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Cost: $4,600/person.

Single Supplement: $550.

Maximum Group Size: 12

Spaces Currently Available: 7

Tour Difficulty: Easy

Number of Bird Species: 260+

Guides: Kashmir Wolf-Local MX guide; Steve Hoffman-USA Guide.

Tour prices are given “per person, double occupancy” and will include a generous donation to Pronatura Veracruz, a local, highly respected nonprofit bird/habitat conservation organization working throughout the region (their work includes the "River of Raptors" monitoring/education project. Our tour fee includes the following (unless otherwise noted):


  • All trip materials, including detailed daily itinerary, list of what to bring, recommended field guides and pre-trip reading materials, checklist of likely birds, etc.

  • All services of the leaders and guides.

  • All transportation upon arrival to destination airport (Veracruz City).

  • All accommodations during tour dates.

  • All entrance fees to museums, parks, etc.

  • All meals (excluding alcoholic beverages) are included, from breakfast on the first full day through dinner on the last full day.


Tour prices DO NOT include round-trip airfare, passport/visa fees, baggage fees, telephone calls, laundry, room service, souvenirs, and tipping of all guides & drivers (optional but highly recommended!).

Note: Tour costs and itineraries are subject to change. Prices could be affected by changing international currency exchange rates or necessary itinerary adjustments.


Kashmir Wolf

Pronatura Guide & Senior Biologist

Biologist Kashmir ("Kash") Wolf joined the Veracruz River of Raptors Project in 2008, and currently serves as the Project Coordinator. Since graduating from college Kash has been conducting avian research and monitoring in Mexico and throughout the region. He interned for Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (PA) in 2010, and has studied the endangered Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler in Texas and Oklahoma. Through these and other experiences Kash has developed outstanding guiding and bird identification skills (Kash has been leading tours for Merlin Birding since 2017.)

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Veracruz River of Raptors Tour
October 5-16, 2024

Each fall millions of migrating raptors are counted in central Veracruz, Mexico! As these majestic birds migrate south, they are funneled into a narrow bottleneck between the Sierra Madre Orientale Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico. This raptor flyway, the largest visible raptor migration on Earth, also harbors large concentrations of other avian migrants, including White Pelican, Wood Stork, White-faced Ibis, Anhinga, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and much more. 

Tour participants will have exciting and memorable opportunities to observe the spectacular raptor and waterbird migrations, as well as visit a variety of habitats (from freshwater wetlands and Gulf shores to pine forests, savannas and lowland tropical rainforests) to view the exceptional diversity of resident Mexican species and North American wintering birds. (A remarkable variety of colorful butterflies is also spectacular!) Up to 260 bird species are recorded on this 12-day birding extravaganza in central and southern Veracruz! Kashmir ("Kash") Wolf, an excellent bilingual local guide, will accompany us throughout this tour.

Tour organizer/leader Steve Hoffman co-founded the Veracruz River of Raptors Project in 1991 while he was employed by HawkWatch International (an organization he founded in 1986). Over the past 30 years this project has grown to become a world-renowned raptor monitoring, education and conservation initiative. Pronatura Veracruz, a regional nonprofit nature conservation organization, leads this annual effort. Importantly, this project spawned the development of the first bird observatory in all of Mexico (it was completed and opened to the public in 2006).

Itinerary at a Glance:

Oct 5:   Arrive in Veracruz City.

Oct 6:    Birding at Hotel, transfer to Cardel, hawkwatching, La Antigua boat ride.

Oct 7:    Villa Rica, Quiahuitzlan Ruins (includes hawk watching), Cempoala Ruins;                       transfer to Xalapa.

Oct 8:    Macuiltepetl City Park, Museo de Antropologia (Xalapa overnite).

Oct 9:    La Joya, Las Minas, Los Humeros (pine forest & high desert birding).

Oct 10:   Xico, Rio Escondido, Chichicaxtle Hawk Watching.

Oct 11:    El Mirador Coffee Plantation, Chichicaxtle Hawk Watching.

Oct 12:   Alvarado Wetlands Boat Trip, Las Barrancas Grasslands.

Oct 13:   Las Barrancas, Tlacotalpan, (Catemaco overnite).

