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24 - 27 April 2001

by Robert A. Behrstock and Seth Davidson

The Laguna Flamingos project is located approximately 150 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. The project (ranch) consists of a large working cattle ranch of approximately 12,400 acres with scattered woodlands, pastures with numerous trees, and approximately 4,000 acres of brackish lagoons and freshwater ponds. Other avian habitats nearby include the Rio Soto La Marina and its delta at the town of La Pesca, the periodically flooded southern tip of the Laguna Madre, the Gulf of Mexico, other brackish lagoons, commercial freshwater fishponds, and about 3,500 hectares of partly disturbed semi-deciduous tropical forest (Zuazua’s forest).

In 1999, Dr. Eric Gustafson, one of the partners in the Laguna Flamingos project, invited Ted Eubanks of Fermata, Inc. to assess the ecotourism potential of the ranch. After a brief November visit to Laguna Flamingos and the adjacent La Pesca area, Eubanks prepared a list of species he encountered (Eubanks 1999). Additional bird and wildlife observations were made by representatives of a number of organizations including the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, North American Wetlands Conservation Council, Wildlife and Flora (Mexico), Wildlife Service, Mexico, and Manomet Bird Observatory. Subsequently, Dr. Gustafson invited Fermata personnel to continue to assess the ranch’s ecotourism potential as well as generate additional data concerning the ranch’s birdlife.

From 24-27 April 2001, we (Robert A. Behrstock and Seth Davidson of Fermata, Inc., and Dr. Eric W. Gustafson and Jessica Johnson of Laguna Flamingos) visited habitats adjacent to and throughout the ranch. Sightings were made while on foot, and from elevated seats on a pick-up truck. On the day before our arrival there were approximately four inches of rainfall, making many of the ranch roads very muddy. During most of the visit we encountered north winds. Flocks of migrant water- and landbirds were in evidence much of the time, especially near the beach. Species encountered are presented in the following list. The sites we visited were:

25 April – 06:30 ‘till dusk.

Vicinity of La Marina del Rio Motel (ca 10 km W of La Pesca) including roadside, river edge, brushy field and edge of Laguna Almagre immediately to the north; La Pesca lighthouse vicinity including Gulf beach, delta of Rio Soto la Marina, lagoons and flats just inshore of Gulf, and road paralleling beach; village of La Pesca (briefly); Laguna La Sal and adjacent fish ponds and woodland edge west of La Pesca; roadside near Laguna La Sal (briefly), and edge of Rio Soto La Marina until early afternoon. Transferred across river to Laguna Flamingos – referred to below as “ranch,” then birded 13 km truck ride through ranch to guest quarters arriving in the early evening. Owl calling from yard after dark.

26 April - 06:35 ‘till dusk.

Vicinity of guest quarters including trail along Laguna Flamingos, woodland edge, and brackish and freshwater ponds. After lunch, 11:20-12:30 return to freshwater pond below house for dragonfly observation. Afternoon - 1:20-3:00 birding drive (pasture with trees and ponds) to Zuazua’s forest tract, 3:00-5:30 walk in forest, then by truck back to guesthouse.

27 April – 06:25 to dusk.

Walked along airstrip to SE pasture and fence line adjacent to Las Jacarandas Ranch, cutting across pasture to edge of Laguna Flamingos and along shore/thicket edge to guest house, returning around noon. After lunch, rode across ranch via wetlands of Laguna Flamingos and Laguna Chovenosa, including extensive tidal flats and Sacahuiste grasslands, eventually cutting through “Mario’s Ranch” because of deep mud on the Laguna Flamingos ranch road. Transferred in late afternoon across river and eventually to Hotel Maria Yolanda in Soto La Marina. Indigo Buntings and Dickcissels migrating overhead at 11:30 P.M.

Not having a spotting scope may have cost us Western or Semipalmated Sandpiper but probably little else. No Short-billed Dowitchers were identified by voice or plumage; these species as well as Red Knots, were almost certainly in the vicinity. Following each bird name is a coarse estimate of total individuals seen and/or heard, and a comment or two on habitat, location, sex, or behavior.
Note: The ranch is available on a reservations-only basis; information can be obtained through .


Thicket Tinamou (3 heard) Zuazua’s forest, calling vigorously during afternoon

American White Pelican (40) Mostly at Laguna Flamingo, a few fly-overs

Brown Pelican (3) Several at beach, also delta of Rio Soto La Marina.

