Top Places To Birdwatch in Oklahoma – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

December 29, 2021 // 22 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding In Oklahoma

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Every birdwatcher living in the South in Oklahoma and the surrounding area is absolutely going to adore this state because it’s truly one of the best places to go to enjoy birding, hiking, and other exciting outdoor activities. It’s also a very underappreciated birding area in the Sooner State, but it’s a great place to go if you plan on seeing lots of different types of birds.

The wonderful thing about the state of Oklahoma is that it has a wide variety of different types and styles of habitats. There are various wetlands spread throughout the state. There are bottomland hardwoods all throughout the region. And tallgrass prairies and granite uplands and the Wichita mountains also make for beautiful birding locations right in the center of the United States of America. 

Truly, there really are some amazing birding locations for visitors willing to pay a nominal fee or those looking to enter the park for free. In fact, I typically tend to share many more free locations than I do paid locations. I do this on purpose because I want families and friends to have a good time enjoying the outdoor beauty and splendor of the birds in their natural habitat without having to pay for an expensive day out in the wild.

Would you personally benefit from reading about other popular birding locations and information resources in the area surrounding the Sooner State? Think about visiting some of the other pages on my website including the surrounding areas of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico to learn a plethora of other valuable information.

Bird Watching Destinations in Oklahoma: Free Destinations

Today, I think it’s important to tell Oklahoma-based birdwatchers that there are many wonderful places to visit in your state that you can check out for free. This is great even if you live out of state and you plan to take a birdwatching vacation in the near future. You’ll love learning that there are many great birding destinations in this wonderful state that do not require any type of payment whatsoever.

And you’ll appreciate visiting the wonderful forests, grasslands, bottomland hardwoods and so much more. Please keep reading to discover the best free birding hotspots in the wonderful state of Oklahoma.

Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fees

Visitors love the fact that this area is located around Cumberland Pool, which is a 4000-acre area of intense birding bliss. And it’s actually very close to the wonderful state of Texas since it’s only 20 miles from the state line.

For the most part, birders will appreciate the plethora of water birds and waterfowl in abundance around Cumberland Pool, and this is especially true during the spring. You’ll notice Bald Eagles and other exciting bird species in the region, which gives birdwatchers the opportunity to see a plethora of many different types of amazing birds throughout the area.

Location:

12000 South Refuge Rd.
Tishomingo, OK 73460

Phone: 580-371-2402

GPS: 34.2362° N, 96.6786° W

Hours Of Operation:

They keep the refuge open all year long during daylight hours, so you’re allowed to enter the park at sunrise and you have to leave the park at sunset. There is also an office and visitor center with different hours that include the following:

Visitor Center/Headquarters

  • Open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4 PM
  • Closed on Saturdays and Sundays 
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Snow Goose
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Yellow-Throated Warbler
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Barred Owl
  • Summer Tanager

Hiking Trails:

As far as hiking trails are concerned, it pleases me greatly to tell you that there are 2 specific trails in Tishomingo, Oklahoma that I have the privilege of telling you about today. These trails are located right in the vicinity of the Cumberland Pool, so you’re bound to see beautiful scenery, plenty of wildlife, and a wide array of amazing bird species that you’ll absolutely adore.

The names of these hiking trails and other important details include:

  • Craven Nature Trail – the great thing about this trail is that it’s right on the water and it’s really easy to navigate because they do a great job of keeping the area clear, well-maintained, and well-defined, so you’ll never have any difficulty figuring out where you’re supposed to go next. It’s also an easy trail that is relatively short in total distance since it’s only 0.8 miles long. The average person walking at a relatively normal pace can complete this trail in 20-25 minutes.
  • Blue River Trail from Desperado Spring – the wonderful thing about Blue River Trail from Desperado Spring is that it’s also really easy to navigate and it also goes right along the water of the Cumberland Pool, so the views are outstanding and the wildlife is in plentiful supply. This particular trail, although easy to handle, is definitely longer than the previous one mentioned since it’s roughly 4 times as long. The total length is 3.2 miles, which the average person should finish in an hour and 25 minutes walking at a decent pace.

Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fee

This huge salt flat and shallow lake is located right in the middle of a 32,197-acre refuge. You can find this wreckage in the North Central area of Oklahoma. The landscape may confuse you because it seems kind of ugly and very barren. But, there are literally hundreds of different bird species making their home in this vast and wide-open region. Visitors to the area and residents always have a great time viewing the birds and other wildlife in this beautiful NWR in the Salt Plains region of Oklahoma.

Location:

71189 Harper Rd.
Jet, OK 73749

Phone: 580-626-4794

GPS: 36.7523° N, 98.2331° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park remains open every day during daylight hours. You can visit at sunrise and you are expected to leave at sunset to remain in compliance with the rules.

Visitor Center/Headquarter Hours

  • Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4 PM
  • Summer Hours – April 1 through October 15, visitor center opens on Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from 1 PM to 5 PM
  • Closed on Saturdays and Sundays
  • White-Faced Ibis
  • Snowy Plover
  • American White Pelican
  • Mississippi Kite
  • American Avocet
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Painted Bunting
  • Bald Eagle
  • Wild Turkey
  • Western Kingbird
  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • Snowy Egret

Hiking Trails:

Alright, it’s my absolute pleasure to tell you that there are 2 very specific hiking trails in the area and one auto tour route that I can share with you as well. So, if you feel like staying in your car, there is a nearly 5 mile stretch that you can drive along to see many of the most beautiful birds located in the region. And there are two hiking trails that are relatively short and easy to navigate that you can get out of your car and walk along and enjoy the beautiful scenery and natural setting.

The names of these trails and other important info include:

  • The Harold F. Miller Auto Tour Route – as I mentioned above, this particular section of the NWR is actually a stretch of road that you can travel upon in your motor vehicle. This area is 4.9 miles long, which is very easy to travel across in your car, truck, SUV, pickup, or other vehicle. Along the way, you’ll see many of your favorite birds including waterfowl, songbirds, and much more. It’s a great experience for friends and family alike.
  • Sandpiper Trail – this walking trail is incredibly easy to navigate and it’s also relatively short, so it shouldn’t take you a great deal of time to finish the trail in its entirety from beginning to end. As a matter of fact, the trail is only 0.5 miles long, which isn’t the longest trail in the world by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s well-maintained and well-kept, so it’s definitely one of the easier trails in the area. And since it’s relatively short, the average person should have no trouble walking across the entire path in roughly 15 minutes.
  • Eagle Roost Nature Trail – this trail takes you along the water right in the heart of the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. This is a good thing because it makes it very easy to navigate and you’ll never have a difficult time finding your way along this simple path. In fact, it’s definitely longer than the previous trail mentioned by five times, but it’s still relatively short in comparison to other more treacherous and rugged trails. The total length is 2.5 miles long, which shouldn’t be too tough for a person walking at an average speed to complete. In fact, if you walk at a decent pace, you’ll have no trouble completing the whole trail from start to finish in one hour flat.

Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fee

If you enjoy viewing snow geese, you’ll love visiting Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma because during the winter, it has one of the largest flocks in the entire state. This beautiful NWR can be found in eastern Oklahoma and it meets at the confluence of the Canadian and Arkansas are rivers. It’s a wonderful place for birding because it’s 20,800 acres of stunning land that many land animals and waterbirds tend to enjoy throughout the year. It’s also the ideal place to go to see winter waterfowl in the Sooner State.

Location:

107993 S. 4520 Road
Vian, OK 74962

Phone: 918-773-5251

GPS: 35.4302° N, 94.9870° W

Hours Of Operation:

The refuge itself is open seven days a week and there is no entrance fee. Visitors are allowed to enter the park from 5 AM to sunset each day.

Refuge Headquarters Hours

  • Open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4 PM
  • Closed Saturdays and Sundays and Federal Holidays
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Broad-Winged Hawk
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Bald Eagle
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Wild Turkey
  • Wood Duck
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Painted Bunting
  • Blue Grosbeak

Hiking Trails:

Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge is a delightful place to visit if you’re into hiking because there are two great hiking trails, running trails, biking trails, or simply trails for wildlife viewing and birdwatching. You’ll appreciate the fact that these trails are perfect for beginners, intermediates, and expert hikers as well. 

