28th annual Great Texas Birding Classic begins April 15; Pleasure Island great to participate

Published 12:10 am Sunday, March 24, 2024

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Registration remains open until April 1 for those wishing to join more than 1,000 birders who will flock to the coast, forests, prairies and mountains of Texas to compete in the nation’s biggest, longest and wildest bird watching tournament.

Port Arthur, with its bird watching, makes for a perfect stop.

The 28th annual Great Texas Birding Classic runs from April 15-May 15. This statewide tournament invites participants to document the different species of birds migrating through Texas during the spring.

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“Since the Classic started a lot has changed,” says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “The competition has expanded statewide to record participation and is no longer just for experts since the new categories appeal to budding naturalists and avid birders alike.”

Competitors can choose from a variety of categories to test their birding skills, participating for as little as half a day or as long as a week in the statewide tourney. Participants can form a team and compete in such categories as the Big Sit, in which birders must remain within a 50-foot-diameter circle to count their birds.

Other categories include a sunrise-to-noon event, youth-only tournaments, a human-powered contest and one tournament held entirely within Texas State Parks.

“The Birding Classic is a wonderful opportunity for bird watching enthusiasts and all nature lovers to gather with family and friends to see how many bird species they can spot in a few hours, a full day, or even a few days in a row,” says Plante. “This is a fun event that anyone, regardless of their age or ability, will enjoy.”

The 2023 event attracted a record-breaking 202 teams that competed from Far West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to the Golden Triangle in Southeast Texas and the Rio Grande Valley down south.

Registration fees and team sponsorships for the event raise money for birding and habitat conservation, restoration and enhancement grants throughout the state, helping preserve critical bird habitat and support nature tourism.

Last year, the tournament raised $47,000 for conservation grants. Since its inception in 1997, the Great Texas Birding Classic has awarded conservation grants totaling $1,163,000.

To register online and learn more about the tournament, visit BirdingClassic.org. This event is made possible by sponsorship and registration fees, donations from event sponsors Toyota and Texas Ornithological Society and awards ceremony sponsor Audubon Texas.