The experience of observing wildlife in its natural habitat can be breathtaking. Across the state of Oklahoma, you’ll find a variety of awe-inspiring birdwatching destinations, from wildlife refuges to flourishing gardens. Discover snowy owls, migrating pelicans, and bald eagles at these five amazing birdwatching spots in the state.
Bookdocker’s Landing is a private RV resort along the Mountain Fork River, but it does open its gates to hikers and birdwatchers. It costs $8 a day per person, but the park limits the number of guests to allow for spaciousness and quiet. The scissor-tailed flycatcher, Oklahoma’s state bird, snowy owls, purple martins, and painted buntings call this park home. From November to March, it’s common to see bald eagles along the cliffs. There are 12 dedicated trails in the park, and you can rent kayaks and canoes to catch the wildlife along the river’s edge.
The Salt Plains refuge is more well known for selenite crystals that get dug up in the area, but it’s home to hundreds of species of birds who nest here and feed on the salt brine flies. Every week, the staff performs a wildlife survey, and posts results online. More than 12 types of ducks were spotted recently, along with whooping cranes, killdeer, American white pelicans, Franklin gulls, and bald eagles. It’s an amazing place to hike any time of the year. This habitat was established in 1930 and has more than 32,000 acres where migratory birds can find sanctuary.
Black Mesa is the highest point in Oklahoma, and this park has a lot to offer. Golden eagles, scaled quail, and pinyon jays are often seen in the area, as are many local mammals, such as black bears, antelope, mountain lions, and bobcats. It has a unique ecosystem, because it marks the area where the Rocky Mountains meet the prairie. The park boasts eight rare animal species and 23 rare plants. When you visit, make sure to stay overnight to enjoy an area without light pollution to see the stars. During the winter months, make sure to check the weather before driving out.
This urban wildlife center has more than two miles of woodland trails and a specific birdwatching area. The INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Courage Trail is ADA-accessible, allowing individuals with limited mobility an opportunity to explore nature without struggling on rough trails. The park opens at 5 a.m. daily, which gives you a chance to hike early and watch birds go through their morning routine. It’s an excellent place to really get in touch with nature without having to drive very far (if you live in Oklahoma City.)
This eight-acre botanical garden is most known for its beautiful plants, but it has some great birdwatching areas, as well. It features seven different gardens, each with its own character. The Japanese Pavilion Garden has a koi pond, and many waterfowl call it home. The Oriental Garden features shade plants, while the American Backyard Garden has plants that will thrive without a lot of water. From spring to fall, you’ll find birds and butterflies enjoying the gardens. In October, you may see the white pelicans migrating through the area.