ROCKPORT, TX BIRDING CALENDAR – WHAT TO SEE AND WHEN:
Bird Migration – Texas Parks and Wildlife
Of the 900 different bird species in the U.S., 600 of them are found in Texas, making it one of the top birding spots worldwide. Many birds fly hundreds of miles nonstop to get here. This video explores how they navigate and survive their amazing journeys. See our Birding Calendar Below to Learn What to See and When!
JANUARY – Good birding with all the species that winter here still present throughout the month. Highlights are the Whooping Cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the flocks of Sandhill Cranes and Great White-fronted, Snow and Ross’s Geese the latter now more common than Canada Geese on local fields. 20 species of waterfowl can easily be found, often in large numbers. Shorebirds around include Snowy and Piping Plovers, American Avocet and Marbled Godwit. Brown and Long-billed Thrashers, Blue-headed Vireo, Pine and Orange-crowned Warblers can all be seen in the live oak woodlands. 10 species of sparrows are common and 8 others, including Le Conte’s Sparrow. Some of the ranches have wintering Vermillion flycatcher and Sprague’s Pipit.
Whooping Crane Tours Offered (Mid-November thru Mid-April Each Year)
FEBRUARY – Similar to January, but numbers of Sandhill Cranes, geese and seaduck decrease towards the end of the month. Winter tours to the south and west of the Coastal Bend should produce Harris’s Hawk, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Cactus Wren and other regional specialist. A highlight of February and early March is the incidence of vagrant gulls, including Glaucous, California, Lesser Black-backed, Slaty-backed and Thayer’s. Rufous, Anna’s and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds have all been seen in the field this month.
MARCH – A transitional month: by mid-March most of the geese and seaduck have left and the first of the neotropical migrants are arriving. A highlight is the flocks of shorebirds on the fields, usually including American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Mountain Plover. Hundreds of Eared Grebe congregate in the bays preparatory to moving north. Summering Buff-Bellied and Black-chinned Hummingbirds arrive also.
Black-Chinned Hummingbird and Other Varieties Visit Rockport Yearly (Spring Migration/Fall Migration)
APRIL – Mid-March to mid-May is one of the most exciting periods in the Coastal Bend. The number of migrating birds can be spectacular. There are usually 3 or 4 large falls (depending on the weather), each resulting in hundreds of warblers, vireos, thrashers, orioles, tanagers and buntings landing in the area, with concentrations on Padre and Mustang Islands, Live Oak Peninsula and Goose Island. Streams of migrating raptors – broad-winged Hawks, Mississippi Kites and others – can sometimes be seen overhead. A handful of Swallow-tailed Kites are recorded each year. Almost all the Whooping Cranes have generally left by mid-April.
MAY – Cold fronts precipitating migrant falls become less frequent but can occur up to the middle of the month. Species diversity is often at its highest at this time and, with the right weather conditions, over 140 species can reasonably be expected on a day’s birding. May 1998 was notable for the steady stream of migrants throughout the month, including western species such as MacGillivray’s and Townsends’ Warblers. Neotropicals like the Western tanager as well as the more usual Canada, Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers can be seen on a good day. Almost all of the wintering birds have left, though a few duck and perhaps one or two Whooping Cranes may still be around for the first few days. This is when Rockport really comes into bloom!
JUNE – From late-May to early July the emphasis is on local breeding birds – skulking species such as Cassin’s, Olive and Seaside Sparrows, Bell’s Vireo and Swainson’s Warbler are not at their most evident. Other species readily found around Rockport include White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Greater Roadrunner, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Brown-crested and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Painted Bunting. At nearby Refugio there are breeding Green Kingfishers and Summer Tanagers. Summer tours to the southern and western parts of the region should yield Harris’s Hawk, Verdin, Green Jay, Lesser Nighthawk, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, Pyrrhuloxia, Groove-billed Ani and Hooded Oriole. There is generally little movement apart from the arrival of Wood Storks and Magnificent Frigatebirds from mid-month, a post-breeding dispersal from the south.
Painted Bunting Sightings are Rare Because they Stay in Thick Brush – (but they are here)
JULY – Fall migration is evident from early July with the return of the first shorebirds. Neotropical migrants can be seen from mid-month, usually preceded by Black-and-White Warblers and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. This is a good month for waterbird photography, with species such as Least Grebe, Purple Gallinuie, Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Black-necked Stilt and Black Skimmers having active young. Fishing, swimming, beach-time, books to read, relaxation…are just some of the things that come to mind when you spend time in Rockport during the summer months. Pull up your lawn chairs for the spectacular fireworks show over Little Bay for your next 4th of July vacation!
AUGUST – This is “THE” shorebird month with over 30 regular species, including Buff-breasted Sandpiper from mid-month. Numbers of neotropical migrants increase during August with an array of flycatchers, orioles and warblers. August vies with July as the best month for seawatching from Port Aransas, with chances of Sooty Tern, masked Booby and pelagics. Those lazy, crazy days of summer begin to come to an end and the temperatures in the water and air are usually at their peak. Get refreshed in the Rockport Beach Park’s Saltwater Pool or spend an afternoon relaxing at the Aransas County Aquatic Center and Skate Park. Bring the kids to the water playground and beat the summer heat!
SEPTEMBER – One of the most exciting months in the Coastal Bend with three spectacular highlights – the migration of thousands of hummingbirds, tens of thousands of shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of raptors (300,000+ Broad-winged hawks in one day at Hazel Bazemore Park in recent Septembers). flycatchers, thrushes, warblers and other passerine migrants also continue to filter through with numbers and species fluctuation daily. The Rockport-Fulton Hummer/Bird Celebration is held annually on the second weekend after Labor Day, so don’t miss this. They hummers are on their way to areas closer and south of the equator and this is their last stop before making that journey. You’ll see hundreds of them and many varieties on just about any given day!
The Purple Gallinule Swims on the Surface of Water and Walks on Floating Plants (summer visitor)
Bird Migration – Texas Parks and Wildlife
Of the 900 different bird species in the U.S., 600 of them are found in Texas, making it one of the top birding spots worldwide. Many birds fly hundreds of miles nonstop to get here. This video explores how they navigate and survive their amazing journeys.
OCTOBER – A favorite birding month with migrants to be seen everyday. A cold front can sometimes result in spectacular falls – in one recent October weekend, 37 species of neotropical migrants were seen, including 18 warblers. Wintering birds start to arrive from mid-month – Sandhill and Whooping Cranes, American White Pelicans, waterfowl, raptors, sparrows, wrens, kinglets, thrashers and warblers.
NOVEMBER – The pattern of late October continues with huge flocks of geese, ducks, cormorants and American White Pelicans moving south. Bald Eagles return to their nesting sites west of Tivoli. The last of the passerine migrants trickle through in the first few days of the month. November is when things begin to slow down and the town of Rockport rests, but the Whooping Crane & Birding Tours are in full swing. Take a boat ride to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Matagorda Island to view these fascinating birds by water. The Whoopers are here now….make plans to attend the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, TX!
Open Grassland and Deserted Areas Particularly Favored by Swainson’s Hawks.
DECEMBER – A generally stable month with species similar to late November and January. The wide variety of birds present is reflected by the total species count in the seven Christmas bird counts held in the Coastal Bend. Check out the lighting of the giant Christmas Tree at the Rockport Beach Park or the Christmas Lighted Boat Parade at Little Bay. Register and be a part of the annual Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. The Whooping Cranes are at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge – but you can only see them by boat tour. Be sure to schedule a tour with Aransas Bay Adventures to see them – fantastic photography opportunities abound on our tours! (Mid-October thru Mid-April each year.)