A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

South Texas Rarities 2024

January 13-19, 2024 with Chris Benesh and Alex Sundvall guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
We were thrilled to get such incredible looks at this Bare-throated Tiger-Heron on the Santa Margarita Ranch! This is only the 3rd time one has been seen in the US. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.

What an incredible winter for rarities in south Texas! This will go down as one of (if not THE) best winters in the valley in history. On normal years, things like a Golden-crowned Warbler or a Crimson-collared Grosbeak might be the star of the show, but on a year like this neither even made the top 10 of our favorite birds of the trip! With birds like Gray-collared Becard, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Fan-tailed Warbler, Roadside Hawk, and Brown Jay on the list, you might begin to see why those normally mega birds are more of a footnote on this year's trip.

Texas is known for being hot, however this was not the case for our time there. While our first day was pleasant with no wind, that did not stay with us the rest of the tour. With wind chills as low as 14°F, air temps as low as 21°F, and straight line wind speeds as high as 30mph, this was not the most comfortable Texas tour! Clouds, fog, and even ice took the place of the sun and warmth Texas is usually known for. Some days it was a little challenging to get motivated to go out in conditions that felt a little more like Alaska than Texas, but the rare and colorful birds helped warm us. And when we needed a little extra help, there was always Starbucks, delicious soup, and some incredible Mexican food right around the corner to give us the boost we needed!

A brief breakdown of the rarities we saw this trip:

Gray-collared Becard: 3rd ABA Record and 1st State Record, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron: 3rd ABA and State Record, Fan-tailed Warbler: ~11th ABA Record and 2nd State Record, Roadside Hawk: ~15 ABA and State Records (4 of which came from this winter!), Brown Jay: Many historical records, but have been completely absent since 2012, Crimson-collared Grosbeak: 63rd ABA and State Record, Golden-crowned Warbler: ~37 State Records and only 3 records outside of Texas for this southern species.

Our collective top 3 favorite birds from the trip were the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Fan-tailed Warbler, and the Gray-collared Becard.

From Chris and I, and everyone at Field Guides, we thank you all for joining us on this South Texas Adventure! You were such a wonderful group and dealt with everything in stride. We hope you enjoyed your time with us as much as we did. And we hope to see you on the birding trail again soon!

—Chris and Alex

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)

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

Our best views of these pretty, lanky ducks were in the Sport Complex Pond with the Fulvous.

FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna bicolor)

A harder to find duck in the wintertime, we saw one of these beautiful ducks in the Sports Complex Pond.

SNOW GOOSE (Anser caerulescens)

In the eleventh hour, trying to reach 200 species, we made a quick stop at some retention ponds and saw over 100 of these white migratory geese.


Some of us heard one briefly right as we got to the bluffs at Santa Margarita Ranch.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

A couple females in the resaca at UTRGV Brownsville.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

We saw these pretty much everywhere there was water.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

We saw these ducks everywhere there was water; our highest concentrations were at Holly Beach.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

Our biggest numbers were flyovers and on the river at Santa Margarita Ranch.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

We saw these mostly along the Rio Grande River

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

Fun to see a pure bird! We saw a nice male at Santa Margarita Ranch.

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

We had these southern dabblers on the river at Santa Margarita Ranch and at Roma Bluffs.

MOTTLED DUCK (Anas fulvigula)

We had some great looks at these beautiful honey-colored dabblers at Salineño.


Our largest numbers of these elegant ducks were as flyovers at Santa Margarita Ranch.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)

We saw our first of these tiny ducks at Holly Beach.

CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria)

We got to see a couple of these dapper divers on the river at Santa Margarita Ranch.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

Our most common duck; we saw large concentrations of them along the coast.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

We saw our largest numbers at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands on the final day.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

Our best views were at a random resaca stop in San Benito.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

Our only sighting of this tiny diver was in a small pond on Old Port Isabel Road.


