ON THE WING
The 1960s stereotype of the “bird watcher” – knobby-kneed Jane Hathaway of the Beverly Hillbillies sitcom, in her floppy hat and enormous binoculars – may still inspire hilarity but bird watching today is serious business. Birding is among the highest ranking outdoor activities in the state, far above consumptive sports like hunting, and the numbers of Texans participating along with the dollars spent in communities across a very bird-rich Texas prove the point. So what is so appealing about watching birds? Is it their colorful plumage? Their pleasing songs? Maybe it’s the fact that birds are everywhere in Texas, over six hundred species, two thirds of all species found in North America. And you can “bird” just about anywhere – during a walk in the local park or down the street, on a beach or in the mountains, even in your own backyard. Birding in Texas enjoyed a pretty early start thanks to enthusiasts like Roger Tory Peterson (known to aficionados simply as “RTP”), a naturalist, artist, educator, and ornithologist whose field guide to the birds of Texas helped raise an entire generation of Texans on birding just as bird watching was gaining momentum with the environmental movement of the 20th century. Our own World Birding Center, located in the Rio Grande Valley community of Edinburg, provides an ideal introduction to the “world” of birding. Northeast of Amarillo in Canadian, the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area and private ranches offer guided tours to spot burrowing owls and the rare lesser prairie-chicken. Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Great Coastal Birding Trail and statewide Wildlife Trails provide comprehensive information for the beginner or expert.