Birders visit the Valley from mid-October to
mid-May. They seem to avoid summer months. My
theory is that they prefer to bird in the cold northern
latitudes when the big thaw is in place while it
is fun to be in the woods and on the water without
snow and ice.
Some folks do visit the Valley to bird the summer
months, but only a few smart people. Birders
may not realize what they miss here in the summer.
Some of our best and most exciting birding and
wildlife viewing occurs here in summer months.
For a start, there are pelagic boat trips. Leaving
early in the morning, pelagic tours travel beyond
the continental shelf in the Gulf to see birds, fish,
and mammals that live on our oceans. Here are
comments from two people who have experienced
Kelly Smith: "The last few pelagics have given
me 250 melon-headed whales and sperm whales,
a tropicbird, a Jaeger-Sooty Tern-Sora trifecta in
one photo, a booby selfie, more Leach's Storm-Petrels
than I ever thought I would see, and a Whale
Colette Micallef: "Endless Possibilities Birds,
Mammals, and Fish and if you missed out on those,
Moon setting, Sun Rising, Sun setting Beautiful
Water and a vast amount of knowledge from some
Awesome Leaders . . . I would go on every one of
them if I could".
For more information on pelagic boat trips go to
Then there are the bird species that visit and
breed or hang out here in the summer, and head
south when the weather starts cooling and the days
get shorter, for example; Groove-billed Ani, Lesser
Nighthawk, Common Nighthawk, and Wood Stork.
Some summers a flamingo (from the Yucatan Peninsula)
will visit. One year a flamingo zoo escapee
hung out with a wild flamingo in some of our shallow
Other birds best seen in summer include Redbilled
Pigeon and White-collared Seedeater. Often
a Rose-throated Becard shows up, and sometimes
Northern Jacana can be seen, and some years
Masked Duck are here nesting, all tropical birds
pushing their northern limits.
Birds have a higher normal body temperature
than humans. While their temperature varies with
species, the average is 105° F. So it can be
about ten degrees warmer before birds start feeling
hot, compared to humans. Birds do notice summer
heat. They cool themselves by panting, like dogs,
with their bill held open.
Birds are also summer smart. Many species take
siestas during the hot time of day, and are most active
in the early morning and evening, good times
for birders to be out too.
Some birds remain active during the heat of the
day, particularly soaring raptors (it can be cooler
up there). Water birds and waders are active in and
on the water. Some ducks, geese and waders, can
use their feet to cool themselves, like car radiators.
They stand, or hang their feet in water, and the body
fluids circulate through their feet cooling their bodies.
Our yard goose does that.
There was a mystery in our chicken coop that I
solved recently. Every morning I change the chicken's
water, washing out the brown water in their
bowl and filling it with clean water. By the next
morning it is dirty again. Now the chickens should
only be drinking their water, and their bills are relatively
clean, so how does their water turn brown?
Well I came up to the gate unexpectedly in the middle
of the day, on a hot day last week, and there was
the rooster standing in the water bowl! He knows
how to cool his bod.
Many Valley resident birders go out during the
summer. For comfort some of their birding is done
from the car, with stops at key "hot spots". There
are great birds out there. On last Saturday a group
of birders who meet monthly for a day of birding,
stopped off at some ponds, and saw a whole lot
of Fulvous Whistling-duck, and at more than one
pond. Fulvous are cousins to Black-bellied Whistling-duck,
but can be difficult to find most of the
year, but apparently there are many more here in
So don't knock the summer ... it is great for birding.
Rio Grande Valley Birding
Check out this page on Face Book. You will see
reports and photos of where to go summer birding
in the Valley.
Rare Breeding Raptor Survey
Joaquin Galindo and Bill Clark are running a rare
breeding raptor survey to locate rare raptors nesting
in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. They are particularly
interested in Cooper's Hawk (which we
have recorded nesting in Alamo, TX), Gray Hawk
(which often nests along the Rio Grande), Redshouldered
Hawk and Swainson's Hawk. They are
also interested in reports of nesting Osprey, Whitetailed
Kite, Hook-billed Kite, Crested Caracara,
White-tailed hawk, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture,
and owls. If you are aware of such a nest, keep it
to yourself to protect the birds, and report the nest
to Joaquin Galindo at 956 0328-9435 or email