Texas birdwatching

January 8, 2022 // 25 minutes read

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Birding in Texas State Bird - Northern Mockingbird

People living in Texas interested in birdwatching in all things bird related are definitely in for a wonderful treat. The Lone Star State is one of the legendary places to visit for birdwatching in the United States. There are so many different birding habitats all over the place including the Rio Grande Valley, Chihuahuan Desert, and many other exciting hotspots.

Even better, one of my favorite things about birding in Texas is the number of birds that have been documented in the state. Their bird list consists of roughly 650 different birds. And it has the second-largest list of documented birds behind California, which means there are a wide range of bird species to see in this wonderful location.

A personal favorite reason to live in or visit Texas is the many habitats and birding opportunities within this amazing state. There are a wide range of paid and free venues to visit no matter where you happen to be within Texas’s borders. Residents and visitors alike will never run out of amazing bird watching opportunities to enjoy and experience.

Do you know what else is great? This exciting state has many different bird watching groups and National Audubon Society chapters. So, you should have no trouble connecting with other like-minded people as you join one or more of these groups. You’ll experience birdwatching, hiking, habitat protection, education, and more together.

Would you care to visit some of the other excellent paid and free bird watching destinations in destinations surrounding the Lone Star State? I’ve put together a number of great resources for all of the states bordering Texas as well. Learn about Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico by checking out their corresponding page.

Texas free birdwatching destinations

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this valuable information, I feel it’s best to fill you in on the top free bird watching destinations in the state of Texas. These locations are the best places to visit the next time you decide to go birding in the Lone Star State.

So many of the places that I’m about to share with you are not only free, but they’re also the top locations to visit if you intend to see the greatest amount of birds on your next birdwatching trip. Even better, these locations are easily accessible depending on where you happen to live within the state. I’ll do my best to share something for everyone, so we can all experience the amazing sights and sounds of a breathtaking bird watching excursion with family and friends.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

Out of all of the birding hotspots throughout the United States of America, this tremendous location is one of the best and brightest. It’s truly a must visit site for all to see. It’s made up of more than 34,000 acres of protected land including scattered words, Prairies, and marshes. And it’s one of the richest places teeming with birdlife that you could ever explore. Even better, when you visit this stunning place, just know that you can keep coming back over and over again and it will feel like you’re visiting for the first time.


FM 1985
Anahuac, TX 77514

Phone: 409-267-3337

Visitor Center Address
4017 FM 563
Anahuac, TX 77514

GPS: 29.6037° N, 94.4644° W

Hours Of Operation:

The refuge is open seven days a week and it’s open to the public free of charge. The outdoor trails open an hour before sunrise and they close again an hour after sunset. On occasion, they will close the trails at different hours, but the information will be posted.

  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • Fulvous Whistling-Duck
  • Wood Stork
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • King Rail
  • Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Purple Gallinule
  • Marsh Wren
  • Clapper Rail
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Common Gallinule

Hiking Trails:

Today, I’d like to tell you about 5 wonderful hiking trails located in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. These trails are all relatively short and very easy to travel upon, so there isn’t going to be any major degree of difficulty with these wonderful trails whatsoever. In fact, most people will be able to walk across the majority of these trails in less than a half an hour in some cases or in a matter of minutes in other cases. There is only one trail with any serious length to it that I’ll tell you about today.

