Green Jay Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge In Texas.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge: A Sanctuary for the Elusive Ocelot and Hundreds of Bird Species

Wildlife of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is located in Los Fresnos, Texas, which is about 30 minutes from South Padre Island. The wildlife refuge is famous because it is one of the last designated conservation areas for the ocelot in the United States. Although ocelots frequent the park, visitors rarely have the chance to see these little leopards.

In addition to the ocelot, numerous species of birds and other Texas wildlife reside in park. Altamira orioles, green jays, American alligators, and Mexican ground squirrels are common residents at the refuge.

Discover Unique Birds That Frequent the Refuge

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has a unique selection of birds, many of which only live in the U.S. at the southernmost tip of Texas. A few common species found at the refuge include the bronzed cowbird, brown thrasher, and green jay.

The bronzed cowbird is categorized into two subspecies: loyei or southwestern and aeneus or Texas subspecies. The differences between the two subspecies are most apparent between the females. Females of the southwestern subspecies are light gray, while females of the Texas subspecies are black.

Bronzed Cowbirds Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Laguna Atascosa NWR.
Bronzed cowbirds engaging in courtship in Los Fresnos, Texas.

In addition to the bronzed cowbird, the brown thrasher is another frequent visitor at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Brown thrashers have brown, white, and reddish feathers, which help them blend in with their surroundings. Although these unique birds have dull coloring, their yellow-orange eyes give them a pop of color.

Brown Thrasher Bird Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Brown thrasher resting near bird bath in Cameron County, Texas.

The green jay is another bird that resides at the park. In addition to the Altamira oriole, the green jay is one of the most vibrantly colored birds of the park. Both male and female green jays display bright blue, green, and yellow feathers. Although common throughout Central America and South America, green jays are only found in the U.S. in this southernmost region of Texas.

Green Jay Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Green jay resting on tree branch at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

Encounter the Most Diverse Mammals Found in Texas

Some of the most diverse mammals of Texas live at the refuge. For instance, the Mexican ground squirrel only lives in New Mexico, Mexico, and southwest Texas. Mexican ground squirrels are small rodents with white and brown fur. These ground squirrels have 9 rows of white spots that run along their backs, making them easy to distinguish.

Mexican Ground Squirrel Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Los Fresnos, TX.
Mexican ground squirrel foraging for food in Los Fresnos, Texas.

Although less unique, the house mouse is another mammal that resides in the park. House mice inhabit nearly every continent and tend to live in structures or outside. The house mice at the refuge commonly hideout in wooden structures, like gazebos and information kiosks. Other mammals that inhabit the land include the bobcat, collared peccary, and nine-banded armadillo.

House Mouse Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Los Fresnos, Texas.
House mouse resting in gazebo in Los Fresnos, Texas.

Walk Among Exotic Reptiles

When visiting the refuge, you also have the opportunity to walk with exotic Texas reptiles. For instance, the Texas spotted whiptail is a regular inhabitant. These lizards tend to sunbathe in openings near trails, on pathways, or in the woods. The Texas spotted lizard has a unique pattern that is made of several multicolored stripes and spots.

Texas Spotted Whiptail Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Los Fresnos, Texas.
Texas spotted whiptail lizard sunbathing near trail in Cameron County, Texas.

Finally, visitors have the chance to encounter one of the most iconic species in Texas, the western diamondback rattlesnake. Western diamondback rattlesnakes live at the refuge and are mostly active from dusk until dawn. However, rattlesnakes can be active at anytime and often rest during warmer parts of the day. Western diamondback rattlesnakes are poisonous and can inflict a lethal bite, if left untreated.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Cameron County, TX.
Western diamondback rattlesnake resting under bird blind in Cameron County, TX.

Visit Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

In conclusion, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place for wildlife watching and wildlife photography. Visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy a full list of activities, including biking, hunting, fishing, hiking and more. Additionally, the refuge offers special events that anyone can enjoy. Examples of past special events include stargazing, fishing programs, guided nature walks, and photography tours. For more information, check out the resources provided below.

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