Neotropic Cormorant (40) Lagunas Flamingo and Chovenosa

Great Blue Heron (10) Various lagoon edges

Great Egret (50) Various lagoon edges and artificial channels

Snowy Egret (20) Various lagoon edges and artificial channels

Little Blue Heron (1) One fly-by on Rio Soto La Marina

Tricolored Heron (25) Mostly on Laguna Chovenosa marshy border

Cattle Egret (100) Small flocks at various sites

Green Heron (1) One along channel near pumping station

White Ibis (60) Laguna Flamingo and Chovenosa marshes

White-faced Ibis (25) Laguna Flamingo and Chovenosa marshes

Roseate Spoonbill (20) Flock over Laguna Flamingo and two at Laguna Chovenosa

Black Vulture (not counted, common) Ubiquitous

Turkey Vulture (20+) Less common than B.V. throughout

Black-bellied Whistling Duck (20) Various Lagoon edges, also flying over forest patches

Mottled Duck (16) Various ponds and lagoons, fresh and brackish, mostly pairs

Blue-winged Teal (40) Various marsh edges

Cinnamon Teal (1) Laguna Chovenosa marshes

Northern Shoveler (25) Various marsh and lagoon edges

Gadwall (6) Fish ponds by Laguna La Sal

American Wigeon (10) Various pond edges

Redhead (4) Fish ponds by Laguna La Sal

Lesser Scaup (2) Fishponds by Laguna La Sal

Ruddy Duck (2) Laguna Flamingos in open water

Osprey (10) Coast, river, and lagoons

Mississippi Kite (40) One flock over Zuazua’s forest

Accipiter sp. (Cooper’s/Sharp-shinned Hawk) (1) Flew by guesthouse vicinity

Gray Hawk (1 ad, 1 imm, 1 heard) Along road through ranch; 1 heard west of La Pesca

Roadside Hawk (4) One west of La Pesca, 3 on ranch, only one heard

Common Black Hawk (1) Near pumping station at river edge where known to nest

Short-tailed Hawk (1 light, 1 dark) Both outside guest lodging

Crested Caracara (30+) Ubiquitous

Merlin (1) One flying by pumping station along river

Peregrine Falcon (1) One on post at Laguna Chovenosa (where returned from previous years?)

Plain Chachalaca (12) Woodland edge west of La Pesca and on ranch

Wild Turkey (7) Flock on ranch along airstrip, heard as well

Northern Bobwhite (1) Marshy edge of Laguna Chovenosa

Sora (1 dead) marsh edge near La Pesca

American Coot (30) Rio Soto La Marina and various lagoons

Black-bellied Plover (200) Various lagoons, flats, river delta and migrating flocks

American Golden Plover (10) Pond edge below guest lodging and burned flats near Laguna Chovenosa, in both cases with or close to Black-bellieds.

Snowy Plover (4) Laguna Almagre west of La Pesca and flats near river delta

Wilson’s Plover (20-30) Flats and lagoon edge throughout, paired and territorial

Semipalmated Plover (3) Laguna Flamingo and flats neat river delta

Killdeer (4) Various pond edges

Black-necked Stilt (20) Various pond edges in small numbers

American Avocet (40) Two or three ponds and artificial channel, most in alternate plumage

Greater Yellowlegs (3) Grassy edged ponds along entrance road to guest lodging

Lesser Yellowlegs (1000-1500) All ponds, marshes, lagoon edges and flocks overhead

Solitary Sandpiper (25) Grassy edged ponds along entrance road and laguna Chovenosa marshes

Willet (60) various pond and lagoon edges

Spotted Sandpiper (15) Grassy edged ponds as well as lagoon edges and flats near delta

Upland Sandpiper (3) One in pasture on ranch and two calling/seen as migrating overhead

Whimbrel (40-60) Scattered at lagoon edges plus a few migrating flocks

Long-billed Curlew (6) Scattered at lagoon edges/vegetated flats

Dunlin (80) One flock on shallow arm of Laguna Flamingo

Pectoral Sandpiper (120) Ponds along ranch roads, also migrant flocks near beach and overhead

Sanderling (6) Beach and delta flats

Least Sandpiper (20) Grassy lagoon/pond edges and flats near river delta

Stilt Sandpiper (3) Pond along main road to lodging at ranch-well into alternate plumage

