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.

 

Spring

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

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.

 

Fall

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

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.

Where to visit

Birding Sites in Corpus Christi

AOC Sanctuaries


AOC Stewardships

4.

Blucher Park

Behind the central library near downtown, entrance on the 100 block of Carizzo Street. One of the top spots for migrating songbirds. Best in migration.

5.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park & City of Corpus Christi Wildlife Sanctuary

Take Exit 34 from I-37 and follow TX 359 for 5.5 miles.  Turn right on Park Road 25.  After a short distance there is a small parking lot on the left with a trail into the Corpus Christi Wildlife Sanctuary.  The trail goes through pasture and woods nearly to the spillway for the dam.  Stay on the mowed paths as poison ivy is prevalent. Further north on PR 25 there is a second parking lot with a trail which intersects the first one. The area below the dam is good for winter songbirds.  Continue on north on PR 25 to Lake Corpus Christi State Park.  The park, especially the dry brushy areas in the center, is good for many of the South Texas breeding bird specialties such as Green Jay, Long-billed Thrasher, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Olive Sparrow. Listen for owls at night.  Entrance fee, facilities, may be crowded on weekends. Open 7 am to 10 pm. Good all year. 

6.

Polliwog Pond

A heavily wooded area off Upriver Road.  When coming from the east, take the Sharpsburg Road exit from I-37, stay on the frontage road, go right at the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail sign, left on Upriver and sharp right into Polliwog. Polliwog has two entrances, use either one.  Walk the diked area around three settling ponds. Waterbirds, songbirds and migrants.  One of the top birding spots in the Coastal Bend.  Good year round, but best in migration and winter.


ADDITIONAL SITES

7.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Take TX 35 north from Rockport and turn east on FM 774 and then right on FM 2040 (follow the signs) to the entrance. This is the winter home of the Whooping Cranes, which can usually be seen (at a distance) from the observation tower at the end of the two-way road.  Many other ducks, water birds and song birds can be found along the way.  The one-way auto tour loop is open sunrise to sunset.  Entrance fee, facilities.  Bring insect repellant.   Check on opening and closing times

8.

Cape Velero

From the intersection of TX 35 and FM 1069 in Rockport, go west on FM 1069 and go right at the sign to Cape Velero. The road winds through grasslands and salt marshes. Seaside Sparrows are present year round and there are numerous water birds, as well as ducks in winter.

9.

Charlie’s Pasture North Boardwalk

A boardwalk goes about a half mile across tidal flats and pools, with a tower overlook. An excellent site for Horned Larks and Reddish Egret (both color morphs) as well as other herons and shorebirds. If coming to Port Aransas via the ferry, take the first right, on Cutoff Road and take an immediate right on Port St. Follow Port to the water and continue to a pavilion. In front of the pavilion take the trail to the right. If coming from the south, follow TX 361 until just before the ferry slip and turn left onto Port St. Best in migration and winter.

10.

Charlie's Pasture South Boardwalk

A wide boardwalk goes about a half mile across tidal flats and pools, with a tower overlook. This is an excellent site for shorebirds, herons, ibis, spoonbills, and particularly Snowy, Piping and Wilson’s Plover. The entrance is off TX 361 near the south end of Port Aransas, six-tenths of a mile south of the water tower or four-tenths of a mile north of the signal light at Beach Access Road 1A. Best in migration.

11.

Choke Canyon State Park

Take Exit 69 from I-37 and turn west on TX 72 and follow that through Three Rivers to the park.  There are two sections to the park with the Calliham Unit being much the better.  This is another good site for breeding birds including Audubon’s Oriole, Long-billed Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow and Olive Sparrow.  There are ducks and water birds on the 75-Acre Lake and the main body of the lake.  Entrance fee, facilities, may be crowded on weekends.  Good all year. Open 7 am to 10 pm.

12.

Goose Island State Park

Take TX 35 north across the Copano Bay Causeway and turn right on Park Road 13 and follow that road to the park entrance. There is good birding in the extensive live oak mottes as well as along the bay and adjacent salt marshes.  Entrance fee, facilities.  Best in migration and winter.  Contact Park about opening and closing times as well as the schedule for the guided bird walks in the winter.

13.

Gulf Beaches of Upper Padre Island, Mustang Island, Packery and Port Aransas

The access roads to the beach are well marked along TX 361 on Mustang Island and Park Road 22 on Padre Island.  Driving along beaches is possible except during storms and very high tide.  The Port Aransas jetty is at the north end of Mustang Island and the Packery jetties are on either side of Packery Channel between Mustang and Padre Islands.  Numerous gulls, terns, shorebirds and Brown Pelicans can be seen along the beach.  Occasionally rarities can be seen from the ends of the jetties.  Good all year.

14.

