Nature in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo: Birdwatching


Mexico is known for exceptional biodiversity and wealth of bird species. Thanks to its diverse natural setting, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo as always has been rich in native and migratory birds with more than 320 species cataloged in the area. Whatever your level of birding expertise, early in the morning you will certainly enjoy hearing the songs of countless birds.

Birdings is particularly good from sunrise until about 10am, and in late afternoon until sunset when there is a flurry of activity and sounds, especially in the lagoons while certain species make all the necessary preparations to perch for the night.

Ixtapa’s ecology-sensitive master plan has preserved the land of the Palma Real Golf Course, originally a coconut plantation. It remains a protected nature sanctuary where birding is excellent. Other special areas include the tree-lined grassy area of Paseo Ixtapa Avenue that runs along the Hotel Zone, the nearby residential area of Ixtapa, and the trajectory of the Ciclopista (bicycle path) that runs up the coast along the Aztlan nature reserve to Playa Linda where there is a wildlife lagoon.

There is exceptional bird activity in Zihuatanejo Bay as well as in the orchards and forested area behind La Ropa Beach.The impressive rock formations offshore from Ixtapa, and Morros de Potosi, the spectacular guano-covered rock islets down the coast, are also home to many species of sea birds.

The following species are usually spotted by birders (bring your binoculars and camera with zoom lens):Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Booby, Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Fish Hawk, Golden Vireo, Carpintero Woodpecker, Golden-Cheeked Woodpecker, Great White Egret, Reddish Egret, Snowy Egret, Great-Tailed Grackle, Green Heron, Blue Heron, Tricolor Heron, Groove-Billed Ani, Inca Dove, Roseate Spoonbill , Ruddy Ground Dove, White-Winged Dove, Laughing Gull, Magnificent Frigatebird, Neotropic Cormorant, NorthernCardinal, Royal Tern, Social Flycatcher, Tyrant Flycatcher, Stripe-Headed Sparrow, Turkey Vulture, Tyrant Flycatcher, West Mexican Chachalaca, White-Throated Magpie, Yellow-Winged Cacique, Wood Stork


The first section of the 8-kilometer/5-mile Ciclopista starts at Marina Ixtapa and heads west (counterclockwise) to circle the perimeter of the Marina Ixtapa Golf Course, for a distance of 4.3 kilometers/2.7 miles. The route then continues up the coast, passing alongside the Parque Aztlan, an ecological reserve with crocodiles, iguana, heron and other exotic birds, until it reaches Playa Linda, an additional 3.8 kilometers/2.4 miles.

In the opposite direction, a separate Ciclopista, covering 3.8 kilometers/2.4 miles, runs between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. In Ixtapa it begins at Paseo de los Viveros (located behind the Palma Real Golf Course and residential area). The route goes through lush tropical rain forest with majestic trees such as ceiba, huje, and exotic parota, some over 115 feet tall. Birders will spot myriad species: woodpecker, calandria, magpie, chacalaca, parrot, eagle, white heron, hawk, other exotics and, during winter, spoonbill and stork. Other wildlife here include crocodile, lake turtle, armadillo, green iguana, badger, squirrel, raccoon, tlacuache which is the nahuatl word for a specie of opossum (called “Mexican mouse”). The path continues southeast, flanking the highway between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, and ending at the Instituto Tecnolgico de la Costa Grande located just before the entrance to Zihuatanejo.


Once wonderfully abundant, sea turtle populations have dwindled to endangered species. However, over the past years, admirable conservation efforts to replenish and protect turtle populations are being supported by federal government environmental agencies throughout Mexico’s coastlines including Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo where community-wide efforts of the Municipality as well as several hotels are enhancing the survival rate of hundreds of thousands of hatchlings.

Mother turtles instinctively return to their own place of birth to lay their eggs. During the May-October many of them—primarily he Golfina, also the Laud and Carey species—return to the beaches of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, some making their nests in the beachfronts of the hotels.  Trained volunteers, including hotel employees, carefully “rescue” the eggs and place them in corrals where incubation is monitored.