The Rio Grande Valley hosts one of the most spectacular convergences of birds on earth. Almost 500 species have been documented in this unique place. Many breed and nest along the quiet Laguna’s, palm-fringed Resaca’s and in the lush thorn forests. Each year, birders come here to witness this majestic migratory journey. Birders also come to see bird species they can’t find anyplace else in the country…from the Green Jay and the Buff-bellied Hummingbird to the Great Kiskadee and the Altamira Oriole.
Home of the World Birding Center
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.
From a historic adobe hacienda to scenic bluffs high above the Rio Grande and pristine wilderness to teeming wetlands, the World Birding Center network offers visitors a dazzling array of birding adventures. Visitors will be treated to wilderness walks, float trips and hands-on, state-of-the-art educational exhibits, all under the umbrella of a world class birding experience: The World Birding Center, where you will truly find Adventure Decorative Text.
The Rio Grande Valley Landscape
The South Texas Brush Country is characterized by plains of thorny shrubs and trees and scattered patches of palms and subtropical woodlands in the Rio Grande Valley. The plains were once covered with open grasslands and a scattering of trees, and the valley woodlands were once more extensive. Today, the primary vegetation consists of thorny brush such as mesquite, acacia, and prickly pear mixed with areas of grassland. The average annual rainfall of 20 to 32 inches increases from west to east. Average monthly rainfall is lowest during winter, and highest during spring (May or June) and fall (September). Summer temperatures are high, with very high evaporation rates. Soils of the region are alkaline to slightly acidic clays and clay loams. The deeper soils support taller brush, such as mesquite and spiny hackberry, whereas short, dense brush characterizes the shallow caliche soils. Although many land changes have occurred in this region, the Brush Country remains rich in wildlife and a haven for many rare species of plants and animals. It is home for semi-tropical species that occur in Mexico, grassland species that range northward, and desert species commonly found in the Trans-Pecos. Livestock grazing and crop production are the principal agricultural land uses.
El Sal del Rey (Salt of The King)
This large Salt Lake 22 miles north of Edinburg was discovered by the Spanish Conquistadors. Salt from the mines was transported overseas to Spain and her colonies and westward into Mexico. The white banks are also visible from Highway 186 where a historical marker rests. Sal del Rey is open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week and can be accessed by foot only. See the video below for a mini-tour! (956) 784-7500. Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEcUeDNQ61c
World Birding Center Edinburg, Texas
In the Spring of 2003, the City of Edinburg opened its World Birding Center. The Scenic Wetland Trails and birds park are set on forty acres of wetlands adajacent to the ninety acre Edinburg municipal Park. A nature tourism destination, the site has over one mile of trails and five bird observation platforms. The Edinburg World Birding Center is part of the Lower coastal Birding Trail and is classified a premier birding location in South Texas. For more information, (956) 381-9922 http://www.edinburgwbc.org/
Estero Llano Grande
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 230 plus-acre refuge. Take advantage of all they have to offer, including full moon hikes, bird, butterfly, and dragonfly walks and more! Located at 3301 S. International Blvd. Call 565-3919 for more information or visit http://theworldbirdingcenter.com/estero.html.
Valley Nature Center
Loop through six acres of pure nature and feed the birds at Valley Nature Center, a secret garden in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. The Valley Nature Center is the oldest nature center in the RGV, and the only non-profit center fully dedicated to environmental education south of San Antonio and east of Eagle Pass. Includes Cactus Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bird Feeding Stations, 1/4 Acre Wetland, Board Walk, Small Ponds, Walking Trails, and more! Call 969-2475 for tour information or visit http://valleynaturecenter.org.
Frontera Audubon Center
Frontera Audubon Center is a natural urban jewel located in the South Texas town of Weslaco. The 15 acre site attracts bird and butterfly enthusiasts from across the United States and world, thanks to its natural biodiversity. Be sure to visit the historic Skaggs House, one of Weslaco’s oldest buildings. In 1992, the Skaggs House was donated to Frontera for historic preservation. The home was designated as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1994 and renovations to its interior are underway. Located at 1101 S. Texas. Call 968-3275 for more information. Visit http://fronteraaudubon.org/
For much of its existence since construction in 1935, the Spanish Revival Style mansion was a private and rather luxurious residence, complete with a Roman tub. It possessed the distinction then and now of being one of, if not, the largest adobe structures in Texas (10,000 sq. feet).
After a period of over 60 years and two different owners, the house was put up for sale at an auction. Despite Quinta Mazatlan’s appeal, developers with eyes on other projects wanted to demolish the adobe home. Thanks to the citizens, the City of McAllen bought the property in 1998, Quinta Mazatlán avoided the bulldozer and assumed a much wider responsibility in the community. In 2006 Quinta Mazatlán opened as a “mansion with a mission."
Quinta Mazatlan is now an urban sanctuary working to enrich people's lives by sharing knowledge about birds, plants, and environmental stewardship in South Texas. Quinta Mazatlan and its WBC partners promote birding and conservation of Valley habitat, especially as it benefits numerous avian residents and neo-tropical migrants. The Valley currently has 1.2 million people on the American side (and at least 2.1 million on the Mexican side), and represents the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country. The protection of woodlands and green space is an important goal for the City of McAllen and its neighbors. www.QuintaMazatlan.com
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge happens to be positioned along an east-west and north-south juncture of two major migratory routes for many species of birds. It is also at the northern-most point for many species whose range extends south into Central and South America. The refuge is right in the middle of all this biological diversity, which is what makes this 2,088 acre parcel the ‘jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System.’ Though small in size, Santa Ana offers visitors an opportunity to see birds, butterflies and many other species not found anywhere else in the United States beyond deep South Texas.
Most out-of-town visitors will see or hear a new bird species before even making it into the refuge’s Visitor Center! Sit in the refuge’s breezeway and watch the birds or hike more than 12 miles of trails. Take an open-air tram ride or join a guided nature walk. http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Santa_Ana/
Old Hidalgo Pumphouse
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. Next door to the museum, more than 600 acres of U.S. Fish and Wildlife land is being replanted with native Huisache, Texas Ebony and Anacua, and will be an important birding tract when opened as part of the WBC. Plans are to also replant museum grounds with the types of native trees, shrubs and flowers that attract Valley birds and butterflies. Tropical kingfishers – both green and ringed – like the combination of water and woodland along the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse’s now abandoned intake channel. Those floodplain woodlands also harbor the Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Clay-colored Robin, Altamira Oriole and other Valley specialties. In winter, various colorful warblers, kinglets and gnatcatchers can be found chasing their insect meals. http://www.theworldbirdingcenter.com/Hidalgo.html
Ramsey Nature Park
Located in Harlingen off of South Loop 499 is the Ramsey Nature Park. This 40 acre wooded parkland includes six wildlife observation posts, 1 restroom facility, 1.5 miles of Hike/Bike trails and a medium pavilion. http://www.visitharlingentexas.com/outdoors/birding/
Thicket Nature Park
Harlingen’s Thicket Nature Park is over 3 acres and consists of a 1.5 mile Hike/Bike Trail, medium pavilion, and two wildlife observation posts. http://www.visitharlingentexas.com/outdoors/birding/
Bibliography – Texas Parks and Wildlife - World Birding Center