Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Plain Chachalaca

The chachalaca is a bird I'd never heard of until my trip to northeastern Mexico and deep southern Texas. There are 16 species spread out from Mexico through Central America and deep into South America, but one of those species, the plain chachalaca, is found in the Rio Grande Valley at the tip of southern Texas. 
Plain chachalaca in southern Texas. The greenish color on the long tail feathers was distinctive. 
This more fuzzy photo, as well as the next two that follow, were taken through the car windshield. 
We visited Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge which is about 20 miles north and a little west of Port Isabel, Texas, the gateway to South Padre Island (that is the Visitor Center, the Refuge is quite large). It is the largest area of protected natural habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. 
As we drove into the Refuge we noticed a grouping of chachalacas (but had no idea what they were at the time) along the road. I stopped the car and got a few pictures through the car windshield (which are fuzzy) and finally got a window rolled down and got some photos through the open window which are much better. 
Later as we walked some trails around the Visitor Center we saw some more perched in trees and making a racket. It was a great photo opportunity but I couldn't get my camera to focus.

There are five subspecies of plain chachalaca (Ortalis vetula) and we saw O. v. mccallii, which is found from extreme southern Texas to northern Veracruz in Mexico.
Distribution map for the plain chachalaca from Wikipedia. 
The "call is a loud, raucous...cha-cha-LAW-ka" which gives it its name. It is about the size of a pheasant and both males and females look the same. Adults have a grayish head and neck, a dull olive-brown body and wings, a blackish tail with green gloss and a buffy-white tip, a long neck with with a small head and bare throat patch, dull gray feet, a black bill and orbital skin around the eye, and a brown iris. 
They are hunted in southern Texas as a game bird. 

1 comment:

  1. Is it "plain" as in "unadorned" or "plain" as in a geographical location? It doesn't look plain (version 1) to me!