One of the most spectacular, important, and envy-inducing birding festivals in North America happens to be the one situated along the Mexican border in South Texas. The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen, TX is the real deal, a birding festival by birders for birders with truly breath-taking birds.

If you’ve ever dreamed of attending the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, the time is now. Why is this year special? How about a multiple choice question?

(A) This may be the last year the region is ecologically unmarred by a controversial triple chain link border fence.
(B) Many of your favorite birding authors, editors, guides, and “personalities” will be there.
(C) The Second Annual Bird Blogger Conference should be as much fun as the first.
(D) I’ll be there!

It doesn’t take a test guru to get that choice (E) is the answer. All of those reasons are incredibly compelling. And, if you didn’t follow the bird blogger conference link, you might not have realized that Birdchick will also be there, and she’s a hoot!

But as important as each of the items above are, the true draw of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival has to be the birds. As you may know, I’ve seen a few North and Central American species in my day. Yet, as I drooled over last year’s bird list, I spotted at least 20 potential life birds and probably an additional 20 ABA birds. If keeping an ABA list matters to you, the Rio Grande Valley is your destiny… don’t fight it. Consider these specialty species, extremely likely to be seen on one or more of the planned excursions:

RAPTORS: Gray Hawk; Harris Hawk; Hook-billed Kite; Crested Caracara; Aplomado Falcon
CORVIDS: Green Jay; Chihuahuan Raven
WATERFOWL: Least Grebe; Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Duck; Muscovy Duck
DOVES: White-tipped Dove; Red-billed Pigeon
PARROTS: Red-crowned Parrots; Green Parakeets
KINGFISHERS: Green and Ringed Kingfisher
FLYCATCHERS: Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet; Great Kiskadee; Tropical and Couch’s Kingbird
SONGBIRDS: Tropical Parula; Altamira Oriole; Audubon’s Oriole
SPARROWS: Olive Sparrow; Botteri Sparrow; Cassin’s Sparrow

Add to this incredible list absolute stunners like Plain Chachalaca, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Clay-colored Robin, Long-billed Thrasher, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Groove-billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy-OwlWhite-collared Seedeater, Pyrrhuloxia, Scaled Quail, and Common Pauraque.  This is just the list of Rio Grande Valley birds you’re unlikely to see anywhere else in the United States! Add in the general, run-of-the-mill Texas treats and the insane pelagic species off the Gulf of Mexico and you’ve got yourself, if I may be so bold, the trip of a lifetime. And I have it on good authority that the butterflies are off the hook!

So if you were ever going to attend this essential event, make it the 15th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival scheduled November 5-9, 2008. Join me and many of the most inspired birders in North America as we hit, among other places, hotspots like Anzalduas County Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Resaca de las Palmas State Park, Sabal Palms, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, South Padre Island, King Ranch, and of course San Ygnacio & Zapata and the Upper Rio Grande.

Bird bloggers should be on red alert for this one. Not only do you get to enjoy all of the aforementioned avifaunal attractions, but you might qualify for a discount. The heady mix of South Texas birds, blogs, and beer may ruin us all for other festivals but that’s a chance I’m willing to take. How about you?

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.