Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
long the Mexican border, birders can find a group of birds which could be labeled Mexican immigrants that have hopped the border and are rarely seen anywhere to the north. Green Jays, Altamira and Audubon's Orioles, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Plain Chachalacas, Masked Ducks, Least Grebes, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Great Kiskadees, Brown Jays, White-tipped Doves, Red-billed Pigeons, Olive Sparrows, Hook-billed Kites and more lure birders to such notable birding locations as Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuges, Bentsen State Park, Falcon State Park, Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, near the cities of McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville.
In addition to the species rarely found north of the valley, rare birds are found every year by birders who do detective-like surveys of popular locations. While you search for the Mexican rarities that attract birders to the Valley, you will enjoy seeing such species as Harris' Hawks, Inca Doves, Common Ground Doves, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Lesser Nighthawks, Bronzed Cowbirds, Neotropical Cormorants, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Mottled Ducks, Long-billed Thrashers, Sage Thrashers, Wood Storks, Elf Owls and Ferruginous Pygmy Owls.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is actually north of the valley, and a visit there, especially during winter, will provide more variety to your trip to the southern tip of Texas, with many wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl present. Over half of the entire population of Redheads can be seen with a spotting scope at Laguna Madre where they winter, along with Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks and a variety of others. Check agricultural fields for Snow, White-fronted and Canada Geese, plus Sandhill Cranes. Other species of special interest include Groove-billed Anis, Vermilion Flycatchers, Greater Roadrunners, Reddish Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills. Aplomado Falcons are being reintroduced in this refuge and can be sighted.
Airline connections and auto rentals are available at Harlingen and McAllen. For more detailed information, contact the Lower Rio Grande Refuge Complex (210) 787-3079; Laguna Atascosa NWR (210) 748-3607; Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary (210) 541-8034; Harlingen Chamber of Commerce (800) 531-7346; and the Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 626-2639.
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