Songbirds of South Padre Island

In preparation for my trip to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival I had signed up for a couple of birding trips. While I am not a fan of large bus birding I was excited about attending Better Birding with Jon Dunn, especially when I learned that the trip would be in a small van along with local knowledgeable birder Dan Jones.

We loaded into the vans early in the morning. I was amazed at how quickly Jon and Dan spotted birds, and how accurately they were able to accurately identify birds that to me looked like little more than distant dots.

Our first stop was the Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which is a very small area of six wooded lots in a residential area. South Padre Island is a crucial first landfall for birds making the arduous cross-Gulf migration from Southern Mexico and northern Central America. Especially after a spring storm, wooded lots on the island can produce a surprising number of warblers, tanagers, orioles and thrushes. We saw quite a few birds in this tiny area.

Northern Mockingbird, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Northern Mockingbird

Wood Thrush, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Wood Thrush

Hermit Thrush, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Hermit Thrush

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Yellow-rumped Warbler

When we arrived at the South Padre Island Convention Center, everyone was excited about the recent sighting of a Fox Sparrow, which was very unusual for the area. In fact, I believe that it was a record sighting for the island. I wondered if I should just give up and go back to the van. I have a very difficult time distinguishing various types of sparrows. They tend to all look like small brown birds to me. Jon and Dan were very happy and enthusiastic about the outing, and catching their enthusiasm I adjusted my attitude and happily accompanied them to see if I could recognize anything.

Jon Dunn points out a bird to interested birders, SPI Convention Center.

Jon Dunn points out a bird to interested birders.

I had no problem recognizing a number of birds:

Wilson's Warbler, SPI Convention Center

Wilson's Warbler

Eastern Phoebe, SPI Convention Center

Eastern Phoebe

Gray Catbird hiding in the understory, SPI Convention Center.

Gray Catbird hiding in the understory.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, SPI Convention Center

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another view, SPI Convention Center

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another view

I saw birds that were new to me as well.

And yes, there were sparrows. I consulted my notes, my books and my ebooks, and I still have a great deal of difficulty differentiating sparrows. Jon Dunn and Dan Jones were very patient in pointing out the differences among sparrows. Perhaps I am hopeless. I make the following identifications with great trepidation. Please feel free to offer corrections.

Savannah Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

Savannah Sparrow

Fox Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

The Fox Sparrow about which everyone was so excited.

Clay-colored Sparrow, SPI Convention Center

Clay-colored Sparrow

After a fun day of birding, I paused at the SPI Convention Center to admire a beautiful Monarch Butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly, SPI Convention Center

Monarch Butterfly

It was a lovely day, and it was a treat to go out with such knowledgeable and informative birders. I believe that I learned a little something about sparrow identification. The next day, however, would bring new challenges. I would go in search of shorebirds.

Those of you who know me know that I am not a “lister.” Because I was riding shotgun in the birding van, I was assigned to keep a list for the day, which you will see below. You will note that my post contains nothing about the shorebirds that we saw that day. Watch this space…

Birds seen November 11, 2011:

Amercan Kestrel
Neotropic Cormorant
Roseate Spoonbill
Great-tailed Grackle
Laughing Gull
Harris Hawk
Mourning Dove
Eastern Meadowlark
Loggerhead Shrike
Northern Mockingbird
Long-billed Thrasher
Red-tailed Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Aplomado Falcon
Long-billed Curlew
Peregrine Falcon
Crested Caracara
Northern Mockingbird
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
White Ibis
White-winged Dove
Swamp Sparrow
Gray Catbird
House Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna’s Hummingbird
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Orange-crowned Warbler
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Eastern Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
House Wren
Northern Flicker
Bewick’s Wren
Great Kiskadee
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Painted Bunting
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Wilson’s Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Orange-crowned Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Magnolia Warbler
Bewick’s Wren
Least Sandpiper
Gull-billed Tern
Forster’s Term
American White Pelican
Northern Harrier
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Royal Tern
Caspian Tern
Snowy Egret
White Ibis
Black-bellied Plover
Piping Plover
Semi-palmated Plover
Herring Gull
Rough-winged Swallow
Northern Pintail
Sandwich Tern
Little Blue Heron
Tri-colored Heron
American Oystercatcher
Ruddy Turnstone
Lesser Scaup
Sedge Wren
Grasshopper Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Nashville Warbler
Western Meadowlark
Snowy Plover
Winter Wren
Green Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Field Sparrow
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Plain Chachalaca
Black-crested Titmouse
Green Jay
Least Grebe
American Coot
Ring-necked Duck
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ruddy Duck
Common Gallinule
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
American Wigeon
Turkey Vulture
Marbled Godwit
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Rock Pigeon
White-tailed Kite

115 species

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Filed under Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas birds

10 responses to “Songbirds of South Padre Island

  1. Cindy

    Great collection of birds! I too have just learned how beautiful and challenging sparrows are..and yes, those folks who can identify “bird dots” are amazing!

  2. Wow!! 115 birds! Quite a list. I, too, have a difficult time with sparrows. I am slowly learning. I have discovered that each one has one little facet that separates it from the others. If you can learn (and I haven’t yet) to watch for those, it gets somewhat easier. Great photos, too, Linda

    • The two trip leaders were very kind and patient in explaining the differences. I wish I had retained everything they told us. All I can do is continue to work at it.

  3. Holy Moses, that’s longer than my ‘things I still need to do’ list. Nice job catching many of those birds on camera, Linda.

    • Thanks Scott. It was a fun day. I took a lot of photos, but many of them were not very good because the birds were too far away. Still they’re helpful in working on my sparrow ID’s. Now if I could just match up my notes and the photos. . .

  4. Great collection of birds,i like very much.please put more information about birds.

    • I’m happy that you like the photos. What would you like other than the ID of the birds and where I found them? I’d be happy to provide additional information if you will let me know what information you need. 🙂

  5. moggblogger


    I loved South Padre Island. But I didn’t have a guide or alot of time. But what I saw of it was stupendous. I want to go again. And the Day’s Inn there was listing rooms as low as $25/night. Hard to beat that. Someday I would like to come to New Mexico and bird. I have always been attracted to that state. Hopefully, one of these years, I will make it there.

    • SPI is a lovely place, despite the development that has occurred there. You do not have to drive very far north to get away from the developed area. Be sure to come to NM in winter to see the birds at Bosque del Apache and the Rosy Finches at Sandia Crest!

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