The Rio Grande Valley is recognized as an international birding destination and is one of the most critical areas for migrating birds in North America. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of birds (over 500 recorded in the Valley), and enjoy the specialty birds like Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Altamira Oriole and Tropical Kingbird.
Harlingen is home to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, one of the longest running bird festivals in the country. The RGVBF is celebrating its 26th year in 2019, and would love to have you join in the field trips, workshops & presentations, socials, and camaraderie. The Festival is scheduled for November 6-10, 2019. For more information, please see their website at http://www.rgvbf.org.
The Arroyo Colorado, one of the few freshwater sources in this stretch of the migratory path, runs through the middle of Harlingen. Along its banks rests the two properties known as the Harlingen Arroyo Colorado World Birding Center. Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and the Harlingen Thicket both offer a network of paths, overlooks, and terrific birds within the city limits.
Arroyo Colorado Hike & Bike Trail
400 W. Harding Avenue, Harlingen, TX
The Arroyo Colorado Hike & Bike Trail (C.B. Wood Park) is a 9-acre pocket park is nestled along the banks of the Arroyo Colorado in urban Harlingen and is covered in native South Texas ebony. Amenities include paved parking, covered picnic tables, restrooms, playground, handicapped accessible parking and paved walking/biking trails. This park is site LTC027 of the Great Texas Birding Trail system.
Directions: From US77/I-69E northbound in Harlingen, exit New Hampshire Street; stay on the frontage road one mile to Taft Avenue. Turn right on Taft to 1st Street, turn right on 1st St. to Wilson, then right on Wilson to CB Wood Park. From US77/I-69E southbound in Harlingen, exit F Street, continue on the frontage road to Rangerville Road, turn left under the freeway, then left again onto northbound frontage road to Taft. Follow above.
Bird Species in season: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Groove-billed Ani, Green Jay, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Great Kiskadee, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Green Kingfisher, Neotropic Cormorant, Couch’s and Tropical Kingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Black-crested Titmouse.
Harlingen City Lake
410 ’76 Drive, Harlingen, TX (Across from Harlingen Public Library)
A paved sidewalk circles three-quarters of the lake for a view of the ducks, gulls, and herons visiting the reservoir. Check the dense native trees along the north neighborhoods and pocket park to the east of ’76 Drive for migrants and rowdy parrots and parakeets that feed in the area. No facilities, parking on street. This park is site LTC025 of the Great Texas Birding Trail system.
Bird Species in season: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Laughing Gull, Great Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Great and Snowy Egret, American White Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Couch’s and Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Purple Martin, Chimney Swift, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Red-crowned Parrot and Green Parakeet.
Harlingen Thicket Nature Park
(part of Harlingen’s Arroyo Colorado World Birding Center)
770 East Taft Avenue, Harlingen, TX
This 40-acre tract of Tamaulipan native brush and impressive plant variety is located in urban Harlingen. Hiking trails navigate the park from the parking area down to the Arroyo Colorado into its riparian habitat. Facilities include restrooms, a covered picnic table, and paved parking lot. Open sunrise to sunset. This park is site LTC028 of the Great Texas Birding Trail system.
Bird Species in season: Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Kite, Long-billed, Curve-billed and Sage Thrasher, Inca Dove, Verdin, Great Kiskadee, Altamira Oriole, Bewick’s Wren, Groove-billed Ani, Olive Sparrow, Plain Chachalaca.
Hugh Ramsey Nature Park
1001 South Loop 499, Harlingen, TX
(Part of Harlingen’s Arroyo Colorado World Birding Center)
This 55-acre tract of reclaimed land is covered in Texas ebony, mixed in with mesquite, huisache, brasil, retama and granjeno. This park is constantly being worked on to restore its quality of habitat for the benefit of wildlife by volunteers from Audubon and Texas Master Naturalist. While excellent birding in the winter months, it is a good migrant trap in spring. A newly-created hummingbird garden attracts the native Buff-bellied Hummingbird year round.Facilities include restrooms, a large pavilion with picnic tables, paved parking area, photo blinds and a network of nature trails. This park is site LTC026 of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail system.
Directions: From US77/I-69E in Harlingen, exit Loop 499 (Ed Carey Drive). Proceed north on Ed Carey Drive through the intersection of Business 77 Sunshine Strip. The park is one mile beyond this intersection on the right-hand side just past the bridge over the Arroyo Colorado.
Bird Species in season: Least Grebe, Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black-crested Titmouse, Great Kiskadee, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Pauraque, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Neotropic Cormorant, Couch’s Kingbird, Long-billed and Curved-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove. Butterfly Species: Great Southern White, Large Orange Sulphur, Lyside Sulphur, Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, Western Pygmy-Blue, Blue Metalmark, Bordered Patch, Vesta Crescent, Phaon Crescent, Tropical Buckeye, White Peacock, Queen, Soldier, White-striped Longtail, Long-tailed Skipper, Dorantes Longtail, Mazans Scallopwing, Sickle-winged Skipper.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
22817 Ocelot Road, Los Fresnos, TX
Established in 1946, the 97,007-acre refuge has more documented species of birds than any other National Wildlife Refuge in the United States. The refuge is open for wildlife watching, education and interpretation, hunting, fishing and nature photography and is about one hour’s drive east of Harlingen. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is the summer and/or winter home to a diversity of wildlife including the endangered Ocelot. Due to its location on the mainland, adjacent to the hyper-saline Laguna Madre Bay and onto the barrier islands and beaches of South Padre Island, the Laguna Atascosa NWR provides an important habitat for nesting sea turtles, blue crab, herons and egrets and many other species. Over 130 species of butterflies have been documented on the refuge. Visitors can take advantage of foot trails, and auto, tram and kayaking tours. The Visitor Center, paved parking lot and restrooms are at the entrance to the refuge (call for seasonal hours).
Bird Species in season: Sandhill Crane, Green Jay, Aplomado Falcon, Clapper Rail, Redhead, Greater Roadrunner, Painted Bunting, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, Groove-billed Ani, Common Pauraque, White-tailed Kite, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Botteri’s Sparrow, Cassin’s Sparrow, White-tipped Dove