In addition to celebrating national holidays this year, take some time to celebrate your interests as well. Nationwide, there are festivals, shows, and celebrations honoring everything from local movies and music to wildlife and environmental causes. Port Aransas takes special pride in its unique ecosystem, and they celebrate it every year with a variety of activities. One of these festivals marks the annual return of the whooping crane to their winter habitat in Port A! This year’s Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas marks the 26th anniversary of the festival and runs February 23-26.
The Whooping Crane
The Whooping Crane is a special bird. It is the rarest of all cranes and among the oldest living bird species on earth! You’ll recognize the adults as they swoop in, with their nearly entirely white bodies that are punctuated by black wing tips and facial markings, and a cap of red skin on their heads. Chicks are a beautiful cinnamon brown.
Since 1996, the festival has celebrated the annual return of the majestic birds to their wintering habitat – the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a special spot, as the Texas Coastal Bend area is the only place where the world last naturally occurring population of Whooping Cranes spend their winters.
Schedule & Tickets
You can score tickets at the festival page via the city tourism page, then pick up your tickets and event registration goodie bag starting at 10 a.m. on February 23 at the Civic Center, 710 W. Avenue A in Port Aransas. You can also check out the daily schedule, which includes boat and bus tours, lectures, workshops, and more. Each event has its own ticket price, and you’ll need to buy tickets for each event you wish to attend.
The Bird’s Nest Nature-Related Vendor Fair takes place Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. You can meet with representatives of conservation organizations and check out the wares at the nature-related vendor booths. It’s the perfect place to pick up some fun festival souvenirs. The show takes place at the Port Aransas Civic Center, where you picked up your tickets and goodie bag.
Winter Birding Guidelines
Part of enjoying the festival is knowing how to observe the Whooping Cranes with minimal disturbance. The Nature Preserve’s regular rules and hours apply, including sunrise-sunset hours, no hunting, fishing, littering, or gathering natural materials. No pets, and do not harm any wildlife whatsoever. Respect the cranes by staying at least 1,000 feet away – do not enter a trail if cranes are present within 1,000 feet or stay still and quiet and observe should the birds appear when you are already on the trail. Bikers should dismount and walk slowly, and runners should slow their pace around the birds and other wildlife.
You’ll find the birds and other wildlife in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture, Port Aransas Jetty, Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond, Wetland Park, Mustang Island State Park, and Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. Just outside of Port A, you’ll find the birds at Packery Channel Pass, Padre Island National Seashore, and Corpus Christi Pass. Use the boardwalks and observation towers for a better look, as the structures were built over wetlands that boast specially designed “vegetation pockets” to attract the birds.
Wings of Winter
If this is your first time experiencing the Whooping Cranes of Port A, there is a Port Aransas Winter Birding Guide full of information about the birds, as well as a map of the best birdwatching sites and points of interest. Use the digital brochure available on the festival website to find guided and self-guided tours of the Coastal Bend, as well as the other birds you are bound to see, like the American White Pelican, Osprey, and White-Tailed Hawk, during your Port A stay.
Celebrate Whooping Cranes in Port A
Whether you’ve planned your vacation to include time at the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas or not, part of planning a memory-filled Port A experience starts with where you’ll stay. Like the birds, you need a place to “nest” while you enjoy your time at the festival and doing other Port A activities. Make your first reservation a vacation condo rental provided by The Dunes. Choose condos from one to three bedrooms for your ideal Port A retreat. With the festival and all the other activities you’ve planned during your stay, you can keep your energy up when you fix a meal or snack in the fully-equipped kitchen. After a day of fun in the sun watching the cranes, come back to an open living space and watch a movie or TV show, or unwind in a private bedroom.
Come celebrate Whooping Cranes on a relaxing and restful trip to Port A. Contact us today!