Hidden Gem Bird Watching: Birds of Oklahoma

Tulsa sits right along the Arkansas River, where there are ample opportunities to see spectacular birds of Oklahoma. Tulsa is an amazing place for bird watching, with so many opportunities to see different varieties of birds. One can walk or bike along the river all day and be sure that they will spot various species flying in front of them at some point during their journey.

Are you looking for an excellent and free outdoor activity? Bird watching is the perfect idea.

If you live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we have a treat for you!

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American White Pelicans along the Arkansas River

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Bird Watching Birds of Oklahoma

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Bird watching near 71st and Riverside Drive

You always hear about people bird watching. Have you ever been?

People have life hobbies traveling the globe hoping to see rare sightings of majestic birds or threatened and endangered species.

Birds are such spectacular creatures, especially when you really take the time to sit and watch them.

As a biology and ecology nerd, sometimes I dwell in awe that birds are the closest relatives to dinosaurs (genetically speaking) in this lifetime!

“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.”

Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Mother’s Memoir

Best Places to See Birds of Oklahoma

With Tulsa, Oklahoma, sitting right along the Arkansas River, there are incredible opportunities to see cool species of birds all year-round. This city’s location next to the Arkansas River offers plentiful opportunities for bird watching, which we enjoy as much as biking or walking down by the water.

Below are our favorite bird watching hot spots along the Arkansas River and Tulsa River Parks Trail system.

Bird Watching Hot Spots in Tulsa

Tulsa River Parks Trails System (map here):

  • 31st street and Riverside by the dam – watch from the trail or behind the skate park. There are benches to sit right next to the water. A pod of American White Pelicans typically winters here!
  • 41st street park and river overlook – lots of parking, kids park, bathrooms, lots of seating, paved trail, plenty of open vantage points to birdwatch
  • 71st street parking lot and overlook – ample parking, paved trail access, couple benches
  • Behind Margaritaville – paved trail, no major foliage obstructions, clear views!
  • Turkey Mountain – on the west side of the river there is a paved trail, go down the hill towards the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

In fact, almost anywhere along the Tulsa River Parks Trail system has epic bird watching year-round.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Favorite Birds of Oklahoma

Bird watching along the Arkansas River is super fun! In general, you are likely to see all kinds of waterfowl, along with gulls and shorebirds.

There are THOUSANDS of birds that make Oklahoma their home or simply pass through.

Below are a few of our favorite birds to see along the river.

American White Pelican

My absolute favorite birds to watch in Tulsa are the American White Pelicans. Coming from Colorado (where we used to live), seeing these beautiful giant white birds will take your breath away; especially, as they gather by the hundreds to stay warm.

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American White Pelicans

The American White Pelicans love to hang out in pods by the 31st street dam once the cold weather hits. They like to winter in Oklahoma.

Did you know a group of pelicans is called a pod?

They can weigh up to 20 pounds each and have a 9-foot wingspan! They truly are a sight to see.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Have you ever seen a scissor-tailed flycatcher? You would probably know if you did because you would be wondering if its tail was hurt…

Don’t worry; the split tail doesn’t mean the bird is hurt. That is just what the tail looks like – it splits in two like a fork. In particular, this scissor-like tail makes the birds easy to identify.

The Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher is the Oklahoma State Bird!

Bald Eagle

You are guaranteed to see Bald Eagles roosting or hunting for fish on any given day along the Arkansas River.

The eagles roost in the trees along the river and are easy to spot with their gloriously white head feathers; especially, in the fall and winter after the leaves have fallen.

bald-eagles-along-river

The best time to see eagles is supposedly sunrise or sunset, but they are relatively active along the Arkansas River during the day. As a matter of fact, there hasn’t been one time we have gone out to the Tulsa River Parks trail and not seen an eagle.

It is no wonder the eagle is the national bird. After all, they are simply incredible.

Whooping Crane

Listed as an endangered species, you might be lucky to see a Whooping Crane hanging out around the river wetlands.

In addition, these tall white and long-legged birds have red facial skin. You might even see one tagged since they are endangered.

This is where having binoculars comes in handy – so you can look for the red facial skin.

Northern Cardinal

It is always a treat when this gorgeous red bird pops in to say hello! Notably, the males are particularly bright, beautiful, and easy to spot!

Cardinals are also known to be a sign from loved ones visiting us from Heaven. For this reason, Cardinals are extra special birds to see.

New to Birdwatching? Here is What You Need to Know.

