Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 6
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6 TEXA ALMAAC 192-199
Birdwatching in Texas
by Judith M. Garrett
Texas is the richest state in the union for birdwatch-
ing, providing birders the possibility to see more than
three-fourths of all bird species found in the United
States. The great abundance is possible because of the
variety of habitats that exist within the state's diverse
geography. From the vast coastline of the Gulf of Mex-
ico, to the mountains of West Texas, and from the
upland prairies to the Chihuahuan desert, Texas is
home during some part of the year to more species of
birds than any other state.
The Texas Ornithological Society has documented 570
species in Texas, and it acknowledges another 34 spe-
cies that might be seen here. Of that large number, only
24 species are recognized to be common throughout
most of the state. Each region has its own distinct bird
life, in both seasonal visitors and year-round residents.
To further complicate and enrich the life of bird-
watchers, Texas spans the division between the eastern
and western United States. Most publishers of field
guides, in order to keep the book sizes manageable, di-
vide the birds of North America between east and west.
Thus, birds found in the eastern part of Texas are gen-
erally listed in one field guide, and those found in the
western part are listed in a different one. Birdwatching
in Texas requires a small library of bird books, to cover
all the possibilities.
In addition to the birds that nest in the state, a great
many other species of birds travel the length of Texas,
stopping along the way during both the spring and fall
migrations. The migrations last for several weeks or
even months. During those times, even inland birders
might catch sight of spiraling flights of 50 to 100 Amer-
ican White Pelicans traveling together, or large for-
mations of honking geese. A fairly common but
always thrilling sight in the winter is the dormant
grain field in Central Texas covered with Canada and
In the spring, Texas provides birders with some of
the best opportunities in the country to see the brilliant-
ly colorful warblers. All species of North American war-
blers have been seen during their migrations through
Texas. During the peak of the migration, birders
along the coast can easily spot and watch at great
length the exhausted warblers resting in dense, low
brush after flying across the water. Warblers pass
through in the fall, as well, and truly serious birders test
their identification skills by trying to distinguish them
from each other in their fairly uniform, olive-yellow fall
Winter is the best birding time along the Texas
coast, and the farther south, the better it gets. Along the
central coast, the rare Whooping Crane winters on the
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and in the Lower Rio
Grande Valley, the elegant Osprey, or "fish eagle,"
spends the winter fishing in the resacas and shallow
bays. Every body of water along the length of the Gulf
coast is winter home to some species of waterfowl. Bird-
ers can see everything from American Wigeons to Vir-
ginia Rails, from Common Loons to Ruddy Turnstones.
Another winter visitor to South Texas is the Sandhill
Crane. Large flocks can easily be observed making
early morning and late evening flights from the
plowed fields where they congregate to the marshy
areas around the bays where they feed.
Winter birdwatching can be eventful even in North
and Central Texas, as large flocks of migrating ducks
and other waterfowl stop over in area lakes. Some,
such as the Double-Crested Cormorant and Ruddy
Ducks, among others, stay all winter in city lakes.
Drawn by the exotic avian visitors from Mexico
and further south, thousands of birders travel to Tex-
as every year to see birds that enter the United States
only in subtropical south Texas. From the Crested Car-
acara to the Plain Chachalaca, from the Groove-billed
Ani to the Great Kiskadee, the Lower Rio Grande Valley
is a birdwatcher's paradise in the areas where habitat
has been preserved.
Year-round near the coast in the Lower Rio Grande
Valley, it is not unusual at sunset to see a flock of
glowing pink Roseate Spoonbills flying overhead from
the shallow bays to their roosting areas inland.
The key word in Texas birdwatching is possibility,
More on Page 14.
TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/10/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.