State of Oklahoma

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus ©Dick Daniels Website
Birding Oklahoma

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 foothillsWestern High Plains: Shortgrass prairieSouthwestern Tablelands: Shinnery oak scrubCentral Great Plains: Mixed grass prairieFlint Hills: Tallgrass prairieCentral Oklahoma/Texas Plains: CrosstimbersCentral Irregular Plains: Tallgrass prairie; cavesOzark Highlands: Oak hickory forestsArkansas Valley: Prairie; bottomland hardwood forestOuachita Mountains: Pine savanna; moist hardwood forestSouth Central Plains: Moist forest; cypress swampsBig Rivers: Large, wide sandy riversLooking 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.

  • Donna Mackiewicz


Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 480

    (As at October 2018)

    State Bird - Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Muscivora forficata

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

  • All About Birds Texas & Oklahoma

    | By Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO) | Princeton Universityt Press | 2022 | Paperback | 320 pages, 952 colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780691990064 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Oklahoma

    | By Marc Parnell | Naturalist & Traveller Press | 2022 | Paperback | 316 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9781954228368 Buy this book from
  • Compact Guide to Oklahoma Birds

    | By Ted Cable & Gregory Kennedy | Lone Pine Publishing | 2007 | Paperback | ISBN: 9789768200235 Buy this book from
  • Distributions of Oklahoma Birds

    | By DS Wood & GD Schnell | University of Oklahoma Press | 1984 | PAPERBACK | 232 pages, 382 maps | ISBN: 9780806118871 Buy this book from
  • Oklahoma Bird Life

    | By B Frederick M Baumgartner & A Marguerite Baumgartner | University of Oklahoma Press | 1992 | Hardback | 548 pages, 51 col plates, 154 b/w photos, 58 line illustrations, 3 maps | ISBN: 9780806117928 Buy this book from
  • Oklahoma Birds : An Introduction to Familiar Species

    | (Pocket Naturalist) Waterford Press | 2001 | Unbound | ISBN: 9781583550083 Buy this book from
  • Oklahoma Breeding Bird Atlas

    | Edited by Dan L Reinking | University of Oklahoma Press | 2004 | 528 pages, 222 colour illustrations, 230 col maps | ISBN: 9780806136141 Buy this book from
  • Oklahoma Winter Bird Atlas

    | By Dan L Reinking | University of Oklahoma Press | 2017 | Paperback | 552 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780806158976 Buy this book from
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival

    Facebook Page
    The 2019 Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival will be held April 10-17, 2019 Featuring keynote speaker Kenn Kaufman. Join us in Woodward, Oklahoma, in northwest Oklahoma April 10-17 for the 2019 Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival. The 2019 festival will feature keynote speaker Kenn Kaufman. Besides seeing the Lesser Prairie-Chickens (and so far 99% of participants have had close looks!) and birding around northwest Oklahoma, we are again offering these special features for 2019: An opportunity to view Greater Prairie-Chickens from blinds in Osage County, Oklahoma and packages designed specifically for photographers!
  • George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Centre

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    The Sutton Center is situated on 40 acres of an oak-covered hilltop near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. An 8,000 square foot administration building provides office, library, conference, and dining space for the staff of the Center. Several large laboratories and barns provide research areas and house our high quality captive-breeding facilities. Our facility is not currently open to the public, except for special events and scheduled guests.
Museums & Universities
  • Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

    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…
  • Audubon Society in Oklahoma

    Offices & Chapters
  • Bartlesville Audubon Society

    403140 W 2010 Dr Bartlesville, OK 74006, 918-333-2051 - Bonnie Gall, President
  • Cleveland County Audubon Society

    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.
  • Falconhead Audubon Society

    Facebook Page
    Falconhead Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society. We are based at the Falconhead Community in Burneyville, Love County, Oklahoma, but our members come from across southern Oklahoma and north Texas, including Ardmore, Tishimingo, Davis Oklahoma and Gainesville, Texas.
  • 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

    74477 Hulbert - OK - US
  • Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma

    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 Bird Records Committee

    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

    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

    The OOS is an independent, non-profit educational organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to the observation, study, and conservation of birds. Its diverse membership, which includes individuals of all ages, is composed of both beginning birders and professional ornithologists. The observation and study of birds is a prominent example of a scientific field in which amateurs have made major contributions. As a member of the OOS, you will have many unique opportunities to cultivate your interest in birds.
  • Payne County Audubon Society

    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

    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

Abbreviations Key

  • IBA Selman Ranch

    WebpageSatellite View
    The ranch itself sits along the Cimarron River in eastern Harper County in northwestern Oklahoma just east of the town Selman (named for the family) and contains over 14,000 acres of land. Sandsage brush is also abundant, which is why Lesser Prairie Chickens can be found booming here in the early spring. With the increasingly encroaching wind farms in the region as well as other sources of habitat fragmentation it is necessary to identify large swaths of native prairie that will support the LPCH, the Selman Ranch is exactly this. There is a large salt flat that encompasses approximately a mile and a half of river bottom. These flats are consistently home to large breeding populations of the federally endangered Interior Least Tern and an Oklahoma Category II species the Snowy Plover.
  • Konawa Reservoir and Recreation Area

    InformationSatellite 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…
  • NC Martin Park

    WebpageSatellite 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.
  • NF Ouachita

    InformationSatellite View
    The Ouachita National Forest is a National Forest that lies in the western portion of Arkansas and portions of eastern Oklahoma.
  • NR IBA McCurtain County Wilderness Area

    InformationSatellite View
    The McCurtain County Wilderness Area is a 14,087 acres (5,701 ha) wilderness nature preserve 25 miles (40 km) north of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. It has been owned by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation since 1918. There are over 110 bird species in the area, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and bald eagle. It was nominated as an Important Bird Area in 2008 by the Audubon Society.
  • NR J. T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve

    InformationSatellite View
    The J.T. Nickel Preserve comprises 17,000 acres of exceptional beauty and environmental value. It is the largest privately protected conservation area in the Ozarks. The Nature Conservancy has introduced Elk which have been absent from the Ozarks for more than 150 years. White tailed deer, coyote, bobcat, and many small mammals are also common in the preserve and black bears now make their home on the preserve after being absent for over a century.
  • NWR Salt Plains Lake

    WebpageSatellite 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...
  • NWR Washita

    Facebook PageSatellite View
    Washita National Wildlife Refuge has been designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy. The Centennial Trail at Washita NWR is designated as a National Recreation Trail.
  • WMA IBA Hackberry Flat Center

    WebpageSatellite View
    Created in 1995, Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, located near Frederick in southwestern Oklahoma, offers 7,120-acres of wildlife recreational opportunities. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, along with many conservation-minded partners, restored this legendary wetland, creating a vast mosaic of wetland habitats for prairie waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent birds. Upland areas of native sunflowers and cultivated fields interspersed with mesquite...
  • WR Wichita Mountains

    WebpageSatellite 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.
Sightings, News & Forums
Trip Reports
  • 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
  • Arcadian Inn B&B

    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…
Other Links
  • Checklist - Birds of Oklahoma

    Number of species: 482Number of globally threatened species: 17Number of extinct species: 2Number of introduced species: 6

    Website has been established to provide those interested in birding in Oklahoma with information to assist them in making their birding time more fun and productive.

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