A Guide to the Birds and Birding Sites of San Carlos, Mexico
An easy day’s drive from Tucson, Arizona, the lovely Sea of Cortez setting of San Carlos and Guaymas combines premier birdwatching with a holiday in Mexico.
In the Mexican state of Sonora and just 260 miles south of the Arizona border, San Carlos offers many reasons to visit. Its proximity to well-known birding sites in southeast Arizona make it a natural destination for more adventurous birders.
San Carlos and Guaymas, Mexico-Birding Sites
The twin communities of Guaymas and San Carlos lie just 12 miles apart. Guaymas is the larger and more commercial, with a bustling downtown, large supermarkets, banks and a sweeping marina drive. The largest commercial fishing fleet on the Sea of Cortez operates out of Guaymas, and large, succulent shrimp are widely available at local restaurants and seafood shops.
The much smaller community of San Carlos resembles a Mediterranean village, with its tile-roofed residences overlooking the bays, harbors and open ocean. Long popular as a tourist destination, especially with land-locked Arizonans, San Carlos offers a wide range of vacation activities. Surrounded on three sides by ocean, water sports dominate the choices. Scuba diving and snorkeling, kayaking, sport fishing, boating, sailing and windsurfing are all popular.
The rocky mountains of the Sonoran Desert drop to the ocean here, and this combination of cliffs, canyons, palm oases and ocean have created an environment ideal for birds and birdwatchers alike. Mid-summer, with high temperatures and humidity, is more suitable for snorkeling than birding, but the rest of the year is mild and inviting.
A Guide to Birds of San Carlos and Guaymas
With miles of sandy beaches, offshore islands, inlets, bays and inland estuaries, shore and other water birds are numerous throughout the area. Both Brown and White Pelicans, White Ibis, Brown and Blue-footed Boobies, Magnificent Frigatebird, American Oystercatcher, Caspian, Elegant, Forster’s and Least Terns, Osprey, Black Skimmer, and all five North American egrets are all commonly found. All six North American herons as well as a number of gulls, ducks and grebes are equally common.
The inland areas are similarly productive, with a broad mix of resident and migratory birds. Northern Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, Ash-throated, Gray and Vermilion Flycatchers, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern and Gilded Flicker, Canyon and Rock Wren, American Kestrel, Green-tailed Towhee and Hooded Oriole are typical of the hundred plus species available. Numerous sparrows are common, including Lark and Black-throated. The most-commonly seen hummingbirds include Costa’s, Black-chinned and Broad-billed.
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San Carlos ve Guaymas -Birding Sites
For water birds, the little harbor at Empalme, just south of Guaymas, is an easy place to park and bird. Between Guaymas and San Carlos, the road that parallels Bacochibampo Estuary and Bacochibampo Bay has numerous places to pull off and observe water birds. This road continues around Punta Tinajas, past Delfinario to Estero El Soldado, an excellent site that can be birded both by foot and by kayak.
Other kayaking birding sites include San Francisco Bay, especially around Punta las Cuevas and Islote la Jama, a nesting site for boobies. Around San Carlos Bay, the marina and El Esterito are also worth birding. Beyond the bays, the Marina Real and open beach areas along Algodones Beach, from the Paradiso Resort to the fishing village of La Manga are all excellent.
Within San Carlos, the golf course area and a nearby pond offer a variety of both water and land birds. An easy trail that leads into the hills from El Esterito is always productive. Just five miles outside of San Carlos is a spectacular and rugged site, Nacapule Canyon, with rough trails, a palm oasis and year-round spring. The short dirt road drive to the canyon is as productive as the canyon itself.
Combining a Holiday in Mexico with First Class Birding
The twin communities of San Carlos and Guaymas offer an opportunity to combine a traditional Mexican Vacation with excellent birdwatching. More than one hundred species of birds can be logged on a short trip to the area, which is just a six hour drive south of Tucson, Arizona.
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