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Birding Escapes: Millwood Lake State Park, Arkansas

By Bobby Harrison
Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting by Cleber Ferreira via BirdShare.

Located on the edge of the transitional zone where Eastern and Western bird species merge, Millwood Lake State Park is an ideal birding locale. Though the park is only 835 acres, the surrounding vicinity encompasses more than 33,600 acres of diverse habitat, where more than 325 species of birds have been observed.

Millwood Lake has a diversity of habitats, such as cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, lowland bottoms, upland hardwood, conifer, mixed forest, and interspersed meadows. Two trails wind through these habitats, giving visitors ample opportunity to see and photograph birds, such as the beautiful Painted Bunting, above.

Waterfowl Way is a mile-and-a-half-long hiking trail traversing the water’s edge and lowland hardwood habitats, offering sightings of Bald Eagles, Ospreys, herons, egrets, and nesting Pied-billed Grebes. Large numbers of Horned and Eared grebes, Mallards, Canvasbacks, Ring-necked Ducks, and other waterfowl arrive in the fall and spend winter there. Wildlife Lane is a four-mile walk through mixed forest, lowland hardwoods, and lakeside ecosystems. There you’ll find various songbirds, both residents and migrants, such as Carolina and Marsh wrens, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Painted Buntings, Blackpoll Warblers, and more. Meadows and other open spaces are great places to look for Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Greater Roadrunners.

Two of the most popular birding spots are the campground and the lake’s spillway. The campground is ideal habitat for Eastern Bluebirds, Blue Grosbeaks, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Brown-headed Nuthatches. The spillway is usually teeming with Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green herons. Great and Snowy egrets, Wood Storks, Double-crested Cormorants, and White Pelicans can also be found there.

Millwood Lake is also known for rarities. Eighteen of Arkansas’s rare bird sightings were first documented there. The state rarities include Glossy Ibis, American Black Duck, Purple Gallinule, and Vermilion Flycatcher.

If you visit Millwood Lake State Park, don’t forget your camera. The birds in the park are accustomed to being around people and are easy to approach. Only two hours from Little Rock (an hour and a half from Shreveport, Louisiana, or 45 minutes from Texarkana, Texas), Millwood Lake is one of the best birding escapes in Arkansas.

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library

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