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Birding in Big Bend National Park | A birding gem in west Texas

Big Bend National Park is a birdwatching gem. If you are planning to visit, get some inside information for birding the park, here!

Common Black Hawks mating in Big Bend National Park
Common Black Hawks mating in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend is a long way from any metropolis. If the thought of that gives you sweaty pits, Big Bend may not be appropriate in large doses. Side effects of Big Bend can include sunburn, dehydration, snakebite, Elf Owl sleep, mountain lion in your camp, and abandoned-your-friends-in-a-moving-vehicle-while-drivingoxia. If you are terrified of crawling creatures, Big Bend may not be right for you. Consult your field guide for more questions.

Make sure to read that really fast, like those uncomfortable commercials about medications that appear when you are watching TV with your family during a holiday.

Hotspot Name: Big Bend National Park

Location: Terlingua & Marathon

Managing Organization: National Park Service

Facilities: Public Restrooms, Trails, Picnic Area

eBird Hotspots for Big Bend National Park

When to Bird Big Bend National Park

  • Spring - migrants and summer residents can be found during the spring season

  • Summer - it gets hot, but late spring and summer are your only chance for species like the Colima Warbler

  • Fall - summer residents still can be hanging around, and fall migrants can be found at higher elevations and near water

  • Winter - many interesting species winter in the park, and resident species are still prevalent

Number of Bird Species in Big Bend National Park

There are over 450 species of birds documented in Big Bend National Park. For more information from NPS, click here.

Notable Birds of Big Bend National Park

Mexican Duck, Scaled quail, Gambel's Quail, Montezuma Quail, Band-tailed Pigeon, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Lesser Nighthawk, Mexican Whip-poor-will, White-throated Swift, Rivoli's Hummingbird, Blue-throated Mountain-gem, Lucifer Hummingbird, Common Black Hawk, Harris's Hawk, Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Flammulated Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Elf Owl, Green Kingfisher, Acorn Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Dusky Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cassin's Kingbird, Black-capped Vireo, Bell's Vireo, Gray Vireo, Hutton's Vireo, Mexican Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, Verdin, Cave Swallow, Bushtit, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Bewick's Wren, Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Crissal Thrasher, Phainopepla, Cassin's Sparrow, Black-chinned Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Hooded Oriole, Scott's Oriole, Bronzed Cowbird, Colima Warbler, Lucy's Warbler, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Pyrrhuloxia, Varied Bunting

How to Birdwatch in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is one of my favorite birding hotspots in North America. Camping in the Rio Grande Village and then racing the intense sun from spot to spot is a highlight from my college days. I got multiple species of "life birds" from Big Bend when I was visiting for the first time during a spring break many years ago. If you are considering visiting, here are some tips.

  • Bird early in the morning at lower elevations.

    • Consider moving higher for the rest of the day or bird only in shaded areas

  • Bird near water.

    • The Rio Grande, the wetlands, and any spring or well with water can produce amazing species.

  • Hike the Chisos.

    • If you want the Colima Warbler, you MUST do this. Ask at the visitor center in Chisos Basin for recent reports

  • Cottonwood Campground holds the hawks.

    • Head to Cottonwood Campground to see the Common Black Hawk and the Gray Hawk

  • Stay up one evening to listen for owls

    • Elf Owls are quite vocal in the park. If you camp in Rio Grande Village, you can hear them most of the night.

  • Hike the Chisos at night

    • Mexican Whip-poor-will and Flammulated Owl are close to impossible to find without doing this

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