Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica)

Western scrub jay | Photo credit: Msulis

The Western scrub jay is a member of the Corvidae family to which various crows, ravens, and jays belong. Like its fellow corvids, the western scrub jay exhibits a loud, harsh call and enjoys a varied diet of insects, seeds, carrion, and fruit. Birdfeeders stocked with peanuts in the shell, dried corn kernels, and black oil sunflower seeds can attract these birds for leisurely viewing.

Western scrub jays measure up to eleven inches in length and are characterized by blue above with a white eyebrow and throat, a grayish-white underside, and a band of gray-brown on the back and behind the eyes. A year-round resident throughout West and Central Texas, the western scrub jay inhabits scrub oak and juniper woodlands as well as wooded suburban areas.

Often heard before they are seen, western scrub jays are easily observed throughout West Texas and the Edwards Plateau region. Parks such as Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Lost Maples State Natural Area, and Choke Canyon State Park, among others, reliably offer encounters with these vocal and attractive birds.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Peregrine Falcon on final approach | Photo credit: Paul Balfe

Nearly decimated in the 1970’s by widespread use of the pesticide DDT, the peregrine falcon population made a slow comeback as a federally-protected endangered species (it was delisted as an Endangered Species in 1998.) A relative of the eagle, peregrines are crow-sized birds of prey known for their swift and agile flight. One of the world’s fastest birds, these adept hunters take their prey “on the wing”, in flight; the peregrine’s long, slender wings can propel it to speeds up to 200 miles per hour when diving in pursuit of prey.

Peregrine falcons are found on every continent except Antarctica, enjoying the widest range of all bird species. During April, May, October, and November, peregrine falcons migrate along the Central Flyway from Canada to the Texas coast; there, the falcons spend several weeks resting and feeding in preparation for flight further south along the coast.

Songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and seabirds comprise the peregrine falcon’s diet. Peregrines usually hunt in open areas with cliffs or other high vantage points above rivers and coasts. Occasionally, peregrines may nest on bridges and buildings, as well. Peregrines measure sixteen to twenty inches long, with a wingspan up to forty-six inches. Characterized by a black head with a white neck patch and throat, a blue-gray back, and a pale white underside marked with black bars, the peregrine is a distinctive sight. Male and female peregrine falcons are identical in appearance, although the female is slightly larger.

Two good locations to observe peregrine falcons in Texas are Matagorda Island State Park and Padre Island National Seashore. The falcons are often seen hunting above the dunes.

Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Eagle Lake, Texas

About the National Wildlife Refuge

Attwater’s Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri) | Photo credit: George Lavendowski, USFWS

Established in 1972 as federally protected habitat for the endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chicken, the 10,528-acre refuge also preserves one of the largest remnants of Texas coastal prairie.

Opportunities for birding, spring wildflower viewing, picnicking, hiking, bicycling (paved roads only), and nature study are available. There are 3.5 miles of unpaved hiking trails, and a 5-mile paved loop road for driving tours, bicycling, and hiking.

The park is home to a variety of birds and wildlife, not just the namesake Attwater’s prairie chicken. Over 250 bird species have been observed in the refuge, including: crested caracara, black-bellied whistling duck, fulvous whistling duck, scissor-tailed flycatcher, dickcissel, white-tailed hawk, roseate spoonbill, angina, and a wide variety of sparrows. Wildlife include: white-tailed deer, American alligator, nine-banded armadillo, softshell turtle, black-tailed jackrabbit, coyote, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, American bullfrog, and upland chorus frog.

Location

The refuge is located 6.5 miles northeast of Eagle Lake, off FM 3013, or south from Sealy on Highway 36 to FM 3013 and traveling west for 10 miles. Headquarters is located 2 miles west of the main entrance on FM 3013.

Hours

Visitor Center is open from 7:30 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday.

Refuge trails are open every day of the year during daylight hours.

Fees

No fee is charged for access to the refuge. Contact the park directly for special use permits/fees.

Events

Check the Wild Texas Events Calendar for activities scheduled at the park.

Eagle Lake, Texas Weather


Eagle Lake, Texas, weather forecast

Photo Gallery

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Official Contact Information

The National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge
Eagle Lake, Texas
Telephone: (979)234-3021
E-Mail