People flock to Corpus Christi’s plentiful beaches and bays to enjoy fresh seafood and fun in the sun. But other protected habitats like coastal prairies and saltwater lagoons also make Corpus Christi a prime destination for birding, hiking, and photography.
After claiming the title of “America’s Birdiest City” for ten consecutive years, Corpus Christi created an annual festival in 2017 to showcase the region’s birding hotspots and nature walks. The South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center hosts the Birdiest Festival on April 24-28 this year, which coincides perfectly with spring migration. Over 300 bird species call Corpus Christi home during the spring months, including warblers, vireos, orioles, grosbeaks, and buntings—not to mention birds that are only found in South Texas.
Regardless of where you stay, you don’t have to trek far to find well-traveled feathered creatures, but the more remote you get, the better your chance to spot a rare species. Blucher Park in downtown Corpus Christi is a major pit stop for migrating passerines and hummingbirds each spring, and a pleasant drive down Ocean Drive takes you to the Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge on Ennis Joslin Road. The manageable, one-mile nature trail and 800-foot boardwalk offer ample opportunities to observe birds and wildlife along Oso Bay.
A half-hour drive takes you to the Padre Island National Seashore (PINS), part of the National Parks Service and the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. Encompassing endless grasslands, tidal flats, and 70 miles of beaches and dunes, PINS is home to the world’s rarest sea turtle species, the Kemp’s Ridley, and over 380 species of birds—more than 30 percent of all those recorded in North America.
The Malaquite Visitors Center has helpful handouts for birdwatching and beachcombing, whether you’re searching for sea shells, identifying jellyfish, or enjoying the sounds of the surf.
The National Seashore newspaper provides fun facts on the industrious Texas pocket gopher, who can move over one ton of sand in a year despite its small stature, and a botanical guide for spotting plants in the Grassland Nature Trail. One of the rarest ecosystems in the world, the coastal prairie supports more than 1,500 plant species and provides a critical migratory habitat for hundreds of birds like the Sandhill crane and Northern harrier.
The park celebrated 40 years of conservation for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles in 2018, protecting nest incubation and guarding hatchling releases. Check the park website for information on public hatchling releases in June and July. If you miss a release or visit out of season, you can still learn all about the turtles from park ranger talks. And don’t let the sunset stop your enjoyment of mother nature—with its low light pollution and remote location, the PINS is the perfect place for stargazing.