RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — It’s that time of the year when leafy green Rio Grande Valley mesquites become adorned with a myriad of colorful songbirds.
Bright orange Baltimore orioles, Rose-breasted grosbeaks, vivid Indigo buntings, and striking Scarlet tanagers decorate native mesquites while winging it thru the Rio Grande Valley on their annual spring migration.
From March thru May, with the peak of migration usually coming in mid to late April, more than two billion birds pass thru the southern Gulf coast region.
These neotropical migrants, birds that breed in the United States and Canada and winter in Latin America and the Caribbean, pass thru southernmost Texas each spring on their way north to distant breeding grounds, a one-way journey that may encompass 2,000 miles or more.
There are approximately 360 species of birds ranging from raptors to warblers that travel north each spring, and at least 75 are trans-gulf migrants, birds that fly nonstop some 500 miles from Yucatán across the Gulf of Mexico to the Texas coast.
This Prothonotary warbler, named for its plumage resembling yellow robes once worn by papal clerks known as prothonotaries in the Catholic Church, likely spent winter in mangrove forests of Central and South America before launching at sunset from the tip of the Yucatan peninsula flying nonstop for 18 to 22 hours eventually landing on South Padre Island to rest and refuel before continuing its journey northward.
While the peak of migration is yet to come, there are already some remarkable arrivals, such as this Western tanager that perhaps wintered in the forests of Costa Rica and is on his way to distant Canadian mountains.
You don’t have to travel to South Padre Island or area wildlife refuges, as many of these colorful birds will alight in your own backyard if you provide a little habitat, food, and water.