The names and other important information about these trails include:

  • Willows Trail – This trail has two major types of terrain. One part is boardwalk terrain, which is obviously perfectly cleaned and well-maintained and very easy to navigate. The other portion of the trail is made of grass. It is mowed grass and it’s well-kept and you’ll never struggle on this very short trail whatsoever because they do a good job of keeping up with it. The total length of this easy trail is 0.6 miles long. Most people should have no trouble walking this distance in 15 minutes or less.
  • Woodlot Trail – this is a very easy trail as well and it’s relatively short, so you’re not going to have to worry about obstacles or other obstructions in your path. In fact, the entire trail is actually a paved path, so there is no degree of difficulty whatsoever. The ease of this trail combined with the 0.2 miles in length means the average person will finish this in its entirety in a matter of minutes. In fact, most people can complete this trail in five minutes or less.
  • Hackberry Trail – this trail is also very easy to navigate and it’s a very clear and clean-cut path, although it’s made of gravel it’s well-maintained and well-kept and they do a good job of cutting the grass and bushes around the trail so it doesn’t get in the way. The total length of this simple trail is 1.2 miles from start to finish. The average person walking at a moderate pace can complete the trail in about 30 minutes.
  • Boardwalk Trail – I have to guess that the name is very self-explanatory. This easy but boardwalk is much more of a path than it actually is a trail. But it’s a great place to stop and observe the birds in their natural habitat, so it’s definitely a good idea to hit the boardwalk the next time you visit Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. The entire board walk is only 0.3 miles long, which the average person should complete in under 10 minutes.
  • Shoveler Pond Trail – this is the longest out of all the trails mentioned in the area, but don’t worry because it’s also the easiest to navigate. This trail is 4.1 miles long, which is certainly a bit of a challenge but nothing too devastatingly difficult for the average person to walk along. Whoever travels this path should have no problem finishing it in one hour and 40 minutes, as long as they walk at an average pace.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

This birding destination is one of the best in all of Texas. You should prepare for a superb experience because the area is surrounded by coastal bays and it occupies a large peninsula, which makes it a truly beautiful sight to behold. And the barrier islands separated from the Gulf of Mexico, which almost makes it feel like it’s a hidden secret that the rest of the world just doesn’t know about or understand. Even better, there are more than 400 bird species within this refuge, so you’ll definitely find some of your favorite birds in this pristine location.


1 Wildlife Circle
Austwell, TX 77950

Phone: 361-349-1181
GPS: 28.2445° N, 96.8566° W

Hours Of Operation:

This NWR keeps very specific daily hours. It is open seven days a week from 6:45 AM to 7:30 PM. And more than likely, it remains closed on federal holidays, but you can always call to find out if it will be open on such a day.

  • Whooping Crane
  • Ladder-Backed Woodpecker
  • Painted Bunting
  • Crested Caracara
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Brown-Crested Flycatcher
  • White-Tailed Hawk
  • Purple Gallinule
  • Brown-Crested Flycatcher
  • Red-Necked Grebe
  • White-Tailed Tropicbird
  • Brown Booby

Parking Fees:

  • Vehicle with one adult – $3 daily fee
  • Vehicle with two or more adults – $5 daily fee
  • Commercial bus or van with up to 20 people – $25 daily fee
  • Commercial vehicle with 21 or more people – $50 daily fee

Hiking Trails:

There are some really great hiking trails in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge that I’d like to tell you about today. Even though there are multiple trails, I’m going to narrow it down to my top 5 favorites for you today. But you should feel free to visit the entire bird sanctuary and check out all of the trails if that seems like a good idea for you and your loved ones.

With that said, the names and other pertinent info about my five favorite hiking trails include the following:

