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State of Oklahoma

ScissorTF
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus ©Dick Daniels Website

Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning 'red people', and is known informally by its nickname, The Sooner State. It is one of six states on the Frontier Strip, and lies partly in the Great Plains near the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states. It is bounded on the east by Arkansas and Missouri, on the north by Kansas, on the northwest by Colorado, on the far west by New Mexico, and on the south and near-west by Texas.

With small mountain ranges, prairie, and eastern forests, most of Oklahoma lies in the Great Plains and the U.S. Interior Highlands - a region especially prone to severe weather. Oklahoma is situated between the Great Plains and the Ozark Plateau in the Gulf of Mexico watershed, generally sloping from the high plains of its western boundary to the low wetlands of its southeastern boundary. Its highest and lowest points follow this trend, with its highest peak, Black Mesa, at 4,973 feet (1,516 m) above sea level, situated near its far northwest corner in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The state's lowest point is on the Little River near its far southeastern boundary, which dips to 289 feet (88 m) above sea level. A river carves a canyon in the Wichita Mountains.



Among the most geographically diverse states, Oklahoma is one of four to harbor more than 10 distinct ecological regions, with 11 in its borders - more per square mile than in any other state. Its western and eastern halves, however, are marked by extreme differences in geographical diversity: Eastern Oklahoma touches eight ecological regions and its western half contains three.

The Ouachita Mountains cover much of southeastern Oklahoma.

Oklahoma has four primary mountain ranges: the Ouachita Mountains, the Arbuckle Mountains, the Wichita Mountains, and the Ozark Mountains. Contained within the U.S. Interior Highlands region, the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains mark the only major mountainous region between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. A portion of the Flint Hills stretches into north-central Oklahoma, and in the state's southeastern corner, Cavanal Hill is officially regarded as the world's tallest hill; at 1,999 feet (609 m), it fails the definition of a mountain by one foot.

In the state’s northwestern corner, semi-arid high plains harbor few natural forests and rolling to flat landscape with intermittent canyons and mesa ranges like the Glass Mountains. Partial plains interrupted by small mountain ranges like the Antelope Hills and the Wichita Mountains dot southwestern Oklahoma, and transitional prairie and woodlands cover the central portion of the state. The Ozark and Ouachita Mountains rise from west to east over the state's eastern third, gradually increasing in elevation in an eastward direction. More than 500 named creeks and rivers make up Oklahoma's waterways, and with 200 lakes created by dams, it holds the highest number of artificial reservoirs in the nation. Most of the state lies in two primary drainage basins belonging to the Red and Arkansas rivers, though the Lee and Little rivers also contain significant drainage basins.

Forests cover 24 percent of Oklahoma and prairie grasslands composed of shortgrass, mixed-grass, and tallgrass prairie, harbor expansive ecosystems in the state's central and western portions, although cropland has largely replaced native grasses. Where rainfall is sparse in the western regions of the state, shortgrass prairie and shrublands are the most prominent ecosystems, though pinyon pines, junipers, and ponderosa pines grow near rivers and creek beds in the far western reaches of the panhandle. Marshlands, cypress forests and mixtures of shortleaf pine, loblolly pine and deciduous forests dominate the state's southeastern quarter, while mixtures of largely post oak, elm, cedar and pine forests cover northeastern Oklahoma.

The state holds populations of white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, elk, and birds such as quail, doves, cardinals, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and pheasants. In prairie ecosystems, american bison, greater prairie-chickens, badgers, and armadillo are common, and some of the nation's largest prairie dog towns inhabit shortgrass prairie in the state's panhandle. The Cross Timbers, a region transitioning from prairie to woodlands in Central Oklahoma, harbors 351 vertebrate species. The Ouachita Mountains are home to black bear, red fox, grey fox, and river otter populations, which coexist with a total of 328 vertebrate species in southeastern Oklahoma.

And if birding only is your wish, check out a few of our most popular areas: Great Salt Plains, Ouachita Mountains and the vast open prairies.

The sites below are followed by the main habitat type they represent:
Black Mesa: Rocky Mountain foothills
Western High Plains: Shortgrass prairie
Southwestern Tablelands: Shinnery oak scrub
Central Great Plains: Mixed grass prairie
Flint Hills: Tallgrass prairie
Central Oklahoma/Texas Plains: Crosstimbers
Central Irregular Plains: Tallgrass prairie; caves
Ozark Highlands: Oak hickory forests
Arkansas Valley: Prairie; bottomland hardwood forest
Ouachita Mountains: Pine savanna; moist hardwood forest
South Central Plains: Moist forest; cypress swamps
Big Rivers: Large, wide sandy rivers

Looking for a great way to spend a vacation? Oklahoma is a land of friendly people, diverse eco-regions and fantastic birding all year long. Oklahoma has many locations to bird. Plan to visit one of the 50 state parks. You'll find any number of activities, including camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, water skiing and even cave exploring, as well, of course, as birding. Check out the Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma for free birding trips and programs…

