Find waterfowl, rails, cranes, spoonbills, caracaras and many more birds in this mosaic of ponds and wetlands 60 miles south of Corpus Christi.
By Milton Weller | Published: 4/25/2008
Don’t miss the prairie potholes of Riviera, Texas. Thousands of birders, many from around the world, come to the area to follow the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, but few are aware of the excellent birding at the diverse freshwater wetland habitats nearby.
The species-rich potholes dot a region of sandy hills and swales from Riviera to Baffin Bay in the highly saline upper Laguna Madre. The area reminds me of the prairie potholes of the northern U.S. and central Canada but involves perhaps only 50 to 60 square miles.
Birding is enticing because seasonal water dynamics create ever-changing habitats. During a four-year observation period, water levels ranged from dry or damp mudflats to deeply flooded potholes, pastures, and even roads. Moderate temperatures allow extended breeding and flexible stopover periods, so stop over, even if briefly, and enjoy! — Milton Weller
Milton Weller is emeritus professor of wildlife ecology at Texas A&M University and author of Wetland Birds: Habitat Resources and Conservation Implications (Cambridge University, 1999).
At a Glance
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Farm and ranch land interspersed with basin wetlands, ponds, and woody patches. Cropped land most prominent to the north.
Rolling hills with low drainages in central areas. Cropped land to the north is flatter but sometimes floods.
Migrant and wintering ducks, geese, rails, herons, egrets, ibises, Sandhill Crane, Roseate Spoonbill, and Crested Caracara (occasional). Also American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Wilson’s Plover, Black and Gull-billed Terns, pelicans, gulls, and cormorants. Occasional breeding species: Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Least Grebe, American Coot, Purple Gallinule, Ruddy and Masked Ducks. Check brushy thickets for Inca and ground doves, Groove-billed Ani, Great Kiskadee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Lesser Goldfinch.
When to go
Year-round for waterfowl, shorebirds, and herons. Spring and fall are best for raptors and non-breeding shorebirds.
Restrooms at Baffin Bay Riviera Pier and Kaufert-Hubert County Park. Gas stations and several cafes in nearby Riviera.
Private farm and ranch lands accessed by public state and county roads. Roadside birding from vehicles creates the least disturbance.
Fields and potholes are usually fenced. Ask permission before walking in or around them. Traffic and disturbances are modest along smaller county roads; farmers and ranchers are understanding, and even the mailman waves!