Trip Report: South Texas, November 11-19, 1999
Urs Geiser, Woodridge, Illinois, USA;
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas is one of the few "must see"
destinations for any serious North American birder (the others being
southeastern Arizona and south Florida); places of great bird
abundance with a good sprinkling of across-the-border species that
are not easily seen elsewhere. This was my first trip to that area,
and it had a potential of almost 80 life birds (including a good
number of unlikely rarities). 40-50 life birds were a more
realistic goal. Furthermore, it gave me the opportunity to see again
a number of coastal species that I hadn't seen since a trip to
Florida as a beginning birder in 1989.
November is the time of the annual Rio Grande Birding Festival
(in addition to the time of the year when many of the Mexican
strays show up), and we decided to take advantage of at least one of
their field trips to see some of the more difficult species. However,
the festival is a large affair, and in the end, I was glad to stay
away from it for the most part.
I originally planned on traveling with my friends, Bob and Karen Fisher,
who had already visited the Valley once before,
but human and feline health problems caused them to cancel on short
notice. I decided therefore to do the trip alone. I was able to
obtain a cheaper airfare to Corpus Christi than directly to the Valley,
and thus it was decided to take advantage of the vicinity to Aransas
N.W.R., winter home of the endagered Whooping Crane. (I actually
managed to observe three crane species within six days, after seeing
an extraordinary Common Crane in Indiana on 11/6/99.)
From Corpus Christi, travel was by rental car, and all lodging
was in standard chain motels (pre-booked). The major highways
leading out of the Valley have immigration checkpoints, thus proper
identification papers (in my case, Resident Alien card) are
required to avoid problems. Restaurants are plentiful in the larger
towns, although only one chain of fast food serves breakfast before
The weather was sunny every day (except for some passing threatening
clouds on the 15th) and warmer than average for the season, with highs
in the upper 80s (around 30°C) and lows in the upper 50s or lower
60s (around 15°C). On several days, there was early fog that
disappeared during the morning. On most days, there was a light wind
from the east. Sunrise was a little after 7am and sunset before 6pm.
For reference material, I had the brand-new 3rd edition of the National
Geographic Society's Field Guide to the Birds of North America
(1999), S.N.G. Howell and S. Webb's A Guide to the Birds of
Mexico and Northern Central America (Oxford University Press,
1995), and a borrowed older edition of A Birder's Guide to the
Rio Grande Valley (ABA Lane Guide Series). The registration
material from the birding festival contained a Texas state highway map
and the Rio Grande Valley Birding Map. The latter,
which is apparently available for free (advertisment supported) from
local sources, proved to be extremely useful. Not only were there
many more roads shown than on the state map, it also contained a large
list of birding places with descriptions on the back side. I would
strongly suggest for any visitor to find this map at the earliest
convenience. On the other hand, it is probably not necessary to
bring a DeLorme road atlas, as most of the birding places are well
signed and access described in the afore-mentioned sources.
I have posted a separate
with some of the better photos from the trip.
Itinerary - Daily Accounts
With a total of eight nights, it was decided to spend three nights in the
lower Valley (Harlingen, the site of the festival), and three in the
upper Valley (San Juan near McAllen). The first night had to be in
Rockport for the boat trip to Aransas, and the last one in or near
Corpus Christi, as it would be rushed to drive all the way from the
Valley and catch a plane on time. Furthermore, the Corpus Christi
area offers some nice coastal birding, which meant that the coastal
locations of the Valley (Boca Chica N.W.R. and South Padre Island)
were not necessary to visit.
Thursday, November 11 - Arrival
I arrived in Corpus Christi at 4 p.m.
After noticing my first life bird (the abundant Great-tailed Grackle)
and settling into the car, I wanted to find some birds during the last
hour of daylight. I passed the downtown area and crossed over the
huge bay bridge direction north. At the north end of the bridge
there is a little park, Indian Point Park, where I pulled away from
the highway. There were numerous shorebirds, pelicans, herons,
gulls, terns, and I had a teaser look at possible Cave Swallows. After
sunset, I drove to Rockport, where I spent the night.
Friday, November 12 - Aransas N.W.R., Fulton - Corpus Christi -
Drive to Valley
In the morning fog, I arrived at Capt. Ted's dock in Fulton before
7 a.m. However, as there were only a handful of people present, we had to
wait for a church group with reservations that was
stuck in traffic in the fog and didn't arrive until 40 minutes later.
Luckily, the fog lifted just about then. The boat crossed the bay
fairly quickly and only slowed down when it entered the channel along
the edge of Aransas N.W.R. There were again numerous wading birds
including some Roseate Spoonbills, and soon, we saw our first
Whooping Cranes, a family of two adults and a brown immature. While
not close, they were easily seen with binoculars. We later saw a
few more distant birds, not all within the refuge boundaries. Other
interesting birds were the first Neotropic Cormorants, Common Loons,
Am. Oystercatchers, White Ibis, Reddish Egret, and Clapper Rail. Back
at the dock, I noticed that among the gulls and terns perched on harbor
pilings there were three late Sandwich Terns, an unexpected bonus bird.
Capt. Ted handed us a sheet with suggested land birding spots in the
area, and I decided to try out a few. A pond in the town of Lamar
held a number of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, as well as a couple
of large Alligators (the only ones seen on the trip). I drove the
backroads of Fulton and eventually crossed the west arm of Copano
Bay, attempting to reach U.S. 77 in Sinton. However, road construction
forced a detour, and it became more direct to go through Corpus Christi
again. I therefore decided to pay Indian Point Park another visit
and found a few new species there, including
Plover and yet another Clapper Rail.
I spent most of the rest of the afternoon driving south on U.S. 77,
spotting a Harris's Hawk without being able to stop the car to
take a good look. I arrived in Harlingen around 5 p.m. and
spent the last daylight along the road to Laguna Atoscosa, where
I spotted the first White-tailed Kites of the trip. I love these
elegant birds! I spent the next three nights in Harlingen.
Saturday, November 13 - Laguna Atascosa N.W.R. - Brownsville
Most of this first full day of birding in the Rio Grande Valley was
spent at Laguna Atascosa N.W.R. I was duly awed by the gaudy
Jays at the photo blind which also yielded a few more life birds:
White-tipped Dove, Inca Dove, Bronzed Cowbird, and Olive Sparrow.
