By D.J. Carwile
Edinburg launches the first site of the World Birding Center.
The first of nine nature preserves that will make up the World Birding Center opened in Edinburg in March, just in time to welcome birds and birders during spring migration. The 40-acre Edinburg Scenic Wetlands includes a learning center, two miles of nature trails, six acres of butterfly gardens and a dragonfly pond.
The $1 million project was funded jointly by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the City of Edinburg. The site was created within Edinburg Municipal Park, which has two 20-acre ponds. By planting native brush such as mesquite and huisache around the ponds, the site managers have recreated the type of thick wetland vegetation that exists along the Rio Grande. The revived wetlands now attract many different types of birds, from various ducks to white pelicans to great kiskadees and kingbirds.
Like all of the WBC sites, the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands is designed to bring students from neighboring schools for conservation and natural history programs. The site is expected to attract tourists as well as students. World Birding Center experts can take visitors on outings that range from general nature tours lasting a couple of hours to daylong treks for expert birders.
TPWD began working on plans for a large-scale birding project for the Lower Rio Grande Valley in 1998 with the help of Fermata, Inc., the Austin firm that created the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. “Rather than having just one high-profile location, the intent of the World Birding Center is to unite several sites across the area,” says Ted Eubanks, president of Fermata.
The relatively small area where these nine sites are located, spanning only four Texas counties, is one of the richest birding spots in America. This region has recorded 498 different bird species, more than half of all the species in the United States and Canada combined. And it is home to many species, such as the brown jay, the green jay and Audubon’s oriole, that can be seen nowhere else in the United States.
The nine sites will consist of a headquarters site and two additional visitor centers built and maintained by TPWD. The WBC headquarters will be housed in Bentsen–Rio Grande Valley State Park just west of Mission. The other six sites will serve as gateway sites for the center. The sites span 120 miles of the Rio Grande Valley, from South Padre Island to Roma, each with its own personality.