Four "sure thing" sites to watch hawks and other raptors.
By Cliff Shackelford
Want to catch the amazing natural spectacle of watching raptors soar and glide? These four locations – three with towers and platforms to lift you up for a better view – present a chance to see more than just a solo hawk or falcon. Groups of raptors migrate in large numbers through Texas each fall (early August through November) and spring (March through May), but they don’t stay long. In addition to their captivating acrobatics, raptors are quite useful: Without them, we’d have too many rodents and other pests. Good news: Hawks typically won’t soar until an hour or more after sunrise, so no need to be the early bird at the crack of dawn.
Candy Cain Abshier Wildlife Management Area
Want to see swallow-tailed kites? Come to the 20-foot tower and observation platform during the Smith Point Hawk Watch at this TPWD site on eastern Galveston Bay in August and September. Broad-winged, Cooper’s, sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks, Mississippi kites and turkey vultures fly here August through November but peak mid-September through mid-October.
Hazel Bazemore Park
Catch broad-winged, Cooper’s sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks, Mississippi kites, turkey vultures and more northwest of Corpus Christi from late summer through fall. Rare sightings include the aplomado falcon and ferruginous hawk. Migration peaks mid-September through mid-October; the annual Celebration of Flight migration festival is held in late September.
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Swainson’s, broad-winged, Cooper’s, sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks, Mississippi kites and turkey vultures (plus South Texas raptors like gray and Harris’s hawks) soar the skies around and above you on the huge hawk tower every fall. No private vehicles are admitted at this World Birding Center park south of Missions; pedestrian and bicycle paths and open-air trolleys are available.
Panhandle County Roads
Expect a powerful wind that’s brutally cold for that great winger viewing from just about any Panhandle country road. Bundle up to see rough-legged, ferruginous and red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, golden eagles, American kestrels, prairie falcons and more, but only from the shoulder of the road. The property around you is privately owned; don’t hop fences or bother the residents.