Thanks to its large size containing a varied range of habitats, Texas represents a great state to consider for your next birding adventure. You can explore hundreds of different bird species in plenty of hotspots designed for birdwatching enthusiasts. Whether you choose to travel in the coastal regions, deserts, or plains, the state of Texas boasts a great number of avian contenders to explore. It’s actually quite hard to make your birding experience more focused on a few species when there are so many beautiful birds to see.
Check out this curated selection of highlight bird species in Texas that await your observation. Make sure you’re prepared with some specialized gear for enhancing your birdwatching trip:
- Field Guide
Even if you’re an experienced birder, it’s safe to say that the complex birdlife diversity of Texas can overwhelm you. With the help of a well-written field guide, you can get a proper naturalist’s perspective to differentiate between very similar species. It gives you great insights about birds’ features and other useful information such as range maps. Check out the Birds of Texas field of guide from Amazon.
- Audubon Bird Call
Attracting songbirds can be done more easily if you grab a handy bird call. This Audubon model is made in the USA according to the traditional design of the famous naturalist. It’s a breeze to use and offers pressure adjustments to imitate different bird sounds. Birders everywhere should pack a tool like this during their expeditions.
- Sun Hat
If you’ve chosen the state of Texas as your next birding destination, you can expect the hot climate of the area to affect your level of comfort. Even if you don’t visit the state’s desert areas in the summer, it’s still recommended to get solid UV protection with the help of a high-quality sun hat. Check out this unisex model that comes with breathable mesh construction and drawstring closure for superior all-around sun protection.
1. Crested Caracara
One of the easiest to recognize birds in Texas, the crested caracara is quite a sight for birders. Though it’s technically considered a falcon, the appearance puts it closer to the hawk category. To make things even more confusing, the bird behaves more like a vulture. Crested caracaras have a tropical-looking orange beak and can be found in the open landscapes of Texas without too much effort. When not flying low on flat wings, these falcons can be spotted foraging on the ground or perching on tall structures.
2. Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed woodpeckers can often visit bird feeders in Texas during the winter. While there are other types of woodpeckers in this state, the red-headed species stands out thanks to its bold patterns. The bird shows off a crimson head that contrasts strongly with the inky black wings. Note the crisp white hue found on the woodpecker’s underparts. Compared to other woodpeckers, the robust bill of the red-headed species is used primarily for flycatching. The red hood of the bird can make it difficult to spot visually so try to listen for its raucous calls that have distinctive harsh notes.
3. Whooping Crane
With a very restricted range, the rare whooping crane is an important bird attraction for Texas. It’s known as the tallest bird in North America and some birders visit the state of Texas in the winter specifically to observe the whooping crane’s graceful look. This type of crane is spectacular when seen probing on the ground, as well as during flight when it shows off its 7ft wingspan. Look for whooping cranes in estuaries and marshes in Rockport and Port Aransas regions.
4. Northern Mockingbird
Found year-round in Texas, the northern mockingbird is highly treasured by Texans considering its amazing singing capabilities. It’s the official state bird for a good reason. The northern mockingbird has a unique personality that makes it an attraction for birders even if the slender gray body doesn’t create a memorable visual impression. Aside from being able to imitate the sounds of different birds, northern mockingbirds show off great endurance as they sing all the time, often harassing other birds. Texas is a recommended destination to see this bird in action.
5. Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck
As its name suggests, this type of duck can be easily identified by its characteristic call that sounds eerily similar to a whistle. Black-bellied whistling-ducks are boisterous birds that live in large flocks. You can find them year-round in the southern parts of Texas while many eastern areas are populated by breeding adults. Aside from their black bellies, the ducks can be distinguished by checking for a brilliant pink bill. Compared to other ducks, the birds also have longer legs. Black-bellied whistling-ducks can be often encountered on golf course ponds in Texas.