Oklahoma has 50 state parks, six national parks or protected regions, two national protected forests or grasslands, and a network of wildlife preserves and conservation areas. Six percent of the state's 10 million acres (40,000 km²) of forest is public land, including the western portions of the Ouachita National Forest, the largest and oldest national forest in the southern United States. With 39,000 acres (158 km²), the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in north-central Oklahoma is the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie in the world and is part of an ecosystem that encompasses only 10 percent of its former land area, once covering 14 states. In addition, the Black Kettle National Grassland covers 31,300 acres (127 km²) of prairie in southwestern Oklahoma.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest and largest of nine national wildlife refuges in the state and was founded in 1901, encompassing 59,020 acres (238.8 km²). Of Oklahoma's federally protected park or recreational sites, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is the largest, with 4,500 acres (18 km²). Other federal protected sites include the Santa Fe and Trail of Tears national historic trails, the Fort Smith and Washita Battlefield national historic sites, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Top Sites

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Sightings

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Contributor

Donna Mackiewicz

Former President - Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma

auduboner@cox.net

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 480

As at April 2015

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Distributions of Oklahoma Birds

DS Wood and GD Schnell 232 pages, 382 maps. University of Oklahoma Press 1984

ISBN: 0806118873

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Guide to Birding in Oklahoma

Tulsa Audubon Society

ISBN: 126571

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Oklahoma Bird Life

Frederick M. Baumgartner, A. Marguerite Baumgartner Hardcover - 443 pages (April 1992) University of Oklahoma Press

ISBN: 0806117923

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Oklahoma Birds : An Introduction to Familiar Species

(Pocket Naturalist) Waterford Press Paperback (May 1999) Waterford Press

ISBN: 1583550089

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Oklahoma Breeding Bird Atlas

Edited by Dan L Reinking 528 pages, 222 col illus, 230 col maps. University of Oklahoma Press 2004

ISBN: 0806134097

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

State Bird

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus

Guides & Tour Operators

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Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Trip Reports

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CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2008 [04 April] - Mike Collins - Sooner Lake

Report PDF

2016 [05 May] - Bruce Wedderburn - Southeast USA

PDF Report

This was a two-month trip to southeast USA for Yvonne and myself, from late March through to late May, with a focus on the Spring migration, in particular the highly varied and colourful warblers. The trip commenced in Dallas in early Spring and involved touring through Texas along the Mexican border, following the Gulf of Mexico around to Florida as far south as Key West, then heading north up the east coast of the USA, then inland to the Appalachian Ranges in North Carolina, before heading west for our return trip to Dallas. Qantas has direct flights from Sydney to Dallas which avoids flying on any internal flights within the USA.

Places to Stay

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Arcadian Inn B&B

Accommodation

The beautiful Oklahoma sun rises again on the glory of the historical home of Dr. Arthur M. Ruhl, sitting on the hill west of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. Now known as The Arcadian Inn Bed and Breakfast, Dr. Ruhl`s home still retains its golden glow with a blush of peach to give it the radiance of an Oklahoma sunrise or sunset…

Organisations

Audubon Society in Oklahoma

Website

Usual list of local chapters.

Bartlesville Audubon Society

403140 W 2010 Dr Bartlesville, OK 74006, 918-333-2051 - Bonnie Gall, President

Cleveland County Audubon Society

Information

PO Box 6667, Norman, OK 73070 - Mark Howery, President

Deep Fork Audubon Society

The Deep Fork Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society, located in east-central Oklahoma.

Friends of Lake Hefner

Facebook Page

Our mission is to support, promote, preserve and enhance individual, family, organizational, hobby, recreational, and other outdoor activities, specific to the lake and it's reservation at Lake Hefner in the northwest Oklahoma City area, and the community it serves…

Grand Lake Audubon Society

Grove, OK 74345-1813

Indian Nations Audubon Society

Information

Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma

Website

Saving the last great places of oklahoma. The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma owns and manages over a dozen preserves, such as the Tallgrass Prairie, and assists with the management of approximately half as many other protected natural areas (Black Mesa, for example). In addition, the Oklahoma Chapter provides an ambitious registry program in which private landowners can voluntarily protect unigue natural features…

Oklahoma Audubon Council

Website

The Oklahoma Audubon Council is a coalition of the chapters of the National Audubon Society in Oklahoma. Representatives from each chapter meet several times per year to promote the Audubon purpose of "Protecting birds, wildlife and their habitats for all to enjoy" throughout the state. We share information about programs and other activities, support each other, sponsor the Important Bird Areas program in Oklahoma and sponsor Leks Treks & More: The Woodward Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival….

