I’ve decided to deviate a bit on the Bird of the Month. All previous BOTM’s have been birds that are seen in Indiana. For this month, I’ve decided to go outside our state.

I’ve had occasion to do quite a bit of birding across our great country for some years now. I’ve had such wonderful experiences! So I’ve decided to highlight a bird outside our state once, maybe twice a year, going forward. I think this will enhance our collective enjoyment of birds, in general. I think it will also, further, stimulate our interest in protecting birds and their habitat.

For the last few years I’ve been able to make it to what is undoubtedly one of the top birding destinations in all of the United States, the Rio Grande Valley. The Rio Grande Valley is geographically located in the southernmost tip of South Texas. This is where the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival (RGVBF) is held in Harlingen, Texas, during the month of November. Have you been there? Through conversation, I’ve learned that many of my fellow Hoosiers have.

White-tailed HawkTo select one of the few hundred birds I saw during my last trip is difficult, but here we go…

Let’s face it…raptors are some of the coolest of birds. Two of the trips held during this festival focus on these birds. One is the “Valley Raptors Trip” and the other is the “Raptor Banding Trip”. I’ve been on both of these trips. Believe me, if you want a dose of “raptors”, you will get it!

This leads me to one of my favorite raptors for BOTM: the White-tailed Hawk!

The RGV is the northern limit of the White-tailed Hawk’s range that extends southward into central Argentina. (They’ve also established themselves on several Caribbean islands.) They are an absolutely stunning buteo. They are large and stocky. This bird is primarily known for a coloring of gray above and white below, but views of this bird while perched, the rusty-red shoulder patch of the adult is quite noticeable. And of course the adult sports that lovely white tail, for which it gets its name. (But it takes about 3 to 4 years for them to get into adult plumage.)

White-tailed HawkI would love to see some of my Hoosier friends down at the RGVBF next year. If you do come, consider joining me on the Valley Raptors Trip and/or the Raptor Banding Trip. We’ll have a GREAT time! (My wife LeShon had a great time! Check her out releasing a juvenile White-tailed Hawk after measurements and banding. One of the 23 birds that were captured, banded, and released that day.)

Thanks to Kevin Karlson for the photos.

Enjoy birding!

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