viewing a Pyrrhuloxia/or Cardinal female, look first at the prominent bill. Cardinals have a red/red-orange bill and it is very conical. The Pyrrhuloxia has a yellow bill and it is crooked. It also has a lovely red-tipped gray crest, gray head, back and upperparts, a red-washed face and breast and pale gray underparts. The tail is red. The female Cardinal has the red bill and a beautiful cream-colored breast. The Pyrrhuloxia likes to eat flower spikes, various fruits, berries, seeds, and insects. According to iBird Pro, you can attract it to your feeder with apple slices, suet, millet, peanut kernels and fruit.
I like it for two reasons. 1. It is adorable; and 2. It is a bird almost exclusively seen in the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula. It breeds in the Sea of Cortez. This plump little seabird is a threatened species that iBird Pro says prefers rocky cliffs and offshore waters. It feeds, like all pelagic birds, on fish. It dives down from the surface for rockfish, herring, and lanternfish. IBird Pro says the Craveri’s Murrelet is “reminiscent of a small, flying penguin.” In other words, irresistible.
Pelagic birds are birds that only come to land for breeding. The rest of the time is spent flying above the sea, fishing in it, and resting upon it. Therefore, you will not be observing them from here in San Carlos. For you fishing enthusiasts, you have many opportunities to spot some of these birds as you fish far from shore. You can see Red-necked Phalarope, Black-vented Shearwater, Craveri’s Murrelet, and the Pomarine Jaeger.
Also at sea you can see Blue-footed boobies, Elegant Terns, and Eared Grebes, all of which you can also see from land.
The magic of birding is that one never knows what will show up in an old favorite place. Once, while enjoying the tranquility at the settlement pond (laguna de oxidacción) for Plaza San Carlos, but not seeing too much, four Lazuli Buntings arrived and stayed, showing us their incredible beauty, for almost 30 minutes.
IBird Pro says this bird is a small finch that summers in western United States and winters in western Mexico. You can see for yourself from the image the vivid blue coloring. They prefer dry, brushy ravines and slopes, as well as cleared areas and weed pastures. They are mainly a weed and tree seed eater but will tackle some insects. If you would like to attract them to your feeder, try safflower, apple slices, suet, millet, peanut kernels or fruit.
| Long-billed Curlew
March is the time to head to any of the estuaries to see this almost comical bird. He only winters here and will be leaving soon. Like the Marbled Godwit this large bird is actually a Sandpiper but definitely not a little peep as we birders refer to the tiny sandpipers along the shore. He is defined by his extremely long bill. His bill is “decurved” which means it points downwards rather than that slight up tilt the Godwit has.
Here we see the Curlew almost exclusively at the estuaries, but in migration you could well spot him on lakes or river shores as well as mudflats, salt marshes or sandy beaches. He is adaptable. He will feed on insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks and small vertebrates including the eggs and young of other birds. We usually see him here probing the mud flats. While the Long-billed Curlew looks like it might tip over any moment, it is a very attractive bird. If you are lucky enough to see him fly, you can identify him by the cinnamon-brown underwings. They are gorgeous.
The Long-billed Curlew is the largest shorebird in North America. But, you may say, “How can that be because I see birds along the shore of the estuary that are much larger?” You are correct; but, those birds (such as our herons and egrets) are not shorebirds. They are wading birds. And that is as far as I am willing to wade today into the complex world of Birdlandia. Or bad puns.
The Elegant Tern migrates through our area in March. You can find large flocks of them resting at the mouth of Estero Soldado and loudly diving for fish in the Bahía San Francisco. According to birdlife.org, the Elegant Tern “is considered Near Threatened as it has a restricted breeding range, with more than 90% of the breeding population being restricted to a single island.” That island is the Isla Raza which is almost directly west of Hermosillo near the Baja coast in the Sea of Cortez.
When the Elegants arrive here, they are checking into our Estero Soldado “bird motel” to rest and recover from flights as far away as Chile in South America. We are fortunate to have the Caspian and Royal Terns around us almost all winter. The Elegant Tern visits in the fall and spring and is the smallest of the three. It gets its name from its bill which is longer and less clunky than the others.
