birding sites in

south texas

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NWR stands for National Wildlife Refuge. This may be just one reserve but the species lists for birds and butterflies are bigger than most states (and remember most states are as big as European countries). Like Bentsen it has miles of good birding habitat and remarkable viewing facilities but it is the size and quality of the wetlands here that makes it the best site in the Valley.

All the sites in this section are treated, in detail and with precise maps and directions, in my book ‘Finding Birds in South Texas’

If you have any information which you feel would help to update the book, please email me at and I’ll add your observations to these pages

To view more sites in South Texas click here

Santa Ana NWR

The view from one of the observation points overlooking Willow Lake, rather more full of water than it usually is.

The hawk tower at Santa Ana competes with the one at Bentsen for the title of best raptor viewpoint in Texas. 

Next to the tower is a treetop walkway giving a different perspective on the birds in the canopy.

From the walkway you also get an idea of the benefit of having a tower with a vantage point above the treetops. Many migrating raptors roost at Santa Ana so you are able to watch them getting up from their roosts in the morning before they continue at greater height.

Pintail Lake is actually a cluster of 6 lakes but in 2011 the water levels were so high they had merged into one. This is a terrific site for herons, cormorants, waders and ducks.

The Chachalaca trail takes you through beautiful moss-covered forest until, within 200 metres of the center, you can overlook Willow Lake, full of herons, ducks, grebes and kingfishers.

The entrance to Santa Ana might not look picturesque but the building on the left is a visitor center with terrific exhibitions and the bench you can see overlooks a feeding station for orioles and hummingbirds