  • Dagger Point Trail – this easy to navigate trail is located right on the map and there is even a big sign pointing you in the right direction in the middle of the park. It’s never going to be a problem because they do a great job maintaining the trail. The total length is 0.7 miles, which the average person can complete in 20 minutes if they continue walking at a moderate pace.
  • Jones Lake Trail – in all honesty, there is a whole lot to this very short and relatively easy hiking trail. In fact, it’s only 0.1 miles long, which the average person can complete in two minutes.
  • Songbird Loop – this trail is also really short and very easy and the path is also well-maintained, so you’ll have no problem navigating the short distance. The total length is 0.2 miles, which just about everybody can complete in around five minutes without much difficulty.
  • Heron Flats Trail – this well-maintained trail is definitely a lot bigger than the previous two that I’ve recently mentioned, although it’s definitely an easy trail with lots of signs so you shouldn’t have any navigational difficulties. And they do a good job maintaining the trail as well by keeping a clear path. The total length is 1.5 miles, which the average person should finish in roughly 45 minutes if they walk at a moderately decent pace.
  • Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Rail Trail – no one will have a difficult time navigating this trail because it’s actually a boardwalk path that they do a great job keeping well-maintained. It will take the average person about a half an hour to finish the entire trail from start to finish, because the total length is 1.2 miles, which is certainly something to consider.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Guess what? The interesting fact about this location is they have recorded 417 different bird species. Did you know that this is the most recorded bird species at any national wildlife refuge in the entire United States? This refuge is made up of 98,000 acres of beautiful land on the southern tip of Texas. There are a quarter million ducks that spend their winters here each year, and the area is filled with mud flats, beaches, prairies, and freshwater wetlands. It’s truly a sight to behold.


22688 Buena Vista Blvd.
Los Fresnos, TX 78566

Phone: 956-244-2019
GPS: 26.2290° N, 97.3473° W

Hours Of Operation:

This park is open every day, seven days a week, from 7 AM to 6 PM. It’s also closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Ocelot Conservation Day.

  • Crested Caracara
  • Altamira Oriole
  • Bronzed Cowbird
  • White-Tailed Kite
  • Least Grebe
  • Sandhill Crane
  • American White Pelican
  • Olive Sparrow
  • White -tipped Dove
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Green Jay
  • Long-Billed Thrasher

Parking Fees:

  • General Visitors Daily Permit – $3 per vehicle per visit
  • Commercial Group Vehicles – $25 per vehicle per visit

Hiking Trails:

In the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, there are 3 exciting trails that I have the pleasure of telling you about today. Each of these trails varies in length and they are all relatively long since the shortest one is 4 miles. Thankfully they are all easy to navigate, so you will not have any difficulty in this regard.

The names of the trails and other important information include:

  • Laguna and Cayo Atascosa Loop Trail – it may surprise you to learn that this trail is easy to navigate, but the path is well-maintained and the degree of difficulty is relatively simple as far as obstacles and navigation are concerned. The length is a totally different story because the full length of the trail is 15.2 miles. It will take the average person about six hours and 15 minutes to finish it from one end to the other.
  • Bayside Wildlife Drive – obviously it’s possible to drive along this easy path, but if you decide to take the plunge and hike the entire thing, just know that you will not have a difficult time following the well-maintained path. The total length of the trail is 15.1 miles, which is just about as long as the previous path. If you decide to go for it on foot, it will take you roughly 6 hours and 10 minutes to complete the full trail.
  • Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Trail – I decided to save the easiest trail for last, because it’s still relatively long, but when you look at it in comparison to the previous trails and actually seem shorter, which is kind of funny if you think about it. The total length of the trail is 4.0 miles, which anyone walking at an average pace should be able to finish in roughly 2 hours, give or take 15 minutes or so.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

This wildlife refuge is truly a sight to behold and you can find it nestled in the lower Rio Grande Valley. It’s made up of 2088 acres just south of the Alamo on the Rio Grande, and it’s a top birding destination for people visiting from all around the world. It’s made up of wetlands, woodlands, and more. Plus, the visitor center keeps a log of the most recent bird sightings in the area, so you can use this log to discover the birds you might be able to find the next time you’re out and about and birdwatching on the trails.


3325 Green Jay Rd.
Alamo, TX 78516

Phone: 956-784-7500
GPS: 26.0661° N, 98.1455° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Santa Ana NWR remains open to the public seven days a week. The park opens at 7 AM and closes every day at 7 PM.

