The Rio Grande Valley in South Texas is truly a remarkable place for birding. As one of the most southern points in the United States, this region plays host to many species that can’t be found anywhere else in the country. Some of these species are extremely rare and don’t show up on an annual basis, others however, are so common in the area that they are easy to find as long as you know the right places to look. These are the top five common bird species to find in the Rio Grande Valley.
5. Olive Sparrow
Coming in at number five is the secretive Olive Sparrow. Olive sparrows can be identified by their greenish yellow wings and tail, overall grayish body, and brown stripes on their face and head. While these sparrows may not look like much at first glance, they are actually quite fascinating. Olive Sparrows land at number five on our list due in part to the fact that South Texas is really the only place in the United States to find them. Even though Olive sparrows are a common bird in the Rio Grande Valley, they can be tricky to actually see. They prefer to stay low to the ground, foraging for seeds and small invertebrates to eat, often in thick cover. To get a nice, unobstructed view of this skulky sparrow, the best course of action is to find a bird feeding station and wait for a while. Eventually, an olive sparrow may come into view. The Olive Sparrow earns the number five spot on the list due to the fact that while they are sometimes hard to get a clear look at, they are in very high numbers in South Texas making them almost a guarantee to find with enough patience.
4. Great Kiskadee
The number four species on our list is one of the most boisterous birds in the valley, the Great Kiskadee. Great Kiskadees are in the flycatcher family and can be identified by their thick bill, bright yellow underside, black and white striped head, and chestnut colored wings. Their bright coloration is certainly one of the reasons this species is on the list, but another other is their range.
Great Kiskadees are actually one of the most abundant Flycatchers in the Americas, but in the United States, they can only be found in the most Southern parts of the country.
To find this species search areas with scrub or woodlines and look for their yellow underside which stands out in the green vegetation. It’s worth noting that Great Kiskadees will often travel in groups so if you manage to spot one, others may follow. If all else fails, simply listen for a loud “Kiskadee” call and follow it until you see the large flycatcher making the sound. The Great Kiskadee makes it onto this list due to the fact that for a beautiful bird species, they are so incredibly common in the Rio Grande Valley that they are a virtual gimme when birding there.
3. Plain Chachalaca
At number three on our list is one of the most uniue birds in the valley, the Plain Chachalaca. Plain Chahcalacas don’t quite fit into the same family group as other similar looking birds and are the only chachalaca found in the United States. With a grayish brown back and tail, lighter brown underside, and a body shape that resembles a peacock mixed with a turkey, Chachalacas not only look different than other birds in the galliforme family, but also act different as they often spend time in trees as opposed to on the ground. The Plain Chachalaca’s range barely makes it into the United States which is a major reason this species finds itself at number three on our list. Even though their range in the country isn’t expansive, these birds can be easy to find if you know where to look. Many of the state parks and wildlife refuges that feed the birds daily draw in reliable groups of these quirky birds that can get quite accustomed to humans being near. The Plain Chachalaca gets the number three spot on our list due to the fact that it’s so unique among United States birds and can only be found in the Rio grand valley.
2. Altamira Oriole
One of the most beautifully colored birds in the valley, adult Altamira Orioles are bright orange with a black back and wings along with a black mask. They have a white wing bar and a characteristic orange marking on their shoulder that helps seperate them from other similar oriole species. Juveniles look similar to the adults but with a more yellowish base color and gray wings. The Altamira Oriole takes the second spot on the list because while this spectacularly colored birds range in the U.S. is minuscule, in that range they can be found quite readily. These flame colored birds feed mostly on insects, fruit, and nectar, so feeding stations with citrus fruit and hummingbird feeders are great places to see them. Their beautiful look, along with their abundance in the valley lands this desirable species the number two spot on our list.
1. Green Jay
At number one is a species synonemous with South Texas, the Green Jay. Green Jays look like something painted by an artist rather than a naturally occuring species with their black and blue heads, yellow undersides, and green back, wings, and tail. The beauty of this species is certainly one of the reasons theyve earned the top spot on this list, but another is their charismatic personalities. Green Jays typically move around in small groups and are extremely adept at mimicry, often imitating hawks and other bird species. They are also one of the few north american birds documented using tools as they are known pry bark off trees with sticks to find food. In the United States, the only place to find these impressive birds is South Texas where they are a frequent site in woodlands, scrubby areas, and around bird feeders. To find Green Jays, the best places to search for them are wildlife refuges and nature center that consistently put out food. Waiting at a feeding station in one of these locations will most likely lead to an encounter with this species. Their beautiful coloration combined with their fascinating and entertaining behaviors elevates the Green Jay to number one on our list of the top five common birds to find in the rio grand valley.
Do you agree with our list? Are their other birds you would put at the top of your list? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time, on Badgerland Birding.