Bird watching is an easy and fun hobby to pick up! You can bird watch at whatever level of seriousness you want.

bird-watching-oklahoma

For example, maybe you would just like to go for a simple walk and look for birds. This is still birdwatching!

Take it a step further, buy a cheap pair of binoculars so you can see bird details and coloration more clear further away.

Are you getting more serious? Splurge and buy a bird species identification key local to your area.

If (or when) you become super serious, invest in fancy binoculars. Travel the globe in search of rare and exotic species. How adventurous!

 “Just remain in the center; watching. And then forget that you are there.”

Lao Tzu

More Birds of Oklahoma

While you’re out exploring and watching for birds, keep your eyes peeled for these other feathery species:

  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Goldfinch
  • Mockingbird
  • Carolina Wren
  • Blue-Jay
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Chickadee
  • Purple Martin

Birds of Oklahoma Resources

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Geese along Tulsa River Parks trail and Arkansas River

Are you interested in knowing more about the species of birds you are watching?

When we first moved to Oklahoma, I used the internet to get acquainted with the local waterfowl.

With this in mind, for our readers, below are free resources to check out online:

Are you specifically looking to carry a field guide? Below are resources to check out on Amazon:

In closing, we hope this post finds you just in time for urban outdoor adventures!

Get outside, enjoy nature, and breathe fresh air wherever you are.

“Bird watching is now North America’s second most popular outdoor activity (second only to gardening).”

Bernd Brunner

Happy Bird Watching,

Ashlee & Pablo


You might also enjoy…

Are you traveling through the Tulsa area? Do you currently live in Tulsa?

Check out our other posts with travel inspiration for the Tulsa area:

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girl bird watching through binoculars and pod of american white pelicans along arkansas river in tulsa

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Do you have questions about bird watching in Tulsa?

What is your favorite bird?

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About The Author

Ashlee Fechino

I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!

14 COMMENTS

  1. Taryn S. | 25th Nov 20

    Great read! I wouldn’t have expected to see bald eagles in Oklahoma! Also, love your tie dye top in one of the first pics 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino | 25th Nov 20

      Hi Taryn! Thanks for stopping by. Eagle watching is excellent here. Top is from Lululemon! 😉

  2. Burt Randall | 25th Nov 20

    Thanks for your bird-watching article !! Where I live I see all types of birds also; they are truly interesting creatures !!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 25th Nov 20

      Hi Burt! So glad you came to read and comment. Thank you!

  3. William Randall | 25th Nov 20

    Thanks for your bird-watching article !! Where I live I see all types of birds also; they are truly interesting creatures !!

  4. Erin | 25th Nov 20

    I’ve done some beginner birdwatching here in Ontario! I live right by Point Pelee National Park, which is known as one of the best spots in North America to watch migratory birds as they travel south for the winter. Thanks for this awesome guide, I’ll be sure to do some birdwatching when I can make a trip to Oklahoma!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 26th Nov 20

      Hi Erin – so cool, thanks for sharing. I’m going to look up Point Pelee National Park right now.

  5. Em | 26th Nov 20

    Your photo of the eagle is so cool! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in the wild. Would be so cool to see all these lovely animals 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino | 26th Nov 20

      Hi Em – thanks for your comment 🙂 Bald Eagles are gorgeous, especially up close when they fly over your head!

  6. Hazel | 27th Nov 20

    I do enjoy bird watching when I’m out and about. They’re so relaxing to watch! The American White Pelican looks beautiful! I will definitely note of bringing a binocular when I go out for adventures. 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino | 27th Nov 20

      Hi Hazel – thanks for reading our post! Cool on taking binoculars on your next adventure. You might see some wonderful things 🙂

  7. Natalie LaTurno | 28th Nov 20

    I live in Missouri, really not too far from Tulsa! I feel like I never really stop to appreciate the birds and wildlife around me, but maybe this post will make me pay a little more attention to the joy of the outdoors 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino | 28th Nov 20

      Hi Natalie! Yes, I bet Missouri has great bird watching as well. Thanks for reading our blog.

  8. Cristina Sala | 29th Nov 20

    Holaa Ashlee , me encanto la pagina sobre la variedad de aves . No sabia
    que tienen tan cerca del lugar en que viven.
    Las grullas y su inconfundible canto. el pelicano gigante y tantas otras tan bellas y atractivas.
    Realmente es un disfrute poder estar en contacto directo con ellas.
    Aqui , cerca del mar hay bastante variedad , muchisimas gaviotas que rondan todo el tiempo junto a palomas, albatros , pareciera que este tiempo de pandemia ha hecho que resurjan mas las aves.

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