The Guide to
Austin-area Birding Sites

Good places to see birds in and around Austin

Central Areas


Area 1 -- Wood Duck

1. Eastwoods Park* - 3001 Harris Park Ave.
Location: At the northeast corner of the intersection of Harris Park Ave. and East Dean Keeton Street (East 26th Street), just north of the University of Texas campus.
Habitat: The park’s large trees are traditional magnets for migrants, especially in spring.
Facilities: Restrooms, water fountains, picnic area.
Further exploration: Waller Creek, flowing along the east edge of the park, can be interesting both upstream and downstream; nesting birds include Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and Wood Duck. As many as 400,000 White-winged Doves reside in Austin, many of them year-round; during the nesting season (April - September) they are especially numerous in residential areas bounded by 51st Street on the south, Burnet Rd. on the west, Anderson Ln. on the north, and IH-35 on the east. In recent years, up to 10,000 Purple Martins have gathered from mid-July to early August on the grounds of Highland Mall, 6001 Airport Blvd. (the roost’s exact location at the Mall varies from year to year); numbers peak just before sunset.

Area 2 -- Common Nighthawk

2. The Texas State Capitol Grounds - Capitol Complex Visitors’ Center, 112 East 11th Street, Austin TX 78701, (512) 305-8400
Location: At the head of Congress Ave. between 11th and 14th streets.
Habitat: Large trees on the park-like Capitol grounds formerly attracted many migrants (still occasionally the case, especially when spring migrants encounter cold fronts). During evenings of the warmer months, Common Nighthawks circle the spotlighted dome.
Facilities: Restrooms and water fountains are inside the Capitol building.
Futher exploration: The nearby AFL-CIO Building (1106 Lavaca Street) hosts a fall Chimney Swift roost. Numbers peak during September, with best viewing shortly before sunset.

Area 3 -- Least Bittern

3. Zilker Park*, Town Lake Metropolitan Park*, Pleasant Valley District Park (Krieg Field)*, and the Colorado River Greenbelt* (Colorado River Park) - Zilker Park: 2100 - 2200 Barton Springs Rd., (512) 472-4914 Town Lake Metropolitan Park: (512) 480-8568 Austin Nature and Science Center: 301 Nature Center Dr., (512) 327-8180 Zilker Botanical Gardens: 2200 Barton Springs Rd., (512) 477-8672 Pleasant Valley District Park (Krieg Field): 425 South Pleasant Valley Rd.
Location: All these parks are located along or near Town Lake. To reach Zilker Park, follow Barton Springs Rd. along the south shore of Town Lake. Barton Springs*, the Austin Nature and Science Center*, Zilker Botanical Gardens*, and the Zilker Nature Preserve* are all part of the Zilker Park complex; look for directional signs along Barton Springs Rd.. The Town Lake Metropolitan Park complex – which includes much of the Hike and Bike Trail* – extends discontinuously along both shores of Town Lake, from Tom Miller Dam and Red Bud Trail in the west to Pleasant Valley Rd. and Longhorn Dam in the east; the Park is accessible at a number of points. Also along Town Lake are a number of smaller parks, such as Fiesta Gardens* and Metz Park*. Pleasant Valley District Park (Krieg Field) lies on the south bank of the Colorado River just east of Pleasant Valley Rd. The most accessible section of the Colorado River Greenbelt (Colorado River Park) – the least developed and least crowded of all these areas – extends along the south shore of the Colorado River from Pleasant Valley Park in the west to the U.S. Highway 183 bridge in the east; reach it by walking east from Krieg Field.
Habitats: Austin’s favorite parks complex; often very crowded, especially on weekends. Parkland, riparian areas, Town Lake, the Colorado River, fields, and thickets. Those areas which are strictly parkland are seldom rewarding for birders (though Monk Parakeets build their bulky stick nests in the tall light towers at Zilker Park, Krieg Field, and elsewhere). Wooded creeksides along Dry Creek – which runs through the Zilker Nature Preserve just west of the Austin Nature and Science Center – host resident and summering species typical of Austin’s riparian areas, and occasionally such locally unusual nesters as Broad-winged Hawk; also migrants and wintering birds in season. Lower Barton Creek also has riparian habitat. Hundreds of Cliff Swallows nest under the MoPac Bridge. Trees and other vegetation fringe much of the lakefront; search these fringes for migrants and wintering birds (rarities such as Ringed Kingfisher sometimes turn up, while birds such as Yellow Warbler are common during migration).

Area 3 -- Wood Ducks

Wood Ducks nest in the vicinity, bringing their broods to Town Lake in late spring and early summer. The Lake also hosts thousands of overwintering waterbirds, mostly American Coots and Lesser Scaup (many other ducks also occur – rarities have included Oldsquaw); during winter Double-crested Cormorants are common, Ospreys are sometimes seen, and Common Loons are occasionally reported. Lou Neff Point (where Barton Creek enters Town Lake) and the Town Lake basin (just above Longhorn Dam) are two good observational stops. Least Bittern has been found in reedbeds at Fiesta Gardens. Western Kingbirds nest around ballfields at the Krieg Field complex. The Colorado River just below Longhorn Dam is worth investigating when water is low – rarities found here have included American Dipper (once only). Neotropic Cormorants are usually present in late spring and summer, as are a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows among the many Cliff Swallows. The fields and thickets of the Colorado River Greenbelt can be good during migration – in early May, Clay-colored Sparrows are sometimes fairly common. Nesters here include Crested Caracara and Painted Bunting.
Facilities: Zilker Park: restrooms, water fountains, picnic areas; year-round swimming; also the Splash environmental education exhibit and a gift shop in the bath house complex. Austin Nature and Science Center: exhibits (including live animals typical of Central Texas), environmental education programs for children, restrooms, water fountains. Zilker Botanical Gardens: butterfly garden, gift shop, restrooms, water fountains. Zilker Nature Preserve: trails. Town Lake Metropolitan Park and the Hike and Bike Trail: trails (handicapped accessible), widely scattered water fountains. Fiesta Gardens, Metz Park, and the Pleasant Valley Park: restrooms, water fountains, picnic areas. Colorado River Greenbelt: trails.
Parking is available at many points; there is space here to name only a few. Toward the western end of the complex: under the MoPac Bridge; at Zilker Park (which has a parking fee on weekends); also at City Coliseum, Palmer Auditorium, and Auditorium Shores (though in the near future the latter three areas may be disrupted by construction). Toward the eastern end there is parking at Festival Beach, Fiesta Gardens, Metz Park, and Pleasant Valley Park.
Note: As many as 1.5 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats roost under the Congress Ave. Bridge from late March to early November, emerging around dusk. For more information, call (512) 416-5700, extension 3636.


For Additional Information write to:

Austin-area Birding Sites
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
or send a message to: nature@tpwd.state.tx.us

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