Visitor Center Hours

  • Open seven days a week from 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Closed on Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Day
  • Elf Owl
  • Hook-Billed Kite
  • Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Groove-Billed Ani
  • Green Kingfisher
  • Clay-Colored Thrush
  • Least Grebe
  • Gray Hawk
  • Long-Billed Thrasher
  • Altamira Oriole
  • Olive Sparrow

Parking Fees:

  • General Vehicle Parking Fee – $5 per visit
  • Commercial Vehicle Parking Fee – $25 per visit

Hiking Trails:

I’m happy to tell you that there are 4 wonderful easy hiking trails to enjoy and appreciate in Santa Ana NWR. These trails are all relatively easy to navigate and vary in lengths, which you’ll learn more about below.

The names of these trails and other valuable information include:

  • Santa Ana North Lake Loop Trail – this easy to navigate trail is a lot of fun to walk along because at one point you’ll be traveling across a rope bridge, which is really a lot of fun. Don’t freak out because it’s very stable and there’s nothing to worry about. The total length of the trail is 2 miles long, which the average person can complete and roughly one hour if they walk at a moderate pace.
  • Chachalaca Trail – this is definitely the easiest of the bunch because it’s well-maintained and well-kept and it’s also relatively short because the total length is 0.1 miles. The average person should easily finish the trail in about 25 minutes without much difficulty.
  • West Lake Trail – this trail is a lot of fun because it takes you right along the water, so the scenery is beautiful and it’s very easy to keep track of the trail because it’s well-maintained and very clear to see. The total length of the trail is 3.4 miles, which is relatively long for many people. In total, if you walk at an average pace with a little bit of a pep in your step you should be able to complete the trail in one hour and 45 minutes.
  • Santa Ana Loop Trail to North Lake, East Lake, and West Lake – this is definitely the longest trail out of the bunch but it’s also properly maintained and well-kept, so you will not have to deal with unwanted obstacles and other potential pitfalls in your path. At 7.6 miles long, which is certainly a big distance. But if you put your mind to it and give it the old college try, you should have no trouble completing it walking at a decent pace in three hours and five minutes.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

In this popular wildlife refuge, you’ll find enormous flocks of geese and other wintering birds here. You’ll find Hagerman on the south of Lake Texoma, and it’s right along the central flyway, so there are plenty of waterfowl that stop here during migration periods.

Besides the wonderful wintering birds, there have currently been 338 different bird species discovered in this wonderful place. And more than 35 of them are shorebirds that feed in the mud flats and shallow water. Even more exciting, 15 different species of wading birds like to spend time in the wetlands.


6465 Refuge Rd.
Sherman, TX 75092

Phone: 903-786-2826
GPS: 33.7386° N, 96.7528° W

Hours Of Operation:

Hagerman NWR is open all year round, 365 days per year, and it’s open free of charge to the public. The hours fluctuate throughout the year, but you are allowed inside the refuge trails and viewing area from sunrise to sunset.

Refuge Office Hours

  • Open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4 PM

Visitor Center Hours

  • Open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Open Sunday from 1 PM to 5 PM
  • Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Wild Turkey
  • Painted Bunting
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Least Tern
  • Prothonotary Warbler

Hiking Trails:

Hagerman NWR currently has five great hiking trails for visitors to enjoy and appreciate the next time they spend time in the area. These trails are great for birdwatchers because they give you access to their favorite little hideaways and hotspots located throughout the forested areas of the refuge.

The names and other important information include:

  • Raasch Trail – this easy to navigate trail is 3.1 miles long and the terrain is kept in great condition, so you’ll have no trouble with navigating. For those attempting to complete the trail from beginning to and, it should take one hour and 20 minutes.
  • Prairie Loop – this portion of the NWR has an easy to navigate trail that is 1.5 miles long. On average, it typically takes around 40 minutes to complete the trail.
  • Haller’s Haven Nature Trail – once again, we have another easy to navigate trail, but in this particular case the trail is only 2.8 miles long. It has a small wooden bridge and other fun little challenges along the path that you’ll certainly enjoy and appreciate. The total time that it should take to complete this trail is one hour and 15 minutes.
  • Hagerman – Meadow Pond Trail – this is the longest trail that I’m going to recommend today but don’t worry because it’s easy to navigate and the scenery is breathtaking. Plus, the trail is really well-maintained. The total length is 6.1 miles long, which the average person should easily complete in two hours and 35 minutes.
  • Crow Hill Trail because it’s the shortest trail that I’m going to recommend today. The total length of the trail is 0.6 miles, which can easily be completed in around 20 minutes. This is an easy to navigate trail with well-maintained terrain, so there’s nothing to fear.