A few in the bay on South Padre Island.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

We saw a big group of these ducks at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands.

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

PLAIN CHACHALACA (Ortalis vetula)

After seeing one roosting in the cold and wind, we saw a small group of these valley specialties at the feeders at Frontera Audubon.

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The master of camouflage! We were lucky to spot a couple different Common Pauraques while exploring the valley. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

NORTHERN BOBWHITE (Colinus virginianus)

We saw a small covey of these handsome quail in Falcon State Park.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)

We had our best views of these tiny grebes at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

A handful of sightings wherever there was water.

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)

One at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common in the cities.

RED-BILLED PIGEON (Patagioenas flavirostris)

A far away view of a couple perched birds from the bluffs at Santa Margarita Ranch.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

A few birds around cities.

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

We had really nice views of these intricately plumaged doves at Resaca de la Palma State Park.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

Brief but good looks at these tiny doves at Santa Margarita Ranch.

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

A valley specialty; we had our best looks around the feeders at Frontera Audubon.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Our largest group flew over Salineño.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Our most common dove.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Roadside Hawk was one of the many incredible rarities in south Texas this winter. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

We lucked into a brief but great sighting of this strange cuckoo along a drainage ditch on our way to the airport.

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

We had great views of these iconic ground dwelling cuckoos at Falcon State Park.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis)

We had incredible views of these masters of camouflage on a couple different day roosts.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

We had a couple individuals visiting feeders at Estero Llano Grande State Park.

BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia yucatanensis)

A nice valley specialty; we had marvelous looks of a perched bird at Estero Llano Grande State Park.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

A nice look at one on both sides of the border at Salineño.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Seen pretty much everywhere there was water.

Aramidae (Limpkin)

LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)

So crazy that these birds have made it to the Valley! Considering the first record down there showed up in the fall of 2023, the fact that we saw 2 different individuals is pretty wild.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

We had our largest groups of these lanky shorebirds at Holly Beach.

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

Brief views of these coastal shorebirds along the shipping canal.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

These large plovers were seen on South Padre Island.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

We had a large group at Falcon State Park.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

Large concentrations on South Padre Island.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

Distant views of a large number of these cute plovers on South Padre Island.

MOUNTAIN PLOVER (Anarhynchus montanus)

After an hour of searching the dirt fields in the fog, we finally found one of these beautiful winter visitors.

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These adorable Inca Doves put on a great show for us at Resaca de la Palma State Park. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

Brief flyby views of these huge long-billed shorebirds.

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

A few of these elegant shorebirds along the shipping canal.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

After a bunch of unidentifiable dowitchers along the coast, we had 1 we could confirm as Long-billed at the Sport Complex Pond.

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)

One flushed from the drainage ditch while we were looking for the Ani.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

Most of our sightings were along the Rio Grande.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

One at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)

These large coastal shorebirds were seen on South Padre Island.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

Our best look was at Santa Margarita Ranch.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

A few of these beautiful shorebirds on South Padre Island.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

Common along the coast

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

A large group along the coast.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

A large group from the bluffs at Santa Margarita Ranch.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

A small group on the mudflats on South Padre Island.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

Our most common gull; a huge roost of them along the shipping canal.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

One flew over the convention center on South Padre Island.

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)

A few seen along the coast.

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

We saw a big group of these birds on South Padre Island.

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)

We saw a small group along Old Port Isabel Road.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Random scattered sightings of these large terns near water.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

Primarily seen on South Padre Island.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

These large terns were only seen along the coast.

Gaviidae (Loons)

COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)

Seen in the bay on South Padre Island.

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This Fan-tailed Warbler put on an incredible show for us at UTRGV Brownsville. Only the 2nd state record for Texas and one of very few for the US. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

We had great views of these water turkeys at UTRGV Brownsville.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

The larger and less common cormorant in the Valley, seen near water.

