Road Trip

Fly to this trop­i­cal bird lover’s par­adise.


Bird en­thu­si­asts have rea­son to re­joice in McAllen, Texas.


Lone Star State, along the twist­ing Rio Grande, there lies a 120-mile rib­bon of lush, semi-trop­i­cal habi­tat that is home to a de­light­fully di­verse num­ber of birds and but­ter­flies. Sit­u­ated right in the heart of this nat­u­ral par­adise is McAllen, the re­gion’s largest city and the per­fect base for a visit to the Rio Grande Val­ley.

Chief among McAllen at­trac­tions is the ur­ban sanc­tu­ary of Quinta Mazat­lan, a his­toric, Span­ish Re­vival-style adobe ha­cienda with 20 acres of but­ter­fly and bird habi­tat. Stroll un­der the shade of na­tive plants as you ad­mire buff-bel­lied hum­ming­birds, great kiskadees, green jays and Al­tamira ori­oles.

If you have a check­list of species to spot, stop at the Santa Ana Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, the Ed­in­burg Scenic Wet­lands and World Bird­ing Cen­ter, and the Bentsen-Rio Grande Val­ley State Park. And be sure to add Es­tero Llano Grande State Park to your itin­er­ary. Con­gre­gat­ing there in the shal­low wa­ters are hun­dreds of wad­ing and shore­birds, such as spoon­bills and ibis.

One of the re­gion’s big­gest events is the five-day Rio Grande Val­ley Bird­ing Fes­ti­val, held ev­ery Novem­ber. With some 500 doc­u­mented bird species in the four-county area, this is a bird lover’s bo­nanza.

In ad­di­tion to bird­ing, this Texas town, which be­gan as a farm­ing com­mu­nity, is es­teemed for its mu­se­ums, din­ing and shop­ping. You’re sure to find some­thing for every­one among McAllen’s many art gal­leries, or in the restau­rants and shops of Main Street.

Vis­i­tors to Santa Ana Na­tional Wildlife Refuge cross a sus­pen­sion bridge to glimpse McAllen’s of­fi­cial bird, the green jay (be­low).

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