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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

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  • Photograph of Baltimore Oriole

    Texas is not all about warblers. There are many other birds in their finest plumage including Baltimore Orioles like this one photographed by Steve Rogers.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Hudsonian Godwit

    Many shorebirds are in full summer plumage, some like this superb Hudsonian Godwit photographed by Michael McKee.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Texas

    The birds listed occur during the northern spring (Apr-May) unless otherwise indicated.

    Migrating birds including thrushes, vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings including Indigo and Painted, and up to 25 species of warbler including Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Blackburnian, Cerulean, Chestnut-sided, Canada, Magnolia, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Yellow-throated, Hooded, Bay-breasted, Black-throated Green and Black-and-white, migrating raptors including Broad-winged and Swainson's Hawks, migrating shorebirds including Hudsonian Godwit, Upland, Stilt and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and Wilson's Phalarope, migrating Franklin's Gulls, Texan breeding specialities Black-capped Vireo, and Colima and Golden-cheeked Warblers, other specialities; Groove-billed Ani, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Black-crested Titmouse, and more widespread spectacular species such as American Swallow-tailed Kite (Apr-Jul), Whooping Crane (mid-Nov to early Apr), (Greater) Roadrunner, Blue Jay, Elf Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, as well as Snow (mostly Nov-Mar) and Ross's (mostly Nov-Feb) Geese, Wood Duck, Wild Turkey, Western Grebe, American White (mostly Nov-Mar) and Brown Pelicans, Anhinga, Reddish Egret, herons, bitterns, ibises, Roseate Spoonbill, Harris's Hawk, Crested Caracara, rails, Piping Plover, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Black Skimmer, Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, Common Nighthawk, hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Acorn, Red-cockaded and Pileated Woodpeckers, kingbirds, flycatchers including Vermilion, Verdin, Bushtit, Brown-headed Nuthatch, wrens including Canyon, gnatcatchers, Eastern Bluebird, thrashers, Cedar Waxwing, Phainopepla, Pyrrhuloxia, sparrows, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird and orioles. Also a chance of Bald (mostly Dec-Feb) and Golden Eagles, Sandhill Crane (mostly Nov-Mar), Montezuma Quail, Mississippi Kite, Zone-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Lucifer Hummingbird and Painted Redstart.

    The 24 species more or less restricted to southern Texas in the United States and best looked for in the Lower Rio Grande Valley area are Least Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Muscovy Duck, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Plain Chachalaca, Hook-billed Kite, White-tailed Hawk, White-tipped Dove, Red-billed Pigeon, Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Couch's Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Tamaulipas Crow, Clay-coloured Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Tropical Parula, Olive Sparrow, and Altamira and Audubon's Orioles. Also a chance of Grey Hawk, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Brown Jay, Morelet's (White-collared) Seedeater and, increasingly, the reintroduced Aplomado Falcon.

    Mexican Free-tailed Bat (Mar-Sep, peak numbers (millions) in August), Nine-banded Armadillo, Pronghorn. Also a chance of Bottlenose Dolphin and Javelina.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    American Alligator.

    Over 300 butterfly species have been recorded in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, the greatest diversity in the USA.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Texas

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Texas

    The greatest diversity of migrating landbirds, especially warblers at High Island, usually occurs from mid to late April, too late to see some winter visitors to the coastal region, notably Whooping Crane, and after the peak of the raptor migration which usually occurs in late March-early April. A few cranes do usually remain into early April but the best time to see them is in the middle of winter, especially January, which is also a good time to visit the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the best time there for stray birds from Mexico. The peak time for warblers is also a little early for some summer visitors, notably the rare birds of Big Bend NP such as Painted Redstart. Therefore, for an all-round Texas experience including High Island, Whooping Cranes, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Big Bend National Park and the Edward's Plateau, the best two-week period to be in the state is from, say, 4th to 19th April, although the 4th, when visitors should be looking for the cranes, is cutting it a bit fine for them!

    Unlike many other migration hot spots around the world the best time of day to experience 'falls' or 'fall-outs' of migrating landbirds, notably warblers, at High Island is not dawn but often after midday, because it usually takes the birds a night and a morning to fly from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, the main departure point.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Texas

    Field Guide to the Birds of North America edited by J Dunn and J Alderfer. NGS, 2017 (Seventh Edition).

    Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

    The North American Bird Guide by D Sibley. Helm, 2014 (Second Edition).

    Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America by R T Peterson. Houghton Mifflin, 2010 (Sixth Edition).

    The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds by R Crossley. PUP, 2011.

    Finding Birds in South Texas by D Gosney (book and/or DVD). Easybirder, 2011.

    A Birder's Guide to the Rio Grande Valley by M Lockwood et al. ABA, 2008 (Fourth Edition).

    Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail by T Eubanks et al. TAMU Press, 2008.

    A Birder's Guide to the Texas Coast by M Cooksey and R Weeks. ABA, 2006 (Second Edition).

    The Warbler Guide by T Stephenson and S Whittle. PUP, 2013.

    Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by J Brock and K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

    Mammals of North America by R W Kays and D E Wilson. PUP, 2009 (Second Edition).

    Mammals of North America by F A Reid. Peterson North American Field Guides, 2006 (Fourth Edition).

    Peterson Field Guide to Finding Mammals in North America by V Dinets. Houghton Mifflin, 2015.

    Apps etc.

    National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America.

    The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America.

    Peterson Birds of North America.

    Audubon Birds - A Field Guide to North American Birds.

    iBird Ultimate Guide to Birds.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Texas

    Many trip reports, some for Texas, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Texas. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Texas' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Texas

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Texas

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Texas

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Texas include the following.