Rio Grande Valley

Green Jay Cyanocorax yncas (McAllen City Bird) ©Harmony Planet Earth - Creative Commons Website
Birding The Rio Grande Valley

he southernmost tip of Texas known as the Rio Grande Valley is one of the most popular birding and butterfly watching hotspots in the world. The four counties of Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron form a subtropical coastal region with mild, dry winters and hot and humid summers. Inland, the drier landscape is dominated by thick spiny brush. The unique climate in South Texas attracts nature aficionados from all over the nation, especially for birding and butterfly watching. The majority of Texan birds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians, reptiles and mammals can be found in South Texas – making it a premier spot for nature parks and wildlife.The Rio Grande Valley also hosts eight annual nature festivals, as well as having many nature trails, viewing areas and events.

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Top Sites
  • Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

    Satellite View
    Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park features more than 325 species of birds and over 250 species of butterflies on 760 acres of riparian woodland. Witness amazing hawk migrations, and enjoy bird walks and natural history tours at this key migratory stopover…
  • Chihuahua Woods Perserve

    Satellite View
    Chihuahua Woods Perserve in southern Hidalgo County is west of Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, just south of the railroad tracks, immediately south of Business Highway 83 and west of FM 1427. It is a creation of the Nature Conservancy of Texas.
  • Edinburg Scenic Wetlands

    Satellite View
    A 40-acre wetlands oasis in the midst of a lively urban landscape, the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands offers watchable wildlife year-round in a setting friendly to birds, butterflies and other water-loving creatures…
  • Estero Llano Grande State Park

    Satellite View
    At the geographic center of the World Birding Center network, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco attracts a spectacular array of South Texas wildlife with its varied landscape of shallow lake, woodlands and thorn forest. Even beginning birders and nature lovers will enjoy exploring this 176-acre refuge, which is convenient to all the Rio Grande Valley has to offer…
  • Falcon State Park

    Satellite View
    Falcon State Park in Zapata County - This is a Texas State Park. Day use, and Camping are allowed. Public access to Falcon Lake, (part of the Rio Grande behind Falcon Dam) is provided by this park.
  • Laguna Atascosa NWR

    Satellite View
    Laguna Atascosa NWR is the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, an oasis for wildlife with few alternatives. The refuge's 45,000 acres become more valuable with each acre lost to development--valuable to wildlife and valuable to those who enjoy wildlife in wildlands….
  • Sabal Palm Sanctuary

    Satellite View
    The Center is home to many native species of plants and animals that reach the northernmost limit of their Mexican range here and do not occur elsewhere in the U.S. Cradled in a bend of the Rio Grande along the U.S./Mexico border, the Sabal Palm Audubon Center harbors one of the most beautiful and critical ecosystems of South Texas and Northern Mexico….
  • Santa Ana NWR

    Satellite View
    Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,080-acre natural preserve on the banks of the Rio Grande seven miles south of Alamo in Hidalgo County. The refuge is noted for its unusual birds, mammals, butterflies, and plants…
  • South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

    Satellite View
    A slender thread of land between the shallow Laguna Madre and the rolling Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island anchors the World Birding Center with nature adventures in every season…
Contributors
  • Fatbirder

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 520

    (As at October 2018)
Useful Reading

  • A Birder's Guide to the Rio Grande Valley

    By Mark W Lockwood, William B McKinney, James N Paton & Barry R Zimmer | American Birding Association | 2008 | Paperback | 328 pages, b/w photos, b/w maps | ISBN: 9781878788498 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • A Birder's Guide to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas

    By Harold R Holt | American Birding Association | 2nd edition | 1992 | Paperback | 189 pages, Maps, b/w photos, line illustrations | ISBN: 1878788019 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Bird Songs of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Southwestern Texas

    By Geoffrey A Keller | Cornell Laboratory Of Ornithology | 2000 | Audio CD | ISBN: 0938027476 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Nesting Birds of a Tropical Frontier

    (The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas) | By T Brush | Texas A & M University Press | 2005 | Paperback | 245 pages, 31 Col photos, 6 maps, illustrations | ISBN: 1585444901 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Balcones Songbird Nature Festival

    Facebook Page
    Held annually near Austen at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge…
  • Brownsville International Birding Festival

    Information
    Very special birding awaits you this February amidst the best overall climate in Texas. The sixth annual Brownsville International Birding Festival offers Birders and other nature lovers a complete program of field trips, seminars and other fun events that will explore the biodiversity of South Texas and Northern Mexico…
  • Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

    Festival Website
    The Valley boasts the biggest concentration of eye-popping tropical species, birds not found anywhere else in the U.S…
  • Wild in Willacy

    Festival Website
    A four-day festival celebrating the natural bio-diversity of Willacy County, Texas, one of the four counties which make up the Rio Grande Valley…
Organisations
  • Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