The trails around the visitor center were relative unproductive,
partially due to the season and partially due to the drought - none
of the small wetlands along the trail contained any water. Nevertheless,
I found a few new birds, including the two common woodpeckers and
several Great Kiskadees.
The freshwater namesake Laguna Atascosa, on the other hand, was
choke-full with herons, ducks, coots, pelicans, and shorebirds.
Nothing extraordinary, but just lots of birds!
Later in the hot midday sun, I took the long auto tour. Most of the
shallow wetlands were again dry, and the birds were found on the
main lagoon (part of Laguna Madre): thousands of Redhead and Northern
Pintail were most evident. I managed to pick up another Piping Plover
at the beach. Inland again, a Merlin perched in a low tree was a nice
find, but the Paisano Trail only yielded a Greater Roadrunner.
Back at the visitor center, I ran into the Pete Dunne hawk workshop
whirlwind outing with their huge tour buses - not my taste of birding,
irrespective of the guy's accomplishments and deserved reputation. I
prefer a slower pace and absolutely hate crowds.
To round out the day, I decided to check out one of the places listed
on the Birding Map for parrots, and I picked Dean Porter
city park in Brownsville. I didn't find any parrots that evening,
but the resaca (oxbow pond) held a Least Grebe, and ducks, including
some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, were feeding in someone's back
Sunday, November 14 - King Ranch - Harlingen - San Benito Area
Despite my distaste for large groups, I had signed up for the King Ranch
field trip, mainly to see Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, which would probably
be hard to find on one's own. Another target species was Audubon's Oriole.
The King Ranch takes up all of Kenedy County and then some. It contains
a number of different habitats, and it is not really overgrazed, so that
large tracts of fairly decent live oak woods survive in its holdings.
We birded the southernmost section of the ranch, which is apparently
the best for birding. A large tour bus nimbly negotiated the gravel roads
and the numerous gates. The guides, all employees of the King Ranch,
were very capable, although I thought that they overplayed the screech-owl
tape way too much to lure in random passerines. For the owl of course,
it is almost essential, and the orioles were also brought out into the
open buy a recording of their song.
It didn't take the guides too long to find a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
which was later joined by a second, and they set up scopes for everybody
to have good looks. While following the Audubon's Orioles into the woods,
we accidentally flushed a Pauraque from the forest floor, and at the
same time someone found an Eastern Screech-Owl hiding in a tree trunk.
A ranch pond held a number of ducks (including the only Cinnamon Teal of
the trip), herons and shorebirds. Other interesting birds were several
Crested Caracaras, White-tailed Hawks, Pyrrhuloxia, Verdin, and Vermilion
Flycatcher, but Tropical Parula was elusive. I finally got a good look
at a "certified" Long-billed Thrasher, something I had struggled with
the previous day at Laguna Atascosa.
After our return to Harlingen, I was ready for some more quiet birding.
I first checked out Hugh Ramsey park in Harlingen. There weren't a lot
of birds there, but I had a quick look at a Green Kingfisher, and a
Curve-billed Thrasher was pointed out by other birders.
I then drove around the country roads south of Harlingen, especially
the area around the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. Of interest
there was a Couch's Kingbird that actually called a few times for
positive identification. Several Least Grebes were in a resaca, and I
saw another Curved-billed Thrasher and the only Cooper's Hawk of the trip.
There remained just enough time for another attempt at parrots. This time,
I followed some other birders' advice and went to the town of San Benito,
where Green Parakeets had been seen a few days earlier. Indeed, I did find
the flock in a trailer subdivision behind the local Wal-Mart, and it also
contained an Aztec (a.k.a. Olive-throated) Parakeet, a species that is not
currently accepted as established in the A.B.A. area. However, a conversation
with a local resident revealed that the Red-crowned Parrots that used
to frequent the same neighborhood had apparently moved on to some
unknown other location a few weeks earlier.
Monday, November 15 - Brownsville - Sabal Palms - Santa Ana N.W.R.
Not counting the coastal locations, the remaining "must do" spots in the
lower Valley were the Brownsville landfill and Sabal Palms Audubon Sanctuary
(the southernmost point in Texas),
thus I drove to Brownsville in the morning twilight. A large kingfisher
at a bridge of the bypass road could have been a Ringed, but it disappeared
before I was able to stop the car for a better look. I had conflicting
information whether Sabal Palms would be open on Mondays or not, but since
this was my only chance during this trip, I tried it anyway. However,
the gate was locked, and I went to the landfill instead.
The Brownsville dump is well equiped for visiting birders, with a
reserved birders' road separate from the garbage truck traffic. Unfortunately,
during my visit the dump operations were not directly visible from the
birders' road, and the view at the swirling flock of birds (mostly gulls,
but also grackles, vultures, and starlings) was distant. No corvids
were in sight, however, and I spent well over two hours waiting and
also looking at the other birds. A Peregrine Falcon made occasional
passes over the dump, and among the more interesting fly-by birds
were two Roseate Spoonbills. Eventually, crow-like birds started to
fly in from the south, but they were all "only" Chihuahuan Ravens,
not the more sought-after Tamaulipas Crow. At that time, a couple from
Massachusetts (Ed and Amy Slattery) drove up and told me that
Sabal Palms was open now.
We abandoned the dump and drove the couple of miles back to Sabal Palms,
which was indeed open now. A naturalist told us where he had seen a
Clay-colored Robin that morning, so we went looking for it right away,
but without success. At least we had excellent looks at a pair of
Altamira Orioles. The couple from Mass. then returned to the visitor
center to watch the hummingbird feeder while I took another look
at the pond, which held a variety of water birds, including a few more
Least Grebes. Just when I returned to the visitor center, I was told
that I just missed a Buff-bellied Hummingbird, but then the naturalist
took the feeders down. Apparently, they were closing up (officially,
they were closed on Mondays, anyway, but they had some work to do
on that day), and they don't leave the feeders outside when nobody
is around. At least there were a number of
Chachalacas to look at.
I waited around the flower garden a little longer, hoping that the
hummingbird would show up there with the feeder gone, but no luck.