If you see the Terns together, it is easy to spot the Elegant because it is smaller, but size is not a good marker when a bird is alone. If it is only with others just like it, look at the orange bill. It has a slight downturn (decurved in bird idiom) and is rather thin appearing. It is also known for its black shaggy crest, but I have found that when the wind is blowing the other terns can appear “shaggy” also. When it is flying, I usually identify it by the noise it makes. IBird Pro calls its call “a grating karreck, karreck.” That is it exactly and it does love to “karreck” joyously with its mates while fishing.
The Avocet is a long-legged shorebird with a long distinctive upcurved bill. It winters here and has just gone into its breeding plumage which is shown in the photo. While they are a striking bird even in winter, the summer (breeding) plumage adds a lovely rust color to their heads and necks. Now is the time to head to estuaries to see them because they will soon be heading home to their breeding grounds in the US and Canada. They are usually in groups and feed by sweeping their bills from side to side.
Fun fact from iBird Pro: the chicks leave the nest within 24 hours after hatching. The day old chicks can walk, swim, and even dive to escape predators.
The Black-necked Stilt
This is a very aptly named bird because, as you can see from the photo, he is so long-legged it looks like he is on stilts. Because he is so distinctive, he is quite easy to identify (a fact not to be underappreciated.) The bright pink legs help. According to iBird Pro, Stilts have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos. They feed in both salt and fresh water on half-webbed feet that allow them to swim. However, we have never seen them swim and iBird Pro says it is rare for them to do so.
We usually see them in estuaries and almost always in a group. They winter here but are year-round not too far south of us. They like to eat tadpoles, mollusks, water beetles and other aquatic insects, snails, small fish, flying insects, and seeds. In other words, they are not finicky.
The Kestrel is not a rare bird; in fact, it is the most common falcon in North America. You might wonder why I would choose it as the Bird of the Week.
Well, besides wanting to share Fred’s lovely photo, I also think it is always exciting to see a bird of prey. They are majestic even when they are not that big and the American Kestrel is the smallest of the falcons. Although they are migratory, the range map from iBird Pro shows Kestrels here in our area year round. The bird in the photo was seen on the road going to the Soggy Peso and the other restaurants on Algodones Beach. Sibley’s Guide says they hunt within a small range which would account for why we see one or two along that road every time we go.
The small size and the vertical stripes on the face are clues that it is a Kestrel. You might wonder what is the difference between a falcon and a hawk, and the answer is quite interesting. Hawks catch their food with the talons on their feet, and falcons catch their food with their beaks. Falcons are built for speed and have longer, narrower wings that they beat rapidly between short glides. Hawks’ wings are wider and they go slower, beat their wings less often, and glide longer distances. Hawks are also generally bigger.
The lovely photo of a Kestrel flying was taken by Fred Gaunt.
Roseate Spoonbills can be found in the estuaries. This lovely, large and very pink bird is always special to see. In the United States it is found only along the Gulf of Mexico and in Southern Florida. In Mexico it is also along the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific side up into the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos. We are at the northernmost end of its range. The Spoonbill is an Ibis but the bill is quite different from the thinner curved bills we see on the White Ibis around here. Spoonbills prefer mangroves, saltwater lagoons and large, shallow lakes. We, of course, have two out of three of those. While books describe it as here year round, we usually start seeing it more regularly in February. Our photo of the Spoonbill also includes the American Avocet and they are a lovely contrast in bills. According to IBirdPro they like to eat minnows, small crustaceans, bits of plants and insects. Although they are called Spoonbills, to me the bill more closely resembles a spatula and, in fact, the Spanish name is Roseate Spatula. Their foraging is always interesting and different from many other wading birds because they swish their bills from side to side often in a manner that seems quite frantic but is probably just normal swishing for them.
We are lucky to have a very large number of Herons and Egrets in our San Carlos area. Great Blue Heron, Little Blue, Green, Tri-colored and Yellow and Black-crowned Night Herons are all here.
