Friday, December 16, 2011

Eating Crow - Royal Tern in Hidalgo County

I'm known for being a cynic - I may not be from Missouri, but I like to see photos or descriptions when I'm told about rare birds. There are a few species that I hear reports of, but never see documentation. I've come to question the status of these birds within Hidalgo County, an inland county in Texas.

One such species is the Royal Tern. It's common on the coast, but that's an hour away. I have heard many reports of Royal Terns in Hidalgo County but never seen one myself. I had no idea I was in excellent company - long time local birder Dan Jones had a similar hole in his county list. Today, I called Dan Jones about a Bonaparte's Gull at the Donna Reservoir - and he paid me back with a call about a Royal Tern that he found when he went to look for the Bonie. I still think many reports of Royals in the county are begging juvenal Caspian Terns. Juv Caspians are still peeping and following adults in fall and winter when most Royal Terns are reported.You can see the long, narrow, orange-yellow bill; white forehead with black extending from eye to eye across the back of the head; clear white wingtips with a narrow black border on the trailing edge below; narrow wings throughout their length; and more forked tail compared to Caspian Tern.
Directions to the Donna Reservoirs - from US 83 on the west side of Donna, take FM 1423 (Val Verde Road) south to Business 83. Follow 1423 east to its continuation on Valley View Road south, which bisects the Donna Reservoirs. This is a good area for diving ducks, herons, egrets, swallows, and gulls and terns in winter.