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Texas Tropical Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Birding


Interpretive sign about birding next to lake
White Rock Lake birding

ON THE WING

The 1960s stereotype of the “bird watcher” – knobby-kneed Jane Hathaway of the Beverly Hillbillies sitcom, in her floppy hat and enormous binoculars – may still inspire hilarity but bird watching today is serious business. Birding is among the highest ranking outdoor activities in the state, far above consumptive sports like hunting, and the numbers of Texans participating along with the dollars spent in communities across a very bird-rich Texas prove the point. So what is so appealing about watching birds? Is it their colorful plumage? Their pleasing songs? Maybe it’s the fact that birds are everywhere in Texas, over six hundred species, two thirds of all species found in North America. And you can “bird” just about anywhere – during a walk in the local park or down the street, on a beach or in the mountains, even in your own backyard. Birding in Texas enjoyed a pretty early start thanks to enthusiasts like Roger Tory Peterson (known to aficionados simply as “RTP”), a naturalist, artist, educator, and ornithologist whose field guide to the birds of Texas helped raise an entire generation of Texans on birding just as bird watching was gaining momentum with the environmental movement of the 20th century. Our own World Birding Center, located in the Rio Grande Valley community of Edinburg, provides an ideal introduction to the “world” of birding. Northeast of Amarillo in Canadian, the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area and private ranches offer guided tours to spot burrowing owls and the rare lesser prairie-chicken. Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Great Coastal Birding Trail and statewide Wildlife Trails provide comprehensive information for the beginner or expert.

Hey nature lovers! Have you ever seen a Buff-bellied Hummingbird drink nectar from a wildflower? How about a Green Parakeet nesting in a palm tree? Ever heard the "hoop, hoop, hoop" of a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl at dusk? Trekking across the Texas Tropical Trail offers a chance to witness all three and a lot more just like trekkers of the past-Spanish missionaries, French explorers, and Native Americans-must have must have experienced on their journeys. This region of Texas happens to be one of the most bio-diverse in the country, providing over three-quarters of America's bird species with migratory, nesting, and feeding habitat among its brushy chaparral, riparian woodlands, freshwater and coastal wetlands, and gulf coast shores. Dozens of hot birding spots with easy car access, courtesy of the Mission-based World Birding Center, appear along the Tropical Trail route. But you don't always have to stick to designated birding spots to catch sight of the many regional species. Our South Texas birds like any place with good food, something to drink, and lots of shade. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

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