Tropical Mockingbird in Texas

After being locked into a school field trip yesterday I made the trip to Sabine Woods for the Tropical Mockingbird today. I ran a little late, but left the house at 5:30 am and after stretching the limits of the speed restrictions a bit arrived at the sanctuary by 7:00 am. I was surprised to see the parking lot empty and headed to the clearing where the bird had been reported. One or two folks were already looking. I wandered towards the edge of the woods and then back to the clearing. I caught a Northern Mockingbird that seemed to be interacting with another bird deeper in the foliage and there it was, the Tropical Mockingbird hopped into view.

Tropical Mockingbird Sabine Woods, Texas Photo Stephan Lorenz

I and many other observed the bird for nearly an hour as it flew back and forth, often perching high up in the open. It closely associated with a Northern Mockingbird the entire time, often following the Northern. From what I could observe only the Northern sang on what seemed like a territory. At one point I observed both bird foraging within a foot of each other. It will be interesting to see whether these birds will pair up and attempt a hybrid nesting, which likely would be a first as these two species do not overlap in range. As to origin, natural vagrancy appears likely. Even though the species is non-migratory, Tropical Mockingbirds have expanded their range in places like the Lesser Antilles, as such at least “wandering individuals” occur. In addition the species is common in the Yucatan Peninsula and after crossing the gulf northward, the first and only landfall would be the US coast. It will be interesting to see further discussions. Raffaele’s Birds of the West Indies provides good plates that show both species. The Tropical Mockingbird showed its distinct tail pattern clearly several times while flying across the clearing. Overall a great bird to add to the ABA list.

Tropical and Northern Mockingbird pair? Photo Stephan Lorenz

I walked towards the area where the Black-whiskered Vireo had been observed and the first bird that flew across the trail turned out to be just that. Great looks where had by all as the bird foraged right out in the open, maybe another visitor from further south instead of east.

Black-whiskered Vireo Sabine Woods Texas, Photo Stephan Lorenz

On the way home I checked the turf farms in east Harris Co. and came up with a few Upland Sandpipers and Whimbrels.


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