This exciting wildlife festival includes two birding trips to Mexico and five trips in the Southern Arizona region where birders will have the opportunity to see a host of nesting migratory birds, particularly hummingbirds, along with permanent feathered residents. For more in formation visit www.santacruznatureheritage.org
Dates: 2-5 May 2013
Venue: Rio Rico
Country: United States
Organized by the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance, the Yucatan Birding Festival offers birders the opportunity to view the birds of the Celestun Biosphere Reserve. Home to the American Flamingo and more than 300 bird species (resident, migratory and endemic), the reserve boasts tropical forest, sand dune vegetation and mangrove forest habitats. For more information visit www.travelwithmea.org
Dates: 13-18 December 2012
Venue: Celestun Biosphere Reserve
The Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris) is commonly found throughout the year in Mexico, Northern Argentina and central Chile, with a few being recorded in Guatemala. They are both coastal and inland birds, and frequent beaches, wetland areas, rivers and even ponds. Adult Collared Plovers are white on their bellies, with a black band across their chests. Male Collared Plovers have white on their foreheads with chestnut coloring on their midcrown and nape. Their legs are yellow in color and in flight, plumages are dark featuring a white wing bar. The females look very similar to their male counterparts, except for having a brown tinge to their black feathers.
These coastal and inland birds are extremely wary and are generally loners, very rarely being seen in flocks. They have a unique manner of scavenging for food, which is referred to as a run-and-pause technique. Most wader groups will use probing to find the insects and invertebrates, but the Plover prefers to keep moving, only stopping at intervals at the sight of movement. Nests are either built in the ground just above the tide line, or more inland. Female Collared Plovers lay two to four eggs at a time that are cream in color and have brown blotches. The males will engage in ground displays, to catch the eye of a suitable partner. Collared Plovers do not change plumage during or between breeding seasons.
As research has shown that the number of individual Collared Plovers is estimated at approximately 10,000, there is no cause for concern in regard to the conservation of the species. Due to the minimal decline in the population over ten years, these birds are not expected to reach the threshold of extinction any time soon. Conservationists are constantly monitoring the populations, but it is safe to say that these fast running birds will be seen along the shores for many years.
The Gray Hawk (Asturina nitida) is a small raptor that is 15 inches in length and has a wingspan of 35 inches. It is predominantly gray in color, with its throat and belly being white with barred gray coloring. Its upper tail coverts are white and it has very pale colored plumage under its wings. The Gray Hawk is resident to the southwestern United States regions, Mexico, Arizona, Central Argentina and Brazil.
Gray Hawks prefer to live in forests and woodland areas. It is not unusual to see them in agricultural fields, savanna trees and in open patches between forests. They prey on small animals, birds and snakes, and stalk their prey from perches in the trees. Once a prey animal has been sighted, the Grey Hawk will swoop down from the tree and catch its meal. Hawks are also known to hunt for prey, while gliding low to the ground, and are very agile hunters. They can maneuver themselves through the trees very swiftly. Nests are built high up in the trees from sticks, and are lined with leaves. Both the male and female will participate in the construction of the nest; of which the male will build the foundation of the nest, and the female will construct the bowl. The female hawk will lay between one to three white eggs that can sometimes be marked with red and pale blue. Only the female Grey Hawk takes part in the incubation of the eggs; however, the male provides her with food for the first two weeks. The incubation period is approximately 33 days. After the two weeks, the female is able to participate in hunting. It has not been established exactly how long it takes the chicks to be able to hunt. The chicks fledge the nest at approximately six weeks.
In Texas and Arizona, the Gray Hawk is considered a threatened species, even though is does not have an official conservation status. It is the low population numbers that have led these areas to implement conservation programs around the Gray Hawk, and to monitor breeding pairs. These projects can be very beneficial to the over sensitive Gray Hawks. They are known to be very skittish, and will sometimes abandon their nests as a result of an innocent domestic disturbance, such as a picnic that is held too close for comfort.
Native to Mexico, Central America and northern Nicaragua, the Green Parakeet (Aratinga holochlora) has also managed to establish itself somewhat in southeast Texas. As the Green Parakeet is generally considered to be non-migratory, it is unclear whether the self-sustaining population found in Texas is the result of breeding between feral released birds or whether they are the result of wild birds which have moved here from Mexico to take advantage of potential food supplies. Since feral populations of Green Parakeet have been found in other parts of the world, both explanations are quite plausible.
Generally speaking, the Green Parakeet is about 32 cm in length and bright green in color. Though the bird’s entire body is generally described as being ‘green’, one may find that the green on the upper parts is darker while the undersides have a yellowish-green coloring. It also has a long, pointed tail and has a fairly rapid wing-beat. The bird has a compact yellow beak which it uses to feed on seeds, nuts, berries and fruit. Unfortunately the Green Parakeet may sometimes choose to feed on corn and is therefore sometimes considered to be a crop pest. Wild parakeets are most often found in wooded habitats such as scrub, swampy forests, woodlands and forest clearings but they tend to stay away from tropical rainforests. In the cities they generally make use of palm groves and they may be found in flocks of up to 100 birds out of breeding season.
During breeding season the Green Parakeet will usually pair off and find a hole in a tree, crevice, termite mound or cliff face where it can nest. In urban areas they may also make use of holes in buildings. Here it may lay 3-4 eggs between January and April. After breeding season has ended, the birds will generally flock together again and will abandon their nests in favour of a large, communal roost. Unfortunately, populations of the Green Parakeet in the US and Mexico have dwindled somewhat due to the capture of wild birds for trade and the loss of habitat for agriculture. However, several protected areas have been established to ensure the continuance of the species, though more work must be done to prevent the bird from becoming a threatened species.