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Acta zoológica mexicana

versión On-line ISSN 2448-8445versión impresa ISSN 0065-1737

Acta Zool. Mex vol.29 no.3 Xalapa dic. 2013


Notas científicas


Noteworthy bird records in Sontecomapan, Veracruz, Mexico


Registros notables de aves en Sontecomapan, Veracruz, México




1 Dimensión Natural S.C. Ave. Pajaritos s/n, Fraccionamiento Tres Pasos, Xalapa, Veracruz. C.P. 91637,

2 Dimensión Natural S.C. Ave. Pajaritos s/n, Fraccionamiento Tres Pasos, Xalapa, Veracruz. C.P. 91637,


Recibido: 19/04/2012;
aceptado: 28/05/2013.



Registramos observaciones sobresalientes de aves en el sur del estado de Veracruz. Se reporta la tercera localidad donde se ha registrado la polluela pechigris (Laterallu sexilis) para el país, el primer registro para el estado del rascón cuello rufo (Aramides axillaris), el segundo registro de colimbo mayor (Gavia immer) para el sur del estado, así como el registro de una pareja de hocofaisanes (Crax rubra) en el área de manglar de Sontecomapan.


Los Tuxtlas region in southeastern Veracruz is a site of major importance from the ornithological point of view; its high avifaunistic diversity is calculated in approximately 561 species (Winker et al. 1992, Schaldach & Escalante-Pliego 1997) including resident and migratory birds, and still until the 60's it was one of the most extensive humid tropical forests in Mexico. However and despite its recognized high importance for bird diversity conservation, only few ornithological studies have been done and published (Wetmore 1943, Davis 1952, Edwards &Tashian 1959, Andrle 1967, Winker et al. 1992, Estrada et al. 1997, Schaldach & Escalante-Pliego 1997, Estrada et al. 2000, Bojorges & López-Mata 2006) causing that still little is known about the avifauna of the region, its abundance and conservation status. The need to update the information and generate new ornithological studies takes higher importance in a site that has suffered drastic habitat loss and fragmentation in the last decades with the consequent decline in bird populations. Despite the threats that ineffective management has posed upon the region, Los Tuxtlas region is still a clue area for avian conservation (Arizmendi & Márquez-Valdemar 2000, Peterson et al. 2000).

In our commitment to contribute to the knowledge of the regional avifauna, here we present noteworthy records done in the Sontecomapan Lagoon, located at Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve (Fig. 1). The lagoon itself is enlisted in the Ramsar index (number 1342). It combines fresh and salty waters, being surrounded by mangrove forest and marsh ecosystems. The high forest structure, its high biological diversity and the low pollutants levels makes the mangrove forest of the lagoon, one of the best conserved in the state of Veracruz and Mexico (Carmona-Díaz et al. 2004).

Between March 11th to March 15th 2012 we did two boat trips a day covering the extension of the Sontecomapan Lagoon; one early in the morning before sunrise and the second three hours before sunset. Each boat trip took between three to four hours. The objective of the boat trips was to photographically document the mangrove ecosystem, with no special attention to any group of organism. During the boat trips, the observed fauna, including birds were documented. A total of 156 bird species were recorded inside the Lagoon area (Appendix 1), from which, we describe the four most remarkable records, meaning species seen outside their known geographic range in Mexico or a species, which has become rare in the area.

Grey-breasted crake (Laterallu sexilis). On March 12th and 13th mourning's at least three individuals where recorded; two heard and one heard and seen in the floating vegetation of three different points of the Sontecomapan Lagoon. Two of the sites are close to the places known as Esperanza and Bagre. During the boat trip we stopped where floating vegetation was abundant. The Grey-breasted Crake song and call playback were played in a mp3 player. After a minute of playing the record, the individuals started to call back. One of them was briefly seen through the grasses.

The Grey-breasted Crake as a new species for Mexico, was in 2012 captured and photographed in a marsh in Minatitlan, Veracruz (Grosselet comm. pers.), and in 2011 an individual was trapped in a barbed wire in Agua Dulce, Veracruz (Grosselet comm. pers.). Both localities are approximately 80 km and 100 km respectively linear to the south from the Sontecomapan Lagoon.

The recordings that where used to attract the birds where done by Manuel Grosselet, who tape-recorded the Grey-breasted Crake in the marsh in Minatitlan (records available at

In the points where the individuals where heard and seen, we also played the Ruddy Crake call. Any bird responded to the Ruddy Crake call, even though some Ruddy Crakes where listened during the trip. The Ruddy Crake and the Grey-breasted Crake have a similar churring rattle call, but like Howell and Webb (1995) described, the Grey-breasted Crake call is lower, drier and shorter. Other piping notes similar to the ones recorded by Boesman (2006) where heard in the site. The distinctive marks seen in the observed individual were the greenish base of the bill, gray head and rufous nape. No other marks could be observed.

