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Secrets to Birding in the Hill Country

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Secrets to Birding in the Hill Country

By Marcy Stellfox

We all know that Austin gets big props for its music scene, foodie culture, and love of weirdness, but “flying” under the radar is the little known fact that Austin is an urban paradise for birders.

1. Austin is a Bird “Super Highway”

Secrets to Birding in the Hill Country

Photo: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Austin is a birder’s utopia in large part because of its location. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, Austin is encompassed (as is much of the Texas Hill Country) in a direct pathway of migration known as the “central flyway.” This migratory highway provides “well-defined, specific routes” for birds that breed and live in the northern latitudes (US and Canada) in the spring and summer, but migrate south to Central and South America for the winter. Known as neartic-neotropical migrants, Texas has recorded 333 of the 338 species of this bird group. In total, Texas has recorded 615 different species of birds, more than any other state. So armed with the right field guide and pair of binoculars, Austinites have the unique opportunity to spy on a myriad of these winged creatures.

2. Dillo Dirt…It’s Good for Birds Too!

Secrets to Birding in the Hill Country
Photo: A Scissor Tailed Flycatcher, provided by Marcy Stellfox

When looking for great birding destinations, probably not first on the list would be a visit to a bio solids recycling facility. However, Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory touted as the “best and most frequent birded site” by Texas Parks and Wildlife is just that. According to a 2010 article from the Austin American Statesman, historically, a dump for solid waste in the 1950s, the common thought of the day was that “nature would eventually break down the materials” pumped into the three lagoons there. The decomposition process actually left behind a great deal of sludge that surprisingly stewed into “a nutrient rich soup” with a crazy side effect. It attracted birds from all over. In fact, 600 plus different birds have been recorded here, like the Scissor Tailed Flycatcher viewed on a recent trip and pictured above.

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