The cavity-nesting birds put on quite a show this morning! The three beautiful palm snags found along the trailhead of our Ebony Grove are really drawing a lot of attention this spring, which is why we leave the snags in the environment. In past years we’ve had Green Parakeets nesting inside of the snag, as well as Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and even Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. Late March and April is the time of year when birds are looking for the best-looking nesting sites, as they prepare to raise young throughout the duration of the spring and summer months. This morning we had three Green Parakeets fly over us at Ebony Grove, and to our surprise one of the whistling-ducks went inside the largest cavity within the snag.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are a beautiful and somewhat clown-like duck species that nests in large tree cavities. We purposely leave the intact palm snags throughout our trails, to provide year-round food for the woodpeckers, and for the crucial (and hard to find) nesting opportunities for cavity-nesting birds!
One of two Green Parakeets flying by this morning!
Here is a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck coming in for a landing to check out the Ebony Grove palm snags. Look at those gorgeous pink feet and colorful bill, among the rich brown, white, and black plumage!
The pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks seemed content with the large cavity atop the palm snag. Here is the first whistling-duck, checking out the palm cavity.
Checking out the view from the potential nesting site for the summer months!
This handsome Yellow-throated Warbler was a delightful treat to see this morning. It was heard singing softly as it searched for insects throughout the leaves.
Migrating Swainson’s Hawk, approaching head-on before gaining lift from the thermals over Ebony Grove
Adult Swainson’s Hawk. Look at that beautiful gray head, rufous-brown breast, and two-toned wings!
Male Golden-fronted Woodpecker keeps watch.
Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker, scanning her surroundings before entering her nesting cavity.
Below is the eBird list from this morning’s Songbird Stroll.
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 50
Plain Chachalaca 30
Glossy/White-faced Ibis 2 Distant flyby
Swainson’s Hawk 3
Killdeer 1 Flyover
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 1
Inca Dove 5
White-winged Dove 4
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Ruby-throated/Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 8
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 2
Green Parakeet 3
Great Kiskadee 10
Couch’s Kingbird 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Green Jay 2
Cave Swallow 3
Black-crested Titmouse 3
House Wren 2
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Clay-colored Thrush 4
Curve-billed Thrasher 2
Long-billed Thrasher 3
Northern Mockingbird 7
European Starling 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Yellow-throated Warbler 1
Olive Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 3
Great-tailed Grackle 5
House Sparrow 10
This is a weekly bird report written and photographed by our Interpretive Guide and Birder John Brush.
Three birders joined me for the Tuesday Morning Bird walk. We enjoyed walking slowly through the park, listening for birds and chatting about the bird life of the Valley. As it has been lately, the birds were pretty quiet in the park, but a few mid-walk sightings got our blood pumping.
This Red-tailed Hawk took a perch in one of our palm trees by Ruby Pond, giving us great looks as it tried to balance on the wavering fronds. One thing to notice on this bird is the white fringes on the scapulars (the feathers on the back). This is a good marker for Red-tailed Hawks. However, these hawks show great variety in plumages, so you may not always see as much white, or any at all!
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are starting to check out the park again for suitable nesting sites. We saw four of them (not my photo) flying around the park. These ducks are actually one of our cavity nesting birds in the RGV! They look for large cavities, either an old and expanded woodpecker hole, or a natural cavity in a tree. They also will sometimes nest on flat roof-tops. Note the large white patch on the upper wing – this is a distinctive feature in flight.
The Bird of the Day wasn’t hard to choose this time – it was definitely this beautiful Hooded Oriole we saw in the parking lot. These orioles look superficially similar to the larger Altamira Oriole, but can be distinguished from that species in several ways. As mentioned, size can be a good indicator: Hooded Orioles are much smaller and have slender bills built for capturing insects and drinking nectar. They also have a white patch on the shoulder, whereas the Altamira would have an orange patch. Lastly, the calls are different. We heard this bird giving the typical call – a soft, musical wheet. Look for their nests tucked underneath a palm frond.
Join us for a Bird Walk! Tuesdays 8:30am-10:00am at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, Texas.