6. Violet-green Swallow
Mixing iridescent violet with metallic green, this type of swallow represents a beautiful bird to observe. It can be found in western regions of Texas, particularly close to streams or canyons. Violet-green swallows are insectivores that are constantly on the lookout for flying insects. It’s not unexpected to see this bird performing impressive aerial stunts that will provide the perfect opportunity to see the vibrant colors in better lighting and more angles. Look for white rump and belly patches that can help you differentiate the bird from other swallow species.
7. Green Kingfisher
South and central Texas areas are populated by a beautiful type of kingfisher bird. The green species can be identified by its strangely long bill compared to the small body of the bird. A stylish dark green sheen can be observed on the kingfisher’s feathers on the head and wings. The male bird features a rufous breast. Green kingfishers aren’t as easy to see as other kingfishers but you can usually spot them along rivers or ponds. Check overhanging branches for perching birds.
Boasting a dapper look and cheerful song, Pyrrhuloxia birds can handle the intense desert heat of Texas. You can find it in the state year-round. The bird is very closely related to the northern cardinal so that explains the similar look. An important difference is the longer crest as well as the curved yellow bill that Pyrrhuloxia uses to eat seeds. Keep in mind that this bird might be harder to identify by sound as it also sounds very similar to gray-and-red cardinals. Take a trip to southern and western Texas if you’re hoping to observe this bird.
9. Painted Bunting
Painted buntings feature a uniquely colored look that blends multiple shades of red, green, blue, and yellow. This songbird is a favorite of birders and can be seen in its natural environment throughout the state of Texas. Only the male painted bunting shows off the characteristic colorful look whereas females come with a plainer green-yellow appearance. These birds are known to visit feeders because their favorite food includes many types of seeds. For this reason, weedy fields can be good spots for finding painted buntings. It’s also recommended to listen for the distinctive sweet song of the bird.
10. Lesser Prairie-Chicken
The lesser prairie-chicken is a fairly rare bird that can be best observed in specific northern and western regions of Texas. It’s a type of grouse that used to be much more numerous in the past. Now it’s on the red watch conservation list due to diminished habitat and excessive hunting. Your best bet as a birder to see a lesser prairie-chicken is to visit a lek where you will be able to admire the spectacular mating display of the bird. Males show off bare patches of red skin on the neck that are used to perform distinctive sounds.
11. Neotropic Cormorant
Many sheltered waters of Texas provide the ideal habitat for the Neotropic cormorant. This is an almost completely black waterbird that’s difficult to distinguish from the double-crested cormorant unless you check for distinctive characteristics. The Neotropic species can be identified from the more widespread double-crested cormorant by its longer tail and white border of the bill appearing during breeding. The behavior of the Neotropic cormorant can also set it apart as the bird tends to perch on utility wires and thin branches. Don’t limit yourself to coastal regions as inland waters in Texas are also populated by this type of cormorant.
12. Buff-Bellied Hummingbird
If you’re searching for an interesting hummingbird species in Texas, you shouldn’t miss the buff-bellied hummingbird. It occurs along the entire coast but year-round only in southern areas of the state. This hummingbird has a medium size and features an iridescent green throat. True to its name, the bird has a buffy belly in a similar shade as the rusty tail. Buff-bellied hummingbirds can be identified properly from other species if you check for a characteristic black-tipped red bill.
13. Burrowing Owl
It’s quite difficult to confuse the look of the burrowing owl with another bird considering its long legs and day hunting habit. This type of owl is widespread year-round in Texas and can be easier to find compared to nocturnal owls. As the name of the bird implies, this owl prefers living underground in burrows found in various open habitats, including deserts. Sometimes, instead of doing the digging work, burrowing owls can take over the burrows of other animals such as prairie dogs. Even if finding burrowing owls during the day is relatively easy, the ground foragers can still be hard to spot due to their camouflaged look and small dimensions.
14. Bronzed Cowbird
Bronzed cowbirds shouldn’t be missed when traveling to southern Texas. Male birds show off a glossy appearance with a shimmering blue style on the wing. The bright red eyes stand out strongly against the black body. The bronzed cowbird lives in open-country so it’s fairly easy to spot in various habitats including farm fields and scrubby grasslands. It can often be seen in towns, especially if grains get spilled somewhere. Bronzed cowbirds are highly territorial and males engage in mating dances that involve a puffed-up neck ruff.