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1) Flat a bit inland from delta at La Pesca, seen on ground and in flight

Long-billed Dowitcher (20) Small flocks at various pond and lagoon edges, many of these were heard

Wilson’s Phalarope (800-1000) Flocks migrating along coast, also in Laguna Chovenosa marshes

Ruddy Turnstone (25) beach/seawall at Soto La Marina delta in La Pesca

Laughing Gull (100) Coastal flats, beach and lagoons

Franklin’s Gull (500) Flocks migrating along beach ponds/river delta, bright pink breasts

Ring-billed Gull (20) Laguna Almagre, beach, ponds, and river delta

Herring Gull (8) Beach and Laguna Almagre

Gull-billed Tern (250) Nearly all at marshes of Laguna Chovenosa

Caspian Tern (4) Flats and river delta at La Pesca

Royal Tern (40) Flats and river delta at La Pesca

Sandwich Tern (50) Flats and river delta at La Pesca

Common Tern (30) Flats and river delta at La Pesca

Forster’s Tern (6) Over pond edge along Laguna Flamingos

Least Tern (2) nesting w/2 eggs at lagoon edge near La Pesca

Black Tern (60) Roosting at river delta at La Pesca

Black Skimmer (1) River delta at La Pesca

Red-billed Pigeon (40) Treetops in pastures and woodland edge

White-winged Dove (Common, not counted)

Mourning Dove (Common, not counted) Fence lines and pastures throughout

Inca Dove (8-12) Mostly around habitations or town edge

Common Ground Dove (8) Various thicket edges

White-tipped Dove (1 seen, commonly heard) Woodlands and edge throughout, 1 flying across lightly wooded pasture

Red-crowned Parrot (2) Treetop in lightly wooded pasture

Yellow-headed Parrot (perhaps 55: over 40 during one drive) Scattered trees in pastures, woodland treetops; vocal and readily seen in pairs and small flocks.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (3) Woodland edge and scattered trees in pastures

Groove-billed Ani (40) Woodland edge, thickets, lightly wooded pastures

Greater Roadrunner (1) Near beach at La Pesca

Squirrel Cuckoo (1) Zuazua’s forest

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (1 seen, 2-3 heard) Zuazua’s forest and near guest lodging

Mottled Owl (1 heard) Woods below guest lodging

Lesser Nighthawk (6) Ranch and La Pesca vicinity at late afternoon; flying low-silent

Common Nighthawk (6) Over ranch, migrating and calling during day, a couple at dusk

Pauraque (several heard) Lawns and thickets near guest house dusk/dawn

Tawny-collared Nightjar (several heard) Lawns and thickets near guest house, dusk/dawn

Chimney Swift (20) Small numbers, mostly with swallows

Buff-bellied Hummingbird (4) Woodland edge below guest house and interior of Zuazua’s forest

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (5) Woodland edge below guest house, thickets near La Pesca

Blue-crowned Motmot (1) Edge of Zuazua’s forest

Elegant Trogon (1 seen, 2 heard) Zuazua’s forest edge and interior

Belted Kingfisher (1) pond edge along road near Laguna La Sal

Golden-fronted Woodpecker (20) Everywhere but beach edge and marshes

Ladder-backed Woodpecker (6) Scattered trees in pastures and thicket edges

Lineated Woodpecker (3) Zuazua’s forest, near guest house (where vocal) and woodland near Laguna Chovenosa

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper (1-2) Zuazua’s forest

Black-crested Titmouse (10) Thicket edge, woodland interior, scattered trees in pastures

Spot-breasted Wren (20, mostly heard), Near La Pesca, Zuazua’s forest, and various ranch locations in dense woodland edge

White-bellied Wren (2 seen, 4-5 heard) Near La Pesca, Zuazua’s forest, and various wooded ranch locations; easily located by sweet, explosive “PEEdaladee” song

