The section of the Arkansas
River between 11th and 91st Street in Tulsa provides
sandbars and barren beaches of gravel and sand used by the
Interior Least Tern as
nesting habitat. The terns arrive mid-May and depart in late
August - early September. The Least Terns may be seen on the
sandbars in the river in summer months. They have returned
each year since 1981 when there were 16 scrapes and 32 young
hatched. Monitoring of nesting sites is conducted by
volunteers with the Tulsa Audubon Society who also work
closely with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to limit
public access to the nesting areas.
The Terns nest on the river on Zink Island at 15th Street.
Good observation points are at 15th St., 31st St. and south
of 81st St.
Pianalto, 1927 - 1996, was one of the first people to discover
the Terns utilizing the river, and spent many years observing
and protecting them.
arthritis, Fred, who had special permission, would drive his
pickup along the bike trail and set up his scope to watch
over the birds. Over the years he became a fixture at
Riverparks, and became one of Tulsa Audubon's greatest
ambassadors to the Public. Thousands of people learned about
the Terns and other wildlife along the river from Fred.
Click here for a tribute to Fred
River Parks extends from 11 St. South to
St. South between Riverside Drive and the Arkansas River on the east bank,
and along the west bank from 21 St. to 41 St. S. There are parking areas
provided on the east side at Galveston St., 31 St., 41 St., and 51 St.
Parking west of the river is located at 21 St. A jogging and bicycle
path begins at 11 St. and follows the river to 56 St. S. For additional
information visit the
River Parks web site.
Walk the river bank south of 11 St. There
are large cottonwood, elm, oak, willow, and mulberry trees with heavy
underbrush along the river. In winter White-crowned and White-throated
sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are numerous. The Purple Finch and
American Goldfinch are also common. The Clay-colored Sparrow has been
found during spring migration, a time when many warblers gather here
including Parula, Yellow, Orange-crowned, Black-and-white, Blackpoll,
Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Wilson's. Ducks can be observed on the
rocky reefs in the river in winter and spring and shorebirds are regular
visitors in migration.
The man-made Zink Island, in Zink Lake,
the impoundment formed by the low water Zink Dam, is used by the
endangered Interior Least Tern for nesting.
island may be observed from the River Parks area near 15th Street, which
features a bench dedicated to the late
Fred Pianalto, a Tulsa Audubon member who first publicized the Least
Terns on the River and was known as the "Birdman of Riverparks".
At 19 St. park on the west side of
Riverside Drive and walk south. Bell's Vireo has nested here in the
underbrush. Thrushes are here in migration and the Bobwhite is a
The parking area at 31 St. is located on
the east side of Riverside Drive. A pedestrian bridge allows access to
the west bank of the river as well as the east bank. A jogging and
bicycle path also goes east along the abandoned railroad right-of-way.
(See Midland Valley Trail)
The 41 St. parking is on the west side of
Riverside Drive south of the 41 St. intersection. Bald Eagles are often seen along the river,
and in 2007 one was nesting on the west bank directly across form the 41
St. parking lot.
White Pelicans stop over in migration; Cormorants may number in the
hundreds; and Osprey are occasionally seen. In the large trees in summer
are Northern and Orchard orioles, Eastern and Western kingbirds, Summer
Tanagers, Painted and Indigo buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.
Warblers, Catbirds, and thrushes frequent the mulberry trees and the
shrubbery along the bank. This is also a likely place to look for the
Caspian, Black, and Forster's terns in late spring and early fall.
There is a good trail south to 61 St. The
best birding along this five-mile mile trail is found during the morning
Click anywhere on map or here for an
interactive map from the River Parks web site