South Texas is home to a wide variety of insects, mammals, and poisonous animals, as well as a large number of shorebirds.
We even have an annual Birdiest Festival at the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center to highlight our passion for the numerous feathered species that can be found along the Gulf Coast, which is one of the reasons Corpus Christi has long been known as the “Birdiest City in America.”
Many South Texas municipalities value birding (or birdwatching), which is why boardwalks, paths, and invasive plant clearance have all received funding.
When you notice anything flying high above or making a screeching noise before attempting to take food out of your hand, look out for one of the twelve shorebirds listed below that may be found in South Texas.
Roadrunner-like behavior is exhibited by plain Chachalacas. They often keep close to the ground and avoid flying by darting in and out of thick plants. The most of the time, they are on the ground or squatting low in foliage.
Chachalacas are simple to see in public parks since they are used to humans and don’t mind being seen in the open.
Although they are normally silent, they may be the loudest bird species in all of south Texas when they decide to vocalize.
How to Find One – Chachalacas like to hide in the neighboring undergrowth, which is thick. Good habitat for them is a combination of partially cleared or open woods next to very shrubby woods.
All throughout the year, Northern Cardinals are the most commonly sighted birds in Texas. In 54% of summer checklists and 48% of winter checklists that bird watchers submit to the state, they are listed.
A male Northern Cardinal with its vivid red body and black face is an amazing sight, especially when set against a white winter landscape. Their beaks and crests are similarly crimson.
With their brown coloration, distinct brown crest, red accents, and red beaks, females are likewise a bit flashy.
In the eastern part of the US and certain southern states as far west as Arizona, Northern Cardinals may be found.
Northern Cardinals can be seen hunting for seeds, fruit, and insects in areas with thick foliage. During the breeding season, Northern Cardinals will occasionally attack their own reflection in an effort to zealously protect their territory.
Put out feeders with of sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo to entice Northern Cardinals to your backyard. They will eat food that is strewn about the ground, in hoppers, platform feeders, or big tube feeders.
The mallard’s unique curly tail and paler head are absent in the mottled duck (Anas fulvigula), a dabbling duck that resembles the mallard in appearance.
The speculum is purple, and the bill is a vivid yellow with a black mark in the back corner. Mottled ducks can be seen all year long along the Texas coast, and in the summer they can be more common in eastern Texas.
These huge shorebirds have long red-orange beak and black and white feathers on their bodies. They eat crabs, starfish, jellyfish, oysters, clams, and mussels when foraging.
The bird’s long beak has a knife-like form. It gets its name “oystercatcher” from the way it opens oysters and other bivalves for food with its bill.
American oystercatchers breed from February to July, but they live there all year round.
White-tipped Doves are the same size as the more widespread White-winged Dove, but they prefer to stay low to the ground and blend in with the undergrowth of woodlands rather than perching on wires or flying overhead.
The likelihood of seeing a few White-tips is great if you visit a feeding station or bird blind. Like other doves, they can’t resist a free meal and will gorge themselves at feeders.
They can also be spotted, alone or in small groups, moving through the understory of heavily forested regions.
A year-round inhabitant of Texas, northern mockingbirds are recorded in 41% of winter checklists and 52% of summer checklists for the state.
Medium-sized songbirds with small heads and long tails, Northern Mockingbirds are gray-brown in color with two white wingbars that are visible in flight. They are also significantly lighter on the underside than their back.
Northern Mockingbirds may be seen all around the lower 48 states and southern Canada and do not migrate.
A male mockingbird may learn 200 songs in its life, imitating different birds, and they can sing all day and all night. They are often observed alone or in couples and actively defend their territory.
They don’t frequently attend feeders, but they will come to open grass areas. Plant fruiting trees or shrubs, such as hawthorns, mulberries, and blackberry brambles, to attract more Northern Mockingbirds to your backyard.
Chickadees are little birds with complete white cheeks, wings and backs that are blackish gray, and puffy, whitish underbodies. They are easily identified by their black cap and bib.
Chickadees are among the first birds I observe visiting a new feeder in my yard. Chickadees, which should not be confused with Black-capped Chickadees, are frequent at bird feeders and are frequently seen darting back and forth from a feeder to cover and back again for more.
Offer black sunflower seeds and mixed seed mixes to chickadees when they visit the majority of seed feeders.
Tropical ducks such as the black-bellied whistling-duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) can be seen all year long in southern Texas, as well as in central Texas during the nesting season.
Birders should also keep a look out for the darker colored fulvous whistling-duck in the same regions since it is equally unique with its pink bills and long, light legs, as well as the pale eye ring and dark belly, which are further useful identification clues.
American white pelican
The large, white American white pelican, which nests in flocks and feeds on small fish, has a bright yellow bill and pouch.
American white pelicans are among the heaviest flying birds in the world, with average wingspans of 9 feet, bigger than bald eagles but smaller than California condors.
In summer, non-breeding American white pelicans are uncommon to reasonably frequent, while winter residents are common along the Gulf Coast. Seasonal occurrence: Fall migration occurs in late August to November, and spring migration from early April to early June.
Don’t automatically write off any black bird with a long tail as a grackle, especially if you encounter it in heavy undergrowth. These sleek black birds seem extremely similar to Great-tailed Grackles, which are widespread in most locations.
Because they like to hide in deep brushy forest and are virtually constantly moving in groups, spotting a Groove-billed Ani is always a treat because it’s never certain. They occasionally sit up high, but they mostly keep hidden between branches and leaves.