Although, these trails are definitely on the easier side, so if you’re looking for a major hiking challenge you may not have the experience that you’re hoping for. On the other hand, if you’re looking to view beautiful landscapes and amazing birds in their natural habitat, then these trails are going to be right up your alley.

The names of the trails and other important info include:

  • Sandtown Woods Trail – this is an easy hiking trail that takes you right along the water, so it presents a truly stunning view. It’s also very easy to navigate because the trail follows the water line, so you’ll always know exactly where you need to go as you walk along the path. This trail is relatively short since it’s 0.9 miles, which is obviously less than a mile long. The average person walking at a decent pace can finish the entire trail from beginning to end in 25 minutes.
  • Horton Slough Trail – this is an interesting trail because it’s also really easy to navigate and well-maintained, but it definitely presents a different type of trail than the previous one mentioned. At certain points along the trail you’ll walk along a boardwalk over the water, which definitely makes this a little more exciting. There are signposts along the way that point you in the correct direction, which definitely adds to the ease of navigation. The trail itself is only 1.2 miles long, so it isn’t the longest and most difficult trail. As a matter of fact, a person walking at a fairly average pace can complete the trail in roughly 30 minutes.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fee

One of my favorite things about visiting Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the reddish granite striking rock formations. The land itself is so amazing that it will take your breath away. It’s also one of the best places to go for stellar bird viewing and the entirety of the wildlife refuge consists of 59,000 acres of land in Southwestern Oklahoma. Even more interesting is they reintroduced bison, elk, prairie dogs, and orders to the region, so you’ll discover these stunning creatures in plentiful supply.

Location:

32 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Indiahoma, OK 73552

Phone: 580-429-3222

GPS: 34.7328° N, 98.7132° W

Hours Of Operation:

Visitors are allowed to walk through the refuge trails seven days a week from sunrise to sunset and they can do so free of charge. This gives everyone access to the outdoor portion of the wildlife trails, which is exactly what you need to enjoy birdwatching in this pristine location.

Refuge Visitor Center Hours

  • Open seven days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Painted Bunting
  • Rock Wren
  • Cave Swallow
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Wild Turkey
  • Canyon Wren
  • Black-Chinned Hummingbird
  • Common Poorwill
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Wild Turkey
  • Burrowing Owl

Hiking Trails:

It turns out that there are a wide range of hiking trails available to the public in a Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. I do not want to overwhelm you with too many options, so I will share my top 10 favorite trails with you below. They all range from easy, moderate, and hard difficulty, so you can basically take your pick. And I’ll try my best to share trails with varying lengths, so you can spend as little or as much time out in nature as you prefer while covering the entire trail from beginning to end.

The names of these hiking trails and other information include:

  • Jed Johnson Tower Trail to Central Peak – easy difficulty, 1.4 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Post Oak Lake to Ison’s Dam – moderate difficulty, 3.6 miles, one hour and 45 minutes to complete
  • Boulder Mountain (Eagle Mountain) via Narrows Trail – hard difficulty, 1.1 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Wichita Mountains Forty-Foot Hole – easy difficulty, 1.4 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Kite Trail to Bison Trail Loop – moderate difficulty, 6.8 miles, three hours and five minutes to complete
  • Parallel Forest Loop – moderate difficulty, 0.8 miles, 20 minutes to complete
  • South Border Trail via Burma – easy difficulty, 3.4 miles, one hour and 35 minutes to complete
  • Post Oak Falls Trail – moderate difficulty, 1.5 miles, 45 minutes to complete
  • Buford Lake and Panther Creek Trail – easy difficulty, 2.3 miles, one hour and 10 minutes to complete
  • Mount Scott Overlook – moderate difficulty, 5.6 miles, two hours and 55 minutes to complete

Lake Hefner – No Entrance Fee

Oklahoma City birders are huge fans of Lake Hefner and Lake Hefner Park because it’s one of the best places in the area to see many different types of birds including shorebirds, waterfowl, goals, turns, and even other rare species that show up throughout the year. It’s one of the best places to see docs from the Midwest because they migrate south during the winter and end up in Oklahoma City for your viewing pleasure. It’s a great place to visit for birdwatching enthusiasts looking to spend the day outside with family members and friends.

