Lower Rio Grande Valley Birding Hotspots with Front Range Birding Company

November 2-7, 2021

Green Jay - Rio Grande Valley, Texas

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas is where the Lone Star State’s birding is at its best. The area is a major migration
corridor at the convergence of two flyways and an excellent location for tropical species extending their range beyond Mexico. Over these six days, we’ll spend time getting to know diverse landscapes from Rio Grande City to McAllen, South Padre Island and Harlingen. Each day we’ll visit a variety of birding hotspots in search of Valley specialties including jays, orioles, owls, parrots, chachalacas, and more. With more than 500 species recorded in the region, both expert and novice birders will find an array of avian delights. Join Reefs to Rockies and Front Range Birding Company for an unforgettable fall birding adventure to Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.


About Your Guide: Chip Clouse is the former General Manager of the Front Range Birding Company and a long-time bird tour leader. Originally enamored with tooth and claw predators, his fascination with birds started by volunteering with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor Peregrine Falcon nest sites while an undergraduate and was cemented once he saw his first Western Tanager while working for the Peregrine Fund in Oregon. With 20 years of bird research and project management experience in nine states and the Caribbean nation of Grenada, a Masters in Conservation Biology from Colorado State, five years with the American Birding Association, three years as a rep with Opticron optics and Novagrade Digiscoping adapters and stints guiding at 15+ different US birding festivals, Chip is excited to share his love of birds and habitat in this trip to the places he falls in love with during every trip to Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.


Day 1 (Tues, Nov 2) ~ Afternoon arrival to Valley International Airport (HRL). Chip Clouse, our guide, will meet the group at the airport upon arrival. Continue to Rio Grande City with short birding stops en route.

Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Rio Grande City

Meals: None

Estimated drive time today: HRL Airport to Rio Grande City – 1.5 hrs

Day 2 (Wed, Nov 3): Full day of birding up river hotspots including Falcon State Park, Salineño, and Chapeño. Evening arrival to McAllen where we’ll spend the next two nights. One of our evenings in McAllen will include a stop at the local Green Parakeet roost.

Falcon Lake State Park Area ~ This region offers some of the best sites along the Rio Grande for kingfishers (Ringed and Green), orioles (Altamira, Hooded and Audubon’s), Gray Hawk, Red-crowned Pigeon and the rare wild Muscovy Duck.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn & Suites – McAllen

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated drive times today: Rio Grande City to Salineño and Falcon State Park area – 45-60 mins; Falcon State Park to McAllen – 1.5 hrs

Day 3 (Thurs, Nov 4): Full day of birding including Bentsen – Rio Grande State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and local McAllen hotspots.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn & Suites – McAllen

Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley State Park ~ Birders across the nation know Bentsen as a treasure trove of “Valley Specialties” – tropical birds found nowhere else in the US. The 797-acre Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, together with over 1,200 acres of adjoining U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge tracts, promises year-round nature adventures in the richest birding area north of the Mexican border.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge ~ Located at a crossroads of biodiversity, it is home to species such as Green Jays, Common Pauraques, Plain Chachalacas and Great Kiskadees, which reach the northern limit of their range in this area. At the same time, the refuge is important habitat for birds from the Central and Mississippi flyways that funnel through the area on their way to and from Central and South America.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn & Suites – McAllen

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated drive times today: McAllen to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP – 20 mins; Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP to Santa Ana NWR – 45 mins; Santa Ana NWR to McAllen – 30 mins

Day 4 (Fri, Nov 5): We’ll start our day birding at Estero Llano Grande State Park followed by some of Hidalgo and Cameron Counties’ hotspots before looping back to Harlingen where we’ll spend the next two nights. Either tonight or tomorrow night we’ll end our day of birding at Brownsville’s parrot roost.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites – Harlingen

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated drive times today: McAllen to Estero Llano Grande SP – 30 mins; McAllen to Harlingen – 45 mins

Day 5 (Sat, Nov 6): Full day of birding at Cameron County hotspots including Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and South Padre Island.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge ~ On the Mexican border at the southern tip of Texas, Laguna Atascosa Refuge occupies one of North America’s most biologically diverse regions and sees an impressive 417 species of birds — a number that represents nearly half the total for the continent as a whole. Migrants skirt the Gulf to the east and the desert to the west to funnel through this Central Flyway starting point, while many of the residents are species that reach their northernmost range here along the Rio Grande.

South Padre Island Convention Center ~ Boardwalks over marshes provide visitors up-close encounters with the variety of species that inhabit the region’s wetland habitats. Permanent residents include Brown Pelican, herons, egrets, Clapper Rail, and American Alligator. Wintering species include Peregrine Falcon, Sora, Osprey, and Belted Kingfisher.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites – Harlingen

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated drive times today: Harlingen to Laguna Atascosa NWR – 45 mins; Laguna Atascosa NWR to South Padre Island – 45 mins; South Padre Island to Harlingen – 1 hr

Day 6 (Sun, Nov 7): We have until this afternoon to continue birding the area. Afternoon return to the airport in time for your flight home.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch


Price: $1975* per person based on two people sharing double occupancy accommodations. Add $355* for private accommodations on single occupancy basis.

Inclusions: accommodations, 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches, private ground transportation in a Ford Transit or similar 12-passenger van, full-time guide Chip Clouse, full-time driver from Front Range Birding Company, and entrance fees.

Exclusions: airfare, travel insurance, alcohol, optional gratuities for your driver and guide, and items of a personal nature.

Group size: 6-7 participants + guide + driver

Plan to arrive to Valley International Airport (HRL) by 2 pm on November 2 and depart at 4 pm on November 7.

Please note that all participants must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to travel.