Situated on north–south migratory pathways, Big Bend is home to approximately 450 species of birds—more than any other national park. In fact, the birds that flit, waddle, soar, and swim in the park represent more than half the bird species found in North America, including the Colima warbler, found nowhere else in the United States. To glimpse darting hummingbirds, turkey vultures, golden eagles, and the famous Colima, look to the Chisos Mountains. To spy woodpeckers and scaled quail (distinctive for dangling crests), look to the desert scrub. And for cuckoos, cardinals, and screech owls, you must prowl along the river. Rangers lead birding talks.
Chisos Basin. Known as a "sky island" towering over the surrounding desert, Chisos Basin shelters the only lodge in the park and is etched by numerous hiking trails of varying difficulty. One takes you to the top of Emory Peak, the highest point in Big Bend. You'll have to hike the high country (above 5,400 feet elevation) to spy the Colima warbler and Lucifer hummingbird, but bear, deer, javelina, and even mountain lions have been known to range closer to the lodge grounds. Your chances of encountering them are rather small, especially during the day. If you do, the animals will likely shy away. At more than a mile high, the basin floor is an especially inviting destination during summer. Chisos Basin Rd., 9 miles southwest of Panther Junction, Big Bend National Park, TX, 79834. 432/477–2291. www.nps.gov/bibe.
Rio Grande Village. Considered the best birding habitat in Big Bend, this river wetland has summer tanagers and vermilion flycatchers among many other species. The trail's a good one for kids, and a portion is wheelchair accessible. 22 mi southeast of Panther Junction, Big Bend National Park, TX, 79834. www.nps.gov/bibe.
Tours and Outfitters
Birding Big Bend. Most birding tours in Big Bend are operated by state, national, and even worldwide companies. Mark Flippo, who runs Birding Big Bend, lives in Terlingua. As a local he can customize tours with visitors' schedules, expertise, and price range in mind. Terlingua, TX, 79852. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.birdingbigbend.net.
WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide. In the spring of every other year, this Arizona-based company offers a 10-day trip that encompasses Big Bend and the Davis Mountains. The next tour will be conducted in 2015. 1643 N. Alvernon, Suite 109, Tucson, AZ, 85712. 520/320–9868 or 866/547–9868. www.wingsbirds.com/tours.