Location:

3301 NW Grand Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73132 

Phone: 405-297-2211

GPS: 35.5724° N, 97.5952° W

Hours Of Operation:

Lake Hefner is actually open to the public 24 hours a day and they allow camping, hiking, and fishing, although permits and particular fees are required for camping and fishing activities. Otherwise, it’s free to enter the park and enjoy hiking, biking, birdwatching, and more.

  • Iceland Gull
  • Pacific Loon
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Osprey
  • Surf Scoter
  • American White Pelican
  • Yellow-Billed Loon
  • Common Loon
  • American Widgeon
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker

Hiking Trails:

You’ll be happy to know that there are 3 hiking trails that I have the opportunity to tell you about today in Lake Hefner. These trails are relatively easy which is great and they vary in lengths as well, although two of them are shorter trails and one is a pretty long trail.

The names of the trails and more important information include:

  • Bert Cooper Loop – this hiking trail takes you right along Lake Hefner and it’s very easy to navigate because the trail itself is well-maintained and you’ll never lose your path walking along the water, so the degree of difficulty is minimal at best. Length of the trail from start to finish is 1.9 miles. The average person walking at a normal pace should have no trouble completing the trail in 50 minutes.
  • Lake Hefner Short Walk – this hiking trail is located right in the heart of Oklahoma City and it’s well maintained and easy to navigate, so you will not find it difficult to follow the path whatsoever. It’s the shorter version of the lake Hefner trail, so is only 2.3 miles long from one end of the trail to the other. The average person walking at a moderate pace should easily finish this trail in one hour and five minutes.
  • Lake Hefner Trail – this trail is also easy to navigate as it takes you along the water, because the trail is well-maintained, the lake is in your viewing area so it’s visibly easy to notice, and it provides some of the most stunning views you’ll ever see. This one is different from the previous two because it’s very long. The complete length of the trail is 9.4 miles. If you spend a large chunk of your day walking along this trail at a moderate pace, you can finish it in three hours and 55 minutes.

Bird Watching Destinations in Oklahoma: Paid Destinations

Hackberry Flat Migration Tours – Paid Birding Experience

The Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area is a wonderful place to visit for free during the year to experience some of the best birdwatching in Oklahoma. They also host paid migration tours throughout mid-April to mid-May each year, and the 2021 migration tours were really exciting for all of the participants involved.

The great thing about Hackberry Flat WMA is that it encompasses more than 7000 acres of wetlands and tens of thousands of birds like to migrate to the area each year, which makes the migrating tours such an exciting experience. They’ve documented more than 225 birds visiting the area during these migration tours taking place in Frederick, OK.

Besides the tours, there are also opportunities to spend time walking, hiking, biking, fishing, and more in the area, which makes for a really fun and exciting experience.

Location:

Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area
County Road N2240
Davidson, OK 73530

Phone: 580-335-5262

GPS: 34.2781° N, 98.9242° W

Hours Of Operation:

Visitors are allowed to visit Hackberry Flat WMA 24 hours a day since it is open to the public for hunting and camping as well. The best hours to visit are between sunrise and sunset each day to maximize your bird watching experience.

  • American White Pelican
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Horned Lark
  • Snowy Egret
  • American Avocet
  • Sandhill Crane
  • American Bittern
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Cassin’s Sparrow
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron
  • King Rail
  • White-Faced Ibis
  • Wilson’s Phalarope

Hiking Trails:

Unfortunately, I had a difficult time finding information about the specific hiking trails located in Hackberry Flat WMA. But I do know that they exist, and there is definitely one hiking trail that leads out over the Hackberry Flat Center, so visitors will definitely have the opportunity to walk along this hiking trail. There is also an opportunity to go on a driving tour as well, which you can learn more about by dialing 405-990-4977.

Oklahoma Birdwatching Clubs

Living in Oklahoma is great if you enjoy birdwatching and plan to get involved with other avid bird watchers in the area. There are bird watching clubs and chapters of the National Audubon Society that you can join to become actively involved in environmentalism, birdwatching, habitat protection, education, field trips, and much more.

I’m happy to tell you about a few of the better organizations that I’ve come across in the great state of Oklahoma, better known as the Sooner State. Consider joining one or more of these exciting groups and connect with other like-minded birdwatching enthusiasts and environmentalists right now or in the near future.

