Veracruz River of Raptors TourDownload as PDF

Combine this tour with the Eagle Pre-Tour Extension

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Every day of the trip offered varied avian rewards but the immensity of the migration on the peak days was the highlight of the trip and an experience beyond description.”

Frank Maher, USA. 2014 Edition

Watch the largest raptor migration on Earth!

The world’s largest raptor count of between four and seven million migrating raptors have been recorded per season in recent years at Veracruz, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Most were Swainson’s Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, and Turkey Vultures, but many other species are also tallied in smaller numbers. We saw over a million in four days on an earlier tour. We will sample this migration, as well as the great variety of Neotropical raptors found nearby. We will also visit a remnant patch of rainforest on this tour.

The perfect Raptor Vacation

Tour is conducted at a relaxed pace with lots of time to look at raptors (and other birds), plenty of time to relax at hotels, walk along beaches and nature trails looking for birds, or enjoy your drink while you watch the migration from the very hotel’s rooftop! Meet fellow hawkwatchers from all over the world at count sites and learn about the River of Raptors first hand.

Not just Raptors! General birding too

While Central Veracruz is best known for raptor migration, general birding in the region is nothing short of spectacular. Temperate and tropical species intermingle at coastal beaches, lagoons, wetlands, grasslands and lowland forests.

Numerous migratory birds can be seen here in staggering numbers, including American White Pelican, Wood Stork, White-faced Ibis, White-winged Dove, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird and Dickcissel. The impressive diversity of resident species means there is always something at which to look — Magnificent Frigatebird, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Northern Jacana, White-fronted Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Blue-crowned Motmot, Canivet's Emerald (endemic), Violaceous Trogon, Green Kingfisher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher (austral migrant), Masked Tityra, Mangrove Swallow, Rufous-naped Wren (endemic), Red-throated Ant-Tanager and Montezuma Oropendola are but a small subset of birds commonly seen in Central Veracruz.

Raptors of Mexico and Central America, by ​Wiliam S. Clark & N. John Smith
​William S. Clark & N. John Smith’s Raptors of Mexico and Central America (2017) is the definitive raptor guide for the region.​

Get up to speed before you leave home!

Featuring 32 color plates and 213 color photographs, the hot-off-the-press Raptors of Mexico and Central America is the the first illustrated guide to the region’s 69 species of raptors, including vagrants. Sign up for this tour and get a free copy delivered directly to your home so you can get up to speed with the bewildering variability of plumage, flight silhouettes, and behavior of Mexican raptors even before you check your bags! Kindle and Hardcover Editions available. (Offer valid for continental US customers only.)

Eagle Pre-Tour Extension

1-4 October

Make the most of your trip! Add the Eagle Pre-Tour Extension and join us on this quest for some of the most spectacular Neotropical eagles. This Pre-Tour Extension has been especially designed to see all three hawk-eagles occurring in the region, namely the Black-and-white, Black, and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, with a chance to see Montane Solitary Eagle.

Montane Solitary Eagle (Harpyhaliaetus solitarius)
Montane Solitary Eagle, by Yeray Seminario

Make A Difference!

Raptours®, L.L.C. makes financial contributions to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and Veracruz River of Raptors Project for every respective member that signs up for this tour.

Join us on this tour and make a lasting contribution to raptor conservation!

Day-by-Day Itinerary | Main Tour

Day 1

4 October

Afternoon arrival in Veracruz International Airport (IATA Code: VER). Shuttle participants to our hotel in Cardel. Check-in. 6:30–7:30 PM: Dinner together at the hotel. Personal introductions at dinner. Night in Cardel.

Day 2

5 October

7:45 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. 8:30–9:30 AM: Welcome Briefing. This briefing includes a short outline of the tour, what to expect each day, and a discussion of participants’ expectations and goals for the tour, a brief introduction to the Veracruz River of Raptors (VRR) count project, how it is done and the need to respect the space & time of the counters while we are sharing the roof. 10:00 AM: Meet at the hotel roof top to watch the migration. Target species from the roof will primarily be flocks of Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Mississippi Kites and other migrant raptors, including Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Zone-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Hook-billed Kite. 6:00 PM: Dinner at the hotel. After dinner, attend a 1-hour presentation on history of the VRR count, explanation of migration dynamics in Veracruz, and a brief ID session covering the common species seen at the count sites. Night in Cardel.