Now it was time to move up the valley, and after crossing Brownsville
(where I almost ended up on the international bridge), I followed
U.S. 281, the old Miltary Highway, to Santa Ana N.W.R. where I arrived
mid-afternoon. The wildlife drive wasn't open that day (nor was it on the
following Thursday), thus I had to explore on foot. I covered a combination
of the A and B trails around Willow Lake, with a side trip to Pintail Lake.
The major bird concentration was at Willow Lake with a lot of shorebirds
and ducks, and finally a Ringed Kingfisher. A calling Sora was the best
bird at Pintail Lake, but there I was able to sneak up very close to
an Armadillo, which was a life mammal. Finally, I drove to San Juan,
where I stayed for the next three nights.
Tuesday, November 16 - Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley St.P. - Anzalduas
I arrived at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley St.P. (in the following, just
"Bentsen") around 7 am when the park officially opens. I waited around
the entrance station to pay my $2, but nobody showed up for 15 minutes,
at which time I gave up. During the wait, I spotted an immature/female
plumaged hummingbird that was definitely not a Buff-belly, but probably
a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, also two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and
assorted passerines. My next stop was the trailer loop, where many
"winter Texans" operate bird feeders. A Clay-colored Robin had been
seen the week before at No. 18, but the tenants, the Culbertsons
(Jim is well known for his bird photography, having photographed
over 600 ABA species including the famous Stygian Owl of 1996, and
his wife Pat was also very knowledgeable - her detailed instructions
were crucial for my finding the Rose-throated Becard two days later),
thought that the large crowds of the birding festival had driven
the bird away.
Later, I checked out the picnic and boat ramp area. A rare (for the area)
Red-naped Sapsucker was known to frequent trees near the boat ramp, and
I was able to find it easily. I then tried to find a purported, totally
out of place Fan-tailed Warbler (Basileuterus lachrymosa),
but later scrutiny of the evidence convinced me that the observer had
just seen an immature Common Yellowthroat with a fuzzy dark face that
was definitely present
("but it flicked its tail just like the book says!"). This was probably the same bird
that other birders had declared to be a Black-polled Yellowthroat (Geothlypis
speciosa, a sedentary endemic of central Mexican marshes and extremely
unlikely vagrant). A place like Bentsen, where rarities show up with
some regularity, really ignites the imagination of some birders!
A pair of Least Grebes and both specialty kingfishers were more real,
and I was actually able to watch a Green Kingfisher perched for a change.
A midday walk on the Rio Grande River trail was unproductive, except for
an encounter with a group of obviously illegal immigrants and subsequent
uneasiness about the potential theft of my rental car for their quick get-away.
The latter was unfounded, as they were soon picked up by another car.
Birding was slow in the afternoon heat, so I decided to go to nearby
Anzalduas County Park to look for the reported Rose-throated Becard. I joined
a group of other birders in a search of the many trees in the vicinity of
the restrooms, but all we could turn up besides Green Jays and Great-tailed
Grackles were a flock of warblers of at least five species, including a
lovely Black-throated Gray and a Pine. The couple from Massachusetts from
the previous day showed up again, and they participated in the vain search.
I then hopped into their car, and we drove up to the dam, where we missed
the Cave Swallows that were supposed to be there. We found, however, a
strange looking flycatcher the size of a pheobe, but with bright orange
belly and breast, whitish throat, and a dark line through the greyish brown
face. All I can think is that this was a male Vermilion Flycatcher molting
into his first bright plumage. At about that time, we spotted a very gray
hawk on a utility pole, which we first took to be a White-tailed Kite.
However, it didn't have the black shoulder patches and actually turned out
to be a beautiful Gray Hawk, a species that is known to nest at
After that, I returned to Bentsen for another look around the trailer loop
and a long chat with Pat Culbertson. At almost dark, I did the obligatory
drive around the park roads and found a total of six Pauraqes resting
on the warm asphalt, their eyes glowing red in the headlights.
Wednesday, November 17 - Santa Margarita Ranch - Falcon Dam and St.P.
This was my trip to western reaches of the Valley. Somehow, I got my
instructions mixed up about the place where one can find Browns Jays early
in the morning and ended up at the Santa Margarita Ranch instead of the
trailers at Chapeno. Both places cost $2 per person to bird, but I'm sure
the ranch is better for overall variety, even though the jay is not
normally expected there. As described in the Lane guide and the Birding
Map, wait for someone to shop up and take your money before getting out
of the car, because of the pack of watchdogs.
Luckily, the latter didn't follow me down the obvious path to the river,
where I birded for about three hours in light fog. Along the trail,
I heard the whistled hoots of a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (familiar from hearing
the tape many times at the King Ranch), and when I walked a few steps in
the direction, I saw the bird fly out and into inaccessible areas.
Many of the typical birds of the riparian forest were present, including
Altamira Oriole, various doves, Plain Chachalaca, Green Jay, and the
woodpeckers (including a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker). One bird that
I didn't get a good look at before it disappeared could possibly have
been a Clay-colored Robin. I waited in the area for a long time, but
it never showed again. In the drier areas toward the gate and the car
were Verdins and Pyrrhuloxia.
On the way out, the fog lifted, and a sparrow flock at a cattle feeding
cart caught my eye: the majority of them were Clay-colored Sparrows,
with some Savannahs mixed in. Several Crested Caracaras flew around.
At the overlook of the large Falcon Ranch pond I added some ducks and
herons to the day list.
I reached the area beneath Falcon Dam when it became hot. Nevertheless,
I walked all the way down to the abandoned hobo camp (an old clothes line
is all that remains). I could have saved myself the long walk, as the
most interesting bird was within 50 yards of the car: a Zone-tailed Hawk
that I didn't see until it flew out of the trees where I was chasing
some dicky birds (which turned out to be just Chipping Sparrows).
Falcon State Park was almost empty, except for the natural gas people.
The lake water level was very low. A large flock of White Pelicans
was near the Mexican shore, and several large flocks of Greater
White-fronted Geese flew around. Otherwise, meadowlarks of probably
both species were among the few birds in the picnic area.
After a nap, I went exploring around the boat ramp area and found a
Rock Wren and some Horned Lark. A drive around the park revealed some
Pyrrhuloxias and Curve-billed Thrashers, also four Northern Bobwhite
at the only feeder in the trailer camp. I was assured at the visitor
center that Cactus Wrens, a bird I was looking forward to seeing, were
around, so I walked a ways along the nearby nature trail. I never found
the wren but had great looks at a Black-throated Sparrow and some Verdins.
