By Matt Young
The wetlands of Mexico are the final migration stop for millions of waterfowl and other migratory birds from across North America
There is perhaps no better place to see birds than from a duck blind on a lagoon along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Peering through a thin screen of mangrove branches, my hunting partners and I marveled at the sight of thousands of ducks and other waterbirds streaming across the sky above the estuary. Waves of wigeon and pintails, returning to the coast from feeding in irrigated grainfields far inland, sailed lazily over the tidal flats, filling the air with their soft whistling calls.
Swarms of green-winged and cinnamon teal buzzed low across the water, and single-file processions of fulvous and black-bellied whistling ducks traded between their roosts in copses of flooded mangrove trees. They were followed by flights of shovelers, redheads, canvasbacks, scaup, and Mexican ducks, as well as brown and white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and dozens of species of shorebirds, gulls, terns, and herons.
As I saw firsthand during my duck hunt in Sonora several years ago, the wetlands of Mexico provide critical wintering habitat for waterbirds from across North America. According to surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mexico supports more than 15 percent of the continent’s ducks and geese during the fall and winter months. This includes nearly the entire population of Pacific black brant, 85 percent of North America’s blue-winged teal, 33 percent of its redheads and shovelers, 25 percent of its American wigeon, 20 percent of its green-winged teal and white-fronted geese, and 15 percent of its pintails. In total, 38 species of ducks, geese, and swans occur in Mexico, either as seasonal visitors or permanent residents.