Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bulletin #150 - Rio Grande Valley, Texas

I got away for a weekend in the RGV of Texas. This area along the Mexico border hosts a number of species and occasional tropical vagrants that occur nowhere else in the USA.

One of my target species was the Black-vented Oriole (Icterus wagleri). This species had been present for most of last winter but I wasn't able to get away to see it. Fortunately, the bird came back to Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in Mission Texas again this winter. The adults of the species are similarly colored with black hood, back, wings, undertail, and tail. He was very cooperative, coming frequently to the feeders and providing all the appreciative birders great views. Notice also there is no white on the wings.

Black-vented Oriole - adult
 2 other orange and black oriole species are regulars in the RGV. The large (10")  Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis) is a favorite of everyone. They are orange with black throat, back, wings and tail. They wings also have white bars. This bird can be seen in many parks across the valley. It has an orange shoulder patch that differentiates this species from the next.

Altamira Oriole - adult

Altamira Oriole - adult
The immature of this species still has some orange feathers on his back.

Altamira Oriole - immature

The Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus) is smaller but similar. It lacks the orange shoulder patch.

Hooded Oriole

The 4th oriole in the valley is the yellow and black Audubon's Oriole (Icterus graduacauda). This bird has black head, wings and tail. The back is yellow.

Audubon's Oriole - adult
The Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas) is another colorful tropical species that causes oohs and aahs from the spectators. Again, this bird is widespread across the valley and readily seen at any park with feeders. Is is green bodied with yellow tail and black and blue face. It has to be seen to be believed and the guide books don't do it justice. Here is a group of 4 on a feeder at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park.

Green Jays
And here is one that took a bath in the water feature at Laguna Atascosa NWR and then perched 15 feet away to preen.

Green Jay
Another jay is the Brown Jay (Cyanocorax morio). This crow sized (16") jay was at Salineno for the first time in 5 years. Many years recently, it hasn't appeared in the USA anywhere. It isn't a showy bird, but a needed bird for listers in the USA. It has a cream belly and the rest of the bird is dark brown. This is an adult bird with the dark beak. The juveniles are similar, but the beak is yellow.

Brown Jay - adult
Brown Jay - adult
The last bird is another very colorful (and noisy) bird, the Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus). Despite seeing it coming to bird feeders, it is a member of the flycatcher family. It has a striped head, reddish brown back and wings and incredible yellow underparts. Seeing a half dozen of these almost 10" birds together in a tree, is a real treat.

Great Kiskadee
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2012 David McDonald

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