I timed the long drive back to McAllen such that I would arrive at the
bridge over the Arroyo Salado west of Sullivan City at sunset. Pat
Culbertson and others had assured me that this was the place to find
Cave Swallows returning to their night roost under the highway.
After some wait in the fading light and with heavy traffic roaring
by, a high-flying flock of swallows appeared, circled high once or
twice and then dove very under the road bed, not to be seen again.
So this was yet another encouncter with what must have been Cave Swallows
based on the location, but I didn't really feel that I had an identifying
look at the birds.
Thursday, November 18 - Anzalduas Co.P. - Santa Ana N.W.R. - Areas North
of McAllen - Back to Corpus Christi
On this last day in the Valley, I had a few holes to patch on my list:
The rare Rose-throated Becard was tempting, and I had now good instructions,
then there were Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Hook-billed Kite, Cave Swallow
(for the satisfying definite look), and Cactus Wren.
Clay-colored Robin was a long shot, and I didn't have time to go back to
Brown Jay or White-collared Seedeater territory (Falcon Dam area).
My first stop was Anzalduas County Park, where I was assured that the
Becard would be actively feeding early in the morning to become virtually
unfindable later in the day. Sure enough, I found the male of the pair
present in a tree very close to where I parked the car. I was able to
show the bird to a couple of other birders before it disappeared into
At the dam, two Cave Swallows performed as required, and I also found
the out-of-range Black Pheobe that had been reported there.
I also had instructions on where to find the hummingbird at Santa Ana,
so that's where I went next. Sure enough, after some waiting around
the crabflower patch near the old rangers residence, the bird showed
up and was well seen. I later learned that I could have also looked
for a Rufous Hummingbird nearby. On the trail toward Pintail Lake,
I was lucky again when a Hook-billed Kite flew over. The lake itself
held a nice flock of American Avocet but not much else, in contrast
to Willow Lake that was again full of ducks and shorebirds.
For the Cactus Wren, I had to find dryer areas, and I went looking for
the dirt road a few miles north of La Joya known as "Sparrow Lane"
(described in Lane Guide and the Birders Map). I didn't see any
sparrows there, but a Cactus Wren indeed popped out of a bush
when I stopped the car at a convenient place.
With this, I had exhausted all my likely life bird targets, and I drove
around the agricultural area north of Edinburgh looking for other
birds that were possibly new for the trip. Two Lark Sparrows near
Hargill were the only trip birds, however, I got a nice variety
of interestingbirds along the dirt roads in the patch of Lower Rio Grande
Valley N.W.R. north of Hargill: White-tailed Hawk, Couch's Kingbird,
and Vermilion Flycatcher, to name just a few.
After that, it was time to leave the valley for the long drive north
on U.S. 281. At Falfurias (a town hit by a hurricane in September
1999) I cut over to U.S.77 along Hwy. 285 which is also known
as "Hawk Alley". I didn't see any unusual concentrations of raptors,
but a ranch pond along the road with ducks and shorebirds (possibly
including Wilson's Phalaropes) made for some diversion.
I arrived in Corpus Christi after 4 pm, with just enough time for
some coastal birding, which I did at the place that I already knew,
Indian Point Park. I didn't add any new species to the trip list, but
the combination of coastal birds with inland, Valley birds led to the
largest day list of the trip, 105 species. The night was spent in
Friday, November 19 - Corpus Christi - Departure
From an excellent website maintained
by Patty Beasley (known to many birdchatters for her daily reports from
the famous fall hawk watch at Hazel Bazemore Co.P.), I had a good list
of local birding hotspots. The two possible life birds were Seaside
Sparrow and Gull-billed Tern, none of which I found.
The Hans A. Suter Wildlife Area was somewhat of a let-down, as it was
almost impossible to get a view over the water of Cayo del Oso. The
place is probably pretty good for passerine migration, but not in November.
From the glimpses at the birds in the water I could tell that there were
a lot of Avocets out there with the usual suspects.
The many stops along the North Padre Island causeway were more productive,
with a similar species mix as Indian Point Park and good opportunities
to photograph birds at close range. The entrance fee to the National
Seashore was too high for at most an hour's visit, so I checked out
a couple of the nearby county beaches, which were good for Sanderlings
and some gulls and terns (but not Gull-billed). I never saw any
suitable habitat for the sparrow.
On the way back to the airport, I stopped at Tule Lake for another
look at a nice mix of shorebirds (frequently harassed by a Northern
Harrier). The instructions on the website
are accurate (except that there is no street sign for Corn Products
Rd., but it's the intersection where you have to turn anyway), and
the place is not all that difficult to find. A stop at a traffic
light gave another opportunity for a look at some Bronzed Cowbirds
together with their Brown-headed cousins. With the beginning of the
Thanksgiving holiday season, the flights back to Chicago (layover
in Houston, stop in St. Louis) were much more crowded than on the
Asterisk (*) denotes a life bird (41 life birds total)
Hyperlinks will open a new window with a photo of the bird.
Of the 179 species, four are questionable (Ruby-throated Hummingbird,
Brown Thrasher, towhee, Western Meadowlark), and Aztec Parakeet is not
- Common Loon - Gavia immer
Several birds from Aransas boat tour off Fulton (11/12).
- *Least Grebe - Tachybaptus dominicus
This south Texas specialty is said to be difficult to find at times.
I had no trouble, seeing often multiple individuals on at least five
occasions, including a bird at Dean Porter Park in the middle of
Brownsville. Others at Sabal Palms, Bentsen, and at ponds outside
Harlingen and Mission.
- Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
Seen almost daily at various wetlands.
- American White Pelican - Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Abundant and conspicuous at coastal lagoons. Large flock on the
Mexican side of Falcon Lake. 11 birds flew over Santa Ana on 11/18.
Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis
Common near Corpus Christi and Rockport-Fulton.
- Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus
Seen almost daily along the coast and at inland wetlands.
- *Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Seen in small numbers mostly inland, except for a small group from
the Aransas boat trip.
- Anhinga - Anhinga anhinga
Two observations of single birds: Bayview near Harlingen (11/13) and
- Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
- Great Egret - Ardea alba
Seen daily, sometimes in large numbers.
