South Texas: Quite possibly the most exotic birding destination in North America. Here, subtropical species extend north from Mexico, while northern species overwinter. Habitats like Tamaulipan Thorn Scrub and Sabal Palm groves house 40 South Texas avian specialties, including Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Hook-billed Kite, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Red-crowned Parrot, Couch’s Kingbird, and Plain Chachalaca.
Visit Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, South Padre Island wetlands for wintering rails, and Estero Llano Grande, Bentsen Rio Grande, and Falcon State Parks. These areas are legendary among birders for consistently attracting unique wildlife.
This is also a great trip for butterflies. Over 300 species — more than are likely found in the entire Eastern US — have been recorded in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We also keep our eyes peeled for the Valley’s nearly 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies.
- Witness Whooping Cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
- Enjoy a pleasant stay at the Inn at Chachalaca Bend, a lovely Inn that caters to birders and nature enthusiasts — a true highlight of the journey!
- Explore Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, home to over 300 birds including Couch’s Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, and, with luck, the tiny Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, with local guide Michael Marsdon
- Discover Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, a World Birding Center site
- Walk the boardwalk on South Padre Island and spot large waders like Reddish Egret and Tricolored Heron
- Bird Laguna Atascosa NWR for Aplomado Falcon, reintroduced to South Texas in 1985
- Visit the North American Butterfly Association’s International Butterfly Park
- Spot flashy birds like Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park
- Follow the Rio Grande River in search of desert birds, raptors, Red-billed Pigeon, and ducks
Photo credits: Roseate Spoonbill (both photos) by Betty Andres; Vermilion Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Virginia Rail by Tom Dove; Group at Estero Llano by Bob Behrstock.