OP-ED: Birding has blossomed in Texas
Published 12:20 am Wednesday, April 21, 2021
An old saying tells us that if a bird poops on your head, it’s a sign of good luck. Well, lucky or not, Texans have a higher chance of this occurrence than most.
Birding has really taken flight in our great state, and April in particular is the perfect time to spot one of the 640 species of birds that dwell in the various regions of Texas.
If you’re new to the hobby, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, High Island, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Trinity River Audubon Center are just a few of the well-known birding hot spots in the Lone Star state. Corpus Christi has even been named “America’s Birdiest City” for ten consecutive years.
Around 67% of U.S. bird species interact with the Texas Coast alone, but you can spot birds virtually anywhere, from the Cattail Marsh Wetlands in Beaumont all the way to Big Bend in far west Texas. You may find yourself surprised by how many feathered fowls inhabit the trees and brush near your own home.
If the only birds you’re familiar with are the UTSA Roadrunners, UNT’s Scrappy the Eagle or the Cardinal, Big Red, from Lamar University, I recommend you take a gander at the wildlife around you. Studies show that getting outdoors to witness the chirps, flutters, sing-song calls, and flights from our little winged friends improves your mental health, connection with nature, and helps local communities’ ecotourism industries grow and prosper.
Seasoned birders know The Birdiest Festival in America in Corpus Christi, Spring Chirp 2021 in Weslaco, Feather Fest in Galveston, Balcones Songbird Festival west of Austin, Birding the Border in Del Rio and South Llano River Birding Festival all offer kid-friendly trips, presentations, workshops and other events for birders of all levels and ages, including those newer to the hobby.
Folks from all over the country make their way to Texas each year to partake in these events and explore our beautiful parks. These festivals are especially great because they shed light on the beauty and importance of the birds that inhabit our communities all while offering birdwatchers the opportunity to discover the tweets, plumage patterns, colors, and antics of the nearby species.
These two-legged animals are fun to watch, but they’re also crucial in maintaining the balance of our ecosystems. They regulate pests, eating up to 500 million tons of insects every year, pollinate about 5% of the plants we use for food and medicine annually, and they disperse the seeds of various plants through their droppings.
For these reasons, Texas birds have earned the support of many powerful advocates. Just last month, former First Lady Laura Bush called on Texans to do their part in protecting migratory birds. She offered a simple suggestion – turn off your lights. Light pollution poses a serious threat that results in birds getting disoriented, confused and vulnerable.
It’s our job to do the little things, like turning off our lights before bed, to help protect the 2 billion birds that make their way down south each year. These small acts go a long way in conserving the wildlife that makes Texas so unique.
Birds are sacred treasures that can teach us an assortment of things. Even if you’re not a bird fan or avid birder, you can still take action in conserving some of Earth’s most imperative creatures. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll find yourself looking forward to the buzz of a hummingbird outside your window.
After all, “there is an unreasonable joy to be had from the observation of small birds going about their bright, oblivious business,” avid hiker Grant Hutchison tells us.
This past year, many of us have noticed the trees and plants in our own yards as they’ve changed through the seasons. Perhaps this month, we’ll take the time to notice the many birds that will be singing as the cold of winter wanes and spring begins.
Keep an eye out for a Plain Chachalaca for me and enjoy the sunshine and beautiful birds this spring, Texas!
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.