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How to Begin Birding in San Antonio Parks

If you like birds and are looking for something to get you out of the house now is a great time to learn birding in San Antonio, Texas.


The San Antonio Parks are great places to learn birding anytime but right now they’re especially good. The birding in the parks is better than normal because we’re at the peak of bird migration.


“Right now, is a good time to get out because it’s migration and you never know what you’re going to see.” Patsy Inglet, president of the Bexar Audubon Society, said, “so this is a perfect time to learn how to bird.”


You don’t have to be an avid bird watcher to be considered a birder according to Inglet because the definition is very broad.


“If you enjoy listening to or watching birds do their thing even from your yard or in a park and it just adds something to your life, you’re a birder,” Inglet said.


How do you get started?


The easiest way to get started is to just start paying attention to the birds already around you. You can see Northern Cardinals, Sparrows, Grackles, Pigeons, and other common birds in your own neighborhood.


If you want to see something different find your local park. You can find migratory birds in San Antonio’s parks that you won’t see in your backyard. Cattle Egret, Little Blue Herons, ducks, and even rare birds such as the Golden-cheeked Warbler can be seen.

Some common birds found in San Antonio Parks. Left to right: American Robin, North American Cardinal, San Antonio Botanical Gardens; Red Shouldered Hawk, Mahncke Park; Cattle Egret, Brackenridge Park. Photos by: Chris Belcher

You don’t need fancy equipment to get started either. Start with what you already have, your eyes, ears, legs, and cellphone. Download a free app, such as Cornell Labs Merlin Bird Id, or buy a bird guidebook. Find your closest San Antonio park and start your birding adventure. The free Merlin app will let you take a photograph and use it to identify the birds you’re seeing.


Angel Poe, Education Specialist, Mitchel Lake Audubon Center, recommends that you, “check out the National Audubon website… I think it’s a phenomenal resource.”


According to Poe the National Audubon Society website has numerous articles on almost any birding topic for your learning journey.


You can also take advantage of local birding organizations. Their resources will help you get started. Bexar Audubon Society’s website, https://bexaraudubon.org/, is a good place to begin your journey. It has links to other organizations, videos about birding, and a class recorded for the Hardberger Park Conservancy about beginning birding.


Poe also recommends taking online classes from your local organizations and Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Academy. There are some free courses on Bird Academy but also paid classes.


“I have taken several of their classes and they’re excellent,” she said.


You’re starting to enjoy birding what equipment should you get?


A good set of binoculars and a bird guide are the equipment you need for birding.


“Stretch your budget as far as you can at the time,” Inglet said, “try to get the best you can afford at the time (binoculars) and you’ll never be sorry.”


The binocular guide from Inglet’s class has recommendations on what a beginning birder should look for in binoculars. According to The Binocular Guide binoculars are measured by magnification and objective lens size. A 7 or 8 magnification is preferred with a wide objective size to make it easier to spot birds. There are also don’t dos including don’t buy pocket binoculars or marine binoculars. The pocket binoculars make it too hard to spot birds and the marine version is too heavy to use for any length of time.


As far as a guide, Poe recommends Ken Kaufmann’s Kaufmann Focus Guide: Birds of North America.


“Kaufmann’s guide is really good for beginners because you don’t really have to know much about bird families,” said Poe.


“The Kaufmann guide uses pictures and a table of contents that help guide you towards the right section to look in to learn more about specific birds,” she added.


A final word from Inglet and Poe.

The bird water feature in Hardberger Park, May 1. It has a water feature and a blind for bird watchers to watch without disturbing the birds. Photo by: Chris Belcher
The bird water feature at Hardberger Park seen through the bird blind May 1. The blind allows bird watchers to observe birds without disturbing them. Photo by: Chris Belcher


“It’s kind of an adventure you get started in and then you start learning more, you want to know more,” Inglet said, “you’ll never know it all because there’s so many birds and so many things to know but it’s really fun, it keeps you physically fit because you’re walking and it really connects you to nature.”



Poe said, “I’d recommend someone new to bird watching and new to birds is try to go to a variety of places because we have several different eco regions that come together here in town, lots of different types of habitats here and different birds hang out in different habitats.”

San Antonio’s parks cover every type of eco region and habitat available here. So, find a couple of different parks in different eco regions of the city and see what you find. You never know what you might see and you might discover enjoyment in watching birds.


What resources are available to help you begin birding?


There are many resources available to help you begin birding. Everything from local organizations, local birders, to field guides. Here is a list of San Antonio birding resources you might find useful.

Local organizations:

Home | Bexar Audubon Society

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center

San Antonio Audubon Society (saaudubon.org)

Land Heritage Institute

Online guides:

Guide to North American Birds | Audubon

Search, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cellphone Apps:

Audubon

Merlin Bird ID

eBird

BirdNET

Park information:

LIST OF PARKS - San Antonio Parks Foundation

County Parks | Bexar County, TX

Government Canyon State Natural Area — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Online beginning birders class:

Virtual Nature Talk: Introduction to Birding — Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy

Bird Academy | The Cornell Lab | Courses Tutorials Videos (allaboutbirds.org)

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