Enjoying the Birds and Butterflies of McAllen Texas and the Rio Grande Valley

Read more about birding and butterflies in McAllen Texas and the Rio Grande Valley at http://www.offbeattravel.com/mcallen-texas-birding-butterflies-rio-grande-valley.html

The Rio Grande Valley area is a major USA birding area. Not only is it home to many tropical bird species found nowhere else in the United States, it's also the junction of two major north-south migration routes. As the largest city in the RGV, McAllen is a perfect home base for birding and butterflies. And the town itself is a special kind of Tex Mex sophistication.

Quinta Mazatlan

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Located on part of a tiny ecoregion, the Tamaulipan Thornforest is a fast vanishing area limited to southern Texas and parts of northeastern Mexico. Quinta Mazatlan shelters a mix of less-than-inviting vegetation--to humans at least--of cactus, mesquite and varieties of spiny shrubs but is considered to be an endangered ecoregion--fast disappearing in the face of development.

But visitors don't come to admire the vegetation, they come to view some of the over 160 species that live in the area or fly in and over for their migration. Several of the resident species are not commonly found and thus are the delight of birders. These include Plain Chachalacas, Common Pauraques, Clay-colored Thrushes, Green Jays, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, and Olive Sparrows.

Quinta Mazatlan is set up to make that easy with feeders scattered around the grounds and benches near prime birding spots. Bronze sculptures to add extra visual appeal.

When you've strolled, spotted, and photographed the grounds of Quinta Mazatlan, take a tour of the house and learn about the 10,000 square-foot 1930s Spanish Revival adobe hacienda. Not only an early engineering marvel, but the creation of an unusual couple. The name was given by the owners, Jason & Marcia Matthews, who frequented the city of Mazatlan in Mexico. "Quinta" came from the Spanish meaning a country house, villa or estate.

You won't be left on your own to wander, unless you prefer, Quinta Mazatlan offer a variety of tours, included in the $3 price of admission. Quinta Mazatlan is also a member of the World Birding Center which is a consortium of excellent birding sites along the Rio Grande Valley

Read more about birding and butterflies in McAllen Texas and the Rio Grande Valley at http://www.offbeattravel.com/mcallen-texas-birding-butterflies-rio-grande-valley.html

The National Butterfly Center

It was a chilly March morning when I visited the National Butterfly Center and not a butterfly was to be found. Even the monarchs delayed their flight due to the weather, and yet, I was utterly charmed. Although butterflies are the reason to visit, there really is more to see than just these colorful Lepidoptera.

The best time to visit is generally in October and November, but there are butterflies making their way through in other months of the year. In fact, Grounds Manager Max Munoz has made a study of the preferences of butterflies. Plans are in the works to plant trees and bushes to attract specific varieties so that future visitors will be able to see the varieties of butterflies self-sorted by species in different gardens.

Part of the acreage of the Center is forest, with trails bordered by butterfly-friendly bushes and plants, but there's also a large bird feeding station. Twice a day the birds converge on the trees and stumps of the station for their avian treats. Visitors can watch and photograph their interactions with each other and their feeding from conveniently placed benches.

The National Butterfly Center is actually located in the nearby town of Mission Texas, next to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, another of the designated World Birding Centers, sharing the same general environment, and attracting similar birds.


Several of the lodging chains are in McAllen, and I stayed in Homewood Suites --friendly staff, excellent complimentary breakfast and they even have complimentary dinners 4 nights a week. Perfect for extended stays --they will even pick up missing items from the market to help you stock your fridge.

For a bit of luxury in a historic hotel, the Renaissance-Casa de Palmas, built in 1918 around a lovely courtyard and pool has been beautifully restored with rooms designed for modern comfort. But be aware that there are some rooms have their patio doors opening onto a dark concrete wall. With no source of outside light the rooms can be quite dim.

For more information on visiting go to their tourism site at McAllen Texas

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Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: June 2nd, 2015

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