Oklahoma City Audubon Society

The Oklahoma City Audubon Society was formed in 1947 when Irene Martin met Dr. Samuel Turner Moore on a cold day at Rose Lake. This nonprofit educational and social club isn’t actually a member of the National Audubon Society, so keep that in mind because it’s a different group.

But they are very similar in a number of ways. They promote education and environmental protection and Oklahoma City. They take regular birding field trips throughout the year and have regular meetings as a group. They also have an inexpensive membership that’s easy to join online right from the comfort of your own home.

Contact Info:

Meeting Location – Will Rogers Garden Center
3400 NW 36th St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73112

Past and Future Events:

  • Soldier Creek Industrial Park – this field trip took place on April 7, 2021 and it was led by Jimmy Woodward. The group met at the park at 8:30 AM and spent the day walking along the hiking trails while enjoying some of the best bird watching you can experience in Oklahoma City.
  • Molly Spencer Farm – on October 9, 2021 from 8 AM to 10 AM, the OKC Audubon met for a two-hour bird walk in this location. Hal Yocum led the group and they spent two hours walking around the farm experiencing a wonderful opportunity to see some of the most amazing birds in the region.

Membership Fees:

Joining the Oklahoma City Audubon is easier than ever and you can do so online by visiting this page here. The cost to join the OKC Audubon is only $15 per year, so it’s very inexpensive and it’s a great investment for birdwatchers living in the area.

Tulsa Audubon Society

The Tulsa Audubon Society has a number of important missions that they regularly focus on as a group. Besides enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company at monthly meetings and regular field trips, they also promote wildlife conservation, conservation of the natural environment, bird observation and study opportunities, conservation and ornithology research, and environmental protection education for the public.

Plus, if you’re an avid birdwatcher you’ll love connecting with this group because they spend a great deal of time together seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Contact Info:
Tulsa Audubon Society
7511 E. 89th Pl.
Tulsa, OK 74133

Phone: 918-890-6325

Past and Future Events:

  • Tuesday Morning Birders – this is a regular meet up that takes place on Tuesday mornings at LaFortune Park Golf Course from 8 AM to 12 PM. The leader of this group is named Jana Singletary. She can be reached at 918-808-5554. Birdwatchers of all skill levels are welcome to spend the morning experiencing wonderful birdwatching opportunities with this group.
  • Saturday Morning Birders – the next upcoming birdwatching event is on January 8, 2022 from 8 AM to 12 PM. The group will meet at Lake Yahola Monument located at 4001 Mohawk Blvd., Tulsa, OK 74115. This is a regular monthly meet up and the location will vary from month to month. To find out more about this regular meet up for Tulsa Audubon Society birders, please contact group leader Terry Mitchell at 918-697-3198 for more information.

Membership Fees:

It’s easier than ever to become a member of the Tulsa Audubon Society. Please visit this page here to follow the on-screen instructions. You can join up by filling out the contact form online and paying over the Internet. Or if you prefer, you can print the contact form, fill it out, and mail it in along with a check to the following address:

Tulsa Audubon Society
7511 E. 89th Pl.
Tulsa, OK 74133

Membership levels include:

  • Basic Membership – $21 per year
  • Sustaining Membership – $50 per year
  • Supporting Membership – $100 per year

Join today to become a member of this prestigious organization and experience fellowship, birdwatching, education, value, growth, adventure, and more.

Final Thoughts: The Best Oklahoma Birding Destinations & Clubs

I really appreciated that you took the time to discover everything that I had to share about the best Oklahoma bird watching destinations – whether free or paid – and other important information like bird watching clubs and Audubon Society chapters in the area. There are so many great birding opportunities in the OK that it’s hard to keep track of them all!

Before you go:

Do you know other bird watching clubs and free or paid bird watching destinations in Oklahoma that you’d like us to share? Feel free to reach out at any time and message us with your important resource. We’d be happy to add it to the list to help other birdwatching enthusiasts have amazing birding experiences at your favorite locations as well.

Our goal is to be the best Oklahoma birding resource in existence. Help us achieve our goal by lending us a hand!

Scissor-tailed flycatcher Oklahoma State Bird
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