Songbird Stroll October 17th, 2015

Hello all, another beautiful fall day here at Quinta Mazatlan, with a nice mix of migrant and resident birds going about their feathery business.

"Say what now?"

“Say what now?” This Clay-colored Thrush, a younger bird given the mostly brown eye color (it shifts to deep red in older birds), peered curiously from its perch.

I started off by seeing the flock of Clay-colored Thrushes that inhabit the park. These birds were enjoying the fruits of an Anacua tree (Ehretia anacua). They are always fun to see, but especially fun to hear – their meow-like calls and subtle are always a welcome sound.

Common Pauraque (2)

We also saw two of our resident Common Pauraques in their usual haunt. Perhaps it was just due to lighting, but the second individual (picture below) looked to have more gray in its plumage. According to Birds of North America “In Texas, upperparts of adult male brownish gray to tawny, mottled, spotted, and vermiculated with dusky brown, buff, and black.” Perhaps the difference was just variation in plumage, or perhaps it is related to age and sex.

Common Pauraque (1)

Gray Hawk QM (1)

My favorite bird of the day was this beautiful adult Gray Hawk. It flew into a palm, called loudly for a few minutes, and proceeded to fly to and call from the golf course next door. These raptors maintain small numbers in urban areas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and I have seen them regularly (albeit infrequently) in Quinta Mazatlan and south McAllen neighborhoods. What a classy South Texas Specialty Bird!

As always the full list of birds is below!

John Brush

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  40
Plain Chachalaca  10
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Inca Dove  5
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  16
Common Pauraque  2
Chimney Swift  8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  6
Great Kiskadee  4
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Green Jay  5
Barn Swallow  2
Black-crested Titmouse  3
House Wren  4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  6
Clay-colored Thrush  6
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
Long-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  8
European Starling  3
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  2
Yellow Warbler  1
Wilson’s Warbler  3
Olive Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  3
Indigo Bunting  6
Dickcissel  1
Great-tailed Grackle  12
House Sparrow  20



August 12, 2015 Songbird Stroll and more!

The bird life at Quinta Mazatlan is exciting as ever. Families of Black-crested Titmice are seen daily as they feed as a flock throughout the various levels of our forest. One of the summer specialties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a Groove-billed Ani, was heard several times during yesterday’s Songbird Stroll. Juvenile Golden-fronted Woodpeckers check out nearly every tree cavity in search of food. Juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are being seen on a daily basis throughout our native flowers now. They mingle and share scolding notes with the local Buff-bellied Hummingbirds.

BBHU without tail2

BBHU without tail1 This juvenile Buff-bellied Hummingbird is growing its tail. Those wings look so long without having a nearby tail!

The families of songbirds are seen all over our trails. The beautifully-bedraggled young Inca Doves are following their parents around through the forest clearings. Juvenile Great-tailed Grackles are hosting a sharp-looking array of golden-brown and black mottled feathers throughout their appearance. The grackles’ continuous begging can be heard from quite a distance. The pale blue-headed juvenile Green Jays flutter their wings in hopes of a free meal from their parents. Recently-fledged Clay-colored Thrushes give their soothing call notes as they check under many dried layers of leaves. It is a unique time of summer when the bird life both young and old can be found on nearly every tree!

GRKI adult juvenile

Parent (left)  and young (right) Great Kiskadees. Note the adult’s dark bill and yellow crown stripe. Juvenile Great Kiskadees have a yellow gape and a solid black crown.

OLSP feeding close

As you walk through our trails you’re bound to hear the ping-pong ball song and shrilling call note of the Olive Sparrows that live throughout our woods. Several families of Olive Sparrows can be found here this summer.

Two our month-long birding workshops are going on right now. Today’s Intermediate Birding Workshop had some exciting finds including two roosting Common Nighthawks, the popular Common Pauraque, and even a Gray Hawk calling and circling high overhead!


Common Nighthawk roosting during today’s Intermediate Birding Workshop. Digiscoped.


Another Common Nighthawk seen roosting this morning! Digiscoped.


This Common Pauraque’s tail is growing longer every day! Look how those stunning feather details and colors blend into the leaves. Digiscope.

GRHA adult

Adult Gray Hawk circling high up in the sky this morning.

