Brush Country Birds
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Much of inland southern Texas is known as the brush country. It is Tamaulipan thorn-scrub habitat, often locally called chapparal. Everything has spines. This habitat extends up to the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau, or the hill country as it is called.

A large number of south Texas species (often incorrectly called "LRGV (Lower Rio Grande Valley) specialties") are found with some regularity around Uvalde (which ain't the LRGV) County. In reality for most, the LRGV is less than 1% of their ranges, and most are common throughout the south TX brush country, and far into Mexico, so I'd like to discourage calling them that.

As far as the U.S. goes, "south Texas specialties" would be a much better term, as most of them are widespread in south Texas. Good places for them around Uvalde are Cook's Slough, Ft. Inge, the Uvalde city park on Hwy. 90, the Fish Hatchery, and along any watercourses in the county (e.g., Nueces, Frio, Sabinal Rivers) and even up into the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau.

Some are rather recent invaders/colonizers northward, and some of the south Texas specialty species occurring here include Least Grebe, Groove-billed Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Great Kiskadee, Couch's Kingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Audubon's Oriole, and now annual Green Jay since 2003, that seem to be resident as of 2007-2008. That is a fine assortment of south Texas specialties here.

Except the Ani, the others all nest in the area (Jay prob. 08). Other residents of the Tamaulipan thorn scrub of the brush country in Uvalde County include Harris's Hawk, Verdin, Pyrrhuloxia, Black-throated Sparrow, Cactus Wren, and if it rains Cassin's Sparrows. Common are everyone's favorite flycatchers, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed, and so is Painted Bunting.

To round out the list of south Texas species possible here, toss in the Tropical Parula (annual singing males - Concan) and Rufous-capped Warbler (multiple temporary colonists), both of which are trying to gain a toehold at the edge of the plateau, as members of their species push the limits of colonization. Even Paraque is being found in Uvalde Co. brush country now.

Lytle Blankenship lived in Uvalde and birded the county hotspots for 25 years. As of his 2002 checklist, he knew of 2 Audubon's Oriole and a few Green Jay records (singles) in the county. Winter of 2003 when I moved here I found the first flock of wintering Green Jay (5) and in '04 the first two Audubon's Orioles on the Uvalde CBC, both at Ft. Inge. Both of which appeared subsequent years, the Green Jay now appearing to possibly be nesting there, now not leaving in summer. The Audubon's Orioles are now known nesting and resident up to Utopia, with reports elsewhere along the edge of the escarpment from Rio Medina to Camp Wood, near Garner, and up to Leakey.

Several White-tipped Doves have been found (spring, summer and winter) 2003 to 2012. It is probably far more numerous than realized (I wrote that in 2007). It has exploded since 2012 with multiples at Lost Maples, Park Chalk Bluff, in Real Co., singles in Utopia last three years.

Clay-colored Thrush (AOU changed it from Robin) has been found thrice this far north (Uvalde Feb.'05, Utopia May 08 and Feb. 2012. In Feb. of 2011 Kathy and I watched a Rufous-backed Robin for 10 minutes at Ft. Inge, another was caught on a critter cam in Edwards Co. April 2014. I've seen a couple Short-tailed Hawks around Utopia and there are several Lost Maples records. Mike Overton and I (ph.) found a Common Black-Hawk along the Nueces River near Uvalde once as well, I saw one at Lost Maples in the 1980's as well.

The Sennett's Hooded Orioles of south Texas are a very unique interesting representitive of that species group, found up into the southern edge of the plateau.

There haven't been any really serious real hard-core naturalists covering, exploring and recording what is going on here thoroughly. Couch's Kingbirds nesting and sometimes wintering up on the plateau was also unknown before.

I had a note here about how there are Chihuahuan Ravens here. But thanks to this internet thing, I can change things as things change. The first few years I was here there were a few resident Chihuahuan Ravens here in the flatlands of the Sabinal Valley. Since the drought they have left, and have been fall migrants mostly.

As a rule I'd have said until two years ago, the flatland brush-country Raven sightings should be considered Chihuahuan first as the default, and once up in the hills of the plateau where cliffs and rock outcrops are visible, then Common become the default Raven. Very recently I have seen a few Commons along the roads in the northern-most brush country. Along 187 above Sabinal, and more recently along Old Sabinal Rd., south of Hwy. 90! Common Raven has become much more numerous and widespread here in the last decade, numbers have skyrocketed, Chihuahuan is all but gone.