Egret - Egretta thula
Seen almost daily, usually in smaller numbers than Great Egret.
- Little Blue Heron - Egretta caerulea
Fairly common in small numbers along and near the coast. Not seen west of Harlingen.
- Tricolored Heron - Egretta tricolor
Seen daily, but much more numerous near and along the coast than inland.
- Reddish Egret - Egretta rufescens
Small numbers in the Corpus Christi area.
- Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Seen almost daily, usually in flocks.
- Green Heron - Butorides virescens
One individual at Dean Porter Park, Brownsville (11/13).
- Black-crowned Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
A small colony in a tree at Aransas N.W.R., seen from the boat (11/12).
- White Ibis - Eudocimus albus
Good numbers at Aransas (11/12) and Laguna Atascosa (11/13).
One bird at King Ranch (11/14).
- White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi
Small numbers here and there: along U.S. 77 (Kenedy Co., 11/12),
King Ranch (11/14), and Santa Ana (11/15 and 11/18).
- Roseate Spoonbill - Ajaia ajaja
Fairly numerous near the coast (Corpus Christi, Aransas,
Laguna Atascosa). Two birds flew over the Brownsville landfill
while I searched for corvids.
- Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus
Seen in small numbers on four dates. Less numerous than Turkey
- Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
Seen daily, sometimes in large numbers.
- *Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna bicolor
Seen on four occasions, usually in small flocks: Lamar, Aransas Co. (11/12),
Bayview near Harlingen (11/13), Dean Porter Park, Brownsville (11/13), and
outside Brownsville (11/15).
- Greater White-fronted Goose - Anser albifrons
Only seen in flight; Two, King Ranch (11/14), several large flocks, Falcon
St. P. (11/17), and ca. 30, Santa Ana (11/18).
- Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens
Only seen in flight near Laguna Atascosa N.W.R. (11/12 and 11/13).
- Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
Four birds at Aransas N.W.R., seen from the boat.
- Gadwall - Anas strepera
Seen almost daily.
- American Wigeon - Anas americana
- Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
One pair at Dean Porter Park in Brownsville (11/13) looked pure plumaged
and may have been reasonably wild.
- Mottled Duck - Anas fulvigula
Seen almost daily in small numbers.
- Blue-winged Teal - Anas discors
Seen almost daily in small numbers.
- Cinnamon Teal - Anas cyanoptera
One bird in a farm pond at King Ranch (11/14).
- Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
- Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
Seen in amazingly large numbers on the lagoons around Corpus Christi and
Rockport-Fulton-Aransas. Other observations: many, Laguna Atascosa (11/13);
few, King Ranch (11/13); few, Falcon Ranch Pond, Starr Co. (11/17);
in a farm pond along Highway 285, Kleberg Co. (11/18).
- Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Seen almost daily in small numbers.
- Canvasback - Aythya valisineria
Small numbers at Laguna Atascosa (11/13) and Falcon Ranch Pond (11/17);
good numbers in the farm pond along Highway 285, Kleberg Co. (11/18).
- Redhead - Aythya americana
Huge numbers on the lagoons around Corpus Christi,
Rockport-Fulton-Aransas, and Laguna Atascosa.
Small numbers at Sabal Palms (11/15).
- Ring-necked Duck - Aythya collaris
Small numbers in ponds almost every day. Not seen on the
- Lesser Scaup - Aythya affinis
Good numbers at Aransas N.W.R. (11/12). Small flock on the resaca
at Dean Porter Park, Brownsville (11/13).
- Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola
Small flock flying down the Rio Grand River at Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- Red-breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator
Small numbers on the coastal lagoons around Corpus Christi and
- Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis
Seen almost daily, mainly on freshwater ponds. All were carefully scanned
for potential Masked Ducks, but none were found.
- Pandion haliaetus
Seen almost daily, near water.
- *Hook-billed Kite - Chondrohierax uncinatus
One bird flying over the trail to Pintail Lake, Santa Ana N.W.R. (11/18/99).
- White-tailed Kite - Elanus leucurus
Several of these most graceful raptors were seen almost daily in the
agricultural areas of the Rio Grande Valley; also one at Bentsen (11/16).
- Northern Harrier - Circus cyaneus
Commonly seen (almost daily) over grassy and agricultural areas.
- Sharp-shinned Hawk - Accipiter striatus
Single fly-over bird at Anzalduas (11/16 and 11/18).
- Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii
One hunting bird near one of the sections of Las Palomas W.M.A. south
of Harlingen (11/14).
- *Gray Hawk - Asturina nitida
Single bird perched first on a utility pole, then in a tree,
Anzalduas (11/16). Good views!
- *Harris's Hawk - Parabuteo unicinctus
Several seen daily, except in the Corpus Christi area. Usually perched
on utility poles or wires and rarely single.
- Red-shouldered Hawk - Buteo lineatus
One soaring bird near the visitor center at Laguna Atascosa (11/13).
- *White-tailed Hawk - Buteo albicaudatus
All observations were of soaring birds.
Several at the King Ranch (11/14). Two birds at the Rudman Tract of the
Lower Rio Grande Valley N.W.R., Willacy Co. (11/18).
One bird along U.S. 281, Brooks Co. (11/18).
- *Zone-tailed Hawk - Buteo albonotatus
One bird flushed out of a tree near the parking lot at the end
of the gravel road below Falcon Dam (11/17). Diagnostic look, but
better view desired.
- Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
Seen most days, perched or soaring.
- *Crested Caracara - Caracara plancus
Several, King Ranch (11/14); several in Starr County, northwest of Roma
(11/17); several, ranchland north of La Joya (11/18).
- American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
Numerous birds seen daily, usually perched on utility lines.
- Merlin - Falco columbarius
One bird perched in a small tree along the car loop at
Laguna Atascosa (11/13).
- Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
One bird harassing gulls (or vice versa?) on the Brownsville landfill
- *Plain Chachalaca - Ortalis vetula
Conspicuous and relatively tame at the wooded birding spots along
the Rio Grande River, e.g., Sabal Palms, Bentsen, Santa Ana, and Santa
- Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo
Several flocks on the gravel road at King Ranch (11/14).
- Northern Bobwhite - Colinus virginianus
Four birds at a feeder, Falcon St.P. (11/17); one bird running across
a rural road near Edinburg.
