Partially Annotated and Taxonomic Checklist of The Birds of The State of Veracruz, Mexico
by  W.J. Schaldach, Jr.,  Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico, 2003

Introduction

            The State of Veracruz is perhaps the most biodiverse in all of Mexico, with (originally) an enormous number of habitats.  These ranged (and still range) from the semi-arid to semi-humid coastal plain sloping gently upward from the Gulf to the western mountains (The Sierra Madre Oriental) with its two large volcanoes, the Cofre de Perote (4250 m  = 13,940′) and the Pico de Orizaba (5747 m = 18,850′), the highest mountain in North America south of Alaska.  It also contains the isolated, low massif known as the Sierra de Los Tuxtlas, with heights just under 1700 m, but which is the most biodiverse area in the entire state, with 2 of the state’s 3 endemic species of birds and a number of endemic subspecies of birds.  It is also a center of endemism for reptiles, amphibians, and freshwater fishes, and many insect species.

 

            Veracruz is a marvelous state for birdwatchers and field ornithologists.  It has the longest checklist of birdes of all Mexican states, containing 3 endemic species and 7 endemic subspecies.  The only other state with 3 endemic species is Oaxaca, which has fewer endemic subspecies, and a checklist of 697 species at the latest count.  But of all the distinct regions of the State, the isolated volcanic mountains on the southeast coast known as “The Sierra de Los Tuxtlas” (or “The Sierra de Tuxtla” in older literature) is the single-most biodiverse area.  It is also the single area most devastated by forest destruction to create vast areas of grass for cattle.  The Tuxtla region is the State’s most biodiverse area, especially in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fishes, and plants.  Many beautiful insects, including butterflies, dragonflies, and beetles occur here as endemic species, and are also as threatened and endangered as the rest of the biota.  This region contains the furthest north extension of the true neo-tropical rain forest (with some mountain areas receiving as much as 5.5 meters (217 inches) of annual rainfall.  Many neotropical species of mammals and birds reach their northern limits within the State.

 

            The State was the first area in Mexico which became known to European naturalists.  Specimens of mammals, birds, and especially plants were sent to Spain by Spanish ships and from there found their way to northern Europe in the 18th century, where the species were described by Linnaeus (the father of Taxonomy) and by other naturalists such as Boddaert, Gmelin, Müller and Spix(who named the white-crowned parrot in 1824 from a European collection made in the late 1700’s).  This collecting apparently died with the increasing political troubles of Spanish Mexico and the revolutions of 1810 and 1820.

 

            The first European naturalist to arrive in Veracruz after the country became a republic was Ferdinand Deppe, who based in Veracruz State for 5 years (1824 – 1829), while he collected birds and mammals to send overseas to his brother, Wilhelm Deppe in Germany, who published his famous “Price list ... birds + mammals ... from Mexico” (1830).  From his widely-distributed list, many English, German and French naturalists bought specimens and published descriptions of birds collected by Ferdinand in Veracruz.

 

            From 1830 to the present, a steadily-increasing flood of knowledge of the birds of the state has enriched the ornithologists of the world, especially from the 1850’s on.  But, paradoxically, many more field studies are needed before we can attain a more complete understanding of the distribution, the life histories, the migrations (both longitudinal and altitudinal), and the effects of man’s deforestation and agricultural activities on the birds of the state, especially of the resident species.

 

            This check-list was compiled by the author from many bibliographic sources (listed in the Bibliography), plus his own observations (all labelled WJS) made during his 33 years of living in the state in the Tuxtla region, but with many excursions to other areas of the state.  He made his living for nine years as a commercial fisherman off the Tuxtla coast, with two launches and much gear, during which time he made the pelagic observations noted in the list (1983 to 1991).  Many of these observations, both terrestrial and marine, are first records for Veracruz.  The author thinks all this is due to the simple fact that he is an incurable and very inquisitive field ornithologist, who began his field studies in Mexico in 1947.

 

            The arrangement of Orders and Families is strictly his idea, arrived at after much study and brooding.  It may seem startling at first reading, but WJS feels that it is a more realistic one than most linear sequences now in use.  But one must always remember the words of Storrs Olson (1985:  83), who saw “little use in a sequence which should have been replaced decades ago and against which there has long been much contrary information.”

 

            WJS has followed many of the suggestions made by Storrs L. Olson, 1985, as to placement of the Orders.  However, 2 of the Orders used herein are strictly his own ideas as to ordinal relationships.  These changes should not affect the birdwatchers in the slightest, but will undoubtedly cause stomach upsets in many of this fellow taxonomists!  But WJS thinks these changes are logical and long needed.  Since he is independent of formal connections with museums or universities, he has no need to follow blindly the “authority” of the AOU (or any other organization), especially as the AOU itself is just recovering from the immense damage it did to its reputation by its 1983 love-affair with Mayr’s “Super-Families!”  In any event, I have done it, and I shall die happy with my reputation as an iconoclast.  Besides, in The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2000, David A. Sibley changed the position of many birds Orders to help the birders separate similar species.  Since all the many bird-watchers WJS has had here in the Tuxtlas almost invariably use the index, the birds should have no trouble using this Veracruz list.

 

            So have lots of fun with his taxonomy.  If you come to the state to observe birds, good luck and the author hopes you will see some of our now uncommon birds.  And as for your chances of seeing vagrants, remember the old ornithological adage, “birds have wings and frequently use them,” i.e. you might see one anytime and anywhere.

Catemaco
Veracruz, Mexico