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Exploring the Tres Palacios Loop: A Bird Watcher's Paradise

Situated along the Gulf Coast of Texas, the Tres Palacios Loop offers birding enthusiasts the chance to see 250+ bird species at scenic sites in and around Palacios, including Lookout Point, Bayshore Drive, and Mad Island Wildlife Management Area.

Whether you're an experienced birder or new to nature exploration, this guide will provide you with insider knowledge, tips, and tricks to make the most of your birding adventure on the Tres Palacios Loop.

Best Places to Go Birding on the Tres Palacios Loop

Tres Palacios Loop is part of an expansive coastal wetlands system that once encompassed nine million acres. While only 2% of this wetlands system exists today, there are still plenty of sites to visit on the Tres Palacios Loop.

Almost all sites are free to visit and are a short drive from Palacios, including the following:

Mad Island Wildlife Management Area

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages and operates the Mad Island Wildlife Management Area off Brazos Tower Road. These wetlands are home to several bird species, including wading birds and shore birds, like diver ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes.

Clive Runnells Family Mad Island Marsh Preserve

The Nature Conservancy of Texas manages the Clive Runnells Family Mad Island Marsh Preserve. This preserve is part of an expansive wetlands system and is a great place to spot birds and other wildlife, including deer, bobcats, and alligators. It is open to the public daily.

Oyster Lake Road

As you head toward Matagorda Bay, you’ll pass Oyster Lake Road, one of the best stops on the Tres Palacios Loop, open for daily use.

Oyster Lake Road snakes through a salt marsh and is home to various animals and birds, including Nelson’s Sparrow and Redheads (ducks with — you guessed it — red heads). Shorebirds and snow geese are also commonly found along this road in the winter.

heron at Cash Creek

Cash Creek

Head to Cash Creek on the Tres Palacios Loop to find waterfowl, like herons, egrets, and ibis. These birds typically hang out around Cash Creek Bridge, which can be reached from Bayshore Drive. You might even be able to see snow geese flocking together here as you head toward the fishing pier!

Bayshore Drive

Bayshore Drive offers beautiful views of Tres Palacios Bay and is home to several types of waterfowl, including pelicans, loons, and grebes. Drive on this scenic road to soak in stunning views of Tres Palacios Bay and see the birds in their natural habitat.

Pelican in Tres Palacios Loop

Trull Marsh

Trull Marsh encompasses coastal prairies and scattered wetlands that attract a variety of bird species, including herons, egrets, warblers, and sparrows. Watch the bay for waterbirds like Black-Necked Stilts, Greater Yellowlegs, and Long-Billed Dowitchers.

One of the best times to look for waterbirds at Trull Marsh is at low tide when all the birds venture out into the marsh to catch dinner. We like to call these times “feeding frenzies!”.

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Palacios Waterfront and Texas Baptist Encampment

The Palacios Waterfront and Texas Baptist Encampment are lovely places to watch for birds.

Park along Bay Drive (located near the Texas Baptist Encampment) and head to the fishing pier to search Tres Palacios Bay for loons, pelicans, and ducks.

Lookout Point

Head toward Tres Palacios Bay to Lookout Point to see gulls near the fishing boats docked at the Port of Palacios — one of the most popular places for fishing in Palacios.

You can also see waterbirds from the fishing pier, including red-breasted mergansers and ring-necked ducks. You might even see colorful songbirds or a bright pink Roseate Spoonbill from the dock!

Reddish Egret - tres palacios bird watching

Palacios Marine Education Center Nature Trail

Palacios Marine Education Center Nature Trail is open daily and provides visitors with a vibrant hub of bird activity throughout the year. Shallow waters, marshlands, and coastal prairies provide a rich habitat for bird species, from waterfowl to shorebirds, such as warblers, buntings, and orioles.

If you get lucky, you might even see a striking Reddish Egret darting through shallow waters looking for fish!

When Is the Best Time to Go Birding on the Tres Palacios Loop?

Wondering when to go bird watching in Palacios? Almost any time is a good time for birding on the Tres Palacios Loop — simply plan your visit around which birds you’d like to see:

  • Spring (March to May) — Spring is the best time to witness the arrival of neotropical migratory birds, like shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors.
  • Fall (September to November) — Fall migration is an excellent time to observe southern migrants, including raptors and waterfowl. Look to the skies to see raptors, like the broad-winged hawk, soaring high in the skies as they travel south.
  • Winter (December to February) — You'll find numerous waterfowl and resident birds on the Tres Palacios Loop during the winter, like the Black-Bellied Plover and Sanderling. You might even catch a downy or red-bellied woodpecker drumming on tree trunks in search of insects.
Red bellied woodpecker

Helpful Tips for Birders on the Tres Palacios Loop

Planning a birding trip to Palacios? Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Plan ahead — Planning is key to a successful birding trip. Birds are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, so plan to explore the Tres Palacios Loop during these times of day.
  • Pack accordingly — Remember to pack your binoculars and a field guide to enhance your bird identification skills. You might want to download an app for quick access.
  • Respect nature — Stay on approved pathways to protect nesting birds and their habitats. Respect the natural environment by following the rules of "Leave No Trace.”
  • Join guided tours — Local birding groups or guided tours offer the opportunity to tag along with experienced birders. If you'd like to explore Tres Palacios Loop on your own, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for trail maps and bird checklists.
birdwatcher

Embark on a Birding Adventure on the Tres Palacios Loop with Beachside

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