South Texas might just be the most exotic birding destination in North America. Subtropical species extend north from Mexico, while northern species spend the winter here. Tamaulipan Thorn Scrub and Sabal Palm groves house 40 South Texas avian specialties, including Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Hook-billed Kite, Couch’s Kingbird, Red-crowned Parrot, and Plain Chachalaca.
Explore Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, South Padre Island wetlands for wintering rails, and Bentsen Rio Grande, Estero Llano Grande, and Falcon State Parks. These are legendary locations 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 spotted in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We also keep our eyes peeled for the Valley’s nearly 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies.
- See Whooping Cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
- Relax at the Inn at Chachalaca Bend, a lovely inn that caters to birders and nature enthusiasts — one of our favorite lodges!
- Discover Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, home to 300+ birds including Great Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, and, with luck, the tiny Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
- Discover Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, a World Birding Center site
- Stroll the boardwalk on South Padre Island and spot large waders like Tricolored Heron and Reddish Egret
- Search Laguna Atascosa NWR for Aplomado Falcon, reintroduced to South Texas in 1985
- Stop at the North American Butterfly Association’s International Butterfly Park
- Spot flashy birds like Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, 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.