Trinity River Bird Guide
By John Devine, Design & Policy Associate at Trinity Park Conservancy
As an urban planner, I’m used to thinking about Dallas in terms of the people that live here and the buildings that they live in. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to broaden that perspective by working on a birding guide for the Trinity River. When I first got the assignment, I was what some people call “bird-blind”. I could barely identify a handful of birds. Fortunately, local bird experts David Hurt and Ben Sandifer volunteered their time to assist me in developing a beginner’s birding guide for users like me.
When I started the project, I thought that there might be around thirty or forty species of birds that live along the river. It turns out, the real number is over three-hundred! There was not enough room in the guide to show the incredible diversity of native and migratory birds that call Dallas home. So, David and Ben had some lively debates about which birds would and wouldn’t make the cut. Birds like the Roseate Spoonbill are rare in Dallas, but their exotic appearance earned them a spot on the list. Meanwhile, there were some common species that were almost indistinguishable – what birders call “Little Brown Jobs” – that didn’t make the final guide.
What stuck with me most was the sheer diversity of the birds of the Trinity River. Dallas’ location in the middle of major bird migratory routes and relative closeness to the Gulf of Mexico coast means that all kinds of birds make their way through Dallas each year. Many of the species stop by only briefly to visit specific habitats that can only be found in small pockets throughout the city. Learning about Dallas’ bird-life showed me that Dallas is more than just people and buildings, it’s also a network of habitats. The Trinity River and the Great Trinity Forest are the beating heart of this network, and it’s thanks to them that Dallas can enjoy this amazing diversity of birds. Now, when I move around the city, I’m always paying attention to the birds. Our bird-life is one of the overlooked treasures that makes Dallas and the Trinity River Corridor so special.
For a birding guide that covers a larger range of bird species across the US and Canada, we recommend downloading Merlin, a smartphone app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. With Merlin, you can identify birds by answering simple questions about your sighting, or by using its photo-recognition software.
When printing the Trinity River Bird Guide, we recommend using 11×17 paper and folding the paper into a tri-fold brochure for easy reference. Contact us at [email protected] for any questions or requests.
For photography credits for images used in the Trinity River Bird Guide, click here.
John Devine works on public policy and community development planning for Harold Simmons Park at the Conservancy. He is a Dallas native and graduate of the University of Virginia, where he studied Politics and Urban Planning.