Best Birding Hotspots in South Texas

With the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival going on, I'm highlighting some of the best birding hotspots in South Texas that you should visit.

South Texas has long been one of the best birding hotspots in the U.S. and right now many birders have traveled there for the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Birding Festival. Although I can’t be there this year, these locations are some of my favorite places to bird when I’m in South Texas. You should also travel to South Texas to see hundreds of rare butterflies.

1. Estero Llano Grande State Park

This is my favorite place to go birding in South Texas. There are a variety of habitats from wetlands to woods and you really never know what might be found here. In addition to the regular RGV specialties such as Green Jay and Common Paraque, many rare birds have been found here like Rose-throated Becard, White-throated Thrush, and Tropical Parula. For a full list of all species reported here on eBird, click here.

Best Birding Hotspots in South Texas©Rob Ripma
Estero Llano Grande is a great place to see Common Paraques on day roosts.

2. Bentson-Rio Grande Valley State Park

No visit to the RGV is complete without a stop at Bentson-Rio Grande Valley State Park. This large park is easy to get around since they have a tram with set pick up and drop off points. For a full list of all species reported here on eBird, click here.

3. Santa Ana NWR

Santa Ana is a great place to see many of the typical RGV specialty species and has attracted many rarities over the years as well. This park does require a lot of walking to really bird the whole refuge. For a full list of all species reported here on eBird, click here.

Best Birding Hotspots in South TexasCourtesy Rob Ripma
Green jays might be common in the RGV but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the most sought after species by birders.

4. Laguna Atascosa NWR

Laguna Atascosa is huge and a great refuge for birds. Much of the area can be birded by car and look to join one of the official tours that visits the old auto tour route that is now closed to protect the rare Ocelot. For a full list of all species reported here on eBird, click here.

Best Birding Hotspots in South Texas©Rob Ripma
I’ve always had great luck finding Greater Roadrunners at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

5. South Padre Island

Although most people think of South Padre Island as a spring break destination, it actually offers some great birding opportunities. It attracts a large number of migrant songbirds as well as many herons, egrets, shorebirds, and more! For a full list of all species reported here on eBird, click here.

Rob Ripma
Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has birded extensively throughout the Americas and also spent time birding in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Rob is currently on the executive boards of two organizations: Past President of the Board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis (after leading the board as President for 6 years) and Secretary for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the field trip coordinator for BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding annual event. Rob sat on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President. He is a co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. His leadership and expertise led to Rob working as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine from 2013-2017. Rob enjoys working with both new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect them and their habitats. Additionally, he loves educating others about the positive impact nature tourism can have on local economies, especially in developing countries. This passion led to his involvement in the production of a PBS television program called, “Flight Path: The World of Migratory Birds”, where a crew accompanied him on a tour to Panama to highlight and bring to life the effect that birds and birding have on both the people that see them and those who work and live in areas visited by birders and nature lovers. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 and lives in Carmel, Indiana with his wife and daughter.