Bird Walk 9-28-13

This is a weekly bird report written and photographed by our Interpretive Guide John Brush.

Hello all,
Another pleasant morning out in the forest of Quinta Mazatlan. Most of the warblers brought down by last week’s cool front have moved on, but there were still plenty of pleasant surprises to be found!
Bird Walk 9-28-13 American Robin John Brush
Our local interest American Robin continues to make appearances around the amphitheater and Hummingbird Lane. It came out to take a quick drink from the amphitheater pond, giving us nice views of its newly red-breasted plumage. It has been fun to watch it transition out of the spotted plumage of a juvenile into the lush, rich plumage of an adult.
Bird Walk 9-28-13 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher John Brush
A tiny migrant that has been coming through the park is this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. All of 4 inches in length, this little bird is constantly flitting around the foliage gleaning for insects, frequently doing what is called “hover gleaning”. They give a charismatic “speee!” call. Though formerly breeders in the Rio Grande Valley, they are now just migrant and winter regulars.
Bird Walk 9-28-13 Common Pauraque John Brush
Our regular Common Pauraque has been most cooperative that past few weeks, but is still hard to pick out from the forest floor at times. It is definitely a fan-favorite for birders, well worth the search for!
The Bird of the Day was this lovely female Green Kingfisher
Bird Walk 9-28-13 Green Kingfisher John Brush
As we walked towards Ruby Pond, a flash of white and deep green flew up to a Montezuma Bald Cypress. This Green Kingfisher gave us fantastic looks, and all were excited to have seen it. Most likely done with the breeding season, these birds may now spread out to different ponds and waterways for the duration of the fall and winter. Hopefully this one will make Ruby Pond part of its home range.
As always, have a great weekend – and get out birding!
Bird Walks are offered Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8:30, October – December

Creature Feature: The Green Kingfisher

Tour 2013-03-16 McAllen Nature Center

Female Green Kingfisher at the McAllen Nature Center

We have three species of kingfishers (family Alcedinidae) that occur in the United States, who, in order from largest to smallest, are: Ringed Kingfisher, Belted Kingfisher, and Green Kingfisher. Of those three, only the Belted Kingfisher has a widespread range in the United States, with the mostly tropical Ringed and Green Kingfishers’ ranges just getting into South Texas.

Green Kingfisher Range Cornell

Range Map of the Green Kingfisher. Image from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Neotropical Birds website.

Green Kingfishers eat mainly small fish and tadpoles, which they catch by diving from low, waterside perches. They are a target species for many visiting birders, but can be difficult to find at times. Males have a rich red color on their breasts; this, mixed with the overall dark green plumage, makes these birds very attractive. Because of their food habits, they are nearly always required to be around water sources. In the Valley this includes the Rio Grande River, resacas, ponds, and even canals.

Green Kingfisher 2

Kingfishers have an interesting breeding habit; they dig burrows in riverbanks for nests. The burrows are dug using their large, strong bills, and the resulting dirt is pushed out the back by their feet.  A Green Kingfisher burrow can go up to a meter into the steep side of a riverbank, and is usually hidden behind overhanging vegetation. This makes finding their nests quite difficult! They lay 3-6 eggs in the small chamber at the end of the burrow, and both the males and females take turn incubating them and feeding the subsequent hatchlings.

Green Kingfisher

Green Kingfishers can be found at various nature parks across the Valley, such as Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Quinta Mazatlan and others. Another place that offers good chances to see Green Kingfishers is the McAllen Nature Center. Last month’s birding tour to the center had good looks at male Green Kingfisher along a nearby canal.

Green Kingfisher 3

In a place where specialty birds abound, the Green Kingfisher often stands out as being a favorite. Their hidden nests, somewhat reclusive habits, and beautiful plumage make them a bird many strive to see – how lucky we are to have them in the Rio Grande Valley!

Our next field trip to the McAllen Nature Center will be Saturday, March 16th.  Registration is required.  Visit our website for more information: www.quintamazatlan.com