Winter Rio Grande Valley: A Relaxed & Easy Tour : Feb 08—14, 2014

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Departs: McAllen, Texas
Tour Limit: 7
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (86.3 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Brennan Mulrooney

Brennan Mulrooney was born and raised in San Diego, California. Growing up, his heart and mi...

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At Estero-Llano Grande State Park, the always raucous Plain Chachalacas put on a vocal display in the early morning.

Plain Chachalaca — Photo: Barry Zimmer

South Texas specialty birds and other wintertime resident species are the focus of this Relaxed & Easy tour to the Rio Grande Valley, one of the country’s premier birding areas.

For birders and other naturalists, few places in the country can match the thrill and excitement of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It is here, in far south Texas, where species primarily “Mexican” in occurrence reach their northern limits in the parks and preserves along the winding Rio Grande. From Falcon Dam in the north to South Padre Island on the coast, this region is hallowed ground among birders as a premier place to see birds, mammals, plants, and butterflies found nowhere else in the United States.

On this short tour, participants will experience the joys of birding in the famous lower Rio Grande Valley. The focus will be on finding regional specialty birds in addition to a host of over-wintering shorebirds, raptors, flycatchers, warblers, buntings, and sparrows. Seeking iconic species such as White-tailed Hawk, Plain Chachalaca, Green Kingfisher, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Altamira and Audubon’s orioles, Long-billed Thrasher, and Olive Sparrow will be of highest interest, but our travels will provide considerable exposure to the boundless richness of the “Valley,” both in terms of birds and habitats.

Underpinning the tremendous birding is the region’s vaunted system of parks and preserves. Among these are sites with place-names instantly recognizable to birders far and wide, places like Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, and National Audubon’s Sabal Palm Sanctuary. Perhaps less known but of equal caliber are newer areas like Frontera Audubon Thicket, Estero Llano Grande State Park, and the World Birding Center.

Adding to the allure is the consistency with which rare birds from Mexico turn up in this borderland region—vagrant species that appear north of the border only rarely and whose appearance generates great excitement. Masked Duck, Northern Jacana, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, Blue Bunting, and Black-vented Oriole are a small representation of the many rarities seen on VENT tours to the region through the years.

To top it off, the weather here is generally pleasant at this season, making for a great escape from winter weather elsewhere.

Two hotels; cuisine fair to good; physical demands light, with short to moderate length walks on level terrain; mild weather.