Texas paid birdwatching destinations

Brazos Bend State Park

This wonderful site is located on the Texas Gulf Coast. It’s hidden just 30 miles southwest of Houston and even though it isn’t the most popular site, it’s definitely worth paying a visit to because the scenery is amazing, the birds are here in plentiful supply, and the land is beautiful. There are live oaks, Spanish moss on elms, hackberrys, pecans, sycamores, cottonwoods, and more. It’s an amazing place that overlooks wetlands, lakes, and so much more.


21901 FM 762
Needville, TX 77461

Phone: 979-553-5101
GPS: 29.3706° N, 95.6272° W

Hours Of Operation:

This state park is open every day from 8 AM to 10 PM. If you plan on visiting for camping or day use, they recommend making a reservation because the park often reaches capacity on a regular basis. You can make a reservation by visiting this page online and following the on-screen instructions.

  • Painted Bunting
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Poly-Billed Grebe
  • Purple Gallinule
  • Least Grebe
  • King Rail
  • Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Roseate Spoonbill

Admission Fees:

  • 13 years of age or older – $7 per person
  • 12 years old and under – free
  • Texas state parks pass holder – free

Hiking Trails:

It turns out that there are around 25 hiking trails in Brazos Bend State Park. Instead of trying to cram all of them in this short little section, I decided to narrow it down to my top 10 favorites for you today. Consider checking out any or all of these trails the next time you’re in the area enjoying a fun filled day of birdwatching with family and friends.

The names of the trails and other valuable information include:

  • Elma Lake Loop Trail – easy difficulty, 2.1 miles, 55 minutes to complete
  • 40 Acre Lake Trail – easy difficulty, 1.4 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Bluestream and White Oak Loop – moderate difficulty, 3.4 miles, one hour and 25 minutes to complete
  • Elma Lake Trail, Spillway Trail, And Live Oak Trail Loop – easy difficulty, 4.9 miles, two hours and five minutes to complete
  • Creekwood Lake Trail – moderate difficulty, 4.5 miles, one hour and 55 minutes to complete
  • Elma Lake, 40 Acre Lake, Prairie, and Live Oak Trails Loop – easy difficulty, 6.4 miles, two hours and 40 minutes to complete
  • Elma Lake, Horseshoe Lake and Big Creek Loop – moderate difficulty, 6.1 miles, two hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Hale Lake, White Oak and Red Buckeye Trail – moderate difficulty, 6.1 miles, two hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Prairie Trail – easy difficulty, 6.1 miles, 40 minutes to complete
  • Brazos Bend Side Trail – easy difficulty, 0.9 miles, 25 minutes to complete

Texas birdwatching clubs

Living in the state of Texas, better known as the Lone Star State, provides a wonderful opportunity to get involved with many local bird watching clubs and National Audubon Society chapters. If you enjoy birdwatching, then you’ll really appreciate it when you get involved with one of these groups because you’ll connect with other like-minded people.

Today, I would like to tell you a few of my favorite bird watching clubs and organizations in the state of Texas. Find out more about each of these groups below and decide whether or not you think it’s a good fit for you to join.

Houston Audubon

This organization is focusing on preventing the deterioration of the natural environment in the Houston area for people and birds. Much of their work revolves around habitat protection, managing nature sanctuaries, and providing recreational opportunities in nature for people just like you who are interested in this hobby.

