By: Kirby Conda & Kylie Cooper Photography By: John Najvar & Maria Nesbit
Inside this feature, we want to help you explore the “Birdiest City in America.” While birding might not sound too exciting, when you live in a region as geographically blessed as ours, it’s practically a must to partake in the activity once or twice and wonder with awe at nature’s song.
From information on a handful of the Coastal Bend’s most iconic birds and a list of the best places to birdwatch in the area to inspiration on turning your own backyard into a birding sanctuary and a checklist, you can cut out and hang on your fridge to track your bird sightings throughout the year, this guide has it all!
Some of you reading this might already be avid bird watchers and will view this guide as a mere reminder of what you’ve already come to know and love. Others might have had your interest piqued while walking the dog and spotting a tiny bird you’ve never seen before, or while doing dishes and catching a glimpse of vibrant colors fluttering outside the window. Regardless, we hope this feature inspires you to take a moment to stop and marvel at our feathered friends.
The Perfect Location
For well over a decade, Corpus Christi has been recognized as the “Birdiest City in America.” In 2003, Corpus Christi was first awarded the title, and every year since, the number of bird species seen in the Coastal Bend has only continued to grow. As of this writing, 357 different species have been spotted in the area in 2021, according to eBird’s Nueces County Checklist.
Positioned next to the largest hypersaline lagoon and the longest stretch of underdeveloped barrier island on earth, according to the Coastal Bend Audubon Society, the Coastal Bend is a unique area where tropical meets sub-tropical, sea meets semi-arid land, and two major flyways converge, making our home an ideal destination for migration patterns and habitats.
Thanks to secure habitats around saltwater lagoons, marshes, and coastal grasslands, hundreds of species can be spotted in the region throughout the entire year. Bird watchers can catch a glimpse of the country’s most interesting birds nesting, feeding, wading, and flying right here in the Coastal Bend.
Bird Is The Word
Throughout the year, hundreds of bird species can be spotted in the Coastal Bend. Whether they’re passing through on their migration pattern or stop and stay a while, here are eight birds we tend to think of when thinking about our coastal area.
Shorebird / Waterbird
- Whooping Crane – The Whooping Crane is one of the most endangered animalsWhooping Crane
in North America. Being that its favorite habitat is the Texas coastline, a great place to catch a glimpse of one is right here along the Coastal Bend. In fact, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Goose Island State Park near Big Tree are two of the best areas to see Whooping Cranes—and in large numbers—between October and April.
- Roseate Spoonbill – Present year-round in coastal marshes, Roseate Spoonbill sightings are locally common in Texas. Shallow waters with muddy bottoms, in both salt and freshwater (i.e., tidal ponds, coastal lagoons, inland marshes.) make our location ideal. The Roseate Spoonbill tends to nest in colonies, so be aware that where there is one, there are likely more.
- Pelicans – Eastern Brown Pelicans are large, stocky seabirds with long necks and a giant bill. Brown Pelicans are often identifiable during feeding time when they plunge into the water, stunning small fish with the impact of their large bodies and scooping them up in their expandable bills. Migrant, non-breeding American White Pelicans are found statewide, both coastal and inland. They breed only in the central and lower Texas coast near marine estuaries, lagoons, and reservoirs.
Shorebird / Landbird
- White Ibis – White Ibises are present along the coastline because it is the most protected area for breeding colonies. However, their salt-excreting glands are not fully developed, so procuring food for themselves and their nestlings means the adults fly inland to freshwater habitats to obtain crayfish. They breed from April to early July, which means they are particularly abundant along the upper coast during summertime.
- Hummingbird – These tiny birds are the second largest species with around 340 recorded, with the Buff-bellied Hummingbird being one of the most common in South Texas. Another common species, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, is identifiable by its ruby throat and iridescent green back. They usually migrate to South Texas between mid-March and mid-May.
Waterbird / Shorebird
- Herons – There are several Heron species that commonly appearSnowy Egret
along the Texas coast year-round. Some of the rarer species include the small to medium-sized Herons, primarily because their size makes identifying them that much more difficult. Some species congregate in multiples, so if you’re lucky enough to spot one, you’ll more than likely come across dozens of these birds at once.
- Egrets – Reddish Egrets are best known for their active hunting behavior. Watching them eagerly hunt for prey can be comical and entertaining. These Egrets have two identifiable colorways—the red morph and the white morph. The red morph is easier to spot; the white morph can be tricky to identify, making it a rare sighting.
Landbird / Songbird
- Green Jay – In Texas, the Green Jay breeds almost exclusively in the extreme south, with confirmed records extending north to Kleberg County near Alice and Jim Wells County near Kingsville. The Green Jay is considered the most common bird in the Valley, and isn’t typically hard to find. It enjoys wooded to semi-wooded environments and likes to be up in large trees. It can be very vocal, so while birding, it won’t take long to find one.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Coastal Bend is the only place you can see the world’s last naturally-occurring population of Whooping Cranes! The 25th Annual Whooping Crane Festival takes place Feb. 24 – 27 in Port Aransas, Texas. The festival celebrates the annual return of the cranes to their wintering habitat at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.