In addition, we have the Great, Cattle, Snowy and Reddish Egrets. You might well ask what is the difference between an “Egret” and a “Heron”, and the answer according to web sources I checked is – not much. Wikipedia describes an Egret as “a bird that is any of several herons, most of which are white or buff, and several of which develop fine plumes”. The Reddish Egret in our area is not white but there is a white morph (think of morph as a different version – same bird but a white version). This is not a common heron (remember egrets are part of the heron family) like the Great Blue.
In the United States, it is found in southern Florida and along the Gulf Coast to Texas. In Mexico, it is found along both coasts. It prefers marshes, shallow bays and lagoons. It is common in our estuaries (esteros). It eats fish, frogs and crustaceans. When it is foraging, it is very distinctive because it runs along with its wings raised, which according to iBird Pro, is to cast a shadow to cut down on glare. They are very entertaining. Note the bill: black at the end turning pink as it approaches the face.
The Teal is a small dabbling duck. With ducks, you have dabblers and divers. Divers are just what it sounds like, and dabblers forage by skimming the water with their bill or dabbling with their heads in the water and their butts in the air.
Dabbling ducks are also different in how they are built. According to a Stanford University web page, “Dabblers have large wings relative to body weight and fly slowly, which enables them to drop down onto small areas with precision. Divers, on the other hand, have small wings relative to body weight and fly faster, but must remain in open water with sufficient runway space because they lack the ability to land on a dime and must run along the water surface to become airborne.” This explains why many of the ducks we see in the settlement ponds are dabblers. They can easily drop from the air into these small ponds that would not have enough runway room for the divers.
The Mangrove Warbler
We spotted the Mangrove Warbler in Estero Soldado at Pilar. We took the walk along the mangroves towards the estero opening. A large flock of Lesser Goldfinches was flitting from bush to bush. Their bright yellow breasts looked like yellow Christmas ornaments decorating a tree. It was there we spotted the mangrove warbler. Warblers are definitely in the flitter category, but this cutie sat still for at least five minutes giving great photo opportunities. My theory is that he was warming up in the morning sun because after about five minutes, he began to move, slowly at first, from branch to branch before reaching full flitter throttle. Bird books show the Mangrove Warbler as a subspecies of the Yellow Warbler but we are hearing there is a good possibility he will be his own species in the future. If you want to attract the warbler to your feeder, iBird Pro suggests you try sugar water, fruit and nut pieces.
Besides the Mangrove Warbler and Lesser Goldfinches, we saw a Western Meadowlark and three different kinds of hummingbird.
The photo was taken by Fred Gaunt on the outing this week and shows two together in mutual attraction mode (mating behavior.) This is one of the most common and easiest to see of the numerous wrens to be found in the San Carlos area. It is also the largest, another factor in making it easy to spot.
Its name is very fitting because it often sits on cactus in plain view as opposed to those other small secretive wrens who love to hide and taunt me with their songs. Besides just sitting on cactus, it likes to build its nest of sticks in them also. iBird Pro says they eat insects, including ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and wasps and if you want to attract them to your feeder, try apple slices and peanut butter.
At El Palmar, the warblers were putting on a show in one of the bushes. There were the Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped and the Wilson’s Warbler. Who could resist that sweet face and little black cap on the top of his head? These little birds are winter visitors, like many of us. According to iBirdPro, they like to search the outsides of leafy branches and will often catch flying insects like a flycatcher. If you want to attract them, they like sugar water, fruit and nut pieces. We have been seeing a lot of them recently.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a distinctive little bird you may see in your backyard or around town right now and say to yourself, “Whoa, what was that?” The good news about this medium sized warbler is that its name is a very accurate description of its most prominent identifying feature. It has a bright yellow patch on its rump that looks like a little pat of butter you might receive in a restaurant. For that reason, some people refer to it as the “Butter Butt.” Irreverent but accurate. iBird Pro says our friend feeds mainly on insects in the summer and on berries and fruits in the winter. Our little guy in the photo was clearly after an insect. Hopefully, you can see the little black dot it is after with its mouth wide open for the grab and his butter butt clearly visible. This is one of those birds easier to identify from the back than the front and when flying which they do a lot as they flit busily in search of food.
