Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory

Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory is a wildlife sanctuary and research center located in Austin, Texas. It was established in the 1950s as a wastewater treatment plant, but it has since been transformed into a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. 

The observatory is now recognized as one of the best bird-watching destinations in the country and attracts visitors from all over the world. Helpful Link


The history of Hornsby Bend goes back to the 1950s when the City of Austin constructed a wastewater treatment plant on the banks of the Colorado River. 

The plant used an innovative system to treat the city’s sewage, and the water that was released into the river was of very high quality. The plant’s effluent attracted a large number of water birds, which became the focus of research by the wastewater treatment plant staff.

In the 1980s, the City of Austin hired an ornithologist named Victor Emanuel to study the birds at Hornsby Bend. Emanuel was instrumental in turning the site into a research center and wildlife sanctuary. 

Over the years, the site has been expanded and improved, and it now covers over 1,200 acres of land. It is recognized as one of the premier bird-watching sites in the United States and is home to more than 370 species of birds.

Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory is managed by the Austin Water Utility, which has a long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship. The observatory serves as a living laboratory for water quality research and environmental education, and it provides critical habitat for a variety of wildlife species.

Always open to public 

The observatory is open to the public for bird-watching, hiking, and other recreational activities. Visitors can explore the site on their own or participate in one of the many guided tours that are offered throughout the year. 

The observatory is also home to the Hornsby Bend Partnership, a group of organizations that work together to promote conservation and environmental education in the community.

In addition to its recreational and educational offerings, Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory is also a center for scientific research. Researchers from around the world come to the observatory to study the site’s unique ecosystem and to conduct research on a variety of topics, from water quality to bird behavior.

The observatory has several facilities that are used for research and education, including a laboratory, a classroom, and a conference center. These facilities are available for use by researchers, educators, and community groups.

Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory is committed to sustainability and environmental conservation. The site uses solar power to generate electricity, and it has a rainwater collection system that is used to irrigate the grounds. The observatory also has a program to reduce its carbon footprint and is constantly looking for ways to improve its environmental performance.

Overall, Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory is a remarkable testament to the power of environmental conservation and stewardship. From its humble beginnings as a wastewater treatment plant, it has evolved into a world-class research center and wildlife sanctuary. Visitors to the observatory can enjoy the site’s natural beauty, participate in educational programs, and learn about the critical work being done to protect our environment. Read This Page

How to Get There? 

Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory is located in southeastern Austin, Texas, about 10 miles from downtown Austin. Here are some ways to get there:

  • By car: Visitors can drive to the observatory by taking State Highway 71 eastbound from Austin, turning right onto Pearce Lane, and then following the signs to the observatory.
  • By bike: Hornsby Bend is accessible by bike from Austin using the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. The trail starts at Govalle Park in East Austin and ends at the Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. Visitors can follow the trail to Hornsby Bend and park their bikes at the observatory.
  • By bus: Visitors can take Capital Metro bus number 333, which stops at Hornsby Bend Road, and FM 969, which is a short walk from the observatory.

Once you arrive at the observatory, there is ample parking available, and the staff can provide maps and information on how to navigate the site. 

All visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring binoculars and a camera, and be prepared to spend several hours exploring the natural beauty of Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory.

It’s important to note that Hornsby Bend is a nature preserve, so visitors are encouraged to take only pictures and leave only footprints. Littering and disturbing wildlife is strictly prohibited. Visitors should also bring their own water, snacks, and sunscreen, as there is no food or drink concessions available on site.

Important Information You Should Know

  • Address: 2210 S FM 973, Austin, TX 78725, United States
  • Website: http://www.hornsbybend.org/ 
  • Phone: +15129721960
  • Business Hours: Open daily (9 am-8 pm)