Rio Grande Valley Butterfly Trail
Google Map to all known sites compiled by Mike Quinn
Cameron County Locations
Opened on December 6, 2008, Brownsville’s Resaca de la Palma State Park is the latest addition to the Rio Grande Valley Butterfly Trail. The park boasts 1700 acres and is the largest tract of native habitat in the World Birding Center network. Abandoned coils of river bed, known locally as resacas, create wildlife-attracting ponds here when full. Along the natural levees of these shallow ponds are dense stands of banco woodlands and marsh vegetation which are excellent butterfly habitats. Elsewhere, drier Tamaulipan thorn woodlands include classic mesquite, anacahuita, crucillo (host for Band-celled Sister), vasey adelia, ebony, large stands of guayacan, anacuas, retama, sennas, and many other caterpillar loving plants.
Resaca de la Palma promises to be an especially rich butterflying environment. Colorful Mexican Bluewings and Band-celled Sisters alight along the vegetation rich trails. The Butterfly Garden next to the visitor center which features crucita, betony leaf mistflower and vevet lantana is frequently visited by Julian and Zebra Heliconians, Queens, Soldiers, Sickle-wing Skippers, Fawn-spotted Skippers and even an occassional Orange-barred Sulphur. Look for Guatemalan Crackers on mesquite trunks and Blue Metalmarks which also visit the gardens. Many other rare and beautiful butterflies are sure to be discovered at Resaca de la Palma State Park.
The grounds in front of the Convention Center (at the north end of the strip)
have been wonderfully
landscaped, primarily to provide habitat for migrating Neotropical
Songbirds, however, the Neotropical Butterflies have found these plants to
their liking as well! Some of the specialties found here are Great Southern
Buckeyes and Obscure
Texas Nature Conservancy's Southmost
Preserve - Brownsville
This preserve of just over 1,000 acres southeast of Brownsville was recently
purchased by the Nature Conservancy. 20 to 30 Zebra Heliconians were seen here
one day in January of 2003. The Texas Master Naturalists have planted a terrific butterfly garden. Access by prior arrangement.
Grove has 13 new Butterfly Gardens located behind the visitor's
center! The Palm Grove is one of the best spots in the Valley to find
numerous Blue Metalmarks and
Fawn-spotted Skippers. The Resaca Trial passes through open habitat and
has much Eupatorium blooming from October through November. Double-dotted
Skipper is best found here. If time permits, explore the Forest
Trail for Zebra Heliconians. Sickle-winged Skippers are guaranteed.
45,000-acre wildlife refuge offers incredible birding opportunities and
the butterflying ain't bad either! The excellent large butterfly garden has
been recently been expanded upon near the visitors’ center. Theona Checkerspots are usually
found here. Over 50 Clytie Ministreaks were reported during the
summer of 2001. An estimated 300 Blue Metalmarks (!) were recorded in the
gardens in late October of 2003.
Lomas near Brownsville
"Lomas" are stabilized clay dunes. Some of the lomas east of
Brownsville along Hwy 4 are managed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. These
tracts are open to foot
traffic and should be checked for Tiny
Patches and Xami
Walk the trails to look for Definite
Texas Ebony woodlands dominate 55-acre Hugh Ramsey Park to the east, while the 40-acre Harlingen Thicket to the west.
Many butterfly host and nectar plants are maintained here. Urania
moths were seen here in August of 2005. Texas Master Naturalists and countless other volunteers have spent thousands of hours planting and maintaining native butterfly gardens along the woodland trails of Hugh Ramsey Park which is also home to one of the nine Rio Grande Valley Birding Centers. Look for this to be a favorite hotspot in the coming years. Look for the Blue Metalmarks on the perennial favorite, heliotrope.
This 81 acre preserve normally has a few Blue Metalmarks daily, however in
the fall of 2002 over 50 Blue Metalmarks were found daily!!! Other regular
target species usually seen here include Mexican Bluewings and several species
of Heliconians. At the intersection of Hwys 100 and 77, it's an easy stop on the
way to or from Brownsville or the coast. They continually are expanding their
butterfly garden areas.
