August 18, 2015 Songbird Stroll

GRHE closeup

Green Herons often wait quietly by the water’s edge for prey to come close before striking out to snatch a quick meal.

This morning’s Songbird Stroll wowed us with birds of the waters’ edge and deep forest! Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center is known for its meandering wooded trails that delight nature enthusiasts of all types. The native landscaping provides homes for butterflies, birds, mammals, and the many lizards that call these woods home sweet home. Quinta Mazatlan also has several small water features that are each ecologically important and unique in their own way. Ruby Pond provides good fishing grounds for the Green Heron who visits this body of water. Did you know that Green Herons will place small floating lures on the water surface to attract the fish they eat?


A Buff-bellied Hummingbird rests in between breakfast sips of nectar.

Near Ruby Pond are several hummingbird feeders which attract quite the crowd these days. As the days progress into peak fall migration, we will be going through large quantities of nectar every day as dozens of hummingbirds stock up on this feast.

STSA flight

Stilt Sandpipers breed in the northern tundra. The majority of the population will migrate through the central part of the United States, passing just west of the Mississippi River, and they will eventually end up in the central parts of South America where they will spend the winter months.

Another treat this morning was seeing six Stilt Sandpipers fly by. This beautiful shorebird species is migrating right now. With a careful eye you’ll see the dark wings, slightly decurved bill and pale underside of this shorebird species.

OLSP itch

Here an Olive Sparrows hits the spot by scratching its chin. You can see the band that has been placed on this bird’s left leg. Researchers use this individual identification of birds to study migration, behavior, life-span, and survival rate.

Join us for the Songbird Stroll every Tuesday and Saturday morning 8am – 9:30am.  The walk is included with general admission.

WWDO baby

These young White-winged Doves show off their pale faces and pink bills, a feature found during their earlier stages of life. They will be darker-faced and darker-billed as their adult plumage comes in.

Here is the eBird list from this morning’s Songbird Stroll.

Plain Chachalaca  15
Green Heron  1
Stilt Sandpiper  6
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  4
Inca Dove  10
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  18
Mourning Dove  4
Groove-billed Ani  7     Family group seen across from the casita (at the entrance of Quinta Mazatlan)
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  5
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  4
Great Kiskadee  5
Couch’s Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  2
Cave Swallow  10
Clay-colored Thrush  3
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  5
European Starling  3
Olive Sparrow  8
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  4
Lesser Goldfinch  3
House Sparrow  20

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke


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

August 1, 2015 Songbird Stroll

Although it is only early August, migration is just around the corner. Many songbirds are currently undergoing zugenruhe, which is migratory restlessness.  Many of the birds from the Canadian Boreal forest, northern prairies, northern mountains, and many other northern ecosystems will be passing through south Texas over the next few months.  Birds migrate to follow their favored food sources.

One very ambitious juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen at Quinta Mazatlan today!  Late August is when these beautiful birds begin to show up in their regular numbers for the southbound migration, and this species will be quite numerous in the Lower Rio Grande Valley come September. Get those hummingbird feeders ready with a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, and be sure to keep them clean with fresh nectar. The hummingbirds will thank you!

RTHU juvenile

Here a juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a break from catching gnats in the air.


An impressively cute Common Pauraque rests on our forest floor while sporting those stout yet growing tail feathers!

Water often becomes scarce this time of year. The mid-day heat and blustery air wicks the land of standing water. Drought-resistant plants find these conditions tolerable, while many non-native plants struggle to survive on their own. Despite the intense heat and dry substrate various trees and low-growing plants are flowering and going to seed, with much more of this plant reproduction to come. With flowers blooming and seeds being produced, many birds will find food plentiful through the fall season.

PLCH drinking

A Plain Chachalaca drinks from one of our birdbaths.


“Francis”, our resident javelina, is quite shy and will often wait until the coast is clear to enjoy birdseed that spills to the ground.

roseate skimmer

Roseate skimmer over Birding Creek.


Here is a Swainson’s Hawk seen overhead. This raptor species is known for its two-toned undersides and lengthy, pointed wings.


A Couch’s Kingbird keeps watch and preens in the early morning light.


The Eastern Screech-Owl is doing well today!


Inca Dove. Look closely and you’ll see that this dove’s right leg is banded!

OLSP backside

The secretive Olive Sparrow searches for seeds and insects on the forest floor. Their colors and markings are subtle yet so beautiful! The Olive Sparrow get their name from the color on their backside, as seen from this photo.

