Winter Birding in South Texas

Whooping Cranes and Lower Rio Grande Valley Specialties

(February 8-13, 2023)

Whooping Crane - Stock

South Texas is where the Lone Star State’s birding is at its best. The Coastal Bend is home to overwintering Whooping Cranes, one of the world’s rarest birds, as well as waterfowl, waders, terns and more. The Lower Rio Grande Valley’s subtropical habitats provide for year-round specialties extending their range beyond Mexico, as well as wintering habitat for neotropical migrants rarely found north of here in winter and the southernmost habitat for larger migrants like Snow and Greater White-fronted geese.

Spend some time getting to know diverse landscapes from Rockport to the Rio Grande and from Santa Ana to South Padre Island.  Each day will be filled at a variety of birding hotspots in search of Whooping Cranes, Green Jays, Altamira Orioles, Plain Chachalacas, parrots, raptors, and more. With more than 500 species recorded in the region, both expert and novice birders will find an array of avian delights.

Escape Colorado’s winter weather and join Reefs to Rockies’ Lead Naturalist Guide, Chip Clouse for an unforgettable winter birding adventure in South Texas.


Day 1 (Wed, Feb 8) ~ Afternoon arrival to Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP). Chip Clouse, our guide, will meet the group at the airport upon arrival. Afternoon birding en route to Rockport to include Indian Point.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites Rockport-Fulton

Meals: Lunch and Welcome Dinner

Please plan to arrive to CRP Airport by 1:30 pm.

Day 2 (Thu, Feb 9): Our first full day in Texas begins with a guided boat tour out to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in search of overwintering Whooping Cranes. The Whooping Crane is the rarest crane species and one of the rarest birds in the world. In addition to cranes, expect to spot 30 to 60 different species during the 3.5-hr coastal birding boat tour.  After lunch, continue to the Lower Rio Grande Valley with birding in Corpus Christi and beyond en route.  Evening arrival to McAllen where we’ll stay the next two nights. One of our evenings in McAllen will include a stop at the local Green Parakeet roost.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites McAllen

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 3 (Fri, Feb 10): Full day of birding famed Valley hotspots including Bentsen – Rio Grande State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites McAllen

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley ~ Birders across the nation know Bentsen as a treasure trove of “Valley Specialties” – tropical birds found nowhere else in the US. The 797-acre Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, together with over 1,200 acres of adjoining U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge tracts, promises year-round nature adventures in the richest birding area north of the Mexican border.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge ~ Located at a crossroads of biodiversity, it is home to species such as Green Jays, Common Pauraques, Plain Chachalacas and Great Kiskadees, which reach the northern limit of their range in this area.  At the same time, the refuge offers important habitat for birds from the Central and Mississippi flyways that funnel through the area on their way to and from Central and South America.

Day 4 (Sat, Feb 11):  Full day of birding with stops dependent on recent sightings. Likely locations are Hidalgo County hotspots including Valley Nature Center, Frontera Audubon Center, and Estero Llano Grande State Park – the jewel of the Valley in Chip’s eyes. Evening arrival to Harlingen where we’ll spend the next two nights.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites Harlingen

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 5 (Sun, Feb 12): Full day of birding at Cameron County hotspots including Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Laguna Vista Nature Trail, and several spots on South Padre Island. We’ll end our day of birding at Brownsville’s parrot roost.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites Harlingen

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Farewell Dinner

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge ~ This Refuge occupies one of North America’s most biologically diverse regions and sees an impressive 417 species of birds — a number that represents nearly half the total for the continent as a whole. Migrants skirt the Gulf to the east and the desert to the west to funnel through this Central Flyway starting point. Many of the residents species reach their northernmost range here along the Rio Grande.

South Padre Island Convention Center and Laguna Madre Trail ~ Boardwalks over marshes, gardens with drips, and adjacent tidal mud flats provide visitors up-close encounters with the variety of species that inhabit the region’s wetland habitats. Permanent residents include Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull, herons, egrets, Clapper Rail, and American Alligator.  Wintering species include Peregrine Falcon, Sora, Osprey, and Belted Kingfisher.

Day 6 (Mon, Feb 13): For our last day, we have time visit area hotspots in search of species we haven’t seen yet as we make our way back to Corpus Christi in time for our evening flight home. Possible birding locations include Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and  Kaufer-Hubert Memorial Park.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Please plan to depart CRP Airport at 6 pm or later.


Price: $2095* per person based on two people sharing a double occupancy room. If you prefer a private, single occupancy room, add $315*. 

Inclusions: accommodations in a standard room, private ground transportation (full-size van), driver/guide (Chip Clouse – Reefs to Rockies), daily birding with spotting scope available, meals as listed, and entrance fees.

Exclusions: flights, room upgrades, travel insurance, 3 dinners, alcohol, optional activities, gratuities for your driver/guide and housekeeping at hotels, and personal items.

Group size: 6-9 participants + Trip Leader

Trip Leader: Chip Clouse

Activity Level: Birding will be on mostly level ground on well-maintained trails and boardwalks or along insular park roads. Some of the larger parks and refuges will require walking at least a mile, if not two with up to 3-4 miles total on a given day. There are interspaced benches for resting and walks will be separated with feeder watching or driving between birding locations. A trolley is available at Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley to lessen the walking requirement. Day one will include 3.5 hours aboard a boat but in smooth intercoastal bays.