Day 3

6 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at our hotel. 7:30–11:00 AM: Morning birding at Playa Juan Ángel. This is a beach with dunes, a river mouth and some patches of lowland forest. Our primary target species here is Aplomado Falcon. If we are lucky, more than one of these elegant falcons will be seen hunting or harassing other falcons in the area. Also, Gray Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Common Black-Hawk, Merlin and Crested Caracara are commonly seen here. This site is also good for general birding (reliable for Fork-tailed Flycatcher). Easy walking on flat ground. Then, we will head back to our hotel for lunch and rest. We will see how the migration is going over the hotel roof (duration: 2–4 hours). Depending on the flight, we can stay or move to the Chichicaxtle count site, which typically has more raptor migration activity later in the day. There are often local raptors that fly close to the count site for great looks, such as Short-tailed, Zone-tailed Hawks and Laughing Falcons. Hunting falcons are also fairly common in this rural area. 6:30 PM: Dinner at the hotel. Night in Cardel.

Day 4

7 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. 7:30–11:00 AM: Morning birding at La Mancha. This is a coastal lagoon with lowland forest and beach habitats. The target here is the elusive Collared Forest-Falcon (heard in 2014!). We could also see Laughing Falcon, Gray, Roadside, Zone-tailed, and Common Black-Hawks, Peregrines, Osprey, accipiters and more. Easy walking on dirt road and beach. Bring bug spray and cover up exposed ankles and legs. We will keep our eyes open for kettles and streams of migrants to decide when to head back to Cardel. Back to the hotel to rest and watch from the roof (2–3 hours). Afternoon at Chichicaxtle if the flight is good or another local spot for some variety (Palmar—pasture; Playa Chalchihuecan—dune, scrub, beach). 6:30 PM: Dinner at the hotel. Night in Cardel.

Day 5

8 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. 7:30–10:30 AM: Morning birding at Río Escondido. This is a dirt road along a canal that travels through the canyon rim above the river. The primary target here is Bat Falcon, which is commonly seen perched on high-tension towers or hunting over the area. Also, Laughing Falcon, Short-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara can be seen here. Easy walking on flat dirt road. If the previous day’s raptor migration was good, groups of Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks may have roosted nearby so we can be lucky and witness a liftoff flight. General birding is also quite good here. We will likely stop by Chichicaxtle to hopefully see some raptor migration (1–3 hours). Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon will be spent at hotel or back at Chichicaxtle, depending on the flight. 6:30 PM: Dinner at the hotel. Night in Cardel.

Day 6

9 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. 7:30–10:00 AM: Morning birding at La Mancha or Juan Ángel. Revisit one of these sites to become a little more acquainted with it and see species that were missed on the previous visit. Location will be decided based on participant consensus and desired birds to be seen. Return to Cardel for lunch and rest. Assess the raptor flight in Cardel and move to Chichi or stay on the roof for the afternoon. 6:30 PM: Dinner at the hotel. Night in Cardel.

Day 7

10 October

Eat breakfast at the hotel and be on the road by 7:00 AM. 8:00 AM–12:00 PM: Birding at Las Barrancas, an area of grasslands, pastures and flooded fields just west of Alvarado. Target species here are Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Aplomado Falcon, and other open-country raptor species. We will be birding primarily from the vehicle, with frequent stops to get out and scan for birds. Drive around the countryside around Alvarado looking for local species in the afternoon. Drive back to Cardel. 6:30 PM: Dinner at the hotel. Night in Cardel.

Day 8

11 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to the Alvarado Lagoon. Morning boat ride on Alvarado Lagoon. Target species here are Black-collared Hawk and Common Black Hawk (many close looks). We will try to go slowly so that we can enjoy the amazing mangroves which line the lagoon. Lunch in Alvarado. Drive back to Cardel. Relax, pack, have dinner (maybe go out for our last night), trip summary. Night in Cardel.

Day 9

12 October

Catch morning flights home.