Here is the eBird list from today’s Songbird Stroll.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  16
Gray Hawk  1
Swainson’s Hawk  2
Black-necked Stilt  1     Flew from the Ebony Grove pond!
Killdeer  1     Ebony Grove pond visitor
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Inca Dove  18
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  25
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Common Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  16
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1     Juvenile
hummingbird sp.  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  8
Great Kiskadee  3
Couch’s Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  2
Purple Martin  30
Cave Swallow  2
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  2
Clay-colored Thrush  8
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  2
Olive Sparrow  2
Great-tailed Grackle  3
Orchard Oriole  1     Male
Hooded Oriole  1     Flyover
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  30

Good birding. Hope to see you at the upcoming Songbird Strolls!

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Hike March 28, 2015

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!

BBWD flight

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!

BBWD cavity1

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.

BBWD 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.

SWHA head on

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!

GFWO male

Male Golden-fronted Woodpecker keeps watch.


Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker, scanning her surroundings before entering her nesting cavity.


Inca Dove.


Olive Sparrow.

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

Good birding!
Erik Bruhnke

Bird Walk August 12, 2014

Fledgling birds were really out and about this morning. Three first-year Inca Doves were seen lined-up on an ebony branch, the speckle-chested juvenile Northern Mockingbirds were calling throughout the thickets, and the young Clay-colored Thrushes scratched throughout the leaf litter on the ground in search of an insect-based meal. The Plain Chachalaca chicks are amazingly cute right now. In addition to their golden-brown downy bodies, they have a line of black feathers that runs along the central part of their head, from front to back. Before we know it, these little birds will be fully-grown, foraging on their own!

Clay-colored Thrush

A juvenile Clay-colored Thrush forages on the ground.

Plain Chachalaca chick

A Plain Chachalaca chick watches mom and dad closely, learning how to eat and what to eat.

A nesling Golden-fronted Woodpecker keeps watch over the sounds of humans below.

A nestling Golden-fronted Woodpecker keeps watch over the sounds of humans below.

An Olive Sparrow forages along a branch this morning.

An Olive Sparrow forages along a branch this morning.

Hummingbirds thrive here at Quinta Mazatlan. The Buff-bellied Hummingbirds take little breaks to perch on branches, in between their feeding frenzies when they hover around the array of colorful flowers. It’s fun to hear their wings hum as they feed nearby! Keep your eyes and ears out for these beautiful year-round residents here in the valley.

A Buff-bellied Hummingbird takes a breakfast break

A Buff-bellied Hummingbird takes a breakfast break

One recently-arrived Yellow Warbler was seen this morning. This species is one of the earlier birds to migrate through the area during fall migration.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  20
Green Heron  1
Inca Dove  9
White-winged Dove  30
Mourning Dove  3
Chimney Swift  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  2
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  3
Purple Martin  5
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  3
Curve-billed Thrasher  5
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  2
Yellow Warbler  1     female
Olive Sparrow  2
Great-tailed Grackle  9
Lesser Goldfinch  6
House Sparrow  10


Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Walk August 9, 2014

Yesterday morning’s bird hike at Quinta Mazatlan was packed with a wide variety of birds, many of which were freshly washed from the brief yet strong rain that fell earlier in the morning. We were treated to many great views of birds preening and drying themselves off.

One of the most unique finds was spotted by the one, the only, John Brush. Like most of the birds at Quinta Mazatlan yesterday morning, the ground-dwelling Common Pauraque were doing their best to dry off. I had never witnessed the disproportionately stout & tiny legs and feet of a pauraque. Shown below is a wet pauraque, keeping itself a full leg-length above the wet ground by perching on a small branch. Look at those tiny legs!

Common Pauraque

A really clean Common Pauraque

Other finds included the delightful year-round Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, and much more! A gorgeous Olive Sparrow was found feeding on the ground, alongside the trail. To our surprise this bird had a band on one of its legs. Bird banding helps people better-understand bird distributions and migration. There is a chance that we’ll see this exact Olive Sparrow again on future Quinta Mazatlan bird hikes… be sure to stop on by for future bird hikes to find out! You never know what exciting birds will show up. Many of the birds found at Quinta Mazatlan are unique to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and nowhere else throughout the lower 48 states!

Banded Olive Sparrow

Olive Sparrow – Note the band on its left leg.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca. Preening helps keep the feathers clean and fit for efficient flying.

Plain Chachalacas

Plain Chachalaca

Below is the eBird list from the morning hike:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  15
Green Heron  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Inca Dove  5
White-winged Dove  35
Chimney Swift  9
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  5
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Brown-crested Flycatcher  1
Couch’s Kingbird  3
Purple Martin  15
Black-crested Titmouse  3
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  2
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  3
Olive Sparrow  2
Orchard Oriole  2
Lesser Goldfinch  13
House Sparrow  8

Keep your eyes out for migrating birds! Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

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