Below is yesterday morning’s Songbird Stroll bird list.
Plain Chachalaca  20
Black-necked Stilt  1
Killdeer  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Inca Dove  25
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  15
Mourning Dove  10
Groove-billed Ani  1
Eastern Screech-Owl (McCall’s)  1
Common Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  2
Chimney Swift  3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1     Juvenile
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  6
Great Kiskadee  10
Couch’s Kingbird  5
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  3
Purple Martin  5
Cliff Swallow  3
Cave Swallow  5
Black-crested Titmouse  6
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  5
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  7
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  5
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  12
Bronzed Cowbird  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  5
Lesser Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  15

This morning’s Intermediate Birding Workshop bird hike results are below.

Plain Chachalaca  21
Gray Hawk  1     adult
Swainson’s Hawk  1     migrating adult
Killdeer  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  5
Inca Dove  4
White-winged Dove  25
Mourning Dove  10
Eastern Screech-Owl (McCall’s)  1
Common Nighthawk  2
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  3
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Great Kiskadee  4
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Green Jay  3
Purple Martin  3
Cliff Swallow  1
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  5
Great-tailed Grackle  20
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  30

Good Birding,

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Hike October 14, 2014

Birds both young and old are making themselves known on the morning bird hikes at Quinta Mazatlan! One of the very special highlights this morning was witnessing an immature Gray Hawk fly along ebony grove. A few warblers were observed flitting and feeding throughout the tree tops, and the dapper Green Jays were observed multiple times.

The Gray Hawk is a beautiful raptor species found primarily throughout the neotropics of South America and Central America. Their range extend as far north as southeastern Arizona, Big Bend (western Texas), and the lower Rio Grande Valley. Gray Hawks are a buteo, which makes them a relative of Red-tailed Hawks and Swainson’s Hawks, among several other select raptors that have wide wings and proportionately short tails. Gray Hawks prefer habitat of thorn-scrub woodlands, savannahs, as well as along forest edges.

Adult Gray Hawks have a gray backside to their wings, and silvery-white undersides to their wings. Their tails have bold bands of black and white. The juveniles (including the one seen today) have gray and brown backsides to their wings, with white undersides to their wings. Their tail is very brown-toned, with fine paler bands throughout the length of the tail. The most noticeable field marks on juvenile Gray Hawks is the brown head with very bold white streaks throughout the face, and a white belly with brown vertical streaks along its belly. They are a very unique and eye-catching raptor species!


Gray Hawk. Photographed this past winter by John Brush.

The delightful charm of the Inca Doves was a special treat to see and hear as always. These small doves can often be seen roosting near each other in the cooler early morning hours, and feeding throughout openings within the shrubby landscape throughout the day. When nesting, they make a very basic “pad” of layered sticks, woven just dense-enough to support an adult and the eggs/young to be raised.


Juvenile Inca Dove. Note the rougher scalloped appearance, and paler reddish-brown eye. Adults are more clean-cut in appearance, and have dark-red eyes.

INDO nest

Inca Dove on its nest


Two Great Kiskadees. Look closely, and you can see the second Great Kiskadee in the far background.

The Gray Hawk we observed this morning is a very uncommon bird for Quinta Mazatlan. This species typically prefers larger expanses of their preferred habitat, found in areas like Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. This afternoon I checked out the historic eBird records of this species at Quinta Mazatlan, and this morning’s Gray Hawk observation is the 21st sighting of this species documented at Quinta Mazatlan since November 2006. You never know what you’re going to see on the Quinta Mazatlan bird hikes!

Below is the full eBird list from the bird hike this morning:
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  150     Massive early-morning flock at a distance, moving through
Plain Chachalaca  14
Turkey Vulture  4     Migrating
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1     Juvenile, migrating
Cooper’s Hawk  1     Juvenile
Gray Hawk  1     Juvenile
Swainson’s Hawk  1     Adult, migrating
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  4
White-winged Dove  18
Mourning Dove  2
Chimney Swift  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Great Kiskadee  4
Couch’s Kingbird  2
Green Jay  2
Cliff Swallow  1
Carolina Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Clay-colored Thrush  7
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  5
European Starling  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Nashville Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Great-tailed Grackle  3
Lesser Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  15

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke