Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

Chisos Mountains

The piñon-oak-juniper woodland found in the higher elevation Chisos Mountains and their foothills attract many species of birds that would not otherwise be found in Big Bend National Park. The Chisos can be split into two birding categories, those you can walk to and those that will require a more involved hike. Many birders in search of birds like the Colima warbler will need to be prepared for a full day of hiking in the High Chisos. Many species can be found in the easily accessible lower Chisos area (the campground, visitor center, trailhead, and lodge). Of the birds found in the more accessible areas will be Mexican jays, bushtits, and during breeding season Scott?s oriole or a hepatic tanager will be the most common.
Those heading off into the higher elevations will be starting from the trailhead in the Chisos Basin where they will find one of two ways up. The Laguna Meadow trail is less steep and more exposed than the Pinnacles trail. Both will bring you to higher elevations, however only the Pinnacles trail will bring you to one of the most popular bird watching areas of the Chisos Mountains, Boot Canyon.

Starting off, look for band tailed pigeons, acorn woodpeckers, Hutton?s, plumbeous, blue-headed & Cassin?s Vireos, and tufted titmouse. Rock, canyon & Bewick?s wren, Townsend?s warbler, western, summer & hepatic tanagers are also often sighted along these trails. In late summer, the mountain sage begins blooming so watch for hummingbirds that might be feeding upon its brilliant red blooms. Lucifer, broad-tailed, broad-billed, rufous, calliope, beryline, blue-throated, magnificent, and ruby-throated hummingbirds have all been seen here at different times of the year. Zone-tailed hawks nest near the pass at Toll Mountain and peregrine falcons can be seen through out the park but many sightings are reported from the South Rim. As you reach the moist woodlands of Boot canyon be on the look out for the Colima warbler, Big Bend?s specialty bird.

While at these elevations also look for painted redstarts, cordilleran flycatchers, or white breasted nuthatches which are usually common. On a few occasions we receive reports of rare birds, such as the red face warbler or white eared hummingbird from Boot Canyon as well. After dark look and listen, for flammulated, western, and eastern screech owls and Whip-poor-wills. If you are planning an overnight trip you will need to get a backcountry permit for one of the many sites in the high Chisos.

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