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March 25, 2020

Texas Gulf Coast - Birds - Mar 2020


Texas Gulf Coast
     & a couple endangered birds

My trip to the Texas Gulf coast was a journey to primarily see two of the most endangered species in North America. The Whooping Crane and the Attwater Prairie Chicken. These two in particular have almost gone extinct and were on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Endangered Red list and are considered at the top of the list of the most endangered birds of North America. Whooping Cranes numbers dropped as low as 21 in the wild and only 2 captives.

The Attwater Prairie Chicken suffered very low numbers in the wild as they dropped to an estimated 12 after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Most Whooping Cranes winter in Texas, between November and March. They mostly stay on coastal marshes with a high concentration near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The Texas Whooping Cranes do migrate to Canada in the summer months. They end up near Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, where they will nest, lay 2-3 eggs, but typically only raise one chick, for the next two years. There is also a eastern migration group of less than 100 birds that winter in Florida and nest in Wisconsin.

There have been several attempts to re-introduce the Whooping Crane in other areas, but so far only the Wisconsin to Florida route has had any success. However an attempt is on-going is Louisiana.

Whooping Cranes once were found across North America. Now they are among the rarest birds on the continent.

Attwater Prairie Chicken

About 100 years ago there was over one million of these birds, residing between Louisiana and north eastern coastal Mexico. Loss of habitat is believed to be the prime reason for their decline. Besides the mating ritual the males and females appear similar.

During the early spring the males will choreograph an elaborate dance and then puff up enormous and colorful neck sacks, and emit whoo whoo sound similar to a mourning dove. hoping to attract a female.

Male Prairie Chicken not in mating ritual.

This is what all the fuss is about, a female Prairie Chicken. 

Sometimes many males come together, which always ends up with one dominating and chasing away others

This is an impressive bird in full mating display

The Texas Gulf coast is home to many more birds

There are a number of other very impressive shore birds along the Texas coast. Herons and Egrets of all types and sizes abound in great numbers.

The Blue Heron

The Tri-color Heron

Reddish Egret otherwises also called Red Necked Heron

Reddish Egrets have a White moph of the species 

These birds will congregate on isolated islands devoid of predators and create a nesting rookery.

Many other birds migrating in the early spring. One of the most stunning is the Roseate Spoonbill.

You can see many flock flying in the skies like these Ibis

Both White and Brown pelicans call this area home.

There are so many shorebirds in this area during early spring. All varieties and types.

Great White Egret

White moph of the Reddish Egrets


Black Skimmer

Ospreys are out and hunting.

And last but not least we can't forget some of the most fearsome land/water creatures I've come across. In fact, I got a really nice jolt of adrenaline, as I was shooting these photos. There were the two big ones basking in the sun and 2 others in the water. There was a little berm that obscured the view a bit, so I wanted a different angle and walked down past the berm and then moved closer to the water to get a good shot. I noticed one of the gators in the water was not where I thought he had been, but I assumed he just went underwater. Well, I took a couple more steps nearer the water. A place I had just been 10 minutes prior, well about 15 feet away to my right all of a sudden there was a large commotion and splash and well, I found out where my lost gator had gone. (not to mention uttering (I won't say scream) a few unprintable words) . Enjoy as I did!

Come and join me on my next Gulf Coast tour in the spring of 2021!

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