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McAllen is for the Birds!

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McAllen, Texas sits at the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, a 100 mile east-west expanse along the northern bank of the Rio Grande River separating the United States from México which includes South Padre Island, Brownsville, Harlingen, Alamo, Port Isabel, Phar, Edinburg, Mercedes, Mission, and Weslaco (pronounced wes-la-coe).

As the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley with an estimated 140,000 denizens, McAllen is an international draw for its 120 miles of bird habitats, ranging from coastal wetlands to freshwater marshes, Riverside thickets, and dry chaparral brush.

As a result, visitors will find nine distinctive birding centers along this migrating stretch designed to highlight, preserve, and educate the public about this natural ecological area which is home to over 500 species of birds and butterflies—some not found anywhere else in the U.S.—and other wildlife.

Each of these centers offer its own unique indoor and outdoor exhibits, walking trails, bird blinds, and observation platforms, historic structures, organized bird walks—some of which go no further than the Rio Grande Valley—and more. 

Quinta Mazatlán

One of the most popular birding entities in the Valley is Quinta Mazatlán, the McAllen Wing of the World Birding Center—“Quinta” is Spanish for an estate, villa, or country house, and “Mazatlán” is an ancient Indian translation in México meaning “Land of the Deer.”

Each year, Quinta Mazatlán boasts about 2.4 million visitors, an estimated 40,000 of them international guests coming from México, the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia, where there are scores of birding and wildlife enthusiasts.

This stunning, urban oasis here is centered around a beautiful historic Spanish revival adobe-style hacienda built in the 1930s by an aviator who was captivated with this area from the sky. Inside, visitors will find a remarkable attention to detail in the tile, flooring, carved doors, archways, fireplace surrounds and other elements, plus a handful of early history exhibits, an art gallery, and bookstore.

Over the years, the property has grown to encompass 20 acres of birding habitats, unique South Texas native woodlands, serene walking trails, wetlands, private reflection areas, a sculpture trail featuring 30 beautiful bronze sculptures, and an outdoor patio and pool area for special events.

Environmental education is also a major focus here, as “A mansion with a Mission” designed to restore one backyard at a time by encouraging the Valley community to grow native plants that support the natural environment.

Quinta Mazatlán and the Valley are also home to two large, nocturnal, secretive, people-shy wild cats. The Jaguarundi is a beautiful black, brownish-grey, or red cat (it looks like a large weasel) weighing up to 20 pounds, 14 inches tall, and 35 to 55 inches long. The Ocelot, a South American cat resembling a leopard or cheetah, is an endangered species due to poaching for its spectacular fur, and in the U.S. there are only 50 known ocelots, all of which are believed to live here.

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Encompassing 760-acres and adjoining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge tracts, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is one of the top birding destinations in the country, so much so that it is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week!

Part of the serene beauty and experience here is that no motorized vehicles are allowed, only the quiet electric shuttles which stop at several picturesque feeding and viewing spots to view the cornucopia of bird species including Green Jays, Chacalacas, and other resident winged creatures.

There is also an abundance of hiking trails, a primitive campground, a fishing spot, and a Hawk Tower. The tower is unique in that unlike most observation towers, it is a graduated, wheelchair accessible ramp that winds its way up two stories high, offering spectacular vistas of the area and across the Rio Grande River into México.

Estero Llano Grande

In nearby Weslaco you’ll encounter the spectacular Estero Llano Grande. Representing the largest wetlands environment in the World Birding Center network, the expansive property here encompasses a secure nesting bird island, and a lake populated by marsh cane and other native plants and shrubs where literally hundreds of birds, some endangered species, migrate through or make their home.

Estero Llano Grande is also home to an astounding 300 species of butterflies, half of which are on only found in South Texas, and 111 species of dragonflies.

Among the native animals here are owls, bobcats, nutria, turtles, and alligators, the latter found in Alligator Lake, so called because its shape resembles one.

Rounding out the World Birding Network is the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Harlingen Arroyo Colorado, Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, Resaca de la Palma, Roma Bluffs and the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

Learn more about McAllen – A Rising Star in Texas!


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