How to Locate One
These birds seem to wander around a lot, thus current findings are considerably more informative and dependable than previous sightings. Use eBird to find recent sightings.
Walk the boardwalk through the marshes at Sabal Palm and keep an eye out for black birds that are moving through the plants at around eye level.
Ask the personnel at Estero for suggestions; some are highly informed about the local birds and may direct you to a specific location.
Mourning Doves are year-round residents of Texas, but they are most prevalent from May to September, appearing in 28% of winter checklists and 44% of summer checklists.
The graceful mourning dove has a small head, a plump body, a long tail, and a soft brown color with black spots. Males are slightly larger than females.
Mourning Doves are widespread across the lower 48 states throughout the year, however they occasionally move after nesting in the northern Midwest and southern Canada.
In grasslands, fields, and backyards, as well as open areas or woodland edges, mourning doves can be seen perched on telephone wires and foraging for seeds on the ground.
Mourning Doves will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and peanut hearts, so you may attract them to your garden by distributing millet on the ground or using platform feeders.
The Blue Jay, which has a large blue crest on top of its head with mostly blue feathers on top and white feathers on the bottom, a black ring around its neck that resembles a necklace, and wings that are barred white, blue, and black, is another very well-known bird species in North America and the U.S.
Although less frequent in East Texas, blue jays are another year-round inhabitant that may be found in most of Texas.
Offer black sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, and peanuts to blue jays; they like platform feeders, peanut feeders, and feeders with wide perches.
At first sight, the double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus), which is also widespread in central and southern Texas and frequently perches atop dikes, pipes, or culverts, can be mistaken for the neotropic cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus).
During the mating season, a white line at the rear of the bill distinguishes the neotropic cormorant, which is smaller and has a more grey bill.
Belted kingfishers can be seen perched on a high branch or diving headfirst into water to grab a fish. They are the only member of their family to be found in most areas north of Mexico.
Belted kingfishers spend the winter in areas where the water doesn’t freeze so they always have access to their aquatic foods. The blue-gray birds also eat frogs, small mammals, young birds, lizards, and berries.
Seasonal occurrence: Belted kingfishers winter in South Texas from August to May; outside of that time, they are rarely spotted there.
There are easy and difficult ways to locate nightjars, such as the Common Pauraque.
Pauraques will sit right in the middle of the road at last light and are easy pickings, so the easiest method is to wait until after sunset and last light when they start vocalizing and flying around. Tent camp at Bentsen State Park and walk around with a flashlight, or drive down a gravel or dirt back road and use your car headlights.
Their amazing camouflage makes them nearly impossible to discover on your own, but if you participate in a guided bird walk, the guide may occasionally point out a known roosting place and get you terrific glances at a bird.
How to Locate One
Attend a guided bird walk at Estero State Park or Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and hope the ranger identifies a sleeping bird on the ground.
Drive on any unpaved road with brushy, wooded habitat along the side of the road at the last possible moment in the evening, such as Brushline Road north of Highway 186.
White-winged Doves are more frequently observed in Texas in the summer, from April to September, but they are year-round residents, appearing in 38% of summer checklists and 23% of winter checklists.
Male and female White-winged Doves look identical and are a light gray-brown color with a black line down the center of the cheek and a striking white stripe on the edge of the closed wing.
White-winged Doves are migratory birds that breed along Mexico’s southern border, winter in Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies, and can be found breeding throughout these regions.
White-winged Doves are ground-foraging birds that can be found in a variety of habitats, including suburban areas, dense, thorny forests, woodlands, and deserts.
They are very common in backyards, though not so much at feeders, and true to their name, bluebirds are all blue on top with rusty reddish-orange bellies. Put up a birdhouse and try your luck in attracting a mating pair, I was able to do so with this birdhouse on Amazon.
Bluebirds are the most sought after tenants of birdhouses in the U.S., making the bluebird house industry pretty booming.
Although they are less common in far West Texas, eastern bluebirds are a common species all across Texas.
Although bluebirds don’t normally consume seeds, mealworms on a tray feeder or in a dish might tempt them to frequent feeders.
The least tern (Sterna antillarum), which can be found in large numbers along coastal regions from New Hampshire to California
The white forehead and yellow bill of the least tern, as well as its diminutive size, are good identification clues for this species. The Texas gulf is an excellent place to watch for this tiny tern and get a good comparison with its larger cousins, including the Forster’s, Caspian, royal, sandwich, and gull-billed terns.
Black skimmers are typically found on beaches, bays, and lagoons where they hunt by skimming the water’s surface with their beak and catching food by feel.
The bird’s food consists of fish and tiny crustaceans, and it produces acute barking and churring noises.
Black skimmers congregate around mid-March, commence egg laying in April or May, and depart nesting locations as their young begin to fledge (become flight-capable) at the end of August or beginning of September.
Almost all state parks, nature parks, and wildlife refuges have hummingbird feeders near the main structure, much as with all hummingbirds, making it simple to discover a Buff-bellied Hummingbird.
Unlike other hummingbird species, buff-bellied hummers are year-round residents and are nevertheless simple to see in the winter.
Since they live in open forest, they can be found wherever that has a respectable canopy close by.
What to Look For
Hummingbird feeders may be found throughout the gardens, particularly on the back side of the house, which is where the visitor center for Bentsen State Park is located.
Just before you enter the office, there are feeders at Estero State Park; you might have to wait 15 to 20 minutes, but one should appear.
See them throughout the paths as you walk, or sit and wait by a hummingbird feeder. You’ll probably see numerous hummingbirds at this site. Frontera provides excellent habitat for hummingbirds all over the property.