Subtropical habitats along the lower Rio Grande are like a part of Mexico north of the border and the northernmost extension of the Tamaulipan Biotic Province. The bird life of South Texas is thus characteristic of northeastern Mexico, and within the United States many resident species and Mexican vagrants are known only from South Texas. For this reason, South Texas has long been a "must" for every North American birder!
We offer our South Texas Rarities tours in mid-winter, the season most likely to produce unpredictable vagrants to spice up the already extremely rich resident avifauna, and we can never be sure what species may turn up next. One past season brought a scattering of Masked Ducks and Northern Jacanas; others a fresh supply of one or more species never before recorded north of the Mexican border (one year yielded North America's first Masked Tityra, White-throated Thrush, and Yellow-faced Grassquit!). In fact, during the past 20 years or so an average of one species per year new to the ABA Area list has been added from the region.
Supplement the vagrants and rarities with large numbers of wintering waterfowl, sparrows, warblers, raptors, and coastal birds present and you have a winter birding adventure of major proportions! During six days of birding along the lower Rio Grande, we'll look for all the specialties for which South Texas is famous, from such common birds as the striking Great Kiskadee to outstanding rarities like the Hook-billed Kite.
Resident species include Least Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, White-tailed Kite, White-tailed and Harris's hawks, Crested Caracara, Plain Chachalaca, Ringed and Green kingfishers, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Tropical Parula, Olive Sparrow, White-collared Seedeater, and Altamira and Audubon's orioles. In past years, rarities have included Roadside, Short-tailed, and Crane hawks, Green-breasted Mango, Green Violet-ear, Golden-crowned Warbler, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, and Blue Bunting.
The winter of 2011-2012 saw Golden-crowned Warblers, Blue Buntings, Crimson-collared Grosbeaks, and a Black-vented Oriole make appearances in the valley, as well as the return of Brown Jay to the Falcon area. Who knows what may appear for our next visit?
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