Many years ago, among the endless deep greenery of a cloud forest in Honduras, I fell in love with birds while working as a research volunteer on a biodiversity expedition.
Since that distant time and several life changes later, I took a job that landed me in Uvalde, Texas. And here in Uvalde, I am falling in love with birds again.
Now, loving birds is not necessarily the same as being a birder. I am a novice birder, trained mainly in Utah and therefore still stumbling through the myriad of new species that I have to learn in this little town where I just barely need my eastern field guide instead of my western one. But I am learning quickly, and also learning that for birders of all ages and abilities, Uvalde is a great place to check out the feathered wildlife.
All in one place
Uvalde lies at the intersection of three different ecoregions. The Edwards Plateau, often called the Hill Country, lies just north of town, while south of town you find yourself in the South Texas Plains—brush country. Travel just over an hour to the west and you’ll begin to transition into the Trans-Pecos. What this means for birders is an incredible diversity of species near at hand, including rare species whose ranges just barely extend into the U.S. from more tropical climes.
Black-capped vireo; Photo courtesy of Larry DittoSo, what can you see in Uvalde during a spring birding trip? Different birds need different habitats, so what you can see will depend on where you look. Cook’s Slough is one great place to visit, offering open water, riparian, forested and shrub habitats. On the water, watch for wood ducks and anhinga, and scan the nearby trees for vermilion flycatchers taking advantage of the insects. Head into the trees to look for green jays, which mainly occur in Mexico and just barely reach into South Texas. These vibrant birds are just as green as you would hope for them to be, with the exception of a rich blue head and black bib. Riparian habitat (along the river) is the place to watch and listen for another South Texas specialty, great kiskadees. Like green jays, kiskadees are rare in the U.S., although to the south their range extends far into South America. These birds are boldly colored, with yellow bellies, red-brown wings and a white face with a black cap and mask. Even bolder is their loud “kis-ka-dee” call that you are likely to hear before you even see it. Walking along the river, you will also have the chance to see all three of Texas’s kingfisher species—belted, green and ringed—all in one place.
Other places to go birding in Uvalde include Fort Inge and the Uvalde National Fish Hatchery. A drive along some of Uvalde’s county roads can offer access to more habitat types and different suites of bird species. North of town, sharp-eyed birders have even reported black-capped vireos, an endangered species that has suffered from habitat loss, and golden-cheeked warblers, another endangered species that nests only in the juniper-oak woodlands of the Hill Country.
Ready, set, bird!
Golden-cheeked warbler; Photo courtesy of Larry DittoSpringtime birding can be a reward of bright colors and beautiful melodies as birds in their breeding plumage flit among the treetops and call out their territories. In Texas, spring birding also means you should be prepared for any weather. Pack plenty of water and snacks for your trip, as well as a rain jacket. Keep in mind that like you and me, most birds would rather not be active during the hottest part of the day. For the best birding, you’ll want to get an early start—the early bird gets the worm, and the early birder gets the birds! Come afternoon, you’ll be ready to find some shade and water. Uvalde’s proximity to four different rivers means you can easily spend the morning watching birds and the afternoon relaxing in or near the water.
But keep your binoculars nearby, because you never know what you might see. And somewhere in between melodious bird songs and cold clear rivers, you never know when you might fall in love.
Maureen Frank, PhD
Extension Wildlife Specialist
For more information about birding events and programs in the Uvalde area, check the Uvalde AgriLife Extension Facebook page or follow @tamuagrilife.wildlife.swtx on Instagram.