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Whistling Ducks, White-tailed Hawks and Kiskadees

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There are some truly awesome birds in Texas that, I'm sorry to say, the locals just take for granted. I saw my first black-bellied whistling ducks in the Amazon of Brasil. And flipped out when I saw a wild flock in Titusville, FL two years ago. They are something in flight. And they're all over south Texas, lipstick-pink bills, long legs and all. I love those things.

It was a duckapalooza at Edinburg Wetlands. Even though it was closed when we got there on Monday morning hoping to bird before catching our plane in McAllen. RATS. We birded the fringes with Phoebe and Liam on a rather dull gray windy day and still had a marvelous time. These are, from top, four shovelers, two green-winged teal and a willet.

Another mixed bunch of shoveler and green-winged teal. Look at Mr. Dead Center. He's in full nuptial plumage, with gorgeous buff undertail coverts and a chestnut and viridian head. Delish.

Dig the crazy green of the speculae of these sleeping greenwings (same birds as in top photo). Love it.

Golden-fronted woodpeckers are everywhere too. Closely related to our red-bellieds, they're Melanerpes woodpeckers (which includes the red-headed). This is a really pretty male, with golden nape and a red forecrown beanie.

Another bird that kind of snuck up on us was white-tailed hawk. They were all over the place! They're quite reminiscent of redtails, but for that white tail and the heavily marked belly and underwings. Wing shape is different, too--they're long in the "hand," or outer half of the wing, like a Swainson's hawk is.

Sorry, the light was awful. But the tapered wing is typical.

A gorgeous pair of great kiskadees yelled from a nearby snag.

The left bird shot his crown. Whoa!! Who knew they had a diadem? Many flycatchers do--watch for it on kingbirds and kiskadees. It's a fightin' thing. And the sorta-related kinglets have it too. 


I will not take my black bellies for granted anymore. We have a park nearby that is full of them in the winter. The best part is when they all start whistling inthe morning. You can hear them all over the park.

That woodpecker is interesting!

Reminds me of the first time I laid eyes on whistling ducks, which was in a city park in Houston. I was visiting relatives who were definitely not birders and they couldn't figure out why I was flipping out over what, to them, were "just" ducks.

I was reminded of how much I enjoy black-bellied whistling ducks when I visited Brazos Bend State Park last week. They were my first life bird from Texas and I got them on the Christmas count in 1990. We should get several hundred of the on the count this year.

Now the closest place to find them is in the Japanese garden in Herman Park, in the middle of Houston. They are rapidly building up their numbers and you can get real close to their babies in the spring.

You are right, we do take birds for granted here in the south. at least I do. Thanks for reminding me to be thankful for the flock of whistling ducks that fly over my house every morning and evening.

For a while, going back and froth to Mexico, McAllen was like a second home. But we never saw any of these there. Maybe too far from where you were. I love the Greater Kiskadees. See them frequently in San Miguel.

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