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

The smaller and more common cormorant in the Valley, seen near water.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Small numbers scattered along inland waterways.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Small numbers seen along the coast.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma mexicanum)

Wow! We connected with this long-staying rarity along the river at Santa Margarita Ranch! Only the 2nd chase-able record and 3rd overall for the ABA Area. Great views had by all!

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

Seen in the resaca with the Limpkin.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Also seen along the resaca with the Limpkin.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

Nice views of one on both sides of the border at Santa Margarita Ranch.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

Singles of this pretty heron were seen along the coast.

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

Great views of this colorful egret on the mudflats on South Padre Island.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

One of the common small waders, seen sporadically near water.


We saw a group of this recently split wader in someone's yard while driving around San Benito.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

The common large white wader.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Seen wherever there was water.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

We had nice looks at this pink wader while looking for the Limpkin in San Benito.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Often seen mixed with Turkey Vultures, one large roost in Salineño.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Common and familiar large soaring birds.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Despite the colder temps, there were still a few hummingbirds visiting feeders. This Buff-bellied Hummingbird posed nicely for us at Estero Llano Grande State Park. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Seen most places there was water.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

We saw a couple of these elegant hunters while driving around.

HOOK-BILLED KITE (HOOK-BILLED) (Chondrohierax uncinatus uncinatus)

A surprising pick-up of these rare raptors from the bluffs at Santa Margarita Ranch. Great spot by Eric!

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

Scattered sightings of these beautiful raptors throughout the valley.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

Fantastic views of a bathing bird at Resaca de la Palma State Park!

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

Great views of a perched bird at Resaca de la Palma State Park.

ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)

An incredible rarity that we got amazing looks at right off the path at Resaca de la Palma State Park!

HARRIS'S HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus)

A wise man once told me that some of the highest concentrations of these raptors can be found in southern Texas...

WHITE-TAILED HAWK (Geranoaetus albicaudatus)

Singles seen of this handsome raptor, typically while driving.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

Most of our sightings came from the Rio Grande, usually on both sides of the border.

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

Mostly singles with our highest concentration at Santa Margarita Ranch.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

A single bird that Chris spotted while driving! We chased it down and ended up getting great views.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

We saw a handful of these familiar raptors, usually paler borealis/fuertes like birds.

Strigidae (Owls)

EASTERN SCREECH-OWL (MCCALL'S) (Megascops asio mccallii)

We had awesome views of this Mexican form of Eastern Screech-Owl at Estero Llano Grande State Park. This is a possible future split and always a nice bird to see!

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus)

Single birds we had perched along the highway near Zapata.

BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)

One hanging out on its usual concrete pipe in San Benito.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)

The largest of our kingfishers; we got incredible views at Salineño.

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

The familiar kingfisher for most of us; we saw a handful of these along waterways.

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

We had these tiny kingfishers in a couple different spots, but got great looks at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and at Salineño.

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In most years, Crimson-collared Grosbeak would be a headliner rarity. This year it didn't even make the top 10 favorite trip birds. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)


Brief views of one at Santa Margarita Ranch and Salineño.

GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes aurifrons)

The common woodpecker and a valley specialty. Loud, charismatic, and plentiful.


The familiar Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers get replaced by this southern woodpecker down here! Heard more often than seen, but we did get some nice views at Salineño.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

One of the more common raptors, we even got to see one on a nest at Estero Llano Grande State Park!

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

These small falcons were common along roadways.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

We had incredible views of a gorgeous Prairie Merlin on the side of the road near Estero Llano Grande State Park!

APLOMADO FALCON (Falco femoralis)

Not the best looks unfortunately, but better than nothing! After hours of searching across multiple days and locations, we finally got to see a couple on the backside of the hacking box.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

One perched on top of the water tower on South Padre Island.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

RED-CROWNED PARROT (Amazona viridigenalis)

We saw a large roost of these raucous parrots at Oliveira Park.

