Harlingen World Birding Center, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival Draw Visitors From Around the World
Harlingen is an international mecca for birding enthusiasts, thanks to its position on nature’s flyway, which attracts more than 430 species of birds.
Besides being the site of the popular Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival each November, Harlingen city administrators opened the World Birding Center in 2005 to educate visitors year round about migrating birds, as well as protect the rare birds that call Harlingen home. Located in Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, the center offers visitors a look at the region’s rarest winged species, including clay-colored robins and green kingfishers. Guests also can visit the Harlingen Thicket Bird Sanctuary, comprising 40 acres of native brush land. The center includes observation areas, an amphitheater, trails and an educational pavilion.
Jeff Lyssy, public service director for the city of Harlingen, says the center will be a tremendous asset to the park’s growing number of tourists. While visitors frequent the World Birding Center throughout the year, it’s the city’s Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival that has brought thousands of curious spectators to the area since 1994.
“Chamber staff realized there was a unique reality in South Texas that the birding community across the U.S. had known about for many years,” says Father Tom Pincelli, one of the festival’s original organizers. “Once they realized how unique it was, they wanted to bring people in at one time so the community can realize what they have, too.”
Each fall, more than 500 festival-goers enjoy a series of field trips, seminars and keynote speakers, as well as a children’s program and a trade show.