Spring Birding Opportunities
Abound in State Parks
AUSTIN, Texas -- The whooping crane, golden cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo and many other species attract thousands of birders from around the world to Texas each year, and state parks offer some of the best bird watching during spring migration and summer nesting.
More than 620 bird species have been seen in Texas, including numerous neotropical migrants, which reach peak migration in mid April.
"With the break in the drought, I would anticipate a great year for birding," said TPW Wildlife Diversity Information Specialist Mark Klym. "Any year is great for birding in Texas."
With binoculars and field guides in hand, birders flock to barbed wire-bordered back roads across Texas to spot colorful birds such as the green kingfisher, Altamira oriole, green jay, Lucifer hummingbird, red-winged blackbird, Colima warbler, the scarlet tanager and many others.
Listed below are state parks where birdwatchers can expect to see migrating birds.
Big Bend Country
Davis Mountains State Park -- The chance to see a Montezuma quail is the highlight of this park in the Trans Pecos. The threatened common black-hawk can be seen nesting along Limpia Creek near the park from March to September. Resident birds include the acorn woodpecker, western scrub-jay, bushtit, curve-billed thrasher, canyon towhee and the rufous-crowned sparrow.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park -- At this popular Panhandle park, birding enthusiasts can expect to be serenaded by rock and canyon wrens along the cliffs. In the woodlands along the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, golden-fronted woodpeckers are easy to find. The summer chorus from the cottonwoods along the river includes the yellow-billed cuckoo, ash-throated flycatcher, blue grosbeak and Bullock's oriole along with a host of resident species.
Kickapoo Cavern State Park -- The endangered black-capped vireo is the highlight of this park northeast of Del Rio. Migrating birds arrive in late March and leave by early September. Among the species birders can expect during the summer migration is the gray vireo. Cave swallows are also common at Stuart Bat Cave. Several "borderland specialties," including the zone-tailed hawk, elf owl, vermilion flycatcher, varied bunting and hooded oriole, have been seen at the park.
Prairies and Lakes
Fort Parker State Park -- Surrounded by woodlands, this park offers habitats for water birds and forest birds. Redheaded woodpeckers are easy to find year-round. Among the rafts of wood ducks on the lake, look for anhinga, a large, dark water bird with long, loosely-jointed tail. A variety of herons and egrets use the trees surrounding the lake, especially black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons.
Caddo Lake State Park -- A spring and summer chorus of prothonotary and yellow-throated warblers along the maze of tree-lined canals characterizes this birding spot. Mature floodplain woodlands and cypress-lined waterways with thickets provide food and shelter for typical Northeast Texas birds. A silent canoe ride through the maze of canals will reveal wood ducks in abundance, along with a variety of other waterfowl, herons and egrets.
Goose Island State Park -- More than 20 species of warblers can be found in a single day at this park. Flycatchers, vireos, tanagers, buntings and orioles live in the oak woodlands.
South Texas Plains
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park -- A number of tropical species found nowhere else in the United States reach the northern limits of their range in the Rio Grande Valley. Sought-after birds include chachalacas, ferruginous pygmy owls, red-billed and white-tipped pigeons, buff-bellied hummingbirds, northern bearded tyrannulets, great kiskadee, rose-throated becards, green jays, clay-colored robins, blue buntings and Altamira orioles.
TPW offers a selection of books dedicated to bird watching in Texas, including:
For the beginner: "Introduction to Birding" (no charge)
For all birders: "Checklist of Texas Birds" ($2); "Birders Directory" ($1); "Regional Checklists" (prices vary)
Specialty books: "Migration and Migratory Birds" ($2); "On The Warblers of Texas" ($2)
For more information on birding in state parks or birding materials, visit the TPW Web site main birding pages(http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/birding/). For birding activities and events, see the TPW Web site birding calendar (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/gtbc/calendar/) and related entries in the TPW events calendar (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/news/tpwcal/).