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King Ranch has the largest known population of ferruginous pygmy-owls in the United States. Photo by Dominic Sherony/Flickr

Exploring Nature: King Ranch Birding

Sunday, September 2, 2018

It has been a few years since I visited the iconic King Ranch, located in south Texas near the city of Kingsville.

The 800,000-acre ranch is home to over 360 bird species, including green jays, bobwhite quail, tropical parula, Audubon’s oriole, Botteri’s sparrow and white-tailed hawks.

But the two species I most remember are the ferruginous pygmy-owls and the wild turkeys. We rode in a pickup and honked at a flock of turkeys. They gobbled and scattered, jogging off the road in long hurried strides.

A resident pygmy-owl was in a tree near the ranch headquarters and I was surprised it sat so peacefully while a group of birders looked up and focused with binoculars. The owl seemed as interested in us as we were in him.

In addition to the owl hanging around at ranch headquarters, there were other pygmy-owls all over the ranch property, making for the largest known population of ferruginous pygmy-owls in the United States.

Famed conservationist Aldo Leopold called King Ranch “one of the best jobs of wildlife restoration on the continent.”

Birding tours are offered October to January on Wednesdays and Fridays. You can obtain more information by calling the Visitor Center at 361-592-8055, or by email at visit@king-ranch.com. Tell them Jerry sent you.