- Clapper Rail - Rallus longirostris
Two birds seen from the boat at Aransas (11/12) and one at Indian Point Park
near Corpus Christi (11/12).
- Sora - Porzana carolina
Heard once at Pintail Lake, Santa Ana N.W.R. (11/15).
- Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Seen three times in small numbers: Lamar, Aransas Co. (11/12), Las Palomas
W.M.A. south of Harlingen (11/14), Bentsen (11/16).
- American Coot - Fulica americana
Seen daily, sometimes in good numbers, on all likely waters.
- Sandhill Crane - Grus canadensis
Fly-overs along Hwy. 35, San Patricio Co. (11/11) and near Laguna Atascosa
(11/12 and 11/13). Heard but not seen at the King Ranch (11/14) and at the
Rudman Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley N.W.R. (11/18).
- *Whooping Crane - Grus americana
The star attraction at Aransas N.W.R. and the main reason to visit by boat,
seven of these majestic birds (including one brown immature) were seen, none
very close, and some very distant (11/12).
- Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Common along the coastal lagoons near Corpus Christi, Aransas, and Laguna Atascosa.
- Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus
Small numbers on lagoon beaches near Corpus Christi.
- Piping Plover - Charadrius melodus
One (11/12) or two (11/18) at Indian Point Park near Corpus Christi, one
along Laguna Madre at Laguna Atascosa N.W.R.
- Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus
Seen daily along ponds and lagoons.
- American Oystercatcher - Haematopus palliatus
Small numbers at Indian Point Park near Corpus Christi (11/11 and 11/18)
and at Aransas N.W.R. from the boat (11/12).
- Black-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus
Good numbers around Corpus Christi and Laguna Atascosa. Some birds
in ponds at Santa Ana N.W.R. and in a subdivision south of Mission.
- American Avocet - Recurvirostra americana
Flock of 19 on Pintail Lake at Santa Ana (11/18); good numbers in the
Corpus Christi area (11/18 and 11/19), where none were seen a week earlier.
- Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
Small numbers almost daily at coastal lagoons and inland ponds.
- Lesser Yellowlegs - Tringa flavipes
Small numbers almost daily at coastal lagoons and inland ponds.
- Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria
Possible sighting in vanishing light at long distance at Indian Point Park (11/11);
confirmed single bird at Sabal Palms (11/15).
- Willet - Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
Numerous at coastal lagoons (Corpus Christi, Rockport-Fulton-Aransas,
Laguna Atascosa). Not found inland.
- Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularia
Several birds around Fulton and Aransas (11/12). All other sightings inland:
Bentsen (11/16), Falcon Dam (11/17), Anzalduas (11/18).
- Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus
Several seen at each location: Indian Point Park (11/11), Fulton and
Aransas (11/12), Laguna Atascosa (11/13), south of Mission (11/18).
- Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa
Several in the Corpus Christi area (11/12 and 11/19).
- Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
Common on beaches near Corpus Christi and Rockport-Fulton.
- Sanderling - Calidris alba
Common on beaches near Corpus Christi (11/11, 11/12, 11/18, 11/19).
at very close range on Gulf beach at North Padre Island (11/19).
- Semipalmated Sandpiper - Calidris pusilla
Late migrants of this species were probably overlooked among the much
more numerous Western Sandpipers (winter residents). One individual
identified with reasonable confidence, Laguna Atascosa (11/13).
- Western Sandpiper - Calidris mauri
Shores near Corpus Christi and Laguna Atascosa.
- Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla
On coasts (Corpus Christi and Laguna Atascosa) less numerous than Western
Sandpiper. Also seen inland at Santa Ana N.W.R. (11/15).
- Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Lagoon shores at Laguna Atascosa (11/13) and Corpus Christi area (11/18
- Stilt Sandpiper - Calidris himantopus
Small flock with dowitchers at Santa Ana N.W.R. (11/15 and 11/18).
- Long-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus scolopaceus
Dowitchers were seen almost daily in many locations. Where identified
as to species, they were always Long-billed Dowitchers, but it is quite
possible that some Short-billed D. were overlooked.
- Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago
Small numbers in Lamar (11/12), King Ranch (11/14) and Sabal Palms (11/15).
Large numbers at a farm pond in Kleberg Co. (11/18) and on North Padre Island
- Wilson's Phalarope - Phalaropus tricolor
Not identified with absolute certainty (distant, in vegetation, adverse
light), in a farm pond along Hwy. 285, Kleberg Co. (11/18).
- Laughing Gull - Larus atricilla
Abundant along the coast and at the Brownsville landfill. Smaller numbers
along the Rio Grande River.
- Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensis
Small numbers along the coast and at the Brownsville landfill.
- Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
Small numbers in the Corpus Christi and Rockport-Fulton areas.
- Caspian Tern - Sterna caspia
Small numbers along the coast: Corpus Christi, Rockport-Fulton,
and Laguna Atascosa.
- Royal Tern - Sterna maxima
Small numbers along the coast: Corpus Christi, Rockport-Fulton,
and Laguna Atascosa.
- *Sandwich Tern - Sterna sandvicensis
Three birds at Capt. Ted's boat dock in Fulton. Late date.
- Forster's Tern - Sterna forsteri
Numerous at coastal lagoons. One bird along Rio Grande River at
Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- Rock Dove - Columba livia
Seen daily, usually in towns or near man-made structures.
- *White-winged Dove - Zenaida asiatica
Seven birds at Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura
Seen daily. Especially large numbers near Laguna Atascosa (11/13).
- *Inca Dove - Columbina inca
One bird at feeder, Laguna Atascosa (11/13); three, Sabal Palms (11/15),
at least three near boat ramp, Bentsen (11/16).
- Common Ground-Dove - Columbina passerina
One, Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17); one, Anzalduas (11/18).
- *White-tipped Dove - Leptotila verreauxi
A rather shy dove of the forest floor.
At feeders: Laguna Atascosa (11/13) and Bentsen (11/16). Also singles at Sabal
Palms (11/15) and Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- *Green Parakeet - Aratinga holocholora
A noisy flock of ca. 30 parakeets was observed before sunset in a trailer
park in San Benito (11/14). This species has just been declared "countable"
as an introduced species by the American Birding Association (ABA)
(Birding 1999 31(6), 518-524). It cannot
be ruled out that some birds are of wild origin. Their natural
range is shown by S.N.G. Howell and S. Webb (A Guide to the Birds of
Mexico and Northern Central America, Oxford university Press,
1995) to approach the Rio Grande River within 50 miles.
