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Field Guides Tour Report
South Texas Rarities 2014
Jan 17, 2014 to Jan 23, 2014
Chris Benesh

The Rio Grande River as seen from Salineño (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

The first Rio Grande Rarities trip of 2014 was a success despite it being a relatively quiet year for rarities. Probably the most notable bird event of the season was the rediscovery of a small group of Hook-billed Kites near Mission, Texas. Five birds in total were found spending the winter here feeding on tree snails. Other highlights included having wonderful views of a pair of Aplomado Falcons near the coast and a cooperative Tropical Parula in Edinburg. Finally, we were able to track down a male White-collared Seedeater in Laredo, which was a treat for all.

I'd like to thank Tiffany Kersten for her help on a couple days of the trip. Thanks also to all of you for making the trip such a joy to lead. You were great cast of characters and I look forward to birding with all of you again in the future. Until then, good birding!

-- Chris

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

The gang ready for the next great bird (Photo by participant Bob Keener)

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis) – Some spectacular flyovers at the Edinburg Wetlands.
GADWALL (Anas strepera)
AMERICAN WIGEON (Anas americana)
MOTTLED DUCK (Anas fulvigula)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors)
CINNAMON TEAL (Anas cyanoptera)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)
REDHEAD (Aythya americana)
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator) – Up close feeding birds on SPI.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)
PLAIN CHACHALACA (Ortalis vetula)
Gaviidae (Loons)
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)
Podicipedidae (Grebes)

This striking Little Blue Heron came in close to check us out on South Padre Island. (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus) – Quite a few at Estero Llano Grande.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Anhingidae (Anhingas)
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax) – Great comparisons of this and the next species at Alligator Pond.

A stunning White-tailed Kite at Santa Ana NWR (Photo by participant Mahlon Hale)

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)
ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
Pandionidae (Osprey)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus) – A wonderful show at Santa Ana where three birds came quite close.
HOOK-BILLED KITE (HOOK-BILLED) (Chondrohierax uncinatus uncinatus) – Our second, last ditch effort paid off with good flight views of a dark morph bird in Mission.
NORTHERN HARRIER (AMERICAN) (Circus cyaneus hudsonius)
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)
COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)
HARRIS'S HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus)

A composite shot of the black morph Hook-billed Kite seen in Mission (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

WHITE-TAILED HAWK (Geranoaetus albicaudatus)
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)
GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
CLAPPER RAIL (Rallus longirostris) [*]
SORA (Porzana carolina) [*]
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
Gruidae (Cranes)
SANDHILL CRANE (Grus canadensis)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

A flight of Black Skimmers (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina)

An Eastern Screech-Owl at Estero (Photo by participant Mahlon Hale)

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)
Strigidae (Owls)
EASTERN SCREECH-OWL (MCCALL'S) (Megascops asio mccallii) – After some searching, we did track down one roosting in an owl box at Estero.
GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus) [*]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis) – Amazing how well this species blends into the background.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) – One was seen by Jay and Alex.
BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia yucatanensis)
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes aurifrons)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara cheriway)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
APLOMADO FALCON (Falco femoralis) – Good looks at two birds along Highway 100 near Port Isabel.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
Psittacidae (Parrots)
GREEN PARAKEET (Aratinga holochlora)
RED-CROWNED PARROT (Amazona viridigenalis)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET (Camptostoma imberbe) – Great looks at one present at Santa Ana national wildlife refuge.

A male Green Kingfisher showing nicely (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus) – At this season, Tropicals far outnumber Couch's in the valley.
COUCH'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus couchii) – We did eventually track one down at Anzalduas Park. Another pair was seen in North Central Park in Laredo.
Laniidae (Shrikes)
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)
Vireonidae (Vireos)
WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)
BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
GREEN JAY (Cyanocorax yncas) – One of the Valley's iconic birds.
CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)
CAVE SWALLOW (TEXAS) (Petrochelidon fulva pallida)
Paridae (Chickadees and Tits)

Participant Mahlon Hale got this striking shot of a Buff-bellied Hummingbird.

BLACK-CRESTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus atricristatus)
Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)
VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus platensis)
MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris) [*]
CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)
CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
Regulidae (Kinglets)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (Turdus grayi) – Two of these were present at Santa Ana NWR.
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius) – Seeing American Robin in the Valley is not an everyday experience.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

A cryptic Pauraque (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis) – A couple of these were present at the convention center on SPI.
CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)
LONG-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma longirostre)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Sturnidae (Starlings)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Oreothlypis celata)
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
TROPICAL PARULA (Setophaga pitiayumi) – We really worked for this one. But we eventually all had great looks at this rare species.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) – Once we were as far west as Laredo, some of the warblers were Audubon's.
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

The male Tropical Parula we saw so well in Edinburg (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens) – What a stunning male in the mixed flock in Laredo.
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) [*]
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER (Sporophila torqueola) – Yay! Our search paid off at our second spot with nice looks at a calling male bird.
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
OLIVE SPARROW (Arremonops rufivirgatus)
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)
BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

Our male White-collared Seedeater in Laredo (Photo by guide Chris Benesh)

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)
ALTAMIRA ORIOLE (Icterus gularis)
AUDUBON'S ORIOLE (Icterus graduacauda) – Great looks at a pair of birds in Salineno.
Fringillidae (Siskins, Crossbills, and Allies)
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)
FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)
HISPID COTTON RAT (Sigmodon hispidus) – Seen at the feeders in Salineno.
BLACK RAT (Rattus rattus) – The rat we saw feeding at Santa Ana keys out to be a brown morph of this species, based in part on the length of its tail.
COYOTE (Canis latrans) [*]
WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus) – Nice looks at a couple at North Central Park including a 10 point buck.


Totals for the tour: 156 bird taxa and 6 mammal taxa