The Houston area is home to some of the best views for birding, and summer is the perfect time to catch sight of shorebirds across the coast. Houston's position on the Central Flyway makes it a hotspot this time of year (and during spring and fall) since many species hug the coastline on their routes to cooler or warmer weather. Here are a few places you should set up your binoculars for the season.
Located along one of the largest bird migratory paths in North America, Bay Area Houston is a top destination birding and wildlife enthusiasts. Its diverse habitat of both fresh and salt marsh, bay shoreline, and riparian and upland woodlands, is home to nearly 300 species of birds.
Visit the city of Seabrook, which is located on the Clear Lake Loop of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and has four designated sites for birdlife observation – Hester Garden Park, McHale Park, Pine Gully Park, and Robinson Park – along Todville Road. Learn more about these locations here.
At Armand Bayou Nature Center, three ecosystems with more than 2,500 acres of bayou, forest and prairie are refuge for more than 360 species of animals and birds. One of the largest urban wildlife and wilderness preserves, Armand Bayou Nature Center is home to bison, raptors, and reptiles, and features a boardwalk through a woodland-pond area, a bird blind, walking trails, a late 1800’s farm site, pontoon boat tours, and guided canoe tours.
Baytown has two official locations on the Great Texas Coast Birding Trail: the Baytown Nature Center and the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands and Recreation Center.
Baytown Nature Center, a 450-acre site on two peninsulas surrounded by three bays, is home to more than 300 species of birds, which depend on this area for migration, feeding or nesting year-round. Watch Sandpipers and Roseate Spoonbills feed in the shallow pools or take photos of the large egrets and herons wading through the muddy waters. This former residential subdivision is now dotted with wildlife photography blinds located in birding hotspots, and also includes fishing piers, scenic overlooks, a children’s playground area, a butterfly garden and a bird sanctuary.
Before taking a trip to the Baytown Nature Center, experienced and novice birders alike can pick up a Baytown Birding Challenge booklet from the website or at the Baytown Buc-ee’s tourism kiosk. The Challenge is free and spotting shore birds in Baytown puts visitors that much closer to earning their birding prize!
Beaumont, Texas is on two migratory bird flyways: the Central and Mississippi. A local favorite for bird watching is Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands, which features a boardwalk with covered viewing platforms and 900 acres of scenic wetlands. Just five minutes off Interstate 10, this wildlife viewing area is home to a diversity of shorebirds. While walking along over twelve miles of trails at this wastewater treatment facility many shorebirds can be seen along the water’s edge. Yelllowlegs, Sandpipers, Gulls, Terns, Skimmers, Plovers, and so many more find their food on the mudflats and shallow water found throughout this prime birding location.
More than 350 bird species are spotted annually at Cattail Marsh, but it is also a wildlife refuge for a variety of aquatic mammals. The perfect point to get outdoors and connect with nature, the boardwalk is surrounded by more than eight miles of gravel levee roads that allow for a variety of recreational activities, including jogging, biking and horseback riding.
With two places to see birds from sunrise to sunset, Brazosport is an ideal region to enjoy birdwatching. A variety of species calls this location home including duck, heron, ibis, plover and more. Check out the Surfside Bird and Butterfly Nature Trail for a two-mile walk through a woodland habitat complete with native trees and a retention pond. The Quintana Bird Sanctuary is a four-acre site and a birder’s dream with an observation tower, photography blind and plenty of places to spot coastal birds in salt cedars and beach dunes.
Of the 338 species of birds listed as Nearctic-Neotropical migrants in North America, 333 of them have been recorded in Texas, and you’re sure to spot a few in Conroe, which sits at where the Central and Mississippi Flyways converge. Year round, the waters of the 22,000-acre Lake Conroe are home to these migrant birds as well as Bald Eagle and Osprey, and Red-breasted Nuthatch and Winter Wrens taking up residence along the shores. Read about Lake Conroe's activities and birding here.
Lafitte’s Cove, Corps Woods Nature Sanctuary and the Dos Vacas Muertas Bird Sanctuary are all places you can spot colorful migrant birds this summer. These birds include the Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Parula, Baltimore Oriole and Painted Bunting. Bright plumage distinguishes many of these birds who forage for seeds and fruit and almost all these birds have a distinctly chattery song.
Birding in Pearland is popular as the city lies in a prime position on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. Additionally, Pearland preserves several habitats that are critical for birds flying in for migration. Birders can set up camp at multiple locations throughout the city including Shadow Creek Ranch Nature Trail, one of the city's newest parks, and John Hargrove Environmental Complex where year-round a variety of herons, egrets, and Ring-billed Gull can be seen. For a full list of birding locations in Pearland and to download the birding guide, click here.
What’s that Ruddy Turnstone up to? This orange and black bundle of energy turns stones and shells to get to his supper at Sea Rim State Park. Visit Port Arthur and get views of those coveted shore birds at Sea Rim, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the marsh. Terns, gulls, avocets, sandpipers plovers and their shore-loving friends love Sea Rim as much as the beach-loving families do. Don’t miss out on the Willow Pond Boardwalk, a newly-developed birding area.
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