As an official chapter of the National Audubon Society, Houston Audubon serves 11 counties in the area surrounding Galveston Bay. The group was first formed on September 24, 1969, and it remains a team of dedicated men and women who want to preserve, protect, and educate us about the environment, birds, and much more.

Contact Info:
Houston Audubon Headquarters
Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary
440 Wilchester Blvd.
Houston, TX 77079

Phone: 713-932-1639

Past and Future Events:

  • Friday Night Hikes – these events take place every third Friday of the month from 7 PM to 8:30 PM. The next Friday night hike is taking place on January 21, 2022. The group meets at the Edith L. Moore nature sanctuary after hours and goes on a spooky walk through the woods to see the various Nate critters as they emerge. Children six years of age and older are welcome. It’s $15 for adults and $10 for children, which must be paid in advance.
  • Baytown Nature Center –this member’s only field trip is limited to 25 participants and it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. This is a fun trip on a unique site with more than 315 bird species documented in the area.

Membership Fees:

Becoming a member of the Houston Audubon is one of the easiest things in the world to accomplish. Just visit this page and follow the on-screen instructions.

Membership levels are as follows:

  • Individual Membership – $35 per year
  • Family Membership – $60 per year
  • Bronze Membership – $100 per year
  • Silver Membership – $250 per year
  • Gold Membership – $500 per year

If you have membership questions or concerns, you can get answers by emailing membership@HoustonAudubon.org or calling 713-932-1639 for more information.

Audubon Dallas

Audubon Dallas is a nonprofit organization with volunteers and they are also a chapter of the National Audubon Society. They serve the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Their mission is to promote bird conservation and wildlife protection, habitat protection and biodiversity, and much more including education in the area.

This group also manages Cedar Ridge Preserve. It’s a natural habitat encompassing 9 miles of hiking trails and 600 acres of land. The views are spectacular and there is so many wonderful birds and wildlife in the area that it’s a great place to go to the next time you intend to spend time outdoors.

The group also enjoys other activities like lectures, classes, nature walks, and other outdoor activities as well. Join them and reconnect with nature along with other like-minded individuals.

Contact Info:
Dallas Audubon
PO Box 12713
Dallas, TX 75225

Email: audubondallas.birding@gmail.com

Past and Future Events:

  • The Master Birder Program – unfortunately, I can only tell you the name of this program and nothing more. I’d love to share more information with you but I do not have it at this time because it’s been removed from the website because it’s not taking place this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Visit Audubon Dallas’s webpage here periodically to find out more about up field trips and birding related events.

Membership Fees:

You should have no trouble joining Audubon Dallas and becoming a friend of Cedar Ridge Preserve. They make it very easy to sign up and become a member online. Please visit this page and follow the on-screen instructions to initiate the sign-up process.

Membership levels include:

  • Cardinal Level – $45
  • Eastern Bluebird Level – $75
  • Painted Bunting Level – $150
  • Goldfinch Level – $250
  • Black-Capped Vireo Level – $500 level
  • Group Pricing – $35
  • VIP Reserved Parking – $500

Please visit the sign-up page here to join the group and learn about the various levels, pricing, and much more.

Texas birding final thoughts

I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to make it all away to the end of this valuable resource for all things birding related in the wonderful state of Texas. I did my best to provide the top resources in the area for free and paid bird watching destinations. I also attempted to share my favorite bird watching clubs and chapters of the National Audubon Society.

I really hope you find this resource useful and informative. And if for some reason you feel I’ve missed an important Texas -related birding resource, please contact me and let me know about it. I’d be happy to add your valuable information to this website to continue to make it the most well-rounded and useful birding website that Texas has ever seen.

We plan to continue remaining the top birding resource in the Lone Star State. We appreciate your help more than anything, so do not hesitate to send us a message and tell us about your important birding resource so we can share it with the rest of our community. Thank you!

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