Flora & Fauna

August 6, 2013

Birding Matters

Hooded Warbler

With all the buzz ecological and nature preservation projects are creating in today’s media, it is an interesting fact that few residents of the Rio Grande Valley realize the richness found in our wild habitat. There are currently 800 species of birds recorded for the entire United States, and of those, 500 have been recorded for the Rio Grande Valley. It would be an egregious mistake to discard our birding habitats as an essential element of the economic fabric of the Valley, and here are some of the reasons why.

According to a study conducted by Texas A&M titled The Economic Impact of Nature Tourism on the Rio Grande Valley there are 13,700,00 hunters, and 33,001,000 fishermen in the United States; a stark contrast from 71,800,000 bird observers. Thousands of birders visit the Rio Grande Valley’s World Birding Sites and other nature parks each year including visitors from all over Europe and as far away as Australia.

According to the same study, nature tourism supports 6,613 jobs, and generates an expenditure of 463,000,000 dollars that nature-loving tourists – mostly birdwatchers – spend each year in the five counties of the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Furthermore, the Valley is home to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  Last year, 3,500 people moved through this five-day festival including many luminaries of the birding world. The main attraction of this festival is a series of tours with world-renowned guides that travel to the Valley to see our endemic species; these are 48 bird species that can only be seen in the Valley, and nowhere else in the United States. Our endemics include the Green Jay, Chachalaca, Great Kiskadee, Aplomado Falcon, Green Kingfisher and the Red-Crowned Parrot among several others.

In 2011, the prestigious magazine BirdWatch UK published an article by David Callahan titled All the World’s a Fair where he outlines the wide variety of bird fairs and festivals sprouting around the world. In his detailed list, Callahan writes about the Borneo, Chile and Asian Birding Fairs, but regarding the Valley he wrote; The RGV Birding Festival is another event in the heart of a prime birding destination, and after last year’s success, it is hoped 2011 will produce the goods once more. He moves on to write that the festival is renowned for its tours, which often have quite low numbers of participants, enabling truly personal service and expertise from the experienced guides.

Even more astounding is what the Australian magazine for bird and birdwatchers wrote in June of 2010. In this issue, a list of the eight best world bird fairs was featured, and the only birding festival on the list from our side of the world was the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival which came at number seven. The list included the British, Israeli, Australian, German, Spain, Africa and Malaysia Birding Fairs.

If this is not impressive, what is? In what other aspect is the Rio Grande Valley considered among the best in the entire world?

South Texas Nature is a tourism marketing cooperative composed of directors of Chambers of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureaus from across the valley, Port Aransas and Corpus Christi . These folks understood the value of birding ten years ago when they began marketing oversees by sending representatives to promote at the British Birding Festival.  Since then, the group has added representation of the area at the Scottish Birding Festival, and has organized multiple media trips to Europe. This year, South Texas Nature will host and sponsor several journalists, birders and nature travel leaders from the Netherlands, Sweden, England and Denmark, during RGV Birding festival.

Today, every birding and nature center in the Valley reports an increase in international visitors , and it is only certain that more will come. What the group considers even more important is to reach out to Valley leaders and discuss  why birding matters.

For information about how to support South Texas Nature please email [email protected]

Great photo of the Hooded Warbler courtesy of Kenny Salazar Photography

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About the Author

Tapia - Gonzales
La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Life, art and culture, poetry, prayers, travel, and camping! yes, that's my new thing. I blame the heat and high humidity for the madness. Contributions and comments are always welcome .

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