Why Port Arthur Has Some of the Best Birding in TX

Woman bird watching

Enjoying the beauty of the outdoors and the sights and sounds of birds around us is one of America’s favorite pastimes. Without question, Texas is the one of the most bird diverse states in the U.S., luring birdwatchers the world over to this vast landscape of birding and wildlife trails. The upper Gulf Coast is no exception.

In Port Arthur, we have a delight, reverence and passion for birds. Sea Rim State Park edges the Great State of Texas. We’ve got shorebird sanctuaries along miles of natural coastline. Sabine Woods, just down the road, is a completely different habitat where incoming spring migrants first fall out for nourishment and rest, and in the “come back now” Southern tradition, draws them back on their fall migration journey. Sabine Lake, marshy wetlands, and grassy prairies are other habitats that make Southeast Texas a birding bucket list.

It’s time to upgrade Port Arthur to your “Bird Now” list. Sure it’s extra showy during spring and fall migration, but Port Arthur is birdy all year long. Here are a few reasons why you should go birding in Port Arthur:

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Sabine Woods

two spoonbills perched on Sabine Woods

Sabine Woods is considered one of the most productive migrant stopovers along the entire Gulf Coast. The world-famous chenier made up of large oaks, mulberry trees, ponds and areas of thick undergrowth provide a perfectly protected resting point on the coast for neotropical migrants.

Spring draws warblers, thrushes, tanagers, vireos, orioles, flycatchers, etc. Large oaks, mulberry trees, ponds and areas of thick undergrowth provide a protected stopping point on the coast for neotropical migrants. Trees filled with colorful Warblers, Vireos, Grosbeaks, Flycatchers, Thrushes, Tanagers and Orioles are common from late March through mid-May, and, in lesser numbers, from early September through late October.

Internationally famous, Sabine Woods features a covered picnic area and benches situated around drips where photographers are sure to get close ups. Portable facilities are placed at peak seasons. While visiting, enjoy a walk through natural paths under a canopy of trees and grassland views. If it’s still and quiet, you may hear the Gulf of Mexico crashing into the beach a short distance away.

Fall is Peak Migration Season

painted bunting bird
Painted Bunting by Dana Nelson

Want to experience some of the most exciting fall migration in the country? Be on the upper Texas coast in April. Port Arthur is situated on both the Central and Mississippi Flyways, which brings a wide variety of birds thanks to a range of habitats.

We welcome northbound spring migrants from late August through Mid-October. Throughout the season, birders of all experience levels are out adding to their life lists while looking out for Indigo Buntings, Tanagers, Orioles and Warblers.

Here’s what to look for, when:

Late August through Mid-October – Southbound Fall Migrants

  • Late November through early April – Waterfowl, geese, Sandhill Cranes (they leave about February), sparrows,  hawks and other raptors. Look for wintering landbirds such as Yellow-rumped Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos
  • Some birds on shore in summer include Least Tern and Wilson’s Plover
  • Other shorebirds from late July to about late April – Piping Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Snowy Plover and American Avocets
  • Local breeding species include Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Painted Buntings
  • Late March through Mid-May – Northbound spring neotropical migrants
  • Roseate Spoonbills and two of the three egret species are here and visible year round. Cattle Egret are fewer in numbers in December through March

We thank the Golden Triangle Audubon Society for maintaining internationally-famous Sabine Woods. When you stay in Port Arthur for birding, enjoy some surrounding areas including:

  • Cattail Marsh, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge (fall, winter and early spring)
  • Bolivar Flats (all year)
  • Big Thicket area – Especially Hardin County (early summer, December-January)
  • West Jefferson County (November through February)

Summer birds of the beach include: Least Tern, Wilson’s Plover and Reddish Egrets.

Protected Coastline

two birds at the beach

While many coastal destinations laud their commercially developed beaches, Port Arthur is known best by birders for its protected, natural shorelines. Along the Gulf of Mexico’s foamy coast, you will spot American Avocets, White and Brown Pelicans, Bonparte’s Gulls, plovers and terns. Boardwalks spanning the transition from beach to dune marsh give you access to an even more secluded area ideal for birding. Boardwalks and viewing platforms are available at Sea Rim State Park.

Across the roadway, you’ll encounter lagoons, wetlands, salt meadows and two lakes. The expansive, brackish marsh unit offers viewing and camping platforms, additional boardwalks and an option to kayak along three trails to various grass-lined lakes and channels.

Together, McFaddin Wildlife Refuge and Sea Rim State Park provide untouched sandy shores nestled against marshy wetlands. The intimate and quiet encounters make Port Arthur’s protected coastline perfect for tranquil, beach-side birding.

Home to the 28 Great Coastal Birding Trails

Boardwalk and wetlands

The area’s Great Coastal Birding Trail encompasses a 40 mile radius where you will encounter the beaches of Sea Rim State Park, Cattail Marsh, Shangri La Gardens & Nature Center and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

A few highlights of the Sabine Loop and Anahuac Loop trails include:

Bird All Year Long

hummingbird near pink and yellow flowers

Port Arthur’s positioning on the Central and Mississippi Flyway makes it a hot spot for fall migration. The Upper Texas Coast witnesses a steady flow of migratory birds beginning as early as July and lasting through November. Many species hug the coastline on their way to South and Central America for the winter. It’s an adventure to get out an experience the magic of migration, but keep your eyes out for our  For more on Fall Migration in Port Arthur, check out our Fall Migration Hotspots in Southeast Texas blog.

Birding is Just the Beginning

replica Joplin porsche at the Museum of the Gulf Coast

Birding is a big deal, and birds love us all year round. Anytime you visit Port Arthur for birding, you can enjoy Cajun food, sailing, fishing, Museum of the Gulf Coast, and the famous Janis Joplin driving tour.

Birds love our beaches, wetland marshes, woods, gardens and prairies. Make this your year to experience the Upper Texas Gulf Coast’s miles of shoreline that falls in both the Central and Mississippi Flyways. #birdportarthur

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