Oklahoma Bird Records Committee

Website

Overview and historical perspective - Studies of bird populations, bird distribution, and bird migration have been a mainstay of ornithology for some time. In the 1800s, museum specimens were relied upon as observations, and bird collections were effectively the database. Egg collections also added to the data we had on birds and breeding distributions. Early ornithologists made these extensive collections, partly to obtain voucher specimens verifying the existence of the species in an area, partly to study geographic variation of species and subspecies, and partly because they did not have good identification materials or visual equipment…

Oklahoma City Audubon Society

Website

Our meetings are held September through June on the third Monday of each month. They begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Will Rogers Garden Center, I-44 and NW 36th Street. Visitors are always welcome…

Oklahoma Ornithological Society

Website

Bird Records Committee - Studies of bird populations, bird distribution, and bird migration have been a mainstay of ornithology for some time. In the 1800s, museum specimens were relied upon as observations, and bird collections were effectively the database. Egg collections also added to the data we had on birds and breeding distributions. Early ornithologists made these extensive collections, partly to obtain voucher specimens verifying the existence of the species in an area, partly to study geographic variation of species and subspecies, and partly because they did not have good identification materials or visual equipment.

Payne County Audubon Society

Website

Typical site entry: Sanborn Lake is a small park near the Stillwater Airport that hosts a nice variety of birds typical of central Oklahoma. Breeding birds include Green Herons, Canada Geese, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bobwhite, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Scissortail Flycatchers, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Bewick's Wren, American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Loggerhead Shrike, Warbling Vireo, Northern Cardinal, Field Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Baltimore Orioles, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, and House Finch. Migration brings in a wide variety of warblers, flycatchers, thrushes and sparrows.

Tulsa Audubon Society

Website

The purpose of the Tulsa Audubon Society is to foster appreciation, enjoyment and stewardship of our natural world. We work to achieve this in four ways: Promote the conservation of wildlife and the natural environment. Provide the opportunity for study and observation of birds and all wildlife Contribute to research in the fields of conservation and ornithology by monetary support and active participation. Educate the public on the need to protect the environment, and to promote a better public understanding of these natural resources. All Tulsa Audubon Society events are free and open to the public. Society meetings and many field trips meet at the Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 S. Peoria.

Washita Valley Audubon Society

821 N Walnut St Pauls Valley, OK 73075, 405-238-2332 - Phil Henderson, President

Festivals

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival

Website

Join us in Woodward, Oklahoma, in northwest Oklahoma April 15-22 for the 2015 Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival. The 2015 festival will feature keynote speaker Paul Baicich. Besides seeing the Lesser Prairie-Chickens (and so far 99% of participants have had close looks!) and birding around northwest Oklahoma…

Observatories

George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Centre

Observatory

The George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center is dedicated to finding cooperative conservation solutions for birds and the natural world through science and education. The scope of our projects ranges from the reintroduction of Southern Bald Eagles, intensive field research on declining grassland birds, captive breeding of endangered species, raptor surveys world wide, to the use of NASA thermal-imaging cameras to study incubation temperature. The Sutton Research Center is a private, non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Oklahoma`s Oklahoma Biological Survey.

Museums

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Webpage

1899, the Territorial Legislature of the future state of Oklahoma mandated the founding of a natural history museum on the campus of the University of the Territory of Oklahoma in Norman, now the University of Oklahoma. Since that time, the existing museum has had a long and distinguished history, acquiring over 5,000,000 objects that belong to the people of the state of Oklahoma…

Reserves

Konawa Reservoir and Recreation Area

Information

Satellite View

One of the migratory summer residents of the Konawa Reservoir area is the scissor-tailed flycatcher, the state bird of Oklahoma. Scissor-tails migrate to Oklahoma and Texas for the spring and summer from their wintering grounds ranging from southern Mexico to Panama. This flycatcher has a pale gray back, white belly and pink sides. Coloration is the same for both males and females…

Martin Park Nature Center

Webpage

Satellite View

The Martin Park Nature Center is a 140 acre wildlife preserve and nature museum located in northwest Oklahoma City in the state of Oklahoma. The Park is open to the public and admission is always free.

Salt Plains Lake NWR

Webpage

Satellite View

The salt flats of the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge are a major nesting site for the endangered interior least tern, threatened western snowy plover, and American avocet. The flats are also a major migration rest area for hundreds of thousands of shorebirds during spring, summer, and fall. While vegetation on the flats is sparse, the birds feed on the salt brine flies that hatch when water is available...

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Webpage

Satellite View

No trip to the Lawton area would be complete without a visit to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge north of the city. The 60,000 acre refuge is maintained by the National Wildlife Refuge System in a wild and natural condition.

Other Links

Buckskin's Diary

Website

Birding BLOG from Oklahoma…

Checklist - Birds of Oklahoma

Checklist

Oklahoma Bird Specimen Records

Website

This database contains information on bird specimens collected in Oklahoma and housed at various museums in the state and around the world. The database does not include records currently in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History…