Veracruz River of Raptors

Wednesday, 17 January 2024

Presenters: Zinthia López-Vázquez and Pilar González 

The migratory phenomenon in Veracruz, Mexico has amazed birders around the world for the past three decades, since Mexican biologists began the journey to understand, document and conserve the world’s most abundant migratory corridor. During our talk, we will address some of the reasons why Veracruz witnesses the passage of more than 4.5 million migratory raptors each autumn season, as well as the important work that various institutions and individuals have done over the years to continue understanding and promoting a site with multiple potentialities, and an equal number of challenges.

Mississippi Kite: photo by Eli Gross

Zinthia López-Vázquez is a biologist, specialist in environmental education and she is a birdwatcher. She holds a Master’s degree in Science for Development, Sustainability and Tourism.

From early childhood, Zinthia discovered that the happiest times for her were when she was out in nature – she had no special interest in any animals or plants, she just enjoyed spending time in her family’s wheat or corn fields, running through the dusty roads of a small rural town in Mexico. She was also an outstanding student in many of her school subjects, and as a teenager she was invited to join the school team in preparation for the Biology Olympiad, a national programme in Mexico that attracts students with an aptitude for science.

After finishing her university education, Zinthia made environmental education her main strategy to promote conservation processes in the communities where she worked, so in 2017 she was invited for the first time to the project that would change her life, the Veracruz River of Raptors, which led her to integrate other interests, such as working more closely with communities and integrating tourism as a sustainable alternative.

She has worked in different civil organizations focused on conservation, environmental education and community development in Mexico. She is a founding member and was the first president of Amazilias, female birdwatchers network woman in Mexico and currently provides consultancy services for socio-environmental projects, creates tourism products focused on birdwatching and works on Ocean Connectors, an environmental education programme focused on migratory marine life that visits more than 90 groups of public elementary school students in 17 communities in two municipalities in the state of Nayarit, Mexico. She is also a field guide for birdwatchers in Jalisco, Nayarit and Veracruz, Mexico.

Swainson’s Hawks: photo by Perla Torres

Pilar González is a marine biologist and bilingual nature tourism guide. who started her passion for wild animals when she was a little girl. Her parents’ friend “Don Amiba” in Mexico City had a daughter who used to call him from a boat because she was working in a study about whales. Pilar had no idea of this whole world, but to hear from this old men, when she was 6 or 7 years old,  histories about adventures in ocean moved her heart to feel love about nature, and it was something that she never forgot, and since that time she always wanted to be a marine biologist.

After she finished college, she discovered a great bird migration that was occurring in her homeplace, and, actually, it is the largest migration of birds on the planet. She had the opportunity to apply to the project called “Veracruz Río de Rapaces” after just to finish the school and she joined it for the first time as an intern during the fall of 2010. Next year she collaborated as a counting assistant and then as an accountant, and volunteered in the banding station, participating in the project for 8 seasons to date.

Internationally, Pilar has been part of scientific banding teams at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, Costa Rica Bird Observatory, and in Honduras.
Since 2020 her career has been focused on tourism, as a tourist guide. She also led tours in the Mexican Caribbean for the whale shark for two seasons and now is a whale watching tours guide and swimming with dolphins in wildlife in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. As a marine mammal observer, and as a bird watcher her experience with tourism is being very enriching.

River of Raptors Counter: photo by Zinthia López-Vázquez

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