Spring Rio Grande Valley: Apr 02—08, 2018

A Special Departure for the Golden-wing Society

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Price: $2,770
Departs: McAllen
Ends: Laredo
Tour Limit: 14
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (988.7 KB)

Tour Leaders


Erik Bruhnke

Erik Bruhnke has loved birds since he was a child looking at chickadees. In 2008 he graduate...


Scott Sutcliffe

Scott Sutcliffe is Director of Annual Fund and Stewardship at the Cornell Lab. He's been a b...

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Register for this Tour

Register for this tour by phone (800/328-VENT or 512/328-5221), or by downloading a tour registration form. Signed and completed forms can be faxed, mailed, or scanned and emailed to the VENT office.

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On this short trip, arranged exclusively for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Golden-wing Society, we’ll experience the joys of early spring birding in the incomparable Rio Grande Valley and King Ranch country of southernmost Texas.

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 the Gulf Coast in the south, this region is hallowed ground among birders and naturalists as a premier place to see birds, mammals, plants, and butterflies found nowhere else in the United States.

Altamira Oriole

Altamira Oriole— Photo: Erik Bruhnke


On this short tour, arranged exclusively for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Golden-wing Society, participants will experience the joys of birding in the Rio Grande Valley, along with a visit to the famed King Ranch. The focus will be on finding regional specialty birds in addition to a host of 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 vast 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 Estero Llano Grande State Park. Of equal renown are areas like Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Anzalduas County Park, and Frontera Audubon Thicket. Some of these are designated as World Birding Center sites. Each site has its own attractions for both the first-time visitor and expert birder.

Green Jay

Green Jay— Photo: Erik Bruhnke


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, and Blue Bunting are a small representation of the many rarities seen on VENT tours to this region through the years.

Leading this trip is Erik Bruhnke of Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, assisted by Scott Sutcliffe and Erin Pierce from the Lab of Ornithology, who together will provide exposure to the beauty and wildlife of the Rio Grande Valley and King Ranch. 

Finally, our time in the field will be complemented with social time and time to learn about recent news from the Lab.

Accommodations and food range from very good to good; food choices in Zapata are very limited; travel by 15-passenger van; light physical demands; temperatures mild to warm, but with great variety possible including thunderstorms, wind, and heat.