    Website
    The Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge support their namesake refuge, while the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor support the Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges. These two non-profit organizations help conduct environmental education and nature programs. They lobby on a local and national level, secure grants, promote the refuges and help with important projects that benefit endangered species…
  • Frontera Audubon

    Website
    Frontera Audubon is a natural urban jewel tucked in the South Texas town of Weslaco, five miles from the Rio Grande and Mexico. Our 15 acre site offers opportunities for birders, butterfliers and all those interested in the wonders of nature and biodiversity…
  • Rio Grande Delta Audubon

    Website
    Rio Grande Delta Audubon is dedicated to conservation of our native habitat for the protection of birds, other wildlife, and for the enhancement and appreciation of our environment
  • Texas Birding

    Website
    If you are a birder, there is no better destination than Texas. Our state offers birders the richest terrestrial birding in the United States, with some 640 species supported by its diverse habitats. Did you know that around 67% of U.S. bird species interact in various ways with the Texas Coast? Because our state offers habitats ranging from freshwater bayous to desert, a wide range of bird species are able to chirp, squawk, flutter, fly and thrive. Enjoy a thrilling, unique birding experience you won’t find anywhere else—Texas offers bird-watching opportunities that can’t be beat for birders traveling alone, in groups, and through tour companies.
  • World Birding Center

    Website
    Not just one, but nine unique locations in the Rio Grande Valley. Each site of the World Birding Center has its own attractions for both the first time visitor and expert birder. Not one season, but all seasons, as more than 500 bird species make this a not-to-be-missed nature destination. Palm-fringed resacas… rare thorn forest… riverside woodlands… crashing surf; the nine different sites that make up the World Birding Center together paint a colorful backdrop for birding in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • Harlingen Arroyo Colorado

    WebpageSatellite View
    A gateway to the entire World Birding Center network, Harlingen’s Arroyo Colorado is close to major highways and an international airport, but remains a quiet wooded retreat from the hustle of urban life. Connected by the arroyo waterway, as well as hike-and-bike trails meandering through the city, Hugh Ramsey Nature Park to the east and the Harlingen Thicket to the west anchor an important reservoir of nature in a fast-changing world…
  • NC Quinta Mazatlan

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Our nature center is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Thursday nights until dark…
  • NC Roma Bluffs

    WebpageSatellite View
    History and nature meet on scenic bluffs above the Rio Grande, where the World Birding Center in Roma can be found on the old plaza of a once-thriving steamboat port. Part of a national historic district, the WBC Roma Bluffs includes a riverside nature area of three acres: The gateway to unforgettable birding adventures across Starr County…
  • NC Sabal Palm Audubon Center

    WebpageSatellite View
    Sabal Palm is currently closed to the public. Please check back as we are seeking opportunities to make the sanctuary accessible to the public again. You may also email us at spac@audubon.org
  • NC Valley Nature Center

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The Valley Nature Center is the oldest nature center in the Rio Grande Valley, and the only non-profit center fully dedicated to environmental education south of San Antonio and east of Eagle Pass. It has been in operation as a non-profit organization dedicated to its mission since 1984…
  • NR Chihuahua Woods

    InformationSatellite View
    The 349-acre Chihuahua Woods Preserve is a relic of what the Rio Grande Valley once was: a unique ecosystem with an expansive variety of trees, shrubs and thickets. Today, less than 5 percent of that original Tamaulipan thornscrub habitat remains in its native condition. The preserve is home to many species native to the Valley, and its plant life provides a range of seasonal foods and cover for wildlife
  • NR Edinburg Scenic Wetlands

    WebpageSatellite View
    A 40-acre wetlands oasis in the midst of a lively urban landscape, the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands offers watchable wildlife year-round in a setting friendly to birds, butterflies and other water-loving creatures…
  • NR Los Ebanos Preserve

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Visit the Rio Grande Valley's new and unique 82-acre private nature park to view birds and butterflies and enjoy native plants and trees. This special property boasts butterfly-friendly gardens, trails and tropical landscaping, including many varieties of palms. Our lake is host to numerous species of water birds…
  • NWR Balcones Canyonlands

    InformationSatellite View
    The primary purpose of the refuge is to protect the nesting habitat of the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, two highly endangered migratory birds.
  • NWR Laguna Atascosa

    WebpageSatellite View
    The south Texas landscape is a unique blending of temperate, subtropical, coastal, and desert habitats. Mexican plants and wildlife are at the northernmost edge of their range, while migrating waterfowl and sandhill cranes fly down for the mild winters…
  • NWR Santa Ana

    WebpageSatellite View
    Along the banks of the lower Rio Grande is the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a 2,088 acre refuge established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds. Considered the ‘jewel’ of the refuge system, this essential ‘island’ of thorn forest habitat is host or home to nearly 400 different types of birds and a myriad of other species, including the indigo snake, malachite butterfly and the endangered ocelot….
  • Old Hidalgo Pumphouse