Hidalgo County Locations
Nature Center's 5-acre park has many excellent butterfly-attracting
plants; lots of Eupatorium, Lantana,
Helianthus, and Asclepias are well established. Here
the butterflier should delight in seeing many Bordered Patches, Vesta,
Phaon and Pearl Crescents, White Peacocks, and Soldiers. Six species of
tailed Skippers can be discerned here: Brown Longtail, Teleus Longtail,
White-striped Longtail, Zilpa Longtail, Dorantes Longtail and the
Long-tailed Skipper! Red-bordered Pixies and Guava Skippers are good
possibilities too. Recent notable sightings include the Broad-banded
Swallowtail, Orange-barred Sulphur, Tailed Orange, Great Purple
Hairstreak, Zebra Heliconian, Isabella Heliconian, Elada Checkerspot,
Malachite, Red Rim and Ruddy Daggerwing.
A must stop for every casual or serious butterflier! Frontera Audubon is one of the premier butterfly destinations of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It's spectacular native gardens and legendary thicket have produced such rarities and specialities as the Starred Skipper, Gray Cracker, Pale-banded Crescent, Silver-banded Hairstreak, East-Mexican White Skipper, and the Ruby-spotted Swallowtail. Begin butterflying the many nectar plants that surround the parking lot.
There are more butterfly plants along the forested trails. In back, the trails
open up to a Sabal Palm forest and full sun again. Frontera Audubon is behind the large stucco building
at 12th and Texas Blvd (FM 88).
1101 South Texas Blvd
Golden Raintree Gardens - Weslaco
Private property immediately south of Frontera Audubon at 1303 S.
Texas Blvd. This is a citrus outlet that is extensively landscaped. They are
seasonally open. Phone: 956-968-6161
Locally known as "Llano Grande" (pronounced YA-no gran-DE), this
176 acre park is a new addition to the park system due south of Weslaco on FM
1015. This is a premiere location for Dragonflies.
The Butterfly Garden between the parking lot and the Visitors' Center is
one of the premiere butterflying hot spots in the nation. Over 60 species
of Butterflies can be seen in this small area a few hours, particularly in
the late Summer and Fall. If you can tear yourself away from the garden,
the wooded trails particularly around Willow Lake should be explored for
Zebras, Julias, Malachites and Mexican Bluewings. The open habitat around
Cattail and Pintail Lakes should be investigated for Silver-banded
Hairstreaks on their host plant, Ballonvine. Jaguarundi Trail is
encompassed by the greatest plant diversity on the refuge. Theona
Crescents, Vesta Crescents, Elada Checkerspots, Laviana White-Skippers and
Desert Checkered-Skippers are usually common here but _anything_ might show
up. Santa Ana NWR has a recently revised Butterfly List with 291 species.
It is free for the asking at the Visitors' Center and very helpful Valley-wide.
current 100+ LRGV tracts compliment an existing wildlife corridor, lands
managed for the benefit of wildlife by the Texas Parks and Wildlife
Department, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, private
landowners and the Santa Ana and Laguna Atascosa NWRs. LRGV NWR will
eventually encompass 132,500 acres.
This is Edinburg's station of the World Birding Center. Six acres of
butterfly plants were put in the ground in the fall of 2002. These plants were
augmented by mulch, manure and 9 miles (!!) of drip irrigation. By the fall of
2003 rarities such as Red-crescent Scrub-Hairstreaks, Lantana
Scrub-Hairstreaks, and Many-banded Daggerwing were starting to show up. To get
there, travel north from Pharr on US 281 to Edinburg. Take the Sprague exit
and travel east.
An urban butterfly oasis and a must stop on the RGV butterfly trail. Birds, butterflies, and culture...who could ask for anything more? Amidst urban sprawl, Quinta Mazatlan is a shining tribute to conservation efforts in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Located across the street from the entrance to the McAllen Airport, Quinta Mazatlan
has 15 acres of habitat including numerous butterfly gardens and trails. It is the home to another of the nine Rio Grande Valley World Birding Centers . Simple equation...Birding Centers = Birds and Bountiful Butterflies. Since all World Birding Centers are surrounded by native trees, plants, and flowers, they have all become top butterfly attractants. Quinta will bedazzle you with butterflies, birds, architecture, art, and more! Expect lots of butterfly news and new records from here.
The Hidalgo, Texas wing of the World Birding Center. The Magic Valley’s early 20th Century transition into an agricultural powerhouse is retold at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, which also embraces nature conservation as a wing of the World Birding Center. . Visitors can wander the museum’s grounds, where many type of native trees, shrubs, and flowers attract large numbres of butterflies. Next door to the museum, more than 600 acres of U.S. Fish and Wildlife land is being replanted with native Huisache, Texas Ebony and Anacua, and will be a magnet for rare Mexican butterfly strays as well as an excellent habitat for all the South Texas specialties. The Pumphouse is a must stop on the Lower Rio Grande Valley Butterfly Trail and a great place to take the family for a picnic.