Loggerhead Shrike (1-2) trees in open pasture on ranch

White-eyed Vireo (several heard) Mostly in low woodland west of La Pesca

Blue-headed Vireo (4) Woodland edge and scattered trees on ranch

Warbling Vireo (2) Woodland edge on ranch

Philadelphia Vireo (1) Woodland edge on ranch

Red-eyed Vireo (12) Woodland edge, forest canopy, trees at river edge

Green Jay (2 seen, others heard) Thickets and pastures with scattered trees

Brown Jay (60) Ubiquitous except beach and marsh

Tamaulipas Crow (30) Throughout except beach and marsh

Horned Lark (1) Sand flats at Laguna Chovenosa

Purple Martin (30) One west of La Pesca, the balance around ranch buildings

Tree Swallow (10) Mostly migrating along beach

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (20) Mostly migrating along beach, a few over ranch

Bank Swallow (3) Over Rio Soto La Marina

Cliff Swallow (20) Mostly migrating along beach and over ranch

Barn Swallow (thousands) Everywhere but especially common along beach

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet (5) Thickets near Laguna Almagre and on ranch; vocal

Eastern Wood-Pewee (4) Thickets and woodland edge on ranch, also Zuazua’s forest

Least Flycatcher (1 seen, one heard) Woodlands on ranch and Zuazua’s forest

Couch’s Kingbird (not counted) Very common throughout; vocal

Eastern Kingbird (50) Throughout; often as small migrating flocks

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (6) Fence lines near Laguna Almagre and on the ranch

Social Flycatcher (1-2 heard) Thicket near Laguna Almagre

Rose-throated Becard (2 seen, one heard) Zuazua’s forest and open parkland on ranch

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (4) Zuazua’s forest

Catharus sp. (Swainson’s Thrush? glimpsed) (1) Scattered trees on ranch

Gray Catbird (4-6) Singles in wooded patches and in Zuazua’s forest

Northern Mockingbird (10) Open fields, fences, woodland edge

Long-billed Thrasher (1) Woodland west of La Pesca by Laguna Almagre

Tennessee Warbler (2) Scattered trees on ranch

Tropical Parula (1) Zuazua’s forest; vocal

Yellow Warbler (4) Lagoon and woodland edge; all males

Chestnut-sided Warbler (5) Woodland edge and pastures with scattered trees; all males

Magnolia Warbler (4) Zuazua’s forest and several open or wooded edge sites on ranch

Black-and-white Warbler (3) Zuazua’s forest and several open or woods edge sites on ranch; all males

Northern Waterthrush (2) Pond and lagoon edge on ranch

Common Yellowthroat (6) Various marsh edges, one in woodland; those seen were males

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat (1) Weedy SE pasture; singing from tree top and in flight

Summer Tanager (5) Woodland edge or scattered trees; males and females

Scarlet Tanager (15) Woodland edge or scattered trees, males and females

Olive Sparrow (8 seen, many heard) Woodland edges and interior throughout

White-collared Seedeater (1) Roadside west of La Pesca

Yellow-faced Grassquit (2 males, one of which was singing) Roadside west of La Pesca

Botteri’s Sparrow (3) Sacahuiste grass flats near edges of Lagunas Flamingo and Chovenosa, singing during cool, overcast afternoon, no doubt more common

Northern Cardinal (3) Woodland edge on ranch and west of La Pesca

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (10) Scattered at woodland edge, thickets, or trees in pastures; most were females

Blue Bunting (8) Zuazua’s forest and woodland edge on ranch, vocal

Blue Grosbeak (20) Scattered at woodland edge, thickets, or trees in pastures; most were females

Indigo Bunting (250) Scattered trees, woodland edge, many migrating flocks, also heard overhead at 11:30 P.M. on starless evening in Soto La Marina

Painted Bunting (1-2 males) thickets near lodging building

Dickcissel (70) Scattered trees, woodland edge, two migrating flocks, also heard overhead at 11:30 P.M. on starless evening in Soto La Marina

Red-winged Blackbird (common, not counted) Throughout at marsh edge, fencerows, pasture, etc.

Eastern Meadowlark (40) Pastures, roadside, fence lines, etc.