Day-by-Day Itinerary | Eagle Pre-Tour Extension

Day 1

1 October

Afternoon arrival in Veracruz International Airport (IATA Code: VER). Shuttle participants to our hotel in Veracruz. Check-in. 6:30–7:30 PM: Dinner together at the hotel. Personal introductions at dinner. Night in Veracruz.

Day 2

2 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. 7:00 AM: Check-out. 7:15–10:30 AM: Drive to Tuxtepec. Then drive the road to Oaxaca looking for raptors. We should see all three Black-and-white, Black, and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, with a chance for Montane Solitary Eagle. In addition, we should see Gray and White Hawks, Double-toothed Kite, Bat Falcon, Great Black Hawk, and others. Picnic lunch. Dinner at the hotel. Night in Tuxtepec.

Day 3

3 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. Then all day at elevation on the road from Tuxtepec to Oaxaca looking for raptors, focusing on the species we haven’t seen yet. We will travel a little higher to try for the local subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk. Picnic lunch. Dinner at the hotel. Night in Tuxtepec.

Day 4

4 October

6:00 AM: Breakfast at the hotel. Bird in the morning, then drive to Cardel. Check-in at our hotel. Lunch at the hotel’s restaurant. Free afternoon—raptor migration can be watched from the hotel rooftop. 6:30 PM: Dinner at the hotel. Meet new arrivals and start the Veracruz River of Raptors Tour!

Target SpeciesDownload as checklist in PDF format

​Common Name

  1. Osprey
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
  5. Mississippi Kite
  6. White-tailed Kite
  7. Hook-billed Kite
  8. Double-toothed Kite
  9. Snail Kite
  10. Northern Harrier
  11. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  12. Cooper’s Hawk
  13. Harris’s Hawk
  14. White Hawk
  15. Black-collared Hawk
  16. Common Black Hawk
  17. Great Black Hawk
  18. Crane Hawk
  19. Montane Solitary Eagle*
  20. Roadside Hawk
  21. Gray Hawk
  22. Broad-winged Hawk
  23. Short-tailed Hawk
  24. Swainson's Hawk
  25. Zone-tailed Hawk
  26. Red-tailed Hawk
  27. Black Hawk-Eagle
  28. Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle*
  29. Ornate Hawk-Eagle*
  30. Northern Crested Caracara
  31. Laughing Falcon
  32. Collared Forest Falcon
  33. American Kestrel
  34. Merlin
  35. Bat Falcon
  36. Aplomado Falcon
  37. Peregrine Falcon

*Tour Extension only

Latin Name

  1. Pandion haliaetus
  2. Coragyps atratus
  3. Cathartes aura
  4. Cathartes burrovianus
  5. Ictinia mississippiensis
  6. Elanus leucurus
  7. Chondrohierax uncinatus
  8. Harpagus bidentatus
  9. Rostrhamus sociabilis
  10. Circus hudsonius
  11. Accipiter striatus
  12. Accipiter cooperii
  13. Parabuteo unicinctus
  14. Pseudastur albicollis
  15. Busarellus nigricollis
  16. Buteogallus anthracinus
  17. Buteogallus urubitinga
  18. Geranospiza caerulescens
  19. Harpyhaliaetus solitarius*
  20. Rupornis magnirostris
  21. Buteo plagiatus
  22. Buteo platypterus
  23. Buteo brachyurus
  24. Buteo swainsoni
  25. Buteo albonotatus
  26. Buteo jamaicensis
  27. Spizaetus tyrannus
  28. Spizaetus melanoleucus*
  29. Spizaetus ornatus*
  30. Caracara cheriway
  31. Herpetotheres cachinnans
  32. Micrastur semitorquatus
  33. Falco sparverius
  34. Falco columbarius
  35. Falco rufigularis
  36. Falco femoralis
  37. Falco peregrinus

*Tour Extension only

Pandion haliaetus Coragyps atratus Cathartes aura Cathartes burrovianus Ictinia mississippiensis Elanus leucurus Chondrohierax uncinatus Harpagus bidentatus Rostrhamus sociabilis Circus hudsonius Accipiter striatus Accipiter cooperii Parabuteo unicinctus Pseudastur albicollis Busarellus nigricollis Buteogallus anthracinus Buteogallus urubitinga Geranospiza caerulescens Rupornis magnirostris Buteo plagiatus Buteo platypterus Buteo brachyurus Buteo swainsoni Buteo albonotatus Buteo jamaicensis Spizaetus tyrannus Caracara cheriway Herpetotheres cachinnans Micrastur semitorquatus Falco sparverius Falco columbarius Falco rufigularis Falco femoralis Falco peregrinus

Suggested Field Guides

Clark, W.S. and N.J. Schmitt. 2017. Raptors of Mexico and Central America. Princeton U. Press, Princeton.

