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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rio Grande Village: Vermilion Flycatcher, Painted Bunting and Yellow-breasted Chat

[Big Bend National Park, TX. June 2014]

No birding trip to Big Bend can be deemed complete without a visit to the Rio Grande Village area. This area is famed especially for its breeding raptors (Common Black Hawk, Grey Hawk). What makes it somewhat unique in the Park (which is otherwise arid), is the presence of water and this attracts an interesting assortment of birds in addition to the raptors.

We start with Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher seen at Rio Grande Village

All our flycatchers pale in comparison to the Vermilion (including the Scissor-tailed which is the next most colorful). Of course, being drab in color is an advantage for a predating flycatcher. However, the male Vermilion Flycatcher is anything but -- and it isn't afraid to show its flamboyance by perching conspicuously.

Vermilion Flycatcher seen at Rio Grande Village

The Vermilion Flycatcher has a huge range -- from Argentina through Central America until it reaches the southern reaches of the US where it may be found in the border regions of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California.

Yellow-breasted Chat seen at Rio Grande Village

Unlike the conspicuous habits of the Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat is a renowned skulker.

Yellow-breasted Chat seen at Rio Grande Village

In a Field Guide, the Yellow-breasted Chat will be found under North American Wood Warblers. However, it shows obvious un-warbler like characteristics and it is therefore perhaps more accurately classified as Incertae sedis. When it comes to differences with true wood warblers, several points of difference arise: for starters, the Chat is much larger; doesn't warble (indeed it sounds more like a Jay) and has a stout bill unlike the slender bills of true warblers.

Wintering in Central America, the Chat can be found across the US in the breeding season.

Our next species, however, is neither as widespread nor as common: The Painted Bunting -- a spectacular bunting that is classified as "Near Threatened" by the IUCN

Painted Bunting seen at Rio Grande Village

Having previously observed this species only in its wintering range in Southern Florida, it was  a delight to find it in its breeding grounds at Big Bend.

Unarguably the most colorful bird in the US, the Painted Bunting features at the top of the "must see" lists of American birders. And, it isn't hard to figure out why -- this is a bird that features all the primary colors in their boldest and brightest.

Other species observed included Summer Tanager (which was quite common in the area):

Ash-throated Flycatcher:

And, near the campground, there were a couple of Greater Roadrunners:

Greater Roadrunner

Big Bend's variety of habitats and its proximity to Mexico both make for spectacular birding with a mix of species that is probably unrivaled anywhere in the US.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Thank you for adding the "Follow by Email" gadget, Hemant. It is working like a charm. If your text was not read, and the Greater Roadrunner images were absent, I might think you were presenting a report from Florida. The chat and flycatcher you highlight unfortunately remain unchecked on my list. Years may go by before I observe a bird species in a tree and then on the ground. Especially well done with your roadrunners. I did not see any scissor-tailed yesterday on my first of the season drive along Church Road here in Florida.