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CREATE AND INSPIRE
Author: Emily Clayton
Venture over to a birding hotspot in Texas, and suddenly, all eyes are on you. Birders of all ages watch you through binoculars while they await their feathered guests. That's because the Lone Star state — ideally situated along the Central and Mississippi flyways — hosts abundant migratory and year-round birding grounds.
Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails
The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails are part of the Great Texas Wildlife Trails. The Wildlife Trails, divided into five sections, cover the entire state; the Birding Trails are limited to the coastal regions.
Within the Birding Trails are three subsections: Upper, Central, and Lower Texas Coast. Some of the best bird-watching sites include:
These sites are diverse and support a multitude of bird species. Shorebirds and other waterbirds, as well as prairie, marsh, meadow, and forest songbirds, all flock to the Texas Coast. Peak times occur during the migratory and winter seasons.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
The Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located on the eastern portion of the Chihuahuan Desert near the New Mexico-Texas border. Even though the region is arid, biological diversity is surprisingly high; bird watching is a popular activity in the park. Guadalupe is located at a crossroads and features diverse areas like riparian springs, wooded canyons, mountain forests, and desert dunes.
Many birds, such as vireos, tanagers, and warblers, stop over during their migratory travels for rest and refueling. Resident birds range from desert to forest species, and they also take advantage of the natural resources in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge along the Gulf Coast encompasses over 115,000 acres of salt and freshwater marshes, oak savannahs, prairies, lagoons, and dunes. The mainland portion is open to the public; however, the Matagorda Island Unit, a string of barrier islands, is protected as foraging and nesting grounds.
The Aransas Refuge is also the winter home of the last wild flock of whooping cranes. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “All of the whooping cranes alive today, both wild and captive, are descendants of the last 15 remaining cranes that were found wintering at the Aransas Refuge in 1941.”
The cranes travel 2,500 miles from their wintering grounds in the Refuge to their summer breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. In addition to these majestic cranes, over 400 other bird species routinely stop by during migration or year-round travels.
World Birding Center
The World Birding Center consists of nine individual locations in the Rio Grande Valley, encompassing just under 3,000 acres. There are plans to extend the World Birding Center to over 10,000 acres.
The headquarters for the Center are located at the 760-acre Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission, Texas. Bentsen also features a Visitor Center with an exhibit hall and meeting rooms, a two-story observation tower, hiking trails, a butterfly garden, and two observation decks for extended bird watching.
Aside from Bentsen, the remaining World Birding Center locations feature U.S. Fish and Wildlife protected zones, including wetlands, chaparral scrub, freshwater marshes, and floodplain forests. In addition to over 500 migratory and resident bird species, the green jay, buff-bellied hummingbird, Altamira oriole, and great kiskadee are delightful to observe in the northernmost extent of their range.
From coast to desert and everything in between, Texas offers some of the best bird-watching sites. Many locations are found along the migratory flyways, leading to spectacular bird views in the spring and autumn seasons. Year-round resident birds also delight birders with their colorful feathers, familiar songs, and sense of contentment in an increasingly urbanized world.