Oct 14:   Nanciyaga-La Jungla, Los Tuxtlas Biological Station, Montepio. 

Oct 15:  Ruiz Cortinez, Veracruz City sightseeing.

Oct 16:  Return home.

Merlin Tours Group birding along Gulf Coast

For the first two mornings we shall explore the coastal lowlands along the Gulf of Mexico (followed by afternoon hawkwatching!). Later on the trip we will travel south of Veracruz City to explore a vast wetland-grassland savanna, hoping to find Double-striped Thick-Knee, Fork-tailed and Scissor-tailed flycatchers, Aplomado Falcon, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and much more. Another tour highlight is visiting El Mirador, a shade-grown coffee plantation. Here we are likely to see Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, Gartered Trogon and many other forest birds. We shall also travel west to Xalapa, located in the mountain foothills. Here we will bird a city park (remnant cloud forest atop an old volcano), hoping for Blue Mockingbird, Blue-crowned Motmot, Green Jay, Squirrel Cuckoo and numerous hummingbirds. We will also visit Xico to view a most spectacular waterfall and a plethora of mountain forest birds (including Bat Falcon, Violet Sabrewing, Chestnut-headed and Montezuma Oropendolas and more).

One afternoon we will visit the renown Museo de Antropologia (in Xalapa), where thousands of Olmec culture (1500-400 B.C.) artifacts are displayed. Additional

high-elevation pine-oak forest birding will likely yield the stunning, endemic Red Warbler, as well as Olive, Golden-browed and Crescent-chested warblers, Gray Silky, Slate-throated Redstart, Russet Nightingale-Thrush and more! For the last 3 days of the tour we will travel to southern Veracruz to explore the Lake Catemaco and Ruiz Cortines area, the northernmost extent of the lowland tropical forest (Ornate Hawk-Eagle and Barred Forest-falcon are possible here!). 


Scarlet Macaws (Photo by tour participant Paul Roberts)

October 5: Arrive in Veracruz City. Meet local Mexico-based guide at Veracruz City Airport. Travel by bus to overnight lodging at Hotel Mocambo in Veracruz City, along the Gulf Coast. 

October 6: Early morning bird walk around Hotel Mocambo (Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Red-billed Pigeon, Ruddy Turnstone, Royal & Sandwich Terns, Peregrine Falcon, Olive-throated Parakeet, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Clay-colored Thrush likely), followed by sumptuous breakfast buffet. We will search for many parrots, flycatchers, shorebirds, seabirds, and waders in the hotel gardens and along the Gulf's sandy beaches. We will then travel to Cardel, checking in at Hotel Bienvenido and visiting the rooftop hawk-watch for the mid-day raptor flight. Later in the afternoon, we shall visit Hernan Cortez’s 16th-century home and first church in the Americas in La Antigua, followed by an evening boat ride along the La Antigua River to search for waders, kingfishers, shorebirds etc. We will enjoy a riverside seafood dinner at La Antigua’s open-air restaurant. Overnight at Bienvenidos Hotel in Cardel.

October 7: Early morning birding in the Villa Rica area to search for forest, savanna, and wetland birds, followed by a visit to the Quiahuiztlan Ruins, where, with luck, we hope to observe the amazing migration of raptors and waterbirds. We will then return to Cardel for lunch, and do some hawk watching on the hotel roof, or nearby Chichicaxtle. (Or you may wish to rest in your hotel room.) In mid-afternoon we shall visit the nearby Cempoala Ruins (a post-Classical Totonac settlement); we shall then depart toward Xalapa City, to continue with the mountain part of our trip. Overnight in Xalapa area.


October 8: Macuiltepetl Park, Museo de Antropologia

An early breakfast at the hotel, followed by early morning bird walk in Macuiltepetl Ecological Park, a forested urban park located on an ancient volcano. We will search for numerous resident and migrant species, including Blue Mockingbird, Blue-crowned Motmot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Green Jay, Rusty Sparrow, Brown-backed Solitaire, as well as a plethora of warblers, flycatchers and hummingbirds. After lunch we will visit the world-renowned Museo de Antropologia to view the excellent Olmec (ancient Mexican culture) archaeological exhibits. Dinner in Xalapa.mation about the Veracruz River of Raptors Project as well as their raptor banding and educational programs. Overnight again in Xalapa area.

