Magazine For Isla Mujeres Charities

Photo by Tony Garcia

Birds of Isla Mujeres

By Ronda Winn Roberts

Birds of Isla Mujeres & Isla Contoy 

The Reserve of Isla Contoy is a sanctuary to many tropical marine birds, and approximately 152 species have been counted. Half of the species are residents of the island and the others are migratory species from the north. 

Isla Contoy  is located at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 30 kilometers north of Isla Mujeres. The island is only 8.5-Km in length Isla Contoy is considered the most important nesting place of sea birds in all of the Mexican Caribbean. Protected by the Mexican government since 1961, and declared a National Park in February 1998, the island is jointly run by the Isla Mujeres-based NGO "Amigos de Isla Contoyand the Secretary of Environment, Natural Resources & Fishing (SEMARNAT).  
Photo: by Bruce Roberts, In Isla Mujeres
    Besides its unparalleled beauty, secluded sandy white beaches and lush palm trees, the island boasts more than a hundred and fifty migrating and resident bird species.  The island is also host to a group of government-sponsored biologists who continually monitor and study the ecosystem of the island. It also supports supervised eco-tourism and regulated commercial fishing. Existing facilities on the island consist of a visitor center with a pier; a museum; a souvenir store; a resting area with benches and palapas; a grill for barbecues; a twenty-meter high watchtower and two walking-paths along which visitors are able to learn about the local flora and fauna.  From Cromaglas Project Data: Pixan Ha Amigos de Isla Contoy  
     Tours are available to Isla Contoy with local boats & the daily number of visitors to the island is limited to 200. Trips usually include lunch and snorkeling.

 Isla Contoy is the "Isle of Birds" & Isla Cozumel is the "Isle of Swallows". Cancun is the "Isle of Snakes/Serpents"

Brown PelicansOne of the largest populations of Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) in the Caribbean can be found on Contoy island.

  The Brown pelican has a wingspan of ~90 inches. With their huge bills and deep pouches, they look as though they must be clumsy, but their short sudden dives are as effective as they are dramatic. They build stick nests overlooking the ocean, and lay two or three eggs at a time. Pelican photos in Isla Mujeres by Bruce Roberts.

Frigate by Bruce Roberts, Isla Mujeres
Frigates: There are over 5 thousand frigates (Fregata magnifiscens) that nest and reproduce on Isla Contoy
Frigate by Bruce Roberts, Isla Mujeres
     Frigate birds are exceptional flyers. Their large wing span of 90 inches (nearly 3 meters), together with their length, light weight, and forked tail enable them to change direction rapidly and to move to extremely high altitudes with ease. This skill in flight allows them to pluck small fish from the surface of the water, dipping only their bills into the sea, or even preying on flying fish in mid-flight. 
       Frigate birds can neither walk nor swim. They spend their time either in the air or perched on a limb of the mangrove bushes where they build their nests.
The male frigate bird has a bright red gular sac at the throat that they are able to inflate to attract the attention of potential mates. The males perch in bushes or sit on the rocky ground, their throat sacs swollen; when a female flies over-head (distinguishable to the males by the white breast feathers), the males set up a cacophony of ululation and shake their wings, displaying their gular sacs to attract maximum attention. Once a female is attracted, the pair builds a rough nest in shrubs or low trees, and a single egg is laid and incubated for about two months. 
Male Magnificent Frigate photo at left by Tony Garcia, who spent part of his childhood on Isla Contoy, and takes tours there. His FB page is HERE

Comorants: Approximately 3 thousand double crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) nest & reproduce on Isla Contoy.
by Bruce Roberts, in Isla Mujeres
The small cormorants are able to dive to depths of 25 meters (82 feet) to obtain its food and must soak its plumage to submerge. Their most characteristic behavior is spreading their wings and standing still for minutes, even hours, until their feathers dry. 

Link to video above
Link to video below

Here is a tool to identify birds of the Yucatan, narrowing them down by their shapes, with descriptions and photos

by Bruce Roberts
There are an estimated 546 species of birds in the Yucatan, 11 of which you will not see anywhere else in the world. These species include the bright red Yucatan parrot, the Yucatan night jar and the Yucatan wren.  HERE is a slideshow of birds of the Yucatan peninsula and their names.  Here is a guide to birds of the Yucatan peninsula with descriptions & photos.   Here are  videos & photos, with names, of birds from the state of Quintana Roo 

Like expats & tourists, many birds migrate to Isla Mujeres in January & February

     Two-thirds of bird species in the United States migrate. The United States and Great Britain (for Canada) ratified the Migratory Bird Treaty in 1918, which permanently closed hunting for non game birds that migrated across their mutual borders.  Game birds (including ducks, geese and cranes) were given protection except for an annual hunting season that could not exceed three and a half months. Additional treaties were signed with Mexico (1936), Japan (1972), and the USSR (1976) protecting migrants between the United States and those countries.
      Migration over water is one of the most hazardous times for birds. Wildlife experts say about 100 million waterfowl head south each fall, and about 40 million return. Of those that don't return,  about 20 million are killed by hunters and about 40 million fall victim to predation, accidents, environmental factors, and disease.
  Swift, strong fliers and hunters are often daytime migrants and include pelicans, herons, birds of prey, hummingbirds, swifts, swallows and finches. Some of these birds can feed on the wing. Nighttime or nocturnal migrants usually are birds that live in thick vegetation and rarely venture out of it, including waterbirds, cuckoos, flycatchers, thrushes, warblers, orioles and buntings.  Excerpted from Migration and The Migratory Birds of Texas:  Who They Are And Where They Are Going

The very common "Bar Bird" (a grackle)

At Buho's by Ronda Winn Roberts

Your average frigate...who have been mistaken for UFO's at night because light reflects off their white patches as the soar and circle above in the dark...
Frigate by Ronda Winn Roberts

1 comment:

  1. Good article. Great pictures of the different species of isla mujeres. Spending a vacation there allows you to visit many nice locations, where many exotic animals live comfortable in nature.