Eric Carpenter, Regional Report Compiler
In 1837 J. J. Audubon illustrated a “Texas Turtle Dove,” now known as White-winged Dove. It was 75 years later before Texans got a handle of the true breath of the region’s bird diversity with the 1912 publication of John K. Strecker’s Birds of Texas, in which he listed 469 species. With 367 miles of Gulf coastline and 1254 miles bordering Mexico, Texas readily harbors rarities and adds new species to the state list, which in Dec 2020 totaled 654 species.
Habitat diversity in Texas is so impressive that the state is divided into ecoregions that align with today’s eight sub-regional compilers. They range from northeast Pineywoods to eastern Gulf coasts, southern brushlands, central oak savannahs and the Edwards Plateau, northern rolling and high plains, and the dry, western Trans-Pecos subregion.
The Rio Grande Valley thrills visiting birders with colorful Green Jays, glowing Altamira Orioles, and noisy Plain Chachalacas. Some winters, “the Valley” is full of Mexican strays such as Crimson-collared Grosbeak and Blue Bunting. Yet, at its northern extreme, Texas hosts the occasional Snowy Owl or Northern Shrike escaping colder climes. Some years, Red Crossbills and Purple Finches descend into Texas from the north, and Rusty Blackbird is a regular winter visitor.
Texas’s substantial longitudinal breadth is legendary: El Paso, Texas is closer to the Pacific Ocean than it is to Beaumont, Texas. As a result, the state hosts migrating Cape May and Black-throated Blue warblers along the Gulf coast, Swainson’s Warblers breed in the swampy canebrakes of the Pineywoods, Hermit Warblers pass through the western sky islands, Lucy’s Warblers breed along the Rio Grande near El Paso, and Colima Warblers spill over from Mexico into Big Bend National Park.
Browsing past regional reports in North American Birds, one can both short-term and long-tern trends. Hurricanes routinely propel Magnificent Frigatebirds into central Texas. West Texas droughts force Sage Thrashers into the wetter east. Increasingly, warmer winters have allowed “border specialties” such as Buff-bellied Hummingbird and Couch’s Kingbird to expand northward through central Texas. Even Tropical Parula has pushed northward to Corpus Christi and Austin, and Great Kiskadees have reached Midland and Waco. In recent years, the Century Club challenge–finding 100 species in each of the 254 counties–has expanded our knowledge of birdlife in rarely birded areas, and as a result of these efforts, each North American Birds regional report usually includes first county records.
The ABA gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Texas Regional Report Compiler Eric Carpenter, Texas Regional Photo Editor David Sarkozi, and Texas Sub-regional Compilers Steve Cardiff, Bert Frenz, Anthony Hewetson, Jim Paton, Ross Rasmussen, Willie Sekula, Ron Weeks, and David Wolf to promoting knowledge and understanding about the birdlife of the continent.