Bird-Watching in Yucatán

Rise before the sun and head for shallow water to see flamingos engrossed in an intricate mating dance. April through September, thousands of the bright pink, black-tipped birds crowd the estuaries of Ría Lagartos, coming from their "summer homes" in nearby Celestún as well as from northern latitudes to mate and raise their chicks. The largest flocks of both flamingos and bird-watching enthusiasts can be found during these months, when thousands of the birds—90% of the entire flamingo population of the Western Hemisphere—come to Ría Lagartos to nest.

Although the long-legged creatures are the most famous winged beasts found in these two nature reserves, red, white, black, and buttonwood mangrove swamps are home to hundreds of other species. Of Ría Lagartos's estimated 380 different species, one-third are winter-only residents—the avian counterparts of Canadian and northern-U.S. "snowbirds." Twelve of the region's resident species are endemic, found nowhere else on earth.

Bird-watching expeditions can be organized in Mérida as well as in Río Lagartos and Celestún. November brings hundreds of professional ornithologists and bird-watching aficionados to the Yucatán for a weeklong conference and symposium with films, lectures, and field trips.

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