- *Aztec (Olive-throated) Parakeet - Aratinga astec
One bird of this species accompanied the Green Parakeet flock at Sen Benito
(11/14). This species is not accepted as "countable" by the ABA,
although its range extends almost as close to the border as the
- Greater Roadrunner - Geococcyx californianus
Two separate birds at Laguna Atascosa (11/13), one at Bentsen (11/16).
- Eastern Screech-Owl - Otus asio
One bird well camouflaged in a tree opening, King Ranch (11/14).
- Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus
Heard at King Ring Ranch (11/14).
- *Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl - Glaucidium brasilianum
Two birds well seen at King Ranch after tape played by trip leaders
(11/14). One bird heard, then seen flying away at Santa Margarita
- *Pauraque - Nyctidromus albicollis
One bird flushed in daylight, King Ranch (11/14); Six birds seen in
car headlights sitting on the road at twilight, Bentsen (11/16).
- *Buff-bellied Hummingbird - Amazilia yucatanensis
I missed this species at Sabal Palms when sanctuary staff removed the
feeder (where others had seen the hummingbird minutes earlier) just
when I arrived. However, I managed to find a bird at Santa Ana
on my last in the Valley (11/18).
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris
A female-plumaged Archilochus hummingbird at the entrance station
at Bentsen was almost certainly of this species (11/16).
- *Ringed Kingfisher - Ceryle torquata
Singles at Santa Ana (11/15 and 11/18), Bentsen (11/16), Santa Margarita
Ranch (11/17), and Anzalduas (11/18).
- Belted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyon
Seen at Indian Point Park (11/11), Aransas (11/12), King Ranch (11/14),
and Santa Ana (11/15 and 11/18).
- *Green Kingfisher - Chloroceryle americana
Singles at Hugh Ramsey Park, Harlingen (11/14), Santa Ana (11/15), and
Bentsen (11/16). At the latter location, I was even able to see the
bird perched on a stump, rather than the usual quick flash across the water.
- *Golden-fronted Woodpecker - Melanerpes aurifrons
Seen daily in wooded areas in the Rio Grande Valley. The most frequently
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius
Two birds at the entrance to Bentsen (11/16); one bird at Santa Ana (11/18).
- Red-naped Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus nuchalis
One bird photographed near the boat ramp at Bentsen (11/16). This
western species is rare in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
- *Ladder-backed Woodpecker - Picoides scalaris
Seen daily in wooded areas in the Rio Grande Valley. Less numerous
than Golden-fronted Woodpecker.
- Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus
One yellow-shafted bird seen at Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- Black Phoebe - Sayornis nigricans
One bird seen around Anzalduas Dam. This
western species is rare in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
- Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis phoebe
Seen almost daily in good numbers.
- Vermilion Flycatcher - Pyrocephalus rubinus
Only males were observed. Several at King Ranch (11/14). A strange
individual (probably male molting into adult plumage) with orange rather
than red plumage that only extended to the breast but not to the head was
seen at Anzalduas (11/16). Single in the Rudman Tract of the Lower Rio
Grande Valley N.W.R. (11/18).
Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus
This noisy, gorgeous bird was observed daily in the Rio Grande Valley.
- *Couch's Kingbird - Tyrannus couchii
The first-seen bird of this species was heard calling, in the Las Palomas
W.M.A. south of Harlinen (11/14). Others seen at Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17)
and in the Rudman Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley N.W.R. (11/18) were
either Couch's or the less likely, but identical looking Tropical Kingbird.
- *Rose-throated Becard - Pachyramphus aglaiae
One male was well seen on second attempt at Anzalduas (11/18). This species
is very rare in Texas.
- Loggerhead Shrike - Lanius ludovicianus
Seen daily, usually on roadside perches.
- White-eyed Vireo - Vireo griseus
One bird, auto loop at Laguna Atascosa (11/13); several, Santa Margarita
Ranch (11/17); one, visitor center at Santa Ana N.W.R. (11/18).
- *Green Jay - Cyanocorax yncas
Many individuals of this quintessential tropical species were seen daily
in wooded areas of the Rio Grande Valley.
- *Chihuahuan Raven - Corvus cryptoleucus
The only corvid to show up at the Brownsville landfill (11/15); also seen
in fields between the landfill and Sabal Palms on the same day.
- Horned Lark - Eremophila alpestris
Several at Brownsville landfill (11/15) and near the boat ramp at
Falcon St.P. (11/17).
- Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Single bird along the entrance road to Anzalduas Co.P. (11/16).
- *Cave Swallow - Petrochelidon fulva
A flock of Petrochelidon swallows seen in poor light
at Indian Point Park near Corpus Christi (11/11) was almost certainly
of this species (the similar Cliff Swallow should long have
migrated south). Another flock was seen after sunset disappearing
under a bridge of U.S. 83 at Arroyo Salado west of Sullivan City,
but no diagnostic marks could be distinguished. Finally, a few
birds were seen well in broad daylight at Anzalduas Dam (11/18).
- Tufted Titmouse - Baeolophus bicolor
Birds of the black-crested race were seen daily in wooded areas
of the Rio Grande Valley.
- *Verdin - Auriparus flaviceps
One, King Ranch (11/14); several, Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17);
one, Rudman Tract of Lower Rio Grande Valley N.W.R. (11/18).
- *Cactus Wren - Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
Single bird, along a dirt road several miles north of La Joya.
- Rock Wren - Salpinctes obsoletus
Single bird in fill rocks near boat ramp, Falcon St.P. (11/17).
Uncommon species in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
- Bewick's Wren - Thryomanes bewickii
Three, King Ranch (11/14); one or two, Hugh Ramsey Park, Harlingen (11/14);
several, Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- House Wren - Troglodytes aedon
Seen almost daily, also in the Corpus Christi area.
- Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa
Singles were noted (with the much more numerous Ruby-crowned K.) at
Bentsen (11/16) and Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Regulus calendula
Abundant in woodlands. Not noted in the Corpus Christi area, but
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Polioptila caerulea
Common in woodlands. Not noted in the Corpus Christi area, but
- Eastern Bluebird - Sialia sialis
Three birds sitting on a utility wire at Anzalduas (11/18).
