Three Winter Bird Watching Hot Spots Near Dallas

by on November 17th, 2010
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Retirees in RVs are not the only northerners flocking to Dallas’ mild winter climate. North Texas is the winter home to numerous bird species. Three aviary hotspots offer birders an opportunity to sight these seasonal visitors. Best yet, all three locations are easily accessible and appropriate for mobility-impaired birders.

Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake

White Rock Lake, in the heart of Dallas, is a bird watcher’s oasis in the heart of the city. American white pelicans are the wintering divas of the bay. Traveling from places as far north as Canada’s Northwest Territories, the pelicans begin arriving in November. The Sunset Bay pelicans roam the lake in groups of five or six. They feed together, herding fish to their compatriots. Big-billed wonders, the pelicans are a delight to watch and often come close enough for amateurs to photograph.

Other migratory water birds include cormorants and even the occasion Roseate spoonbill. Great blue heron and egrets are year round residents, along with a few hundred American coot and a dozen “wild” domestic geese. Beware the coots and geese. Both goose and coot will mob the unsuspecting birder in hopes of a handout. Rock pigeon and grackles round out Sunset Bay’s winged inhabitants, filling trees shoreline with noisy flocks.

Sunset Bay is located at 810 E Lawther Drive, Dallas. Shoreline parking is available and there is a small boardwalk for a closer look at the water birds.

Village Creek Drying Beds, Arlington

Here’s a well-known secret for finding great birding spots: visit the local sewer ponds. The Village Creek Drying Beds were employed by the City of Arlington until 1995 as the final air-drying stage for treating solids processed by the wastewater treatment plant. The beds are no longer actively used by the facility. Now rainwater fills the ponds creating a nutrient-rich wetland for migratory birds. Gravel roads rim the ponds providing easy car access, however caution should be exercised following heavy rains, as roads may become too muddy to traverse.

During a recent trip to the beds, the ponds nearest the entrance teamed with a variety of ducks including the migratory northern shoveler. Other birds included lesser yellowlegs, Killdeer, sandpipers and heron.

The site is restricted and controlled by the treatment plant, though daytime birders may use the site. Enter through the gate directly across the street from Dunlop Sports Center (1501 Green Oaks Blvd, Arlington). The facility locks the gate at 4:30 p.m.

Fort Worth Audubon Society conducts monthly Birding at the Beds field trips September through April. For details visit their website at

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Sherman

A wintertime family-favorite, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge hosts up to 30,000 migratory birds each season. The shoreline of Lake Texoma provides the perfect location for these wintering birds, and the refuge plants fields of Japanese millet and winter wheat to keep the birds out of local farmers’ fields.

A four-mile auto tour takes visitors along the lake shoreline and out onto levies for better bird viewing. Ideal for birders with limited mobility, the driving route allows visitors to see thousands of birds without ever leaving the car. Incredible flocks of geese grace the shoreline along the route. Your parked car serves as an effective birding blind to observe Ross and Snow geese – beautiful white birds with black-tipped wings. Geese begin arriving in October, and are most plentiful in December and January.

The Friends of Hagerman offer nature lectures the second Saturday of each month, and they have an active photo club for those wanting tips on nature photography. Be sure to check out Hagerman’s new visitors center. Well-crafted exhibits provide birders and naturalists detailed information about the refuge’s inhabitants. Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6564 Refuge Road in Sherman.

Birding Resources

Birding Trails Texas, Prairies and Pineywoods by Jim Foster contains a wealth of information on year-round birding in northern Texas. Learn about Texas Birds by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is an ideal handbook for the young bird watcher, and can be downloaded for free. Finally, Audubon Dallas ( and the Fort Worth Audubon Society ( offer bird watching outings for both the beginner and the more advanced birder.

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