Bird Watching

2 people look for birds in a canyon
Birding the Chisos Mountains



Birding Hotspots

Water is one of the primary resources needed to support birds in this desert park. In an otherwise arid landscape, the presence of seeps, springs and the river greatly concentrates bird life. The Rio Grande and its floodplain is the richest habitat for birds in the park. While some species specialize in dry habitats such as desert and grasslands, 75% of all bird sightings have been near water. The following locations are recommended for bird watching due either to their proximity to water, or based on unique habitat.
A person stands on a boardwalk overlooking a wetland.
Rio Grande Village Nature Trail


Rio Grande Village

The riparian corridor at Rio Grande Village offers some of the best year-round birding in the park. The principal locations to search include the Nature Trail in the southeast corner of the campground; the campground proper and mesquite thickets just across the roadway to the north; the cottonwood trees and floodplain behind the store; and the Daniels Ranch district which includes cottonwood groves, silt ponds and access to the river. 305 species have been reported for this area!
6 small of a Green Heron, Green Kingfisher, Cardinal, Sora, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and a Common Black-hawk
Birds of Rio Grande Village

NPS/CA Hoyt and R. Negele

Mountains and pine trees covered in snow
Clouds and snow in the mountains


Chisos Mountains

The pine-oak-juniper woodlands of the Chisos Mountains attract many species of birds that would not otherwise be found in Big Bend. Strolling through the campground or hiking the moderately difficult Window Trail will reward you with a variety of birds. Birders in search of highland species should hike the trails up into the Chisos to destinations such as Laguna Meadow, and Boulder Meadow. In late spring and summer, a strenuous hike up to Boot Canyon will typically yield the Colima Warbler, one of Big Bend's specialty birds. 312 species of birds have been reported in the Chisos Mountains!
6 small photos of an Acorn Woodpecker, Colima Warbler, Scott's Oriole, Black-crested Titmouse, Mexican Jay, and a Northern Flicker.
Birds of the Chisos Mountains

NPS/CA Hoyt and R. Negele

A dirt road travels underneath tall cottonwood trees.
Cottonwood Campground


Cottonwood Campground

Birding the campground and nearby river corridor yields a diverse array of habitats from cottonwood trees to mesquite thickets. Take a walk down to the river and scan the banks for wading and shorebirds in the winter and during migration. In late fall and winter, be sure to check out the weedy fields around Castolon and along the road to Santa Elena Canyon, where you are sure to spot numerous sparrows. 248 species of birds have been reported for this area!
6 small photos of a Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Great-horned Owl, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black Vulture, and a Black Phoebe
Birds of Cottonwood Campground

NPS/CA Hoyt and R. Negele

A windmill stands next to an oasis of tall trees and bushes
The windmill and oasis of Dugout Wells

NPS/C. Ballou

Dugout Wells

The spring and associated windmill create a year-round wet spot surrounded by desert. Picnic tables provide shaded places to sit and scan the surrounding cottonwoods and shrubs. This location can be particularly productive during spring migration. Dawn and dusk might even yield sightings of coyote, javelina, deer and other desert wildlife. 195 species have been reported for this location.
6 small photos of a Roadrunner, Phainopepla, White-winged Dove, Summer Tanager, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and an Inca Dove
Birds of Dugout Wells

NPS/CA Hoyt and R. Negele

A path winds through a grove of trees
Trees of Sam Nail Ranch


Sam Nail Ranch

For birders who like to find a bench and sit and wait for feathered friends to happen by, Sam Nail Ranch is not to be missed. The combination of water provided by a windmill and plenty of trees makes this desert oasis an exellent location for birding. Nearby Cottonwood Creek sometimes holds water and a walk down the drainage will often yield unexpected species, especially during spring migration. 188 species have been reported for this area.
6 small photos of a Scaled Quail, Painted Bunting, Green-tailed Towhee, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Pyrrhuloxia, and a Yellow-breasted Chat
Birds of Sam Nail Ranch

NPS/CA Hoyt, L. Benavidez and R. Negele

A dry creek bed passes beneath towering red rocks.
Blue Creek red rocks

NPS/T. Ehrman

Blue Creek

This is one of the better bird watching places in the foothills habitat. Beginning at the historic Homer Wilson Ranch, follow the trail to the north, towards the mountains for a couple of miles. The turnaround point is up to you, but along the way you notice the change from desert, to grassland habitat, to forested slopes. In the spring and summer this is a great location in which to find another Big Bend specialty, the Lucifer Hummingbird. 135 species have been reported for this area.
6 small photos of a Black-throated Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Lucifer Hummingbird, Cactus Wren, Blue Grosbeak, and a Canyon Towhee
Birds of Blue Creek

NPS/CA Hoyt, L. Benavidez, R. Negele, and C. Negele

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11 minutes, 14 seconds

Big Bend National Park is a great place to observe a wide variety of bird life. With over 450 bird species documented in the park, there is always something new to discover.


Bird Information

  • A Golden-fronted Woodpecker sits on a branch of a cottonwood tree.
    Seasons and Specialties

    What is the best time of year for birding in Big Bend? It depends on what bird you are looking for!

  • A large black birds sits on a tree branch, holding a glow worm in its foot.
    Main Bird Page

    Return to the main bird page. From here you can reach our Bird Stories!

  • A man and a women stand on a boardwalk over a pond, looking at birds with binoculars and a camera.
    Get Involved

    Find out how you can contribute to our knowledge of birds!

Last updated: June 25, 2020

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PO Box 129
Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129



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