- European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
Seen daily around towns and in agricultural areas.
- Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos
Seen and heard daily in a variety of habitats. One bird near Laguna
Atascosa (11/13) tried to attack the rental car when one of the
warning bells came on. The bird actually flew underneath the car
with me standing next to the door, landed on the hood, and started
to peck at the area nearest the warning bell.
- Brown Thrasher - Toxostoma rufum
Some of the thrashers at Laguna Atascosa (11/13) looked brown enough to be
of this species, but at that time I wasn't familiar with the similar
Long-billed Thrasher yet. In retrospect, I am not sure if any of them
really were Brown Thrashers.
11/13/99 Laguna Atascosa N.W.R., Cameron Co., TX, USA
- *Long-billed Thrasher - Toxostoma longirostre
Seen most days in small numbers. Some of the birds at Laguna Atascosa
were first misidentified as Brown Thrashers.
- *Curve-billed Thrasher - Toxostoma curvirostre
One, Hugh Ramsey Park, Harlingen (11/14); one, rural settlement south
of Harlingen (11/14); one, Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17); one, Falcon St.P.
(11/17); at least two, Anzalduas (11/18).
- American Pipit - Anthus rubescens
Several birds near the boat dock, Fulton (11/12).
- Orange-crowned Warbler - Vermivora celata
Abundant in woodlands, seen daily.
- Yellow-rumped Warbler - Dendroica coronata
Seen in small numbers almost daily. All were of the eastern "Myrtle"
- Black-throated Gray Warbler - Dendroica nigrescens
One male in a mixed warbler flock, Anzalduas (11/16).
- Black-throated Green Warbler - Dendroica virens
At least one, Bentsen (11/16); one or two in a mixed warbler flock,
- Pine Warbler - Dendroica pinus
One in a mixed warbler flock, Anzalduas (11/16).
- Black-and-white Warbler - Mniotilta varia
Singles at Santa Ana (11/15), Anzalduas (11/16), and Santa Margarita Ranch
- Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas
Several, Copano Bay Bridge, Aransas Co. (11/12); one, Las Palomas W.M.A. (11/14);
at least one, Bentsen (11/16); one, Rudman Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley
- *Olive Sparrow - Arremonops rufivirgatus
This species is frequently heard in the underbrush of woodlands. The following are
sight records: several (incl. one at feeder), Laguna Atascosa (11/13);
one, King Ranch (11/14); at least one, Bentsen (11/16); one, Falcon St.P. (11/17).
- "Rufous-sided" Towhee sp. - Pipilo sp.
A towhee was briefly spotted at the King Ranch (11/14). Disagreement ensued over
the field marks observed, and no agreement was reached over the species
(Eastern vs. Spotted T.).
- Chipping Sparrow - Spizella passerina
One, King Ranch (11/14); several, Anzalduas (11/16 and 11/18); several,
Falcon Dam (11/17).
- Clay-colored Sparrow - Spizella pallida
Large flock at a cattle feeding station, Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17).
- Field Sparrow - Spizella pusilla
One, Falcon St.P. (11/17).
- Lark Sparrow - Chondestes grammacus
Two, along a rural road near Hargill, Hidalgo Co. (11/18).
- *Black-throated Sparrow - Amphispiza bilineata
One well seen, Falcon St.P. (11/17).
- Savannah Sparrow - Passerculus sandwichensis
Always in small flocks. Along auto loop, Laguna Atascosa (11/13);
Las Palomas W.M.A. south of Harlingen (11/14); Brownsville landfill
(11/15); Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17); North Padre Island (11/19).
- Lincoln's Sparrow - Melospiza lincolnii
Usually singles. Copano Bay Bridge, Aransas Co. (11/12); Hugh Ramsey
Park, Harlingen (11/14); Santa Ana (11/15); Bentsen (11/16); Santa
Margarita Ranch (11/17); rural road near Hargill, Hidalgo Co. (11/18).
- Swamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgiana
One, Copano Bay Bridge, Aransas Co. (11/12); at least two, Santa Ana
(11/15); two, Rudman Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley N.W.R. (11/18).
- White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis
Two at feeder, Laguna Atascosa (11/13).
- Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis
Common, seen daily.
- *Pyrrhuloxia - Cardinalis sinuatus
Several, King Ranch (11/14); one, Santa Margarita Ranch (11/17);
several, Falcon St.P. (11/17); at least three, Anzalduas (11/18);
north of La Joya (11/18).
- Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
Seen daily, usually as fly-over flocks.
- Eastern Meadowlark - Sturnella magna
Many meadowlarks went unidentified as to species. Birds in the
along the coast and along the eastern sector are expected to be
Eastern Meadowlarks. Confirmed sightings: Aransas (11/12),
King Ranch (11/14), Falcon St.P. (11/17; both species probably present);
Anzalduas (11/18), North Padre Island (11/19; singing birds).
- Western Meadowlark - Sturnella neglecta
The following sightings, all of very pale birds, are likely of
Western Meadowlarks, but no vocalization could be elicited, not even
by flushing: several birds along Military Road, Hidalgo Co. (11/16);
several birds at Falcon St.P. (11/17; seen next to obviously darker,
confirmed Eastern Meadowlark).
- *Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus
Abundant. The first life bird of the trip, right outside the
Corpus Christi airport.
- *Bronzed Cowbird - Molothrus aeneus
Cowbirds were generally overlooked, but this species was noted at least
twice: one at feeder, Laguna Atascosa (11/13); several, industrial area of
Corpus Christi (11/19).
- Brown-headed Cowbird - Molothrus ater
At least one, with Red-winged Blackbirds, south of Harlingen (11/14);
several, industrial area of Corpus Christi (11/19).
- *Altamira Oriole - Icterus gularis
A beautiful, large oriole found mainly in woodlands along the Rio
Grande River. Two, Sabal Palms (11/15); one, Santa Ana
(11/15); at least two, Bentsen (11/16); two, Santa Margarita (11/17);
heard only, Santa Ana (11/18).
- *Audubon's Oriole - Icterus graduacauda
At least two birds were taped into view at King Ranch (11/14).
- House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
Abundant in towns.
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This page served with permission of the author
by Urs Geiser; email@example.com;
December 21, 1999