Howell, S.N.G. and Webb, S. 1995. A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford U. Press, Oxford.

Need to Know

Tour Reports

Veracruz Raptor Tour 2014

Tour dates & Availability

Tour Extension 1-4 October 2017 | Closed

Main Tour 4-12 October 2017 | Closed

Booking Closes On

1 August

Group Size Limits

3-10 participants

All-Inclusive Tour Price

Main Tour $2,900 | Tour Extension $1,050

Single Supplement

Main Tour $250 | Tour Extension $80

Raptor Species Expected


Country Entry Requirements

Varies according to nationality




Good to Excellent

Weather & Clothing

Mostly hot, humid, and sunny, but showers are expected | Bring a hat, sunglasses, and an umbrella


Travel medical insurance is recommended

Local Currency

Mexican peso

Tour Map

Veracruz River of Raptors Tour map
Click on the map to see more details

Tour Leader

Zach Smith has been to Veracruz many times. He was an official counter at the Veracruz River of Raptors Project for three years, and has led or co-led this tour since 2014.

Zach understands the dynamic migratory raptor flight in Veracruz. He also knows all the right places to look for resident raptors. Zach is an accomplished birder and knows all the other birds occurring in the area as well. Zach is bilingual (English and Spanish), very personable, and is always eager to help others find, see, and identify the birds we encounter in the field.

Zach will bring a state-of-the-art Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 (30–60×) Spotting Scope and a pair of Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 binoculars.

Tour Showcase

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura meridionalis), perched adult.
Turkey Vulture is the most abundant raptor migrant at Veracruz. An average of 1.8 millions are recorded every autumn.
© S. Seipke
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus)
Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures usually fly closer to the ground than Turkey Vultures. Note white shafts on primaries.
© D. Podestá
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis), adult in flight.
Mississippi Kite passage at Veracruz peaks in early September, but flocks of up to 20 individuals can be seen in October.
© S. Seipke
Hook-billed Kite (Chondrohierax uncinatus), adult male flying.
Some 150 Hook-billed Kites, like this adult male, light morph, fly past hawk-watches in Veracruz every year.
© D. Podestá
Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
Some 900,000 Swainson’s Hawks migrate through Veracruz every autumn en route to their final destination in South America.
© S. Seipke
Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)
Over 1.5 million Broad-winged Hawks are counted every year at Veracruz, making it the second most abundant migrant at the site.
© B. Clark
Black-collared Hawk (Busarellus nigricollis)
We will target Black-collared Hawk at the mangrove-lined Alvarado lagoon.
© D. Podestá
Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga), perched.
Great Black Hawks can be seen on the Eagle Pre-Tour Extension.
© D. Podestá
Black-and-white Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus melanoleucus)
We will target Black-and-white Hawk Eagle on the Eagle Pre-Tour Extension.
© S. Seipke
Ornate Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), adult.
Handsome Ornate Hawk-Eagle is a real possibility on the Eagle Pre-Tour Extension.
© P. Mosto
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), female.
American Kestrels keep us busy even on slow days when thermal soarers (buteos and vultures) do not migrate.
© S. Seipke
Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis)
Aplomado Falcon
Playa Juan Ángel is a good spot to watch this handsome bird!
© D. Podestá


Raptours, L.L.C. reserves the right to alter this itinerary as necessary, or to cancel the tour prior to departure, with full refund to participants.

Raptours, L.L.C. or its agents may decline to accept or retain any person as a member of this tour at any time.

No smoking will be permitted while with the group, either when indoors or in the field.

Travel medical insurance is strongly recommended.

All passengers will be required to sign a hard copy of the Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk form upon meeting with the tour leader in Veracruz.

No participants will be allowed in the group without a signed copy of the Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk form.

Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk Form
(including Terms)
Download as PDF