A ruby-throated hummingbird zips around a mangrove forest in the Yucatán at the southern tip of the Gulf of Mexico, tanking up on nectar and insects for its journey north. Suddenly, on a spring evening at dusk, it launches into the sky and flies over open seas with a mixed flock of vireos, warblers, and buntings. Riding tailwinds, they flap nonstop through the night and the next morning until they land, exhausted, on the Texas coast.
To see south Texas in its natural state and how the Rio Grande Valley looked before it was cut into farms and cities, you’ve got to travel to the state’s southernmost tip. Here, on the bank of the once-mighty river, you’ll find the last remaining stand of original Texas Sabal palm trees, one of only two palm species native to Texas.
Texas is well known for its large concentrations of birds, butterflies, Mexican free-tailed bats, and more, and a lot of travelers come to see them. Spring and fall bird migrations are phenomenal, with great birding spectacles occurring throughout the state. Most notable are the migrations of warblers and shorebirds and the great congregations of waterfowl and raptors. But a wildlife spectacle in miniature has captured the fascination of many people who ordinarily would not consider themselves birdwatchers. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird delivers an economic punch to a community on the central Texas coast in an otherwise ordinarily slow tourist season and also brings pleasure and delight to thousands of people who show up to watch.