Hans A. & Pat Suter Wildlife Area

Nature park with a boardwalk on the shore of the Cayo del Oso.  The entrance is at the intersection of Nile and Ennis Joslin. Egrets, herons and ibis are present year round along the boardwalk and at the overlook. Shorebirds are mostly July through April. Many ducks in the winter.  Also butterflies, wildflowers and native plants.

15.

Hazel Bazemore County Park

A brushy, wooded park on the Nueces River.  Home to the Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch conducted August 15-November 15.  Go west on FM 624 from US 77 and turn right at the stoplight at County Road 69.  At the park entrance, turn left to go to the hawk watch platform or continue straight, down the hill toward the Nueces River.  Turn left at the bottom of the hill to get to a boardwalk and overlook for the small pond or right to get to a nature trail.  The road passes along the Nueces River and several acres of wetlands.  Ducks, shorebirds, wading birds, rails. Good for Green Jay and other South Texas specialties all year and bluebirds and Marsh and Sedge Wrens in winter. The hawk migration in fall can be spectacular.  Facilities. 

16.

Hilltop Nature Area

Nature park with a boardwalk on the shore of the Cayo del Oso.  The entrance is at the intersection of Nile and Ennis Joslin. Egrets, herons and ibis are present year round along the boardwalk and at the overlook. Shorebirds are mostly July through April. Many ducks in the winter.  Also butterflies, wildflowers and native plants.

17.

Indian Point Park

Whether heading north or south on TX 35/US 181 exit at the signs for Indian Point Park.  A boardwalk overlooks salt marshes which harbor Clapper Rail all year round.  Willet, Reddish Egret, American Oystercatcher and other shorebirds, waders, gulls and tern.  Facilities.  Good year round.

18.

John J. Sablatura County Park

On TX 44 one mile west of Banquete.  Woodsy park on Agua Dulce Creek open 7 am to 9 pm.  Long-billed Thrasher and Green Jay all year round, sparrows and Eastern Bluebirds in winter. Facilities.  

19.

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

This is one of the best sites in Port Aransas. Turn west on TX 361 where that highway leaves Alister St at the stoplight.  Follow the signs to the parking lot.  The entrance path goes by a cattail marsh and a few trees which can harbor migrants in spring.  The path leads to a boardwalk over a large freshwater pond with an observation tower.  Ducks, Least Bittern, Roseate Spoonbill, egrets, hawks, shorebirds, gallinules, rails and two alligators.  Guided bird walks on Wednesdays at 9:00 am.  The ducks and wading birds are quite tame and offer great opportunities for photographers.

20.

Live Oak Park

In Ingleside.  Take FM 1069 south to sign for Live Oak Park Entrance B.  Extensive live oak and bay bushes make this site attractive for migrants.  In the back of the park is a small pond.  Heavy weekend recreational use.  Facilities.  Best in migration.

21.

McGloin Road

From the junction of FM 624 and FM 666 go north on 666 to San Patricio and turn right on McGloin Road. Leisurely birding along isolated flooded old gravel pits. 1.7 miles from the beginning of McGloin Road to the end of the road at a gate.  Best in winter.

22.

Mollie Beatty Coastal Habitat Community

On TX 361 about 1.5 miles north of the intersection with Park Road 22.  Walking trail along tidal flats.  Piping Plover habitat as well as other shorebirds and herons, egrets, gulls and terns.

23.

Mustang Island State Park

The entrance is on TX 361 about five miles north of the intersection with Park Road 22. Birding on gulf beach, in dunes and on flats along the bay.  Facilities, entrance fee.  Open 7 am to 10 pm.  

24.

Packery Channel County Park

Take the JFK Causeway (Park Road 22) east and once on Padre Island, take a left at the sign for the county park.  Go to the end of the road and bird along the channel.  Waders, shorebirds, gull, terns, spoonbills.  Good all year.

25.

Packery Channel Jetties

Packery jetties are on either side of Packery Channel between Mustang and Padre Islands.  Numerous gulls, terns, shorebirds and Brown Pelicans can be seen along the beach.  Occasionally rarities can be seen from the ends of the jetties.  Good all year.

26.

Padre Island National Seashore & Bird Island Basin

Drive south down Park Road 22 to Padre Island National Seashore.  A few miles past the entrance, a side road goes to the right to Bird Island Basin.  In wet years the marshes along this road and PR 22 can be very good for ducks, gallinules, waders and grebes.  In winter, watch for Peregrine and Merlin and for White-tailed Hawk and Crested Caracara all year.  Further down PR 22 is the Malaquite Visitor Center with several displays and educational exhibits.  Facilities.  Past Malaquite the road goes to the beach which can be driven south for over 50 miles (four-wheel drive only past the first few miles). 

27.

Port Aransas Jetties

The Port Aransas jetty is at the north end of Mustang Island. Numerous gulls, terns, shorebirds and Brown Pelicans can be seen in this area.  Occasionally rarities can be seen from the ends of the jetties.  Good all year.

28.

