The region of Quintana Roo and the lush jungle of Riviera Maya are known for their rare tropical birds of all shapes and colors. You don't have to trek very far to see some of the most beautiful feathered-friends of the Yucatan. Xaman Ha Aviary is located in Playa del Carmen and is a protected, natural habitat that more than 60 beautiful bird species call home. Not jungle trekking necessary, just a keen eye and a love for tropical birds.
You can probably find an occasional pelican drifting over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean or see a few parrots relaxing under the shade of palm tree leaves. But let’s face it, by the time you get your camera or your cellphone out to take a picture, the moment will be gone. So if you are a person who combines a passion for photography and a love of nature, a day trip to the Xaman Ha Aviary bird sanctuary can be a great addition to vacation activities. It is perfect for children (though people of all ages love this convenient Aviary) and gives you a great excuse to get off the beach and explore. The Xaman’s Ha Aviary Park’s territory is relatively compact, so you can see everything in just an hour and a half with little walking.
The Xaman Ha Avairy is an open-air sanctuary that hosts over 200 individual birds. Some of the species to look out for include Yellow Tailed Orioles, Keel Billed Toucans, Snowy Egrets, Caribbean Flamingos and the pirates’ oldest companions – Scarlet Macaws. Besides being a bird sanctuary, Xaman Ha Avairy hosts numerous other species of animals from the area, like iguanas, butterflies, squirrels, and turtles. You are free to walk along the tranquil stone trails, listen to the birds singing, take close-up pictures, and if you are brave enough, feed some of the parrots. They love non-salted nuts, carrots or fresh veggies.
Before you take off to the Xaman Ha Aviary, Gary has put together a list of birds you will see. If you have a birding book, bring it with you. If you are going to be exploring with your kids, these explanations may just help when scouting around the grounds.
Great Egret – Egrets (Casmerodius albus) are fish eating migratory birds that populate the saltwater estuaries of the peninsula. This bird is large, white and has a yellow bill and dark legs. Range: US through Central America, West Indies to S. Argentina. Mexico: nearly throughout, mainly lowlands.
Brown Pelicans - Brown pelicans (Pelicanus occidentalis) float in the tannic stained waters of a pond where they hunt for fish. These birds are huge, dark and have a long bill with a pouch. Range: Coasts of Southern US, West Indies, Central American to north and west South American. Mexico: Entire length of Pacific Cost including the Gulf of California, breeding locally on offshore islands. Also found on the entire length of the East Coast Gulf of Mexico.
Yellow Tailed Oriole – Yellow Tailed Orioles (Icterus mesomelas) love their fruit but are hard to spot in the fruit trees. This tropical song bird has a yellow crown with three yellow outer tail feathers, black-colored throat, wings (except coverts) and central tail feathers. Voice: A loud clear whistle of two phrases, repeated chee-wow, chee-wow, or gee-wow, gee-wow. Range: SE Mexico to Western Peru. Mexico: Gulf slope from south Veracruz through N Chiapas, Tabasco and Yucatan. Habitat: Second growth, humid forest borders.
Blue Crowned Parrot – Mealy Blue Crowned Parrot (Amazona Farinosa) is the largest and dullest green of the square-tailed Amazon parrots, recognized by the absence of red on the head and (in its Mexican form) by its light blue crown. The tail is broadly tipped with yellow and like other Amazons it has a red patch on its secondaries. Voice: Noisy, a rolling krrrillik, krrrillik, etc., and a raucous chowk, chowk, or kyup-kyup. Range: S. Mexico, to Boliva, Brazil. Mexico: Lowlands of Veracruz, Oaxaca, Chiapas, southern party of Yucatan. Habitat: Humid forests, woodlands and forest borders.
White-fronted Parrot - White-fronted Parrot (Amazona albifrons) is a green Amazon parrot with a white fore-crown and red lores. If you talk to them, they will listen, so give it a try. Voice: A noisy yapping, ak-ak-ak or yap-yap-yap. Range: Mexico to Costa Rica. Mexico: Pacific slope, foothills from South Sonora to Chiapas; Gulf lowlands from SE Veracruz east through lower Yucatan Peninsula. Habitat: Dry country, open woodlands, scrub, border of humid forests in lower Yucatan.
Keel Billed Toucan – Keel Billed Toucan (aka the “Fruit Loops” bird) is one of the most photogenic. This fruit eating bird is the ‘Fruit Loops’ bird and one the kids will love. Being the largest Mexican toucan, the Keel Billed Toucan can be identified by its bright yellow cheeks and chests and huge brightly colored bill (green, blue, red and orange) which gives it the nickname “banana bill.” White rump; under tail coverts are scarlet. Voice: A monotonously repeated scratchy krrk or grrik, very frog like. A repeated gaab. Range: S Mexico to N Columbia, NW Venezuela. Mexico: from Oaxaca, Publa, Veracruz, south and east. Habitat: Lowland forests and forest borders to 200 ft.
Snowy Egrets – Snowy Egrets get along well with their brightly colored neighbors, the pink flamingos. Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) range: US through Central America, W Indies to Chile, Argentina. Mexico: Nearly throughout all of the country, mainly in lowlands.
Pink Flamingos – Long, lean and colorful birds, otherwise known as Caribbean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber), have no problem falling asleep while balanced on one skinny leg. The bill is sharply bent, and flamingos feed with their heads in an inverted position. They eat algae, diatome, mollucks and crustaceans. There are six species of flamingos in the world and this particular species is in Mexico; located mainly on the coast of the Yucatan. They may wander west to Southern Veracruz and east to the Caribbean coast. Range: Caribbean, South America, Galapagos Island and Africa.
Scarlet Macaws - Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) are the pirates’ companion, have a dazzling combination of colors, and love to squawk! They can be identified by their very large long tailed scarlet parrot exhibiting a wing pattern of red, yellow and blue. Voice: Harsh calls – rrraaaa. Range: East Mexico to Bolivia, Brazil. Mexico: Tropical lowlands of South Veracruz, Oaxaca, Chiapas, rare local. Recorded also in South Tamaulipas, South Campeche. Habitat: Tall deciduous trees of lowland forests, savannas and watercourses.
There you have it, Gary’s bird list. Remember that you will see indigenous fruit trees, iguanas, insects and much more when you venture to this Aviary and Sanctuary located in Playa del Carmen.
Xaman Ha Aviary is conveniently located in Playa del Carmen, a popular destination between Cancun and Tulum. The aviary is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but we recommend you visit from 9 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m when the birds are out and about and not having a siesta. Xaman Ha Aviary is located inside Playacar Phase 2, with the entrance to Playacar on 10th Ave being the easiest way to enter and find this cool place. If you are staying in Playa del Carmen or in Playacar, walking could be the best way to visit this neat spot. Note: The entrance tickets to Xaman Ha Aviary are a bit pricey, but on the bright side, children under 12 go in for free with a paying adult. The best way to find out is to visit it and decide for yourself!