HARLINGEN — Birdwatchers have come from far and wide to get a glimpse of natural wildlife beauty only seen in the Rio Grande Valley.

More than 550 people from all over the world will take part in the 25th annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

“Many people are coming in from Mexico, Uganda, Australia, and the United Kingdom,” said Sue Griffin, Birding Festival chairwoman. “They are very unique people who are extremely excited to add birds to their list that can only be seen here.”

She said birders keep what is called a “Life List” that documents all of the birds they have seen throughout their life.

And Griffin expects many of the participants are eager and will be excited to extend their “Life List” at this year’s festival.

Birders have been coming to Harlingen to find the 30 of the 900 birds in Texas that can only be found in the Valley.

She said its kind of a competition for some people.

“This is the only place they can get some of those bids in the United States,” Sue said.

The festival will run from today until Sunday.

The festival is packed with more than 120 field trips led by experienced guides, into the area’s unique habitat seeking out the RGV specialty birds.

Many of the people will be armed with binoculars large and small to help them spot any of the rare birds to add to their list.

“There are 30 unique birds in the Rio Grande Valley,” Griffin said. “We have Kiskadee, Green Jay and many unique birds.”

The Anhinga can also be found in the area. The large bird has a snake-like head.

“They are very unusual,” Griffin said. “They are called the snake bird because when they are going through the water all you see is there head.”

The festival prides itself on its offering of a variety of activities for families on site at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium.

Families can enjoy an entire area dedicated to nature activities called Kiskadee Korner, Jonathan Wood and his Raptor Show, the Big Sit, Baile Folklorico, a free bird walk and the Birders Bazaar, a bustling trade show.

The field trips range from rides to find birds on the King Ranch, Laredo and Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco just a few minutes away from Harlingen.

“For the second year we are offering field trips for people who are wheelchair bound.”

She said the filed trip is also led by a woman who is wheelchair bound.

“It’s an event open to the public. They just have to pay the registration fee and pay to go on the field trip,” Sue said.

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Festival registration is $25 per person and field trips range from $65 to $125 depending on the distance of the field trip.

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Number of species of birds by region

North America 950

United States 800

Texas has 600

Rio Grande Valley 500

Only found here 30

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WHAT: 25th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival,

WHEN: November 7-11,

WHERE: 1204 Fair Park Blvd., Harlingen