Corpus Christi, TX - the Birdiest City in America
Over the years there have been numerous birding competitions to determine the Birdiest City in America, and the Birdiest County in America. Winners are based on the number of species reported within a 48 period.
Corpus Christi is a perennial winner of the Birdiest City prize, sometimes reporting over 240 species in a single 48 period - inside the city limits!
Located on the Texas coast, the city provides a mix of coastal and inland habitats, is on the migration path of many species and is located in a zone that mixes both eastern and western species. Corpus is about 220 miles south of Houston.
When to Go
Good birding can be had any time of the year. Summer months can be slow but some of the coastal species are present year around.
Spring migration is good to great from April to early May, with some migrants arriving in March. Nesting for some species starts early in Corpus and further south.
Late Summer and fall
Perhaps the biggest draw in the late summer and fall are migrating raptors. The Corpus Christi hawk watch is held at Hazel Bazemore County Park, from August 14 until November 15. An estimated 90-95% of all Broad-winged Hawks migrate through the area. Single kettles of 10,000 birds or more are common and counts of over 100,000 raptors a day are not unusual. In 1997, an estimated 750,000 Broad-winged Hawks roosted in the area. (Count the wings and divide by two). Additional information on the Hawk Watch is available here.
Winter brings lots of waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. More and more hummingbirds seem to be wintering along the Texas coast. With the relatively mild coastal environment, Corpus is a great location for winter birding.
There is an outstanding mix of birds in the area. Spring migration can be great for warblers, tanagers, orioles and other colorful species. In the fall, thousands of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds move into the area as they prepare for their journey across the Gulf of Mexico. The Rockport/Fulton Hummingbird Festival is held in mid-September, about an hour up the coast from Corpus. Winter visitors include a range of shorebirds, from the Least Sandpiper to the Long-billed Curlew.
Several tropical species, such as the Green Jay and Great Kiskadee are close to the northern limit of their range and can be found in the area.
White-tailed Hawk - Photo © Greg Lavaty
Where to go
If you are new to the area then a great place to start gathering information on birding locations is to get a copy of the map - The Great Texas Birding Trail - Central Texas Coast. The colorful map provides directions and information on birding locations around the Corpus Christie area and along Padre Island up to Port Aransas.
The maps can be purchased on-line for $5.00. If you are driving into the state on one of the major highways, the maps are usually available for free at the state visitor centers.
Blucher Park, in the heart of the city, is a good place to start, The Great Texas Birding Trail map will show you many others. And don't forget Hazel Bazemore County Park.
One of our favorite birding loops starts by taking Highway 358 across the bay and onto Padre Island. Birding can be good on either side of the highway before and after you cross over to the island. Almost immediately after reaching the island turn left into Packery Channel Park. The birding in the park and the surrounding neighborhood can be excellent during spring migration.
Once on the island, head north on Hwy 361. Birding opportunities are found on both sides of the road. You'll be headed to the Port Aransas ferry. Before reaching the ferry you'll find good birding on the left.
Look for Cut-Off Road before reaching the ferry and follow the signs to both the Leona Belle Turnbull Birding Center and Paradise Pond. Paradise Pond can be great for migrating warblers. The Birding Center has a long boardwalk - look for waterfowl (Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Cinnamon Teal), grebes (Least included), heron and egrets, cormorants, shorebirds (such as Black-necked Stilt) and Roseate Spoonbills. An excellent birding location in the winter months. Land birds can often be observed in the area leading up to the boardwalk.
Cross over the ferry and had back to Corpus or up the coast to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge- the winter home of the Whooping Crane. (about a 90 minute drive from Corpus)
When back in Corpus, you can head inland to Lake Corpus Christi, where you will have an opportunity to find several western species. In the spring, watch for Cave Swallows nesting under the bridges as you head toward the lake.
Vermillion Flycatcher - Image © Greg Lavaty
Where to stay
There are many hotels in the area with a range of prices. If you want to work in a family vacation, the Omni Hotel (two different towers) is located across from the beach and near the downtown area. Blucher Park, mentioned above, is not far away. Dining is available across the street on the water. The view is nice but the service and food quality was poor during my last couple of visits.
Birding can be fair on the beach across from the Omni. Dine at a restaurant atop one of the Omni Towers (where the food is good) and you might get to watch a Peregrine Falcon chasing Rock Pigeons.
Nearby, the USS Lexington, a retired aircraft carrier is available for public tours. The Texas State Aquarium is not too far away and is another popular family destination.