October 9: La Joya, Las Minas, Los Humeros (pine forest & possibly desert birding)

An early breakfast at the hotel, followed by birding in high-elevation pine woodlands. After a few hours of pine forest birding (looking for White-eared & Bumblebee hummingbirds, Slate-throated Redstart, Red, Olive, Crescent-chested, Hermit, Townsend’s, and Golden-browed warblers, Gray Silky, Pine Flycatcher, Greater Pewee and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, among others), we will eat lunch in the La Joya area, and then travel to higher-elevation forest and/or desert habitats near Las Minas and/or Los Humeros for additional mountain and/or high-desert birding. In late afternoon we will return to Xalapa for dinner/relaxation. Overnight in Xalapa area.


October 10: Xico, Rio Escondido, Chichicaxtle Hawk Watching 

An early breakfast at the hotel, followed by morning birding in Xico area to view the spectacular Texolo Waterfalls and search for resident swifts, hummingbirds (including the Violet Sabrewing), Bat Falcons, parrots, oropendolas and a plethora of other forest birds. We will lunch at a local restaurant while en route back to Xalapa. We will then continue toward Cardel, stopping for birding at Rio Escondido (“Hidden River”) and/or hawk watching at Chichicaxtle. Dinner at hotel. Overnight at Bienvenidos Hotel in Cardel.



October 11: El Mirador Coffee Plantation, Chichicaxtle Hawk Watching

Early morning birding at El Mirador, a nearby certified shade-grown coffee plantation (dating back to the mid-19th century) within a diverse, mature forest. A variety of forest specialties (trogons, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, parrots, flycatchers, warblers, toucans, etc.) abound! A special snack/lunch will be served onsite. We shall return for late afternoon hawk-watching at Chichicaxtle. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight at Bienvenidos Hotel.

October 12: Alvarado Wetlands Boat Ride, Las Barrancas Grasslands

We will have an early breakfast before driving south to bird the Papaloapan River area, including the mangrove forests within the vast Alvarado Wetlands. We will enjoy a 2-hour boat ride, searching for Great Black and Black-collared hawks as well as an array of wading birds and mangrove forest specialties. In the afternoon, if time permits, we will explore the Las Barrancas Grasslands before returning to Veracruz City for dinner. Overnight at Hotel Mocambo.

Alvarado-river- boat-ride

Photo by Paul Roberts, participant

October 13: Las Barrancas Grasslands, Tlacotalpan, Transfer to Catemaco

We will leave early to explore the expansive Las Barrancas grassland/wetland south of Veracruz City, hoping to find Fork-tailed and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Limpkin, Aplomado Falcon, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Snail Kite, American & Pinnated bitterns, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Tropical Mockingbird and other wetland/grassland species. We shall continue traveling toward southern Veracruz, stopping along the way at Tlacotalpan to do some birding and to have lunch; we will then continue toward Catemaco, staying overnight at a lakeside hotel (Hotel Playa Azul).

October 14: Los Tuxtlas Biological Station, Nanciyaga Private Reserve

We will first visit Nanciyaga, a private reserve where beautiful Scarlet Macaws and other rainforest birds are readily seen. We will then travel to Los Tuxtlas Biological Reserve, a significant biosphere reserve representing the northernmost rainforest in the western Hemisphere. We shall likely see additional rainforest birds, various migrants, and a few endemics (such as the Long-tailed Sabrewing and others). We will then return to Catemaco for dinner/relaxation. Overnight at Hotel Playa Azul.

October 15: Ruiz Cortines, Veracruz City sightseeing

This day we will walk inside the rainforest, looking for the endemic Tuxtlas Quail-Dove, Tropical Flycatcher, Lesson’s Motmot, Gray-headed Dove, various Ant-Tanagers, toucans, grassquits and more. This area is located on the slope of an extinct Volcano and is full of rainforest diversity. This area is known to harbor rare, elusive tropical raptors, such Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Barred Forest- Falcon, Black Hawk-Eagle and White Hawk. After our birding we will have lunch at a local community restaurant before departing to Veracruz City for our last night. Overnight at Hotel Mocambo.

October 16: Fly home (early morning).

Kettle of reptors Vercruz Mexico
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