15. Tricolored Heron
The coastal estuaries of Texas offer a great marshy habitat to spot a tricolored heron. This is a sleek and slender type of heron whose plumage offers an interesting color mix in shades of steel-blue, purple, and white. Tricolored herons aren’t particularly big and can be differentiated from other herons by their characteristic white stripe down the neck. Birds hunt fish in coastal waters and build stick nests. You can find tricolored herons mixing with other wading birds. They’re present year-round in colonies.
16. Harris’s Hawk
This attractive predator has a fairly wide range in the arid parts of Texas. Harris’s hawks stand out through their bold dark brown appearance. They feature yellow legs and face markings while the wings show off some warmer chestnut tones. Thanks to this hawk’s habit of perching in open areas, it’s not particularly difficult to spot. The raptor doesn’t have a distinct preference for either natural or manmade perches as long as it’s a good place to survey the landscape. It could pay off to invest in high-quality binoculars to be able to spot Harris’s Hawk.
17. Common Pauraque
More widespread in Central America, common pauraque can be spotted in southern Texas. This is a fairly challenging bird to find considering its secretive nature and excellent camouflage. Common pauraques are nightjars that usually hunt insects in flight but can sometimes be spotted foraging on the ground in forested areas. Your best bet to find a common pauraque is to search the sky where the bird’s distinctive characteristics can help recognize it. The nightjar has a long tail and rounded wings and can sometimes appear close to rural roadsides.
18. Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
Conspicuous enough to allow even amateur birders to spot it without too much effort, the scissor-tailed flycatcher is another great bird to look for in Texas. Its salmon-pink and pale gray plumage make it a fairly attractive bird but the unusually long tail draws all the attention. The characteristic forked tail makes it hard to confuse the bird with a different species. It also helps that scissor-tailed flycatchers have a habit of perching in open areas. Even if you don’t get a proper view of the bird, you can still quickly identify it just by glimpsing its typical silhouette.
19. Mottled Duck
Mottled ducks can be hard to distinguish from American black ducks or female mallards unless you check for its more distinctive features. Both males and female birds show off beautiful plumage patterns when traveling in pairs or small flocks. Mottled ducks live in freshwater marshes and can be recognized by their bright yellow bills with a black tip. Both the head and neck of the bird are quite buffy. The state of Texas is populated by this duck species. It’s recommended to explore freshwater wetlands close to the coast to observe a mottled duck.
20. White-tipped Dove
An unobtrusive bird that makes an appearance in southernmost Texas, the white-tipped dove has some interesting characteristics for birders. Although its pale grayish pink plumage doesn’t stand out in particular, the bird has white tail tips and bright red legs. It’s a fairly bulky dove that doesn’t travel in flocks as you’d expect from this type of bird. White-tipped doves prefer foraging singly or in pairs. They sometimes make an appearance at bird feeders and can also be recognized by a distinctive low cooing.
21. Green Jay
With a tropical look and garrulous habits, green jays are worth a trip to the southernmost areas of Texas for many birders. Birds show off an exotic appearance with a blend of green, blue, and yellow. It’s truly a delightful sight when observed in larger flocks as they travel in search of new sources of food. The green jay is a highly versatile forager and can adapt to different habitats eating fruits, insects, and small animals. Thanks to the gaudy plumage and noisy tendencies, green jays are easy to spot in the open but they can sometimes hide in dense foliage and become quieter.
22. Altamira Oriole
The Altamira Oriole is another species whose range extends to the southernmost parts of Texas. This bird features a jewel-like appearance thanks to its brilliant orange color mixed with black patches. Visiting a park or national wildlife refuge in its range seems like your best bet if you wish to catch a good view of an Altamira Oriole. This bird is attracted to feeding stations, especially those containing fresh fruit or sunflower seeds. Males are great singers so that can facilitate the detection of the bird in its natural environment.
