El Naranjo – the land of mud and turquoise waters

21 – 24 August 2013

We headed to El Naranjo in San Luis Potosi in search of a couple of species that reach their southern distribution around El Naranjo – birds like Tamualipus Pygmy-Owl, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, Tawny-collared Nightjar, and Long-billed Thrasher.  Eastern Mexico also hosts many new species that we have yet to encounter on our trip.  As we drove into El Naranjo the rain started coming down and the streets of town quickly turned to mud, getting worse each afternoon as rains drenched the town.

Turquoise pools

Turquoise pools

However, all around el Naranjo turquoise waters flow in the rivers and amazing waterfalls and limestone pools dot the landscape.  The falls we visited were truly amazing!! Well worth a stop and beyond words.




We started our first day well before the sun came up in search of the Tawny-collared Nightjar which has been reported in the area.  We drove down the “back road” to El Salto which leaves highway 80 near El Sabinito searching for the Tawny-collared Nightjar, but this dirt road is surprisingly busy and has little habitat left, not a great spot.  As the sun began to rise we headed up to the El Maguey Road.  The birding there was pretty incredible with great looks at Crimson-collared Grosbeak, White-winged Tanager, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Altamira Oriole, Blue-crowned Motmot, Couch’s Kingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Spot-breasted Wren, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Black-crested titmouse, and Golden-olive Woodpecker (Bronze-winged Woodpecker). El Maguey road definitely did not disappoint!  For a complete list see our eBird report for El Maguey Rd and various side tracks around highway 80.

One of our target birds was the Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl.   The Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl, previously considered the same species as Least Pygmy-Owl, is now considered a separate species. It has a very small range, restricted to humid forests in the mountains of Tamaulipas and eastern San Luis Potosi.  The Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl’s call is unique among the other pygmy-owls in that it gives very slow double toots with several seconds between pairs, far slower than any of the double tooting Mountain Pygmy-Owls.  We spent most of the day and the next evening searching for the pygmy-owl, but despite considerable effort we did not have any luck. Perhaps they move around a bit and are in different locations during the breeding season, as they are reputedly pretty reliably found here in the winter?

Parrots are the other attraction around El Naranjo.  Several  species of parrots can be found in the area including Red-crowned, Red-lored, Yellow-headed, and White-crowned Parrots, as well as Green Parakeets.  We drove up to El Meco and followed the road to El Salto.  We found that the best place to look for parrots is along the highway at a high point just south of KM 9 (lat/long 22.57101 -99.36046).  This spot provides a great vantage point to observe parrots flying by.  We saw many Red-lored Parrots, Green Parakeets, and four Yellow-headed Parrots!  Seeing the Yellow-headed Parrots fly by was a real treat as this species is being decimated by the pet trade and habitat loss.  A survey conducted in 1994 estimated the population size at 7,000 individuals, but they have clearly declined further since then.

The gate next to the Montezuma Oropendola colony and the place to stop to watch for parrots.

The gate next to the Montezuma Oropendola colony and the place to stop to watch for parrots.

At the parrot stop there is also a nesting colony of Montezuma Oropendola. Normally encountered further south, this colony in San Luis Potosi is the northern most known breeding colony of Montezuma Oropendola.  A taxi driver stopped along the highway to chat with us and told us that this colony has been there for at least 8 years.

In addition to the parrots and oropendolas we also spotted Northern Bobwhite, Brown Jay, Melodious Blackbird, numerous Altamira Orioles and Audubon’s Orioles, Plain Chacalaca, and we heard the ever elusive Thicket Tinamou (and spent an hour futilely stalking it in the thick vegetation).See our eBird list for El Meco to El Salto on the 23rd and 24th



1 Comment on El Naranjo – the land of mud and turquoise waters

  1. gborgmann // August 28, 2013 at 10:16 pm //

    I don’t see any parrots -just cows???<:-)
    just cool places to see -of course had to look up all your new birds as well -esp the
    Montezuma Oropendola…


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