Indigenous Animals of Cozumel

The island of Cozumel

known as The Island of the Swallows.

Located in the Caribbean sea along the eastern side of the Yucatan peninsula, about 82 km (51 mi) south of Cancún and 19 km (12 mi) from the mainland. The island is about 48 km (30 mi) long and 16 km (9.9 mi) wide, with a total area of 478 km2 (184.5 sq. mi).

It is the largest Caribbean island in Mexico, the largest permanently inhabited island, and the third-largest island in the country.

The majority of people live in San Miguel town, located on the western shore of the island. Its population, around 100.000 in 2019.

Over 70% of the island is still untouched by humans.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to live on an island that is so abundant with magical raw nature that it feels almost as if this small piece of paradise is isolated from the modern world.

After Cozumel separated from the mainland, animals trapped on the island were forced to evolve differently and became indigenous to the island.

Indigenous Animals

There are ten species of animals.

One fish, four birds, and five land animals.

Three of them are carnivorous. That is quite unusual for an island. Most islands do not sustain even one, much less three species of carnivorous mammals.

1. Splendid Toadfish (water)

2. Emerald Hummingbird (air)

3. Coati (land)

4. Vireo (air)

5. Thrasher (air)

6. Fox (land)

7. Pygmy Raccoon (land)

8. Harvest Mouse (land)

9. Wren (air)

10. Collared Peccary (not yet verified) (land)


The Splendid Toadfish is one of the most interesting peculiarities of the marine life of Cozumel.

Like all of the other toadfish, its head is broad, flat, and with fleshy barbels, but its distinctive feature is its bright colors: all its eight fins, except the pelvic, are bordered of bright yellow.

Its mouth is also yellow, while the head and body are dark, decorated in purple, with black and white stripes.

The Splendid Toadfish has magnificent eyes placed above the head and directed upwards. It has large jaws that are characterized by small, sharp teeth. These are characteristics of animals that live near the sand.

Despite its bright colors, the Splendid Toadfish is a shy creature and is quite elusive; you usually find it below or around fissures and coral reefs in clean waters, at a depth of approximately 10-25 m.

During the night, the toadfish goes out to hunt: it feeds on small fish, shellfish, and worms, so night dives are good times to locate it.


The Cozumel Emerald Hummingbird.

It’s distinguished from other hummingbirds by its tale. It has a forked style tale, opposite to its cousins that have fan style tale.

Feeds low to high on flowers, preferring forest edge, gardens, and other semi-open habitats.

They can perch on their legs and slide a bit sideways, but they cannot hop or walk like most other birds.


They have an elongated snout, similar to a possum, but covered in fur, they have a striped tale that reminds us of a raccoon, but longer, and they use it similarly as monkeys do; their body reminds us of a fox. All in all, they look like a mixture of a lot of animals together.

They sustain themselves on fruits and bugs like scorpions, centipedes, spiders, and ants, along with lizards, small mammals, and rodents.

Coati can be found all over Latin American.

But the one found in Cozumel was thought to be a subspecies of the white-nosed Coati that resides all over the Yucatan Peninsula but was later proven to be a different species.

They are smaller and have much softer fur.


The Vireo is in the songbird family. Vireo in Latin means a green migratory bird.

It is rare because this type of Vireo is only staying here on the island.

Their numbers have declined thanks to predation by non-native boa constrictor snakes released on the island. So the sighting is not that frequent.

It Occurs in scrubby woodland, overgrown fields, and thickets.

Usually sluggish, like most vireos, and easily overlooked.

The Vireo can be identified: by its cute face, a white patch between the eyes and bill, white wing bars, and unique pinkish-tawny plumage tones.

Another special note, these birds love to sing; they can sing up to 20.000 times a day.


The Cozumel thrasher belongs to the mockingbird family and is endemic to the island of Cozumel.

They live on the ground and will run away before it flies.

After two major hurricanes hit the area and greatly affected their numbers, it is now among the most critically endangered birds in Mexico.

Without been spotted in many years, the hope is that they still exist.

They were presumed to be extinct after Roxanne hit in 1995 but was seen again in 2004. Since then, no sightings have occurred.


The Cozumel Fox is a species that is closed to extinction or already extinct.

The last recorded sighting was 2001. It is endemic to Cozumel.

The Cozumel Fox is known to be a dwarf fox endemic to the island, being just three quarters the size of a gray fox.

Studies show that this mammal has been inhabiting this island for over 5,000 years, meaning they lived here before humans did.


On the island, the raccoons inhabit a range of habitats. They are primarily limited to the mangrove forest and sandy wetlands in the northwest tip of the island.

They like to eat crabs, fruit, frogs, lizards, and insects. But really, 50% of their diet is crabs.