Cozumel Island

Country/Territory Mexico
Area 490 km2
Altitude 0 - 100 m
Priority high
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge good

General characteristics

The coralline limestone island of Cozumel is located in the Caribbean c.18 km off the north-east coast of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. Although close to the mainland, the island is separated from it by waters c.1,000 m deep (the Canal de Cozumel), and so is usually classified as being oceanic (Martínez-Morales 1996), though not in this study.

Cozumel has a warm, humid climate and the main vegetation is coastal mangrove forest (which covers c.7% of the land surface, especially in the north and south), tropical deciduous forest (c.13% of the area, mainly occurring immediately inland of the mangrove and littoral zone) and tropical semi-deciduous forest (c.60%, principally in the centre of the island). Vegetation of the semi-deciduous forest is 8-20 m tall, and includes few epiphytes and vines; the deciduous forest is up to 8-12 m high; the mangroves, in which the main tree species include Rhizophora mangle , Laguncularia racemosa , Conocarpus erectus and Avicennia germinans, reach 10 m tall (Téllez-Valdés et al . 1989).

Cozumel lies within the area in Mexico most frequently hit by hurricanes, and altogether 20 struck the island between 1971 and 1995 (Martínez-Morales 1996).

Restricted-range species

The restricted-range birds are found in all the island's forest types, as well as forest edge and secondary scrub habitats, but Vireo bairdi and V. magister occur more commonly in the mangroves and coastal tropical deciduous forest than do the other species.

Cozumel is only a small part of the range of V. magister , which is found mainly along the east Yucatán coast of Mexico and Belize, including small islands and cays, and on the Honduras Bay Islands (Secondary Area s014).

There is one specimen of Chlorostilbon forficatus from Isla Mujeres, 60 km north of Cozumel, suggesting that it may be a rare visitor there. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the widespread Fork-tailed Hummingbird C. canivetii until Howell (1993) revised the taxonomy of that species-complex for north Central America; his treatment of forficatus as a full species has been generally accepted (e.g. AOU 1995b, Stiles 1996, C. G. Sibley in litt. 1996).

As well as its three endemic bird species, Cozumel has 15 endemic subspecies, including Cozumel Curassow Crax rubra griscomi , and a form of the House Wren Troglodytes aedon beani which is possibly better treated as a full species (e.g. Howell and Webb 1995a).

Species IUCN Category
Cozumel Emerald (Cynanthus forficatus) LC
Yucatan Vireo (Vireo magister) LC
Cozumel Vireo (Vireo bairdi) NT
Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) NT
Cozumel Thrasher (Toxostoma guttatum) CR

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
MX178 Isla Cozumel Mexico

Threat and conservation

Relatively undisturbed areas of forest still remain on Cozumel, although mangroves and tropical deciduous forest have been affected by coastal developments for the burgeoning tourist industry. The last major hurricane in 1988 probably adversely affected numbers of some of the bird species and subspecies as they were found to be unobtrusive in the years that followed, e.g. Toxostoma guttatum .

Cozumel Curassow Crax rubra griscomi was assessed as Critical in 1994 by Strahl et al. (1994). Recent studies on this cracid have confirmed its continued existence, and the estimated population has been put in the low hundreds (Martínez-Morales 1996).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Cozumel Island. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/search on 06/06/2023.