RED-LORED PARROT (RED-LORED) (Amazona autumnalis autumnalis) [I]

A couple mixed in with the other parrots on the roost. We even saw a hybrid Red-lored x Red-crowned Parrot!

WHITE-FRONTED PARROT (Amazona albifrons) [I]

About 50 mixed in with the Red-crowned at the roost at Oliveira Park.

GREEN PARAKEET (Psittacara holochlorus)

We were lucky to have a roost of these right next to our hotel in Mission! We staked them out by the KIA dealership.

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

GRAY-COLLARED BECARD (EASTERN) (Pachyramphus major major)

Brief looks at this continuing mega rarity at Resaca de la Palma State Park. This is the 1st chase-able record and only the 3rd overall.

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

We had a pair of these at Salineño. These were part of the eastern group of subspecies that are distinct from the western ones you'd see in Arizona.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus) [*]

One calling at Resaca de la Palma State Park.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

Seen on both sides of the river at Santa Margarita Ranch!

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

The common Phoebe, always wagging its tail.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

We had awesome views of a few of these at the cemetery in Brownsville!

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

It was a great year for these rare Myiarchus flycatchers in the valley! We had them at multiple locations, including multiple with great looks at Santa Margarita Ranch!

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

A valley specialty! They're everywhere and loud and colorful.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Thankfully the kingbirds were all pretty cooperative and we had multiple calling birds we could positively identify.

COUCH'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus couchii)

We had great views of a calling bird right on the side of the road.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Morelet's Seedeaters were thankfully quite cooperative and plentiful along the Rio Grande. This handsome male was in a park in Zapata. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

Mostly heard, but seen a couple times at Resaca de la Palma and Estero Llano Grande State Parks.

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

We saw these pretty vireos a few times, with our first looks at Resaca de la Palma State Park.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Common along roadways.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BROWN JAY (Psilorhinus morio)

Brief and distant views of these rare jays at Santa Margarita Ranch.

GREEN JAY (Cyanocorax yncas)

A valley specialty and a real crowd pleaser! Beautiful, loud, and all over the place.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

BLACK-CRESTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus atricristatus)

These cuties were most common around feeder setups.

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

We had quick views of one of these at Salineño.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

Flocks around the dirt fields while looking for the Mountain Plover.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

The common swallow.

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Chris's sharp eyes picked one out while scoping the river near Fronton.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

One seen in a large flock of Tree Swallows at the holding ponds south of Mercedes.

CAVE SWALLOW (TEXAS) (Petrochelidon fulva pallida)

We saw a group of these swallows off the highway where we had the Great Horned Owl near Zapata.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

We saw these cuties everywhere, common in all forested areas.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

We had these everywhere, including a big flock of 15 at Salineño!

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It was so fun seeing the huge flocks of Red-crowned Parrots coming in to roost for the night at Oliveira Park. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

Heard more often than seen, but we did get a glimpse at Salineño.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

Great views of this often cryptic species out in the open at Salineño!

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Heard all over the place and seen briefly at Estero Llano Grande State Park.

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

We saw a perched bird singing at Salineño.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Seen on both sides of the border at Santa Margarita Ranch.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

A few seen around the cities.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

Seen at South Padre Island and Frontera Audubon.

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

Our first was a bird mixed in with some Clay-colored Thrushes at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

LONG-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma longirostre)

A valley specialty, seen and heard at a number of forested locations.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Everywhere, including a nice perched bird at Oliveira Park.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

Brief views of a pair at the South Padre Island Convention Center.


A valley specialty; we had great views of these chunky brown thrushes at Frontera Audubon and Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Common in the cities.

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens) [*]

A quick calling flyover while at Santa Margarita Ranch.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

A few were outside of Nana's Taqueria after lunch one day.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

CASSIN'S SPARROW (Peucaea cassinii)

Nice views of one with a large mixed flock of Sparrows at Salineño.

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum)

A great spot by Chris right on the side of the road at Salineño!

