Bird Watching Hotspots in Austin

Where to See Beautiful Birds in Central Texas

Cedar waxwing
••• Cedar waxwing. Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Austin is home to a wide variety of birds year-round, but it’s also ideally situated along the migration path of many avian visitors from afar. Here are some of the best places to see resident and migrant birds around Austin. If you’re new to Austin, the best way to enjoy these sites is to join a guided tour led by the Travis Audubon group. The club also hosts bird counting expeditions, field trips and informal classes and seminars geared toward both novice and expert bird watchers and nature lovers.

1. Hornsby Bend Observatory

Located next to the Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant, Hornsby Bend Observatory is the premier birding site in central Texas. Though the wastewater plant does produce an occasional strong smell, you’ll soon forget it about it as you enjoy the abundant bird life. The birds are attracted to this site along the Colorado River for its overall biodiversity and variety of habitat types. Herons, hawks, egrets and vultures are frequently spotted here.

2. Commons Ford Park

Encompassing 215 acres in west Austin, Commons Ford Park lies along the banks of Lake Austin. Three miles of trails lead to numerous sites with excellent bird watching prospects. If you’re lucky, you may spot wild turkeys, scissor-tailed flycatchers, wood ducks or ruby-throated hummingbirds.

3. Lake Creek Trail

The 1.5-mile trail in Williamson County, just north of Austin, meanders along a slow-moving creek.

Sightings at the park have included blue-winged teal, spotted sandpipers, great blue herons and white-eyed vireo.

4. Roy G. Guerrero Park

The 360-acre park is just south of the Colorado River in far east Austin. Bald eagles can occasionally be spotted hunting for fish over the water. More common sightings include mallards, wood ducks, downy woodpeckers and monk parakeets.

5. Berry Springs Park

A part of Georgetown’s network of parks, Berry Spring has several ponds and designated bird viewing areas. The four miles of trails include a combination of concrete and minimally developed trails. Fortunate birders might spot the gorgeous bird of prey, the crested caracara, hunting over one of the ponds. More commonly, you may see red-tailed hawks, black-chinned hummingbirds, eastern phoebes and red-eyed vireo.

6. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Recognized as an internationally Important Bird Area, the refuge is home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. The refuge includes thousands of acres, but not all tracts are connected, making access to some areas tricky at times. The sites are also used by scientists carrying out long-term research on wildlife and other environmental issues. Birds that might be spotted here include the ruby-crowned kinglet, cedar waxwing, spotted towhee and the northern bobwhite.