Laguna Atascosa

Harlingen, Texas 78553

Laguna Atascosa

Laguna Atascosa Professional Review and Guide

"About 25 miles east of Harlingen. An easy day hike through the brushlands of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Special Attractions: Birds and animals found nowhere else in the United States. The 45,000-acre Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1946 to preserve some of the Lower Rio Grande Valley's rapidly shrinking wildlife habitat. Today, with rapid urbanization and extensive agriculture, less than five percent of the valley's natural habitat remains.

The small remnants harbor many birds and animals found nowhere else in the United States, such as the ocelot, jaguarundi, green jay, chachalaca, and Harris' hawk. Because of habitat loss, some of these creatures are very rare and endangered. In addition to the unique species, the wildlife refuge's location along migration routes gives it a very high bird count among more common species."

More Laguna Atascosa Professional Reviews and Guides

"This 45,000-acre national wildlife refuge (NWR) is a mustvisit for birders in South Texas; more than 400 species have been reported, representing the highest number in the NWR system. Laguna Atascosa, the 3,100-acre shallow brackish lake, is part of the greater Laguna Madre of Texas and Mexico, which supports 80 percent of North America’s wintering Redhead.

Key birds: Least Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Reddish Egret, White and White-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon (reintroduced), Plain Chachalaca, Gull-billed Tern, White-tipped Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Pauraque, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Great Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, Green Jay, Cactus Wren, Long-billed Thrasher, and Olive Sparrow are present year-round. Magnificent Frigatebird, Least Bittern, Wood Stork, Purple Gallinule, Groove-billed Ani, Lesser and Common Nighthawks, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Brown-crested and Scissortailed Flycatchers, Chihuahuan Raven, Tropical Parula, Varied and Painted Buntings, Dickcissel, Botteri’s and Cassin’s Sparrows, and Hooded Oriole occur in summer. Osprey, Peregrine and Prairie Falcons, Sandhill Crane, Burrowing and Short-eared Owls, Vermilion Flycatcher, Sage Thrasher, Green-tailed Towhee, Clay-colored and LeConte’s Sparrows, and Altamira Oriole can usually be found in winter."

"Few locations anywhere in the United States offer such excellent wildlife-watching opportunities as does this refuge, in its setting where the thorn-scrub and grassland of extreme southern Texas meet the shore of Laguna Madre, the shallow body of water separated from the Gulf of Mexico by South Padre Island.

Laguna Atascosa’s diverse habitats, from open brackish water to seasonal wetlands to prairie to dense woodland, attract a wide array of species; its geographic location means it hosts a mixture of eastern and western types; its coastal setting places the refuge in the path of birds migrating to and from the eastern United States along the Gulf shoreline. Consider that more than 400 species of birds have been seen at Laguna Atascosa. Many, of course, are rare vagrants; nonetheless, it’s obvious that a visit here is a must for anyone exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. Note, too, that the refuge’s 20 or so miles of roads and good viewpoints make it a fine spot for disabled or less-mobile birders; quite a lot can be seen from vehicle windows."

Laguna Atascosa Reviews

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This is a beautiful wildlife refuge along the Laguna Madre. There isn't really a lot of hiking here, although I think they are starting to build more trails. The real highlight is the Bayside Drive.
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This coastal wildlife refuge is one of the top birdwatching destinations in the nation. Over 400 bird species have been sighted on the refuge, including the migratory waterfowl that winter in the area. Eighty percent of the North American population of redhead ducks winter on or near Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Prime habitat for two endangered cat species, the ocelot and the jaguarundi, is found throughout the refuge. Butterfly gardens, a joint effort between volunteers and staff, attract over half of all butterfly species found in the United States, including rare sightings of Mexican species.

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Trail Information

Nearby City
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
October through March
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge 956-748-3607
Local Contacts
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge brochure, Laguna Atascosa's Walking Trails brochure, Laguna Atascosa USGS
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018