23. Least Tern
A small tern, this bird species is fairly widespread in coastal areas of Texas. It can be a bit more challenging to find but the tiny size helps to set apart least terns from larger terns in mixed flocks. Another characteristic detail is the white forehead patch that contrasts with the black crown. Also, note the yellow bill that’s more distinctive during the bird’s mating season. Sandy beaches are good areas to search for least terns due to their nesting habits. This aerial diver has a fairly limited range and its population is declining.
24. Golden-Fronted Woodpecker
Found primarily in Texas, the golden-fronted woodpecker is a fascinating bird to watch. It prefers foraging after insects in the bark of trees but it also searches the brushlands and woodlands for fruits and nuts. Recognizing this woodpecker is quite easy as it shows off yellow patches on the nape and near the bill area. Males differ slightly from females as they also have a red crown. Golden-fronted woodpeckers feature a tan breast with a patterned black-and-white style on the back and wings. Look for these birds in drier woodlands of central Texas.
25. Black-Crested Titmouse
Though it’s quite similar to the tufted titmouse, this is actually a different bird species. The black-crested titmouse is an energetic bird that hangs around older oak forests. It can be very attracted to backyard feeders so it’s not unexpected to spot the bird’s characteristic jaunty crest in towns. If you live within the songbird’s range, it’s recommended to get a nest box to invite a breeding pair. Aside from its black crest, the titmouse can be identified when checking for a stubby round bill and buff wash on the flanks.
26. Vermilion Flycatcher
As you can expect from its name, the vermilion flycatcher is a brightly-colored red bird specialized in catching insects. While females show off a subtle gray appearance, the male bird stands out thanks to its ember-like mix of brilliant red and black. More common in Central America, the vermilion flycatcher makes its way to the state of Texas, mostly in the southern areas. If you want to get a glimpse of its seemingly glowing red plumage, it’s recommended to look for perched birds in open country regions.
27. Rufous-Crowned Sparrow
Highly adapted to live in areas with rocky hillsides, the Rufous-crowned sparrow is an interesting find for many birders visiting Texas. This sparrow has a fairly bulky appearance and spends most of its time foraging on the ground. As opposed to more common sparrows, this species boasts more attractive qualities such as the white eyering and cinnamon-colored crown. It can also be easily recognized when checking for black stripes on the throat. Seeing a Rufous-crowned sparrow in action can be more challenging in its natural environment due to not being very conspicuous. Try listening for its jumbled song that resembles the vocalizations of house wrens.
28. Golden-Cheeked Warbler
Here’s a very rare bird that can be found only in Texas (when it comes to its US range). Golden-cheeked warblers are an endangered species with bold face markings and a bright yellow patch. Males can be distinguished from females through the presence of a dark throat patch. Birders need to put in some extra effort if they wish to find this warbler. A good place to start is by exploring the juniper-oak woodlands in the center of the state. Make sure you’re looking for golden-cheeked warblers during their summer breeding season.
29. Swallow-tailed Kite
The swallow-tailed kite can be usually more easily seen in Florida but its range extends some parts of southeastern Texas as well. It’s quite a spectacular bird to watch as it hunts for insects during flight. The bird has a deeply forked tail that helps with identification but it’s more easily recognized by its impressive aerial acrobatics. Swallow-tailed kites are specialized hunters that always scan for prey. Though it prefers insects, it’s not uncommon for it to chase frogs or lizards. It’s recommended to search for this soaring bird during the summer season.
30. Purple Gallinule
Those who explore marshy areas of Texas might be rewarded with a glimpse of the purple gallinule. This is a colorful bird whose appearance gives off tropical vibes. The look of the purple gallinule can make it difficult to see in its typical habitat. It walks on long yellow legs through the floating vegetation of the wetlands. Texas residents within the species’ range might be able to attract a purple gallinule to their backyard with the help of a pond. It’s all about simulating the real environment of the bird.