Bird Walk July 29, 2014

This morning’s bird hike was nothing short of thrilling. Plain Chachalacas serenaded us with their repetitive calls. Inca Doves cooed softly with their gentle calls of “no hope.” Northern Mockingbirds filled the tree tops with chatter. The happy-toned songs of Lesser Goldfinches meandered throughout the thickets as these tiny finches fed on mid-summer seeds.

Adult male Lesser Goldfinch, keeping  watch over his young.

Adult male Lesser Goldfinch, keeping watch over his young.

As the morning bird hike progressed, we came across a gorgeous Curve-billed Thrasher taking a delightful dust bath in ebony grove. Although it may seem desolate, the ground within ebony grove is packed with seeds that are ready to germinate when the timing and conditions are just right.  The intermittent spacing between the young and old trees in the grove makes this area an insect-rich environment, which draws-in the bird numbers and bird diversity. Be sure to visit ebony grove when you are here birdwatching, as there are always birds flying overhead and feeding within the trees. Because of the dusty soil conditions existing within this area, ebony grove has become a favorite spot for Curve-billed Thrashers looking for refreshing dust baths on a regular basis!

Curve-billed Thrasher taking a dust bath.

Curve-billed Thrasher taking a dust bath.

With a careful set of ears, the Tropical Kingbird can be heard locally, as some of these individuals meander out of their more densely-populated areas of Mexico this time of year. This species is known for their twittering bursts of call notes. Tropical Kingbirds look extremely similar to Couch’s Kingbirds, which are a more-common year-round resident of the lower Rio Grande Valley. These two species can be differentiated by their call notes.

Tropical Kingbird

Tropical Kingbird

We were treated to some sunlit views of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers this morning. Both the adult female and adult male Golden-fronted Woodpeckers will have a golden-orange nape (back of the head and rear portion of the neck). The adult females will have a pale crown (top of the head), whereas the adult males will have a deep-red crown. Did you know that the only places where you can find Golden-fronted Woodpeckers in the lower 48 states, is in Texas and southwestern Oklahoma?

Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Below is the eBird list of birds observed during this morning’s bird hike.

Hope to see you at the upcoming bird hike this Saturday! Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  9
Swainson’s Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  8
White-winged Dove  35
Mourning Dove  4
Inca Dove  4
Chimney Swift  10
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Tropical Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  1
Purple Martin  25
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Clay-colored Thrush  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  14
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  11
Bronzed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  3
Lesser Goldfinch  15
House Sparrow  18


Bird Walk June 14th, 2014

Bird Reports are written and photographed by Interpretive Guide John Brush

???????????????????????????????Quinta Mazatlan has been a favorite hang out for a group of Green Parakeets. We’ve seen groups of 4, 5, and 6 individuals in the park over the past week. These two individuals were busy expanding a nest cavity, with bits of palm falling out from the hole as they did their work.


The beautiful calls and plumage of the male Lesser Goldfinch have a strong connection with the heat of summer in my mind. Maybe its the bright yellow feathers, or the memories of their sweet, yet almost melancholic, whistles on those scorching hot days of past years. Either way, this little bird is one of my favorites.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker Tres Palmas

Male Golden-fronted Woodpeckers often pose wonderfully as they spend time sunning – its always a pleasure to see the golden, orange, and red colors on their heads.


The fledgling Bronzed Cowbird was being fed by a pair of Olive Sparrows. Bronzed Cowbirds are known to parasitize Olive Sparrows, but a study done by one of my father’s graduate students showed that Bronzed Cowbirds respond more to the calls of other species of bird, like Hooded Orioles and Long-billed Thrashers, than Olive Sparrows. This preference may be because Olive Sparrow nests, built low to the ground, experience high predation rates, and so it would not be evolutionarily “smart’ for the cowbirds to parasitize the nests. Still, its fairly common to see Olive Sparrows feeding cowbird young.

As always, the bird list is below. Stay cool!

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  4
Green Heron  1
White-winged Dove  10
Inca Dove  8
Chimney Swift  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  7
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2     fledgling being fed by adult female
Green Parakeet  6     two expanding hole in palm (saw bits of palm forced from cavity)
Brown-crested Flycatcher  4
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  2
Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird  1
Purple Martin  1
Cave Swallow  1
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Clay-colored Thrush  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
Olive Sparrow  3     feeding Bronzed Cowbird fledgling, no other young present
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  3
Bronzed Cowbird  1     one fledgling, being fed by Olive Sparrows
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Lesser Goldfinch  3     aggression between males, fight in flight
House Sparrow  25

Bird Walk September 14th, 2013

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

Fall migration is well underway here at Quinta Mazatlan. Lots of brightly colored birds are moving through on their way south for the winter. We had 5 species of warbler this morning, along with some brilliant orange Baltimore Orioles. Our unusual visitor of an American Robin is still out in the park, and made a brief appearance this morning. There is still evidence of our local birds breeding – a family group of White-eyed Vireos foraged in a cedar elm by the amphitheater.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 European Starling John Brush

We enjoyed looking at this newly molted European Starling as we started off on the trails. Many birds have two molts a year: one in the fall (the pre-basic molt, in usually all the feathers are molted) and the other in the spring (the pre-alternate molt, where the wing and tail feathers usually are not molted). Starlings, however, only have one molt, which they undertake in the fall. The fresh feathers that come in have white tips. These tips wear off over the winter, so by spring the starlings have that glossy black and iridescent plumage. There is A LOT of complex molting patterns and information out there (which I’m not an expert on), but its fun to observe the drastic changes seen in starlings.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Clay-colored Thrush John Brush

One of my favorite Quinta Mazatlan birds, the Clay-colored Thrush, has had a huge presence in the park lately – just about can’t miss them if you go along the Ruby Pond or Wildcat trails. This one was enjoying a sunny spot along the Wildcat trail.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Green Heron John Brush

One of this year’s brood of Green Heron made an unexpected appearance at the Mesquite trail pond – maybe with all the rains a big dish of tadpoles would be on the menu. It gave us the wary eye as it waited for us to move away from its (small) foraging spot.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Common Pauraque John Brush

We spent a good amount of time searching, but we finally spotted a Common Pauraque in the traditional spot along Bougainvillea Lane. The search may be tough, but the reward is always worth it.

My Bird of the Day for this week is the lovely, petite, sweet-sounding Lesser Goldfinch.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Lesser Goldfinch John Brush

These beautiful little birds have been extremely active around the Valley the past month or so, a testament to the fact that they can breed all through September and into October. Listen for their sweet calls as they fly overhead as a cue to start searching for these little birds. They frequently come down to our century plant water feature in the amphitheater. The bird is the photo above is a female, lacking the black back and bright yellow breast of the male.

Have a great weekend!

Join us for a Bird and Nature Walk at 8:30am every Saturday throughout the summer at Quinta Mazatlan!