Top Ten Spots for Spring Birding

Central: It's Raining Birds: The Upper Texas Coast

The Upper Texas Coast—wintering grounds of the endangered whooping crane and huge numbers of waterfowl—offers spectacular birding year-round, but it is the scene of something special come April and May. Neotropical songbirds that winter in Mexico and Central America work their way to the Yucatan Peninsula by March, where they rest and feed for a week or two. The journey that lies ahead—a 600-mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico—is an incredible feat of endurance for such slight creatures. The trip over open water can take 24 hours or more, especially if the birds are fighting through a north wind. When they make landfall at places like High Island, Brazoria NWR, or Sabine Woods, they drop from the skies exhausted. For the birder who greets the dawn at High Island under the right conditions, these "fallouts" are a sublime experience—every tree branch and bush can be crawling with warblers, vireos, buntings, orioles, and tanagers, all in the dazzling finery of their breeding plumage.

The tidal flats, salt marshes, and other wetlands areas in this area also deserve mention; resident or migratory species include roseate spoonbills, reddish egrets, brown and American white pelicans, swarms of shorebirds that include long-billed curlews and marbled godwits, and many species of rails.

Just the Facts

Birding Hot Spots: Just about anywhere right on the coast where there's a stand of trees can be a "migrant trap." But then, there aren't that many trees—best bets are High Island, Sabine Woods, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, the Willows at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, and Sea Rim State Park. For wading birds and waterfowl, Anahuac and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge are great, and for shorebirds, there's a clear winner: the Bolivar Flats Bird Sanctuary.

More Texas Outdoors: Early in April, the legendary bluebonnet bloom takes place; nothing beats a hike, bike trip, or drive through all that color. Another Texan rite of spring is fishing for white bass. And if you can't get enough of that coastal birding, head down the curve to Padre Island National Seashore.


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