Falcon Christmas Bird Count yields vibrant preview of South Texas avian wildlife and habitat

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In advance of the Laredo Birding Festival February 7 – 10, members of the Monte Mucho Audubon Society (MMAS) conducted their annual Falcon Christmas Bird Count in the Salineño and Falcon Heights areas as well as at Zapata County ranches that will participate in the sixth annual festival.

According to Raul Delgado of MMAS, a mated pair of Muscovy ducks sighted at a ranch four miles northeast of San Ygnacio and the Río Grande, was the find of the day.

“Any serious, active birder in the USA would want to add the Muscovy to their American Birding Association list of USA-only birds. Muscovy ducks are always a high value target bird for visiting birders to South Texas,” he said of the species that ranges from South Texas and into South America.

He said that in previous years the same male and female have been sighted at this particular pond, at times with offspring. He added that Muscovies bring up a contentious debate among birders — are these 100% native and truly wild or are they inter-bred to produce a black and white Muscovy?

Delgado said Muscovies are cavity-nesting birds that adapt well to nesting boxes that provide protection from predators. He suggested that ranchers could consider installing nesting boxes near their ponds or invite Boy Scouts to undertake such a project.

As Delgado undertook the bird count with MMAS members Danny Perales, Eugene Ruiz, and Tere Keck, he captured a striking photograph of an Osprey on the banks of the Río Grande at Salineño, as well as an American White Pelican in flight, a Greater Roadrunner, and a Great Kiskadee at Falcon State Park.

The upcoming Sixth Annual Birding Festival — with a past track records of good attendance by Texas birders and some from as far away as Canada — is sponsored by RGISC, Monte Mucho Audubon, and the City of Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The festival invites visitors to see hundreds of species of local and migratory birds that include the White-collared Seedeater, Scaled Quail, Gray Hawk, Audubon’s and Altamira Orioles, Green Parakeets, Muscovy Duck, Red-Billed Pigeon, and Clay-colored Thrush.

Professional field guides and members of MMAS accompany birders on the festival’s full-day scenic trips to areas along Laredo’s riverfront, creek systems, nature trails, and private ranchland.

For more information on the Laredo Birding Festival, call the Río Grande International Study Center (RGISC) at (956) 718-1063 or visit rgisc.org

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