The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1943 for the protection of migratory birds. Encompassing more than 2,000 acres along the banks of the Rio Grande River, nearly 400 species of bird can be found in this fascinating Texas bird watching site. Many (thousands) of birds from the Central and Mississippi “Flyways” pass through this area on their way to and from South America, and at any time you are bird watching here you may see waterfowl, raptors, warblers and hummingbirds. This bird watching jewel has 12 miles of foot roads for hiking (or walking) along with a seven mile tour road. For tips on identifying and finding just a few of the birds you may see while bird watching at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, see below.
Chihuahuan Raven. Recognize this raven when bird watching by the white bases of its neck and body feathers. You will see these when the wind ruffles this bird’s feathers, or when it fluffs itself to display. This big black bird has a raven shape, but is only the size of a crow. Look for it in the deserts of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
Green Jay. This interesting looking bird has a pale green back and underside, a black head and chest, yellow on either side of its tail, and a blue face. Look for them while bird watching in the open forests and brushy thickets of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. This Texas area is the furthest north you will find these birds.
Inca Dove. This small tropical dove has a long, square tail with white edging and a light brown body. Look for it in brushy areas of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, although this bird is becoming more and more urbanized, moving into Texas cities and towns. Inca Doves have an unusual habit of nestling up in the sunshine in a pyramid shape, sometimes three layers high and with as many as twelve doves nestled together!
Mottled Duck. Look for this dabbling duck in the coastal marshlands of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It resembles a female Mallard duck, with mottled brown and white feathers. This duck is on the Audubon Society’s watchlist because of its limited range and small numbers. Look for this duck while bird watching all year round – it is a permanent Texas resident.
Cinnamon Teal. This beautiful duck can be seen while bird watching in the ponds of Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It has a copper colored head that is unmistakable, with red eyes and a dark bill. This bird is common from October through April in Texas.
Lesser Yellowlegs. You will find this sandpiper in loose flocks in the shallow marshes of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It is more common from August through April in Texas. Recognize this shore bird from its bright yellow legs as it runs through shallow water, chasing after food. It also has a white rump.
Northern Harrier. Recognize this hawk from its white rump and gray body as it soars over the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It has a face like an owl, with a face disk that amplifies sounds, giving it better hearing than many hawks. These birds are also sometimes called Marsh Hawks. Look for them while bird watching in Texas from the fall through the spring, when they are more common. They also nest here in Texas at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.