Mission West RV Park - Mission
Private property located at 3805 W. Business Hwy
83. They have an extensive Duranta
hedge along left-most fence line. Phone: 956-585-5551
With good rains, this site can be quite productive. In the fall of 2003, FIVE
Pavon Emperors were found in one day, along with Red Rims, Mexican Bluewings and
The best place to watch butterflies in the Rio Grande Valley. Located along the Rio Gande River, the Park has beautiful butterfly gardens and trails. This 100 acre butterfly oasis is "Dedicated to education, conservation
and scientific research on wild
The National Butterfly Center gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the North American Butterfly Association*, public/private funding , and visitors that pay the admission fee. It is through these contributions that the Park continues to grow, maintain its beautiful gardens, pay its staff, and provide a sanctuary for wild butterflies.
Won't you help make the
National Butterfly Center at NABA Butterfly Park
grow by donating generously!
Your tax deductible donations can
be sent directly to:
National Butterfly Center
P.O.Box 878 Mission, Tx 78573
*Please note that membership in the North American Butterfly Association does not include free admission to the Butterfly Park.
Two large Wild Olive Trees in front of the Visitors' Center is a great
place to begin butterflying this state park. Look for a variety of
Swallowtails and Skippers. Bentsen has one of the newest butterfly gardens
in the Valley but due to the sprinkler system (paid for by the Mission
Chamber of Commerce), this garden by the boat ramp has made great strides.
Red-bordered Metalmarks can be particularly common here. The Rio Grande
Hiking Trail, Dump Road and Trailer Loop can all be productive. Look for
Mexican Bluewings, Red Rims, Florida Purplewings, Gray Crackers and
Tropical Leafwings. Due to the abundant Hackberry Trees, Empress Leilias
and Tawny Emperors abound. Many species of butterflies have been recorded
in Bentsen State Park and nowhere else in North America.
This small urban garden in front of the Mission Chamber never ceases to
amaze me! One and 1/2 blocks east of 9th Street and Conway Blvd in the
middle of Mission. This is probably the most reliable place in the Valley
to find the Guava Skipper. As many as 6 have been seen here at one time!!!
Other hot butterflies seen here include the Silver-banded Hairstreak,
Mexican Fritillaries (4 at one time), Red-bordered Pixies and Banded
Peacocks. This site is definitely worth checking.
Lucy's Garden - Mission
butterfly garden at the West parking lot of Mission City Hall and another small garden next to the Parks and Recreation building. It's truly
amazing how many species have been attracted to these modest gardens. Potrillo and
Guava Skippers, Red-bordered Pixies, Florida Whites, Blue-eyed Sailors, Evan's Skipper, Mournful and Funereal Duskywings and most any other RGV butterfly can be seen here.
Starr County Locations
On the steep north bank of the Rio Grande immediately west of the
International Bridge in Roma, there is a small remnant of habitat that can
be quite productive. This single location has produced a number of new
Starr County Records. (Caution must be exercised here due to the uneven
footing and the steepness of the bank.) The possibilities of this site can
be glimpsed by the following list of butterflies seen on a single day in
August of last year by Charlie Sassine: (1) Band-celled Sister, (9) Mexican
Bluewings, (1) Red Rim, (3) Gray Crackers, and (1) Pale-spotted Leafwing!!!
Also, as many as 12 Polydamas Swallowtails have been seen here in a day!
Starr County is perhaps the best location to find a new record for the
United States. The drainage from the Sierra de los Picachos of northeastern
Mexico empties into the Rio Grande in this area.
This sleepy town can be crawling with butterflies, particularly in the fall.
Search down along the river, but also take time to walk the streets. Four Banded
Peacocks were found in the fall of 2003.
A new and spectacular butterfly garden inside the Park has attracted many recent rare and unusual sighitngs including the 1st modern U.S. record of the Telea Hairstreak. Other rare and extraorindary finds in 2007 were the Ruddy Hairstreak, East-Mexican White-Skipper, California Sister, Guatemalan Cracker, Common Banner, Eight-spotted Longtail, Red Rim, Ruby-spotted Swallowtail. Lacey's Scrub-Hairstreak, White Scrub-Hairstrreak, Curve-winged Metalmark, Blue Metalmark, Banded Patch, Banded Peacock, and many many more. On November 17, 2007, 1st U.S. Record Guatemalan Leafwing was found at this location.