Taking into account the previous records, these observations represent the third sighting and recorded location of the species in Mexico and the northernmost record for the species. Apparently, the Grey-breasted Crake has been expanding its distribution range to the north, however more studies are needed to corroborate this hypothesis.

Rufous-necked wood-rail (Aramides axillaris). On March 13th midday one individual was observed walking through the mangrove roots very close to the shore. The individual was observed for approximately one minute and a half, at a distance of 6 meters from the boat where the observer was. The individual was walking silently; it observed cautiously for a couple of seconds after it left walking towards the mangrove forest. The individual showed an obvious rufous neck and chest, contrasting with the darker brown back and black short tail. The blue-grey patch on lower hindneck and upper mantle was subtle. Compared to the Grey-necked Wood-Rail (Aramidescajanea) -which is a common bird in the Sontecomapan area-, sharing a very similar shape, bright pinkish red legs and yellowish bill, the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail is smaller with a shorter bill and the difference in the color of the neck makes them easy to distinguish between each other.

Along the Pacific Coast, from Sinaloa to Oaxaca, and along the Yucatan Peninsula, the species is a common but local resident (Howell & Webb 1995), but no previous records are available for Veracruz state (Loetscher 1941, Davis 1945, Lowery 1941, Winker et al. 1992, Martínez-Gómez 1996, Montejo-Díaz &McAndrews 2006) This observation represents the northernmost record along its Atlantic distribution, being 345 km north in linear distance to its described northern limit (Howell & Webb 1995) and 96 km to what Navarro and Peterson (2007) reports as its northern limit of its potential distribution. The elusive behavior of this specie makes it an easily overlooked bird; thus, it may be probable that the species is resident in the area.

Common loon (Gavia immer). On March 12th morning one individual was observed foraging in the Sontecomapan Lagoon. It was observed for approximately 5 minutes. The individual stayed between 30 to 45 seconds above the surface each time before diving, while stayed between 20 to 25 seconds below the surface before appearing again. The Common Loon showed a winter-like plumage very similar to the plumage shown by the 1st summer birds. It had a noticeable white throat and a pale neck and head. The back was dark brown with not very obvious pale dots. The individual was clearly longer-bodied than the Redheads (Aythya americana) and American Wigeons (Anas americana) that were swimming in the surroundings. The bill was unmistakably straight, daggerlike and gray.

The Common Loon is a frequent winter visitor to the Mexican north coasts (Friedmann et al. 1950, Howell & Webb 1995, AOU 1998, Evers et al. 2010). The Atlantic winter range reported for the species goes from Tamaulipas to northern Veracruz. There are two previous records of the species in the state (Schaldach & Escalante-Pliego 1997, Howell & Webb 1995), one of them 12 km away from the Sontecomapan Lagoon in Lake Catemaco.

This record becomes the second southernmost sighting in the state, confirming its status as a rare visitor to southern Veracruz.

Great curassow (Crax rubra). On the March 12th afternoon a couple of two males were observed in one of the tributary streams of the Sontecomapan Lagoon. The two males were perching in a tree that stands out from the surrounding marsh and the floating vegetation. The individuals where detected when they were flushed away by the closeness of the boat. Presumably, the birds were perching in their overnight roost.

The large size, the mainly black color and the white lower belly where easily recognizable while they descended flapping from the tree. The first individual flew away and after 3 seconds the second followed him. The yellow swollen knob could be appreciated in the second bird.

Formerly, the Great Curassow was a common bird in the region, but in the last decades it has been extirpated from much of its former range due to constant illicit hunting and forest destruction (Schaldach & Escalante-Pliego 1997, Howell & Webb 1995) leaving the remnant populations confined to island forest patches on steepest slopes (Schaldach & Escalante-Pliego 1997). The small population at Sontecomapan is found at sea level in a mangrove ecosystem. Despite the fact that the area is under legal protection, the conservation of the Great Curassows should be emphasized among the inhabitants of the local communities.

The present record and other records done by local fishermen indicates that a small population of Great Curassow lives in the isolated forest patches of the Sontecomapan area despite the pressures on the species (Morales & Villa 1998) and the habitat. This cracid is enlisted as threatened according to the Mexican laws (SEMARNAT 2010).

In general, the avifauna of Veracruz is still little known and as result, some statuses presented in this list are likely or completely unknown. The authors ask to birdwatchers to update this information about the avifauna of Veracruz through the publication of their records.



The authors wish to express their sincerest thanks to M.Grosselet who kindly gave us information and tape recordings of the Grey-breasted Crake. To P. Platas who helped us in the field work and to the anonymous reviewers who provided useful comments and discussion.



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