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Magic Valley’s early 20th Century transition into an agricultural powerhouse is retold at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, which also embraces nature conservation as a wing of the World Birding Center. On a break from cross-border shopping excursions, visitors to this museum on the Rio Grande can learn about the steam-driven irrigation pumps that transformed Hidalgo County into a year-round farming phenomenon. They also can wander the museum’s grounds, where hummingbird gardens are planned, and where many of the Valley’s amazing bird species are regular visitors as well…
  • SP Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley

    WebpageSatellite View
    The crown jewel of Rio Grande Valley parks, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park well deserves its status as headquarters of the World Birding Center…
  • SP Estero Llano Grande

    WebpageSatellite View
    At the geographic center of the World Birding Center network, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco attracts a spectacular array of South Texas wildlife with its varied landscape of shallow lake, woodlands and thorn forest. Even beginning birders and nature lovers will enjoy exploring this 176-acre refuge, which is convenient to all the Rio Grande Valley has to offer…
  • SP Falcon

    WebpageSatellite View
    Gently rolling hills are covered by mesquite, huisache, wild olive, ebony, cactus native grasses. Falcon Lake is a big fishing paradise, especially for those seeking black and white bass, catfish, and stripers (Link to detailed lake and fish info). The area is very popular with bird watchers; varied and interesting bird life consisting of common resident birds, which range throughout the American Southwest, and many of the tropical species for which this is the northwesternmost outpost. Also, there are uncommon varieties such as the small green kingfisher and the varied bunting.
  • SP Resaca de la Palma

    WebpageSatellite View
    Brownsville’s Resaca de la Palma State Park boasts the largest tract of native habitat in the World Birding Center network. Etched by ancient curves of the Rio Grande, its 1200 semi- tropical acres provide a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of an international urban center only a few miles away. Through the cooperation of local, state and federal land management agencies, a wilderness preserved from days gone by is open to nature adventurers for the first time…
  • South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

    WebpageSatellite View
    At the southern tip of the world’s longest barrier island, South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is a spectacular introduction to a world-class destination, and a doorway to all this vibrant sand, sun, and surf hotspot has to offer. A slender thread of land between the shallow Laguna Madre and the rolling Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island anchors the World Birding Center with nature adventures in every season…
Guides & Tour Operators


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  • John B Odgers

    Guide
    Rio Grande birding guide: Tel 956-581-8861
Trip Reports


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  • 2008 [02 February] - Rob Fergus

    Report
    The Rio Grande Valley (The Valley) is one of North America's best birding areas, since it is in the northernmost part of the range for many Mexican birds, including Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, Olive Sparrow, and over a dozen other species…
  • 2009 [04 April] - David Cardinal

    Report
    Every bird photographer knows how difficult it is to photograph woodland birds--especially the colorful ones like warblers and buntings. And for those with either too little mobility or too much sense to race around the woods with a tripod it is usually impossible. That's why I'm always so excited about our trip to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas each April…
  • 2016 [01 January] - Chris Benesh

    Report
    ...It was a decent winter for rarities in the lower Rio Grande Valley, and we managed good views of a few of them. The best of the bunch was probably the Northern Jacana that performed well for us at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, the female type Crimson-collared Grosbeak showed up, and while furtive, did sit still long enough to enjoy. Other rarities included a nice Tropical Parula. A couple of folks were able to add a Flame-colored Tanager to the rarities list, though it was uncooperative for the rest of us...
Places to Stay


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  • Casa Santa Ana

    Accommodation
    Located in the heart of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, adjacent to world famous Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge…
  • Embassy Suites

    Accommodation
    I found this a great base in McAllen for exploring the birding hotspots of the valley… reasonable rates, nice rooms, WiFi and a decent restaurant with room service Fatbirder
  • Neals

    Accommodation
    The area surrounding Concan is considered one of the best Birding areas in Texas! Several hundred species of birds can be spotted throughout the year, including the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. Neal's Lodges maintains the feeding stations year round…
Other Links
  • The Birds of the Rio Grande

    Website
    A Birding Tour of Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley featuring stories and large photographs of these birds, in order
  • The Rio Grande Valley's Nature Site

    Website
    Welcome to David and Jan Dauphin's Website. We have always been strong supporters of nature tourism, particularly in South Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley or LRGV, comprised of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy Counties
Blogs
  • Kay Baughman - Arroyo Colorado River blog

    BLOG
    Last update June 2014 - I live on the Arroyo Colorado River in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. My favorite birding destination is our own backyard. Most days you can find me here, watching birds from the porch outside or through large windows overlooking the Arroyo. Sit awhile and watch the yard and river with me…

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