On Wednesday, April 18, James Clark and Don Jeane discovered an unusual mockingbird near the entrance to Sabine Woods, a property owned and managed by the Texas Ornithological Society in Jefferson County on the Upper Texas Coast. Photos of the oddity were shared with other birders who confirmed that the bird in question appeared to be a Tropical Mockingbird, Mimus gilvus. This is a potential first ABA record.
Photo by Terry Ferguson
Tropical Mockingbird is a permanent resident from southern Mexico, including the Yucatan peninsula, throughout Central America into northern Brazil. The species is similar to Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, but lacks the white patches in the wings and shows significantly less white in a longer tail. Vocalizations and behavior are often indistinguishable from Northern Mockingbird and in the past the two species have been considered conspecific (Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, Howell and Webb).
The Sabine Woods property is located two hours east of Houston and just south of Port Arthur. From Port Arthur, travel south on SH 87. The property lies four miles west of Sabine Pass on the north side of the road at the western boundary of Texas Point NWR.
The bird in question has been associating loosely with Northern Mockingbirds near the entrance of Sabine Woods, inside the refuge and to the east of the gate. It was seen as recently as Saturday afternoon.
Sabine Woods is open to all TOS members and members of other contributing organizations. If you are not a member, TOS asks that you pay a $5 entrance fee to use the property.
Tropical Mockingbird is a popular cage bird in Mexico, so its provenance will be well-considered. The location on the Upper Texas Coast, rather than close to the border, may be a point in its favor, however. Other nonmigratory species that nest on the Yucatan peninsula, notably Greenish Elaenia (High Island, Galveston, May 1984) and Yucatan Vireo (Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston, May 1984), have occured in the area in the past and were deemed by rel event organizations to be natural vagrants.
The Upper Texas Coast is well-birded this time of year so the bird will undoubtedly be monitored closely. Steve Mayes (at sgmayes AT hotmail DOT com) of Port Arthur has graciously agreed to act as “keeper of the bird” and to answer specific questions, but for the most up to the minute reports see TexBirds, the Texas state bird listserv.
UPDATE: The bird is still present as of Sunday (4/22) AM.