Bird Nerds

Last week I traveled to a unique destination. I’ll write about McAllen, Texas, in the March/April issue of Evansville Living.

McAllen is a city about the size of Evansville in the Texas Tropics — the Rio Grande Valley. My trip was tourism focused — and what brings tourism to Hidalgo County, and the neighboring counties throughout the RGV, is birds.

Home to the World Birding Center, a network of nine birding parks throughout the valley (which is not a valley, and the Rio Grande is not a voluminous river; it is narrow and shallow with dramatic bends), the area is the No. 1 birding destination in the North America.

▲ Birders at Bentsen State Park

Among those who aren’t “bird nerds,” the border — the Rio Grande separates South Texas from Mexico — is better known for illegal human migration than for bird migration. Many of the birding parks are along the river; at Bentsen State Park, its two-story Hawk’s tower affords a peek into Mexico. While I did see Border Patrol vehicles, the group I was with saw no illegal crossings and locals say the border problems are not something they see or experience in daily life. Birding near the river, my iPhone did think I was trying to roam internationally.

▲ Green Jay and Kiskadee

▲ Chakalaka

There are 39 species on the American Birding Association list that can be found only in the Rio Grande Valley. We wasted no time checking off the birds on the list — like the Green Jay — an exotic that also is the official bird of McAllen.

McAllen offers lots of food, shopping, and nightlife, as well as beautiful museums and galleries, which I’ll write about in the feature story, as well as share bird pictures from premier bird photographers.

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