OLIVE SPARROW (Arremonops rufivirgatus)

A secretive valley specialty; we got great looks at one at Salineño.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

A handful seen at Falcon State Park.

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)

One seen in the mixed flock at Salineño.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata) [*]

A couple heard only at Santa Margarita Ranch.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

A small flock seen while looking for the Mountain Plover.

LARK BUNTING (Calamospiza melanocorys)

Awesome to see a big group of these while driving some side roads heading to Edinburg!

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

A nice adult mixed in with the sparrows at Salineño.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

Mixed in with the sparrows at Salineño and with the Lark Sparrows in the dirt fields.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

The common open country sparrow we saw.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Common in most parts of the country, but quite rare down here! We saw a continuing individual at Salineño.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

We had our largest numbers at Salineño.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

A couple seen at Santa Margarita Ranch.

GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)

One heard at Santa Margarita Ranch.

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This gorgeous Merlin sat right along the side of the road and let us get amazing views! This is the prairie subspecies of Merlin. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)

One confirmed by tail pattern in transit on our final day.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

Most of our Meadowlarks were this species, often calling to confirm it.

ALTAMIRA ORIOLE (Icterus gularis)

A valley specialty, the most common Oriole. Seen and heard at most feeding stations.

AUDUBON'S ORIOLE (Icterus graduacauda)

Another real valley specialty, seen and heard well at Santa Margarita Ranch and Salineño.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

The most common small blackbird we saw.


We had a few small flocks flying up and down the river and around agriculture.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

The common blackbird and they were everywhere! Often in huge noisy flocks.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)


There was pretty much always one of these stripey warblers in any mixed feeding flock.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

The most common warbler in the valley, and they were pretty much everywhere.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

One seen at Santa Margarita Ranch.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

Mostly seen along the Rio Grande.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

One seen at Santa Margarita Ranch.


This fiery warbler really warmed us up on one of our coldest and windiest days!

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)

Most of our Yellow-rumped Warblers were this eastern subspecies.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

We had a couple of these western type Yellow-rumped Warblers along the river at Salineño and Fronton. Maybe someday they'll finally split these!

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

One heard and seen at Frontera Audubon.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

We saw one of these briefly at Santa Margarita Ranch.


One seen at Frontera Audubon while looking for the Grosbeak.

FAN-TAILED WARBLER (Basileuterus lachrymosus)

We had an absolutely incredible experience with this insane rarity at UTRGV Brownsville. Only the 2nd record for Texas and very few records in the ABA.

GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER (Basileuterus culicivorus)

In a normal year, this would be the star rarity of the show! But in this crazy year, we saw TWO pretty well! One at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and one at Frontera Audubon.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

This was a good year for this species in the valley, with one in almost every feeding flock.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

We heard one at Salineño and saw one while birding the river at Fronton.

CRIMSON-COLLARED GROSBEAK (Periporphyrus celaeno)

We managed some really great looks at this often hard to see species after some searching at Frontera Audubon.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Common in the forested areas.

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

We saw these desert cardinals in the more arid spots around Falcon State Park and Salineño, with some good looks at Starr County Park.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

We mostly saw brownish female type birds.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

MORELET'S SEEDEATER (Sporophila morelleti)

We actually had pretty great luck with Seedeaters seeing them at 4 different locations! Our first and best views were of a male in a small park in Zapata.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This curious Javelina was hanging out under the feeders at Frontera Audubon. Photo by guide Alex Sundvall.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Seen in the lower valley

DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

Seen in the more arid parts around Falcon State Park.

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

The common squirrel, often seen around feeder setups.

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

Saw a couple at a distance while driving.

BOBCAT (Lynx rufus)

Awesome seeing a family of 3 at Estero Llano Grande State Park!

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

We saw one at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and one under the feeders at Frontera Audubon.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

Totals for the tour: 202 bird taxa and 7 mammal taxa