Birding Tour USA: A Texas Spring and Whooping Cranes 2017

Duration: 12 days

Here’s our next exciting tour in the Birding Tour USA collection. Due to its proximity to the humid tropics of Mexico, the subtropical woodlands of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas boast over two dozen Neotropical bird species that just barely spill across the border. Here colorful Great Kiskadees and personable Green Jays mingle with temperate species from further north. These tropical species occur nowhere else in the United States. Along the coast, muddy lagoons and shallow wetlands throng with thousands of shorebirds, herons, waterfowl, terns, and cranes, including the magnificent and highly endangered Whooping Crane. Further inland, a rolling, arid plain covered in thorn-scrub harbors a collection of species more typical of the American Southwest, such as Cactus Wren and Pyrrhuloxia. Further north, the Hill Country stretches along the eastern flank of the Edwards Plateau, a land characterized by wooded hills, sunny slopes, and sparkling streams. In the spring the forests of the Hill Country ring with the song of Golden-cheeked Warbler, a Texas breeding endemic. Together, these widely disparate habitats give southern Texas one of the richest and most unique bird faunas in the United States. We time this tour just before the Whooping Cranes depart to their Canadian breeding grounds, but late enough in the spring for summer breeders and passage migrants to arrive.

This Birding Tour USA adventure begins in the city of Corpus Christi, where coastal wetlands and mudflats are home to an abundance of waterbirds, such as the spectacular Long-billed Curlew and stately American White Pelican. However, the true star of this coastal avifauna is the Whooping Crane, and we will make a special effort to see it. Further south, King Ranch preserves tall-grass savanna dotted with live-oak groves (mottes), which are the U.S. strongholds for Tropical Parula and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. Afterwards we focus our attention on a long list of exciting tropical specialties found in the riparian woodlands of the lower Rio Grande Valley, such as Altamira Oriole, Long-billed Thrasher, and Pauraque. In the scenic Hill Country the range-restricted Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler are our primary targets, but we also visit a site near Concan to witness the spectacle of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats swirling out of a cave in the evening. The coastal areas of Texas are host to some of the most spectacular spring movements of raptors, shorebirds, and passerines on the continent, so we head back to Corpus Christi for a day in hopes of experiencing it, to round out this exciting itinerary.

This Birding Tour USA excursion can be combined with our Colorado: Lekking Grouse, Rocky Mountains, and Open Plains 2017 tour.

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