We spotted the Groove-billed Anis at the Country Club pond. This bird would be a life bird for many because it is only seen in a small section of the US along the Gulf of Mexico. We are lucky to find them in many places around here. My first viewing was a group congregating at a garbage bin outside a restaurant in Guaymas. They are very social and you will almost always see them in a group. iBird Pro describes the bill as huge and the tail as half the length of the bird. Totally black and with a preference for overgrown fields and thickets. iBird Pro also says they forage by following livestock to catch insects but will take fruits, berries, small lizards, frogs, and snakes. It’s a very nice bird to have around, in other words. We have also seen them in the mangroves by the Esterito Cafe. If you see a bunch of black birds, take a second look — they could be the Anis.
This large, bright yellow flycatcher is always a treat to see. We are about as far north as it gets and I don´t think I have seen it anywhere around here except at Empalme. We see it often when we continue south to Ciudad Obregón. IBird Pro says it prefers rivers, streams and lakes bordered with dense vegetation. Empalme has dense mangroves and some brackish water that seems to count for a lake for our Kiskadee because I have seen him here for several years. It is usually hanging around (in the thick vegetation around the brackish pond).
I saw this bird out at El Palmar. The Merlin is a small falcon and lives all over Mexico and a large part of the US and Canada. According to iBird Pro, it likes to eat small birds such as larks, swallows, finches and also small mammals, lizards, snakes, and insects, especially dragonflies. El Palmar has an abundance of dragonflies sometimes so it is not surprising it was hanging out on a dead tree branch when I saw it.
This bird is not really common at all and if you are looking to add it to your life list, the estuary by the Esterito Cafe is the best spot. According to iBird Pro, it feeds on snakes, frogs, fish, young birds, and land crabs. I think ours might prefer fish. They are nearly all black but have feet and a bill that are bright yellow. In the attached photo you can see the unmistakeable thick white band on the tail. It’s a great bird.
Ospreys are common here but always magnificent. I took the photo at Estuary Soldado. They are a raptor (like eagles and hawks) and feed on fish. You will often see them perched on almost anything high with a good view of the water. We have two that like the unfinished building next to the Conquistadors condos.
We often see Magnificent Frigatebirds flying overheard in San Carlos…whether in the County Club or by the water. They are also known as the man of war bird and the pirate bird. The frigatebird, with its black, long wingspan menacingly hovering in the sky looking for nests to steal eggs from, is actually quite a beauty when it comes to love. Male frigatebirds have red kidney-shaped pouches on their chests that they inflate like balloons to attract girls (see photo on left). During mating season, the male sits on a nest and gyrates his puffed-up chest at the females flying overhead. When a female sees a male she likes, she lands beside him. However, copulation is often interrupted when other jealous males jump on the chosen partner and try to puncture his red balloon.
The Cedar Waxwing is just too gorgeous a bird to not share it with you. It winters all over Mexico but prefers open woodlands, orchards and residential areas. That does not sound a lot like San Carlos, does it? We have seen it twice at a settlement pond with lots of bushes providing easy access to insects. It prefers berries but the bushes we saw it in did not have leaves, much less berries. If you want to attract it to your feeders, iBirdPro suggests apple slices, currants, or, get this, canned peas.
This is a Mexican thrush that occasionally wanders briefly into Arizona. All the range maps show it significantly south and also east of us. It is similar to the American Robin but has a lovely rufous back and a white throat with black streaking. iBirdPro lists it as non-migratory and, if so, we can hope that San Carlos is a new home for it and that many of us will be able to see it. However, it is much shyer than the American Robin and likes dense thickets. The times we have spotted it, it was coming for a drink at the ponds. iBirdPro says it eats mainly fruits, but also insects and worms. They also say it will readily eat raisins, currants and nut meal for those with bird feeders who would like to try and entice it. It seems to prefer shade.