Great-tailed Grackle (Common, not counted) small flocks seen throughout

Bronzed Cowbird (15) Small flocks or males in tree tops

Brown-headed Cowbird (30) A few small flocks

Altamira Oriole (60) Scattered pairs throughout; nesting and vocal

Baltimore Oriole (25) Migrating, occasional small flocks in tree tops

House Sparrow (6) Gas station and yards in La Pesca

(Scientific names are included as common names are not well known)

Zygoptera - Damselflies

Rainpool Spreadwing Lestes forficula (common, ovipositing at pond edges)
Familiar Bluet    Enallagma civile (several-pond edges)
Big Bluet    E. durum (one-pond edge)
Rambur's Forktail Ischnura ramburii (several-pond edges, one pr. copulating)

Anisoptera - Dragonflies

Great Pondhawk Erythemis vesiculosa (one-freshwater pond edge on ranch)
Band-winged Dragonlet Erythrodiplax umbrata (one male-freshwater pond edge on ranch)
Thornbush Dasher?  Micrathyria sp. (hagenii ?) (several-pond & pasture edges)
Roseate Skimmer Orthemis ferruginea (typical form) (common, females ovipositing at pond edges while males hover guarded above)
Wandering Glider   Pantala flavescens (two at pond edge)
Spot-winged Glider P. hymenaea (abundant at ponds, woodland edges, inside forest, etc, many ovipositing in tandem)
Amberwing sp. Perithemis sp tenera / mooma (about four at pond edge, female chasing male)


Polydamas Swallowtail (two along woodland trail)

Ornythion Swallowtail (common at woodland edge)  Note: Other black and yellow swallowtails may have been present; only one was seen well)

Black Swallowtail (probably) (several fast fly-bys in open areas)

Dark Kite Swallowtail (Protographium philolaus) (30+ at woodland and pond edge)

Great Southern White (abundant in salt marsh, lagoon edges, weedy fields)

Lyside Sulphur (many 100s, seen everywhere)

Large Orange Sulphur (one at woodland edge)

Cloudless Sulphur (several at woodland/lagoon edge)

Boisduval’s Yellow (one male at woodland edge)

Little Sulphur (common at lagoon/woodland edge)

Western Pygmy Blue (one at salt marsh edge)

Ceruanus Blue (common at ranch’s lagoon edge and elsewhere)

Reakirt’s Blue (several along lagoon edge near La Pesca)

Red-bordered Pixie (one sunning on ornamental vine in La Pesca)

Phaon Crescent (one in open area)

Vesta Crescent (three in open areas)

Variegated Fritillary (perhaps 10 in open areas)

American / Painted Lady (Vanessa sp.) (1 in SE pasture) inconclusive glimpse

Tropical Leafwing (one at woodland edge)

Gulf Fritillary (one in open area)

Zebra Longwing (three at woodland edge and inside woods)

Queen (three in open areas)

Bordered Patch (one on lawn by guest house)

Carolina Satyr (about 8 in woodland understory)

Guava Skipper (one sunning on ornamental vine in La Pesca)

Tropical Checkered Skipper (several in open areas)

Two-barred Flasher (about 10 in forest understory)

Dorantes Longtail (about 6 in forest understory)

Mazans Scallopwing (one at woodland edge)

Turk’s Cap White Skipper (one in forest understory)

Obscure Skipper (one in salt marsh at La Pesca)

Note: Eric Gustafson plans to add a butterfly garden near the guest quarters..


Indigo Snake (2) One in pasture, one in Zuazua’s forest

Racerunner/Whiptail-type lizard (Ameiva / Cnemidophorus sp.?) Chocolate brown, velvety skin with very fine scales, in open weedy terrain

Pond Turtles


Eastern Cottontail

Squirrel (Sciurus aureogaster is known from the ranch)

White-tailed Deer



(Does not include illustrated Mexican butterfly literature)

Dameron, W. 1999. Butterflies of Tamaulipas, Mexico. (A checklist) Los Angeles, CA: Flutterby Press.

Eubanks, T.E. 1999. Mexico - Tamaulipas: (La Pesca). (A November trip list) Available on the Internet at:

Gustafson, E.W. 2001. Laguna Flamingos: A Groundbreaking Model for Sustainable Ecotourism. Monterrey, N.L. Self published.

Howell, S.N.G. and S Webb. 1995. A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Opler, P.A. 1998. Eastern Butterflies. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Paulson, D.R. and S.W. Dunkle. 2000. The Odonata of North America. Available on the Internet at:

Paulson D.R. and E. Gonzalez Soriano, 2000. Odonata of Mexico by State. Available on the Internet at:

Westfall M.J. and M.L. May 1996. Damselflies of North America. Gainesville: Scientific Publishers, Inc.

Robert A. Behrstock and Seth Davidson
Fermata, Inc, Austin, Texas