The Rio Grande valley of south Texas is a birding mecca where Northern temperate migrants meet neotropical species to form colorful mixtures of old friends and new at various birding centers along the borderland with Mexico. With almost 500 bird species recorded here, this is a place you come to increase the number of birds on your life list, or just to be awed by the beauty of these southern birds. A few examples of some neotropical birds that only make it as far north as the RioGrande valley region in the US.:
Birds perched on power lines are always interesting…this one is Couch’s Kingbird, a species so similar to the widespread Tropical Kingbird they can only be told apart by their song. Couch’s Kingbird has a far more restricted range along the eastern Mexican coast–and parts of the RioGrande Valley.
It’s hard to miss their brilliant yellow color in the drab olive green vegetation here.
The Green Jay could have been called the Blue hooded Jay, because that is one of its most dramatic featureS. The species has an unusual distribution, in which the Mexican population is separated from that in northern South America by 1500 miles.
Like other jays, these are quite social, visiting feeding stations in family groups. One year old birds stay with their parents and help defend the breeding territory and feed new chicks. After those chicks fledge, the teen-agers get booted out.
Unlike other orioles, both male and female Altamira Orioles have black bibs and beaks, with striking black and white wings that contrast with a brilliant deep yellow-orange head and body.
This is the largest oriole species in the U.S., although it barely makes it into the country with its very limited Rio Grande valley distribution. In Mexico, an Altamira oriole female weaves a two-foot long hanging nest in which she raises her young.
Great Kiskadee flycatchers are numerous in their Central and South American range, but occur only in a narrow strip of the Rio Grande valley in the U.S. They are noisy squawkers, calling out their name –kiss-ka-dee!, as they “hunt like a flycatcher, fish like a kingfisher, and forage like a Jay” (Cornell Lab quote).