Port Aransas Wetlands Park

In the southern part of Port Aransas on Highway 361 opposite the Post Office. The tidal flats in front of the overlook can be very good for shorebirds, waders, gulls and terns.

29.

Rockport Area

Rockport Beach Park is a great place in the summer for observing nesting shore birds, especially Black Skimmers. Information on the Connie Hagar Sanctuary  and numerous other parks and birding areas is available at the Rockport Chamber of Commerce.

30.

Rose Hill Cemetery

Entrance at the corner of Comanche and Palm.  Rose Hill is a designated bird sanctuary and another top spot for migrating and winter songbirds in the numerous mature live oaks.  Best in migration and winter.

31.

Sandia/Knolle Farms

This area is primarily pasture, fence rows, ponds and a large dairy farm.  Take FM 624 west to the junction with FM 70 and go north on 70.  Where 70 takes a sharp turn to the left, continue straight on a small county road.  This curves to the left past the dairy farm and becomes Jim Wells County Road 360.  Where CR 360 crosses FM 1540, you can go straight on 360 or go right on FM 1540, or do both.  In wet years the ponds have ducks, waders and shorebirds.  This area is good for sparrows and hawks in winter and is one of the most reliable locations for Ferruginous Hawk.  From the little town of Sandia you can continue on north on TX 359 to Lake Corpus Christi State Park

32.

Scott & Joan Holt Paradise Pond

On Cutoff Road 0.3 miles south of Cotter St (the road which leads to the ferry slip). A small sign indicates the turnoff to the parking lot.  This is a boardwalk around a willow-lined freshwater pond.  One of the best spots for migrants in spring and good also in fall.  Butterfly garden.

33.

South Texas Botanical Gardens

8545 South Staples.  Over 180 acres of native habitat, natural wetlands and floral exhibits.  Ornamental flowering plants attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  A bird and butterfly trail leads to an overlook at the pond, where ducks, grebes and shorebirds may be found.  Allow time to explore the plant life as well as the birds.  Inquire about educational seminars and workshops.  Facilities, fee.  

34.

Sunset Lake Park

Going north from Corpus Christi on TX 35/US 181 take the Moore Avenue exit in Portland, turn right on Moore and then in a few blocks bear right on Sunset and go down the hill.  Sunset Lake is on the right and Corpus Christi Bay on the left.  The sandy flats on Sunset Lake (if tide is right) are good for Snowy Plover and other collared plovers.  Shorebirds, waders, Common Loon in the bay.  A hike and bike trail goes from the parking lot to Indian Point Park

35.

Texas A&M University Corpus Christi & NAS Causeway

Hike and bike trail overlooks flats of Oso Bay.  Enter from 6300 Ocean Drive and ask at the kiosk about parking.  Follow the hike and bike trail marked by white lampposts around the south shore of the island.  Shorebirds, waders, gulls and terns. Continue on east on Ocean drive past the university and bird along the Oso Bay side of the Naval Air Station Causeway (usually closed on weekends).  Good for Snowy, Piping and Wilson’s Plover and Whimbrel (in spring). Best fall through spring.

36.

Tule Lake

A tidal lake on Upriver Road.  Take Exit 6 off I-37 and follow Southern Minerals Road north toward the river.  Turn left on Upriver Road and proceed to the overlook.  Shorebirds, ducks, pelicans, spoonbills, egrets, gulls, terns, ibis and Wood Storks in summer.  Good all year, but best in migration and winter.

37.

Wright Ranch Pond

Take FM 624 west to the intersection with FM 666 and turn right.  Go about 0.9 miles and park on a pull off on the right just before the bridge.  This is a wooded pond on a private ranch. The back side of the pond is a roosting area for herons, egrets, spoonbills, Anhinga, Wood Stork and cormorants.  Hundreds of birds can concentrate here in late afternoons, particularly in the late summer and fall.

Checklists and Additional Birdwatching Resources

Author and Audubon Outdoor Club member Mel Cooksey has been recording comprehensive information on the birds of the Coastal Bend for decades now at BirdIDLit -- this is a complete checklist for Nueces County and a must-see treasure trove for birdwatchers and ornithologists alike.

Mel Cooksey's BirdIDLit.com

Member Larry Jordan has put together this Field Checklist of the Birds of the Corpus Christi Area, for resident and visitor birdwatchers alike to enjoy a quick-reference of the seasonal abundance of birds in our town.

Larry Jordan's Checklist of the Birds of the Corpus Christi Area

Looking for a plain-text list of local and regional birding sites to use when you're offline? Print or download our comprehensive list of Birding Sites of Corpus Christi & the Coastal Bend, complete with driving directions and need-to-know notes.

Audubon Outdoor Club's Birding Sites of Corpus Christi & the Coastal Bend

 

This list of resources for beginning birders was carefully compiled by the students at Sutter Library.

Sutter Library Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching

 

Banner Images: Hooded Oriole - Jimmy Jackson; Kiskadee, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Green - Mary King

 

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