Birding in Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend form one of the richest birding areas in the country. For ten years running, in a nationwide contest, Corpus Christi has won the title of America’s Birdiest City. There are several reasons for this diversity of bird life. Located in the middle of the continent, the Coastal Bend gets birds from both the eastern and western halves of North America, particularly in spring and fall migration. In addition, there are numerous south Texas specialties, birds primarily of Mexico and the tropics whose range extends north into the Coastal Bend. Also, Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend offer a wide variety of habitats, from gulf beaches to salt marshes and bays, from woodlands to mesquite chaparral and grasslands. The numerous habitats provide a home for a wide variety of birds. Many of these habitats, such as salt marshes and estuaries, support large numbers of birds because of the rich supply of food. The result is that there are many species of birds in Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend, not only in migration, but all year round.
The high point of the birding year in the Coastal Bend is Spring migration, which begins in March with the arrival of shorebirds such as the American Golden Plover and Upland Sandpiper. Tule Lake, the NAS Causeway and Hans A. & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge in Corpus Christi; Indian Point and Sunset Lake in Portland; and the two boardwalks at Charlie’s Pasture in Port Aransas are good locations for numerous species of sandpipers and plovers. Songbirds are most plentiful in late April through May. Blucher Park, Rose Hill Cemetery, the Packery Channel Oak Motte Sanctuary and Polliwog Ponds in Corpus Christi; Paradise Pond in Port Aransas; Live Oak Park in Ingleside; and Goose Island State Park north of Rockport are good locations for warblers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks and buntings.
Summer is the best time to see South Texas specialty birds such as the Groove-billed Ani, Green Jay and Audubon’s Oriole. Hazel Bazemore County Park in Corpus Christi, Lake Corpus Christi State Park, and Choke Canyon State Park offer opportunities to see these and numerous others. Water birds like the Wood Stork (found at Tule Lake and Wright Ranch Pond) and the Magnificent Frigatebird (Port Aransas jetties) are only present in the Summer. Many of the herons, egrets, terns, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis and Black Skimmer can be seen in places such as Hans A. & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge, Indian Point and the Port Aransas Birding Center.
Summer doesn’t last long, at least on the birding calendar; the pace picks up with the Fall shorebird migration which begins in late July and is in full swing by mid-August. The same sandpipers which headed north in April are back, and the songbird migration begins in late August with flycatchers leading the way, followed by warblers, orioles and buntings in September and October. The same locations which were good in spring are the places to look in fall.
One of the highlights of fall is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration in late August and September, when thousands pass through the Coastal Bend. By late October and November the ducks are beginning to arrive, along with many of the sparrows and winter hawks. Peregrines and Merlins can be found on Padre and Mustang Islands and rafts of ducks in the bays and on fresh water ponds such as Polliwog Ponds, the Port Aransas Birding Center and Choke Canyon State Park. November also marks the arrival of the most famous birds of the Coastal Bend, the Whooping Cranes, back from their nesting grounds in northern Canada. The cranes can be seen frequently from the observation tower at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (usually at a distance) or on a dedicated Whooping Crane tour.
Winter birding is excellent in the Coastal Bend. In addition to the Whooping Cranes, their less famous cousins, Sandhill Cranes are frequently found feeding in pastures and agricultural fields, as are flocks of Snow, Ross’s and White-fronted Geese. The weather is usually pleasant and there is always the possibility that some rare stray from the far north or west will show up. Polliwog Ponds, Hazel Bazemore County Park, Rose Hill Cemetery and the Sandia/Knolle Farms area are good locations for wintering songbirds.
Seasons change, but programming is all year round
Don't forget to look at the calendar for upcoming events including seasonal festivals based on migrations, annual bird counts and guided field trips.