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Birding and Wildlife Hotspots - Big Bend National Park
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White-tailed deer at Aransas, copyright Steven Holt/
A  R  A  N  S  A  S     N  A  T  I  O  N  A  L     W  I  L  D  L  I  F  E     R  E  F  U  G  E

Alligator at Aransas NWR; copyright Steven Holt/

Don't be surprised to find an alligator staring back at you from the sloughs at Aransas NWR.  This refuge on the Texas coast is a haven for birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians and is the winter home for a flock of endangered whooping cranes. 
Reaching a standing height of almost five feet, these stately cranes are the tallest birds in North America.

Whooping Cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, copyright Steven Holt/

Mammals at Aransas include white- tailed deer,  bobcats, javelinas, nine-banded armadillos, feral hogs and cougars, and the refuge's bird list is the second largest in the US national wildlife refuge system with 394 recorded species.

During winter months, you can use high powered spotting scopes on the refuge's observation tower to find and watch whooping cranes.  You can also charter a boat or join a tour for even closer views of the cranes and other birds.  In 2007, over 200 cranes made the journey to Aransas from their summer home in Saskatchewan, Canada.  

The USFWS site lists the following boats as available for reservation. 

• Pisces Charters
• The Skimmer
• Wharf Cat



It's hard not to see wildlife on the refuge's auto tour.  For shorebirds, waterfowl and wading birds, check out the shallows of San Antonio Bay and Jones Lake.
Alligators can also be spyed from the viewing platform at Jones Lake, and with luck, you can see Purple Gallinules and Common Moorhens as well.

If you're longing to see colorful neotropical warblers and other migrating songbirds, take a hike on the birding trail adjacent to the Heron Flats parking lot from mid April to mid May.  Exhausted avian travelers often take a needed rest in the oak woodlands. 


Mid-November through March for whooping cranes.  Mid April to mid May for neotropical migrants (arrival dates vary, so it's best to check with refuge staff).  Open year round from sunrise to sunset.


From Rockport, travel Highway 35 north for about 20 miles to Farm Road 774.  Turn right on 774 and drive about 9 more miles to FM 2040.  Take a right and drive 7 miles to the refuge.

Refuge Contact Info:
Aransas NWR
P O Box 100
Austwell, Texas 77950
(512) 286-3559

Reddish Egret in bay, copyright Steven Holt/
Foraging Reddish Egret


Bird List for Aransas NWR

Mammal List for Aransas NWR

Reptile and Amphibian List for Aransas

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Images copyright Steven Holt/