There is much we don't know about the northward explosion of many southerly origin species as it is unfolding right now in front of our eyes. It is an unprecedented event, and so we have nothing to base any expectation on. Except indications I see of Mexican origin birds and butterflies up on the plateau at e.g. Utopia, make it clear the magnitude of movement is not yet realized by the natural history crowd in general.

Note in winter and spring of 2008 the Green Jays invaded north ONTO the plateau in numbers for the first time ever. There were several dozen on the plateau to Leakey, Concan and Bandera amongst other places!! Then, finally, winter 2009 the first 3-4 were at Utopia!

The simple fact is, that with few exceptions, if it has occurred in the LRGV, or even Big Bend, it has occurred or could occur here. I have heard more than one local describe a Trogon very well!

Here we have a some poor pictures (except the one I didn't take) of a few of these south Texas specialties that many don't realize often live all the way north to south central Texas, in Uvalde County.


Harriss Hawk

Ken Cave took this great photo of an immature or sub-adult Harris's Hawk. Regular in the flatlands of the brush country.
THANKS for letting us use the picture Ken!



Least Grebe

Least Grebe at Uvalde National Fish Hatchery The hatchery and Cook's Slough are best bets.



Couch's Kingbird

Couch's Kingbird - widespread in spring to fall throughout, some few venturing up onto plateau. Rarer and local in winter.



Couch's Kingbird

Couch's Kingbird - an adult feeding one of the 3 young fledged in Utopia on June 5, 2006. One of further north known nestings and probably the first ever for the species on the Edwards Plateau - hill country



Groove-billed Ani

Groove-billed Ani is a late summer and fall visitor at places like Ft. Inge, Cook's Slough and the Uvalde National Fish Hatchery.



Audubon's Oriole

Audubon's Oriole - on the Uvalde bird count 12/04 In winter look along watercourses but resident all the way up to Utopia in NE county hills.



Olive Sparrow

Olive Sparrow is an outlier sparrow among U.S. types, with green in wing and tail, this south Texas specialty is at the northern limit of its range here. Some along Sabinal River regular to Clayton Grade at edge of escarpment. Easy to hear, sometimes hard to see, look at Ft. Inge, Neal's Lodges, or Cook's Slough and you will get them.



Clay-colored Robin   Clay-colored Robin

First documented Clay-colored Thrush in Uvalde Co. at Cook's Slough, Feb. 4, 05.  Another was in Utopia May '08, and another 150' from the where the first one was at Cook's Slough in Feb. '12! There are more of these skulkers around than detected.



Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher, female - look at Ft. Inge, Cook's Slough, yes the fish hatchery, and along Nueces or Frio Rivers are best bets. Rare on Sabinal River.



Long-billed Thrasher

Long-billed Thrasher - look in dense brush along any watercourse up to the edge of the plateau, such as at Concan, but rare up in the hills shortly past that. Cook's Slough and Ft. Inge have lots.



White-tipped Dove

White-tipped Dove making the ID of vulture or hawk. April 1, 2012, no foolin', in our Seco Ridge yard, the third to have appeared here, our first spring record. They have since increased tremendously with multiples at several sites along southern Edwards Plateau.



Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee - the Uvalde city park on Hwy 90, Ft. Inge, and Cook's Slough usally have them.



Rufous-capped Warbler

Rufous-capped Warbler, this was the male of a pair at Neal's Lodges in Concan for 6 months plus, but never seen after the ice storm of '07.



Tropical Parula

Tropical Parula, this male was territorial at Utopia on the River for 6 weeks.



Green Jay

One of the Green Jays at Utopia winter 2008-09!



Hooded Oriole

Sennett's Hooded Oriole in mid-March



White-tipped Dove

White-tipped Dove in Utopia, NE Uvalde Co.



Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher - the brightest bird in the brush country. Found year-round in brush country (fewer in winter), but only spring to fall up in the cooler hill country.



Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

An adult Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a bird you can never tire of watching. They really do have a display flight in which they fly a loop and do a quick flip at the top actually going all the way over, upside-down!



Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting - A common brush country denizen usually along draws and watercourses







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© M. and K. Heindel 2006-2015
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