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If you’re in the right location in Arkansas, it’s possible on a single winter day to see as many as 100 species of birds. When leaves fall from trees in fall and winter, Arkansas birds become easier to spot, making the season an ideal time to explore the world of bird-watching.
As other food sources become scarce, the creatures also tend to be more interested in feeders, and can easily be attracted to your home garden or backyard.
Several of your favorites might have flown the coop for warmer weather, but many bird species stick close and make Arkansas their winter home. Whether you’re a new birdwatcher or a seasoned pro, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these.
For nearly 30 years, trumpeter swans have been traveling to Wilburn, Arkansas to spend the winter. Arriving in mid-November and staying through February, about 300 trumpeter swans make their winter homes on three small lakes in this area just outside of Heber Springs. Originally coming to Magness Lake on Hays Road, the swans have also branched out to inhabit two farm ponds on Hiram Road. They can also be spotted across the state during the day, returning to the ponds at night. Visitors are welcome, but please respect both the landowners and the birds. Learn more about the swans here.
Hawks reside in Arkansas year-round. Their reddish-brown plumage provides camouflage among the trees, making them much easier to see when the leaves are gone. Both the red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, as well as several other species, are common across the state. Watchers can observe hawks along barren fields and highways, perched in trees or on top of telephone poles.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
Our national birds can be spotted throughout Arkansas all year, but the large open waters of the state’s lakes attract them for winter feeding. Depending on the weather, as many as 2,000 eagles travel to Arkansas. Those that migrate here typically arrive beginning in October and stay through February or March. The best place to spot wintering eagles is around the lakes in the Ouachita and Ozark regions of the state.
These red beauties are easy to identify and fun to watch. Cardinals flock to backyard feeders and their plumage looks gorgeous against the snow if you’re lucky enough to get a winter storm. You can identify female cardinals by their brown color with hints of red on their wings and head. The brown can appear yellowish in the winter, making the females just as breathtaking as the males.
One of the largest birds on the continent, the American white pelican can be spotted across Arkansas throughout the year, but during their migration, numbers increase in the fall and spring. While most pelicans migrate to southern coastal regions, a large number have decided Arkansas is the place to spend the winter. Pelicans are often spotted around Lake Conway and several other lakes across the state.
Purple martins are a late winter visitor and a sign that spring is near. The largest North American swallow, these bluish-black birds spend the winter in the rainforests of Brazil and return back here as spring progresses. You can follow their migration online but they are usually first sighted in early February. These birds can be seen statewide but a known roost is located on Bird Island in Lake Ouachita near Crystal Springs.
Arkansas is an important stopover for many migrating waterfowl species. Some will reside in the area all year. You can spot ducks and geese in ponds, lakes and flooded fields around the state. A few species to look for include ring-neck ducks, common goldeneye and ruddy ducks. You can also observe Canada geese and snow geese in large numbers.
Yes! Hummingbirds often migrate south but there are a fair and increasing number that will stick around Arkansas in the winter. If you’re willing to maintain a hummingbird feeder during cold months, don’t be surprised if you get a few visitors; hummingbirds have been spotted all over the state in the winter. Sightings increase as you travel farther south.
Researchers depend on citizen scientists to help them monitor wildlife populations across the world. By making a few observations and sharing them in the right places, you can be instrumental in bird research. Check out these upcoming citizen science opportunities:
Project Feeder Watch (November – April)
Christmas Bird Count (December 14 – January 5)
Great Backyard Bird Count (President’s Day Weekend)
Native Birds of Arkansas
Lead Poisoning in Arkansas Birds
Arkansas State Symbols: Mockingbird
Wild Turkey in Arkansas
Raining Ducklings: Arkansas Wood Ducks
Free Birdwatching Apps
Create a Winter Bird Tree
Printable Birdwatching Journal
Join Arkansas Wildlife and Arkansas Birds on Facebook. Get help with bird IDs and learn about the birds of Arkansas.
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