North-central Texas Bird list

North-central Texas Bird Records from 1939-2022 

As outlined in these counties: 

Archer, Baylor, Bosque, Callahan, Clay, Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Fannin, Foard, Grayson, Hardeman, Haskell, Hill, Hood, Hunt, Jack, Johnson, Kaufman, Knox, Montague, Navarro, Palo Pinto, Parker, Rains, Rockwall, Shackelford, Somervell, Stephens, Tarrant, Throckmorton, Van Zandt, Wichita, Wilbarger, Wise, Young.

For information on seasonal status, please refer to the "Species Status" section of the website.


The first published checklist from the area came out in 1939. The Checklist of Birds of Dallas County, was published by Boyd Publishing in Dallas, and was 83 pages long. It was authored by Jerry Stillwell who, with his wife Norma, went on to do recordings of birdsongs in the 1940s and 50's. These well-received vinyl records, along with the published manuscript on the "Checklist of Birds of Dallas County," can still be found online. While Stillwell's checklist states in the title that it only covers Dallas County, the first edition of the checklist (1934) covered an area 100 miles north and west and 75 miles south and east of Dallas.  Technically, that area would cover Tarrant, Denton, Collin, Rockwall, Ellis, Kaufman Cos., as well as parts of Johnson, Parker, Hill, Hunt, and Navarro Cos. While the second and third edition of the checklist stayed within the political boundaries of Dallas County, this third edition footnotes a "species presumption" if the bird was observed in one of the surrounding counties. It was one of the first checklists to establish a baseline of bird species for this region. 

In an age without field guides, Stillwell's treatment of both the gulls and shorebirds in this publication was ahead of its time. His creation of a "Presumptive Species List" in the body of the text (birds not yet observed in Dallas County but presumed to have visited the area) proved remarkably accurate. His treatment of subspecies and his overall attention to detail was noteworthy. 

Of particular note in Stillwell's checklist is the complete absence of Great-tailed Grackle. This species was unknown in North-central Texas in 1939. Range expansion from the south Texas brush country occurred mostly in the 1940s and 50s. By the 1970's, the species was common throughout the area.

The checklist from Dallas Audubon entitled, "Wood, Wings, and Water" is a 1962 fold-out publication that covers only Dallas and Tarrant counties. It is likely Warren Pulich spearheaded this checklist, but no contributors are listed. This is the only area checklist I've seen that included "Red-cockaded Woodpecker" as an accidental occurrence. This is a reference to a 1914 specimen Oberholser posted in his work a in 1974. However, Pulich could not locate this specimen when he was working on his 1988 publication, and he doubted the veracity of sighting given the habitat in which Oberholser suggests it was taken. This work also included "Black-billed Magpie," a species reviewed by the TBRC and later removed from all North-central Texas checklists based on issues of provenance.  I have removed these two species from this checklist spreadsheet. 

While the Dallas-Tarrant county border limit the number of species, the "Wood, Wings, and Water" checklist was probably the most widely used checklist of all those listed here.

Harry C. Oberholser's work, "The Bird Life of Texas," was a monumental two-volume project published in 1974.  Oberholser died before the project was completed, and the book was eventually finished by Edgar Kincaid. Although Oberholser's work was massive and covered the entire state of Texas, he collected and filtered the data by county. Therefore, we can reconstruct a comparison of Oberholser's research with Pulich's "The Bird Life of Texas," using the North-central Texas county map we have on this website.

Pulich's research in the mid 1980s, made reference to both Stillwell's and Oberholser's previous work, but Pulich was far more cautious when specimens could not be found or if records proved dubious. Pulich's book "The Birds of North-central Texas," included 33 "Species of Uncertain Occurrence" - a list of birds that did not make it to the official list because of questionable documentation. Some of the documentation Pulich found questionable were observations that Oberholser included as records in his manuscript.

Of the 33 species outlined in Pulich's "Birds of Uncertain Occurrence," today's current official list has added 17 of the 33 birds by using additional documentation accumulated since Pulich's publication.  Most of the added documentation comes from digital photos assembled from various photographers and written backup observations taken from eBird. Since 1988, the current list has also managed to add 71 more species through field observation and species splits. 

While Pulich's original checklist map contained only 32 of the 40 counties on this website, only one species was added to the species total with the inclusion of these eight counties. Hutton's Vireo was recorded singing in Callahan County - a county not included in Pulich's original map.  All additional species in the current list would have been added even on Pulich's original checklist.

I have accommodated all the name changes and phylogenetic splits from past lists whenever possible, but I have largely left an in-depth study of subspecies off this website. DNA research has been altering species information at a rapid pace, and there was little justification for deep taxonomic work on a website that is updated regularly. Also left off of this checklist were species that have been extirpated from the region (Greater Prairie Chicken) or species that have become extinct but were historically recorded from the study area (Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Passenger Pigeon).

An asterisk following Stillwell's name in the 1939 column means that Stillwell had not yet recorded the species for Dallas County, but the bird had been observed before in North-central Texas or at least presumed based on prior AOU range documentation. Species in bold are Texas review species, and their inclusion here means the sightings have been reviewed by the Texas Bird Records Committee. 

For a more in-depth look at the checklist criteria, specimens, and photo-documentation, see the About the Checklist section. For an overview of the state checklist from 1912-2020, see the State Checklist section.

Comparative Chart from 1939 -2020

[Column 1] Currently accepted species [Column 2] Digital photo-documentation from study area [column 3] Recorded nesting [column 4] Pulich's List -1988 [Column 5] Oberholser's List 1974 [Column 6] Audubon Society List - 1962 [Column 7] Stillwell's List - 1939