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Favorite Places

Favorite Places: Cornell Lab Staff

Choosing the best locations for birding is very subjective. The best birding hot spot for you might be your own back yard or a nearby park. But if you’re in the mood to expand your ornithological horizons, you may benefit from the recommendations offered here by some members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff. They’ve checked things out ahead of time and now all you have to do is get there and keep your eyes open! Good birding!

Recommendations by state:

Alabama

Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Dauphin Island

Karen Cooper

Recommended by: Caren Cooper, Data Analyst, Bird Population Studies

“This is one of my favorite birding hot spots because they have huge fallouts of migrants and a great variety of species.”

  • Habitat: lakes; beaches; swamp; pine forests; dunes; hardwoods
  • When to go: spring migration
  • Birds to look for: Neotropical migrants
  • More information: Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary

Alaska

Resurrection Bay, Seward

Mike Powers

Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

“Summer days are long so you’ll have plenty of time to soak in the fantastic scenery. Try a salmon bake if you get the chance!”

  • Habitat: open water, mountains, glaciers, coniferous forests
  • When to go: summer
  • Birds to look for: Ancient, Marbled, and Kittlitz’s murrelets; Arctic Tern, Horned and Tufted puffins; Rhinoceros Auklet; Red-faced Cormorant; Spruce Grouse
  • More information: Seward, Alaska

Gambell, St. Lawrence Island

John Fitzpatrick

Recommended by: John Fitzpatrick, Cornell Lab of Ornithology director

Why special: one million+ birds in view (and in motion) 24-hours a day during June; Native American village, bowhead whale and seal economy; remote access, with full exposure to the awesome biological richness of the Bering Sea.

  • Habitat: rocky tundra; pebble beaches; cliffs
  • When to go: June
  • Birds to look for: all four species of eiders; Yellow-billed Loon; Emperor Goose; Parakeet, Crested and Least auklets; Horned Puffin; numerous shorebirds on breeding grounds; Siberian vagrants in late May and early June.

Arizona

Saguaro National Park (east unit), west of Tucson

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

“At the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum the wild birds are as tame and approachable as the captive ones. The exhibits in the park and the museum give you a great introduction to the habitat and desert birds.”

  • Habitat: Sonoran desert
  • When to go: any time; birding is best in the cooler early hours of the day
  • Birds to look for: Black-chinned Sparrow (winter); Greater Roadrunner; Scott’s Oriole (summer); Costa’s Hummingbird; Gambel’s Quail
  • More information: Sonoran Desert Museum

East side of Huachuca Mountains, southeast of Tucson

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

Why special: You’ll find several Mexican bird species as you explore different areas with a minimum of driving. You can go quickly from the San Pedro River (Green Kingfisher), through the riparian forest along mountain streams (Elegant Trogon) up to mountain coniferous forests (Hepatic Tanager) as the day heats up. This mountain range also holds the only regularly-observable Buff-bellied Flycatchers in the United States.

  • Habitat: desert grassland, riparian forest, pine forest
  • When to go: May, June, July
  • Birds to look for: Zone-tailed Hawk; Buff-bellied Flycatcher; “Mexican” hummingbirds; Elegant Trogon; Painted Redstart
  • More information: East side of Huachuca Mountains

Mogollon Rim, South and east of Flagstaff

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

Why special: The plateau that the Grand Canyon cuts through has an abrupt end with a sharp drop south of Flagstaff; this drop is the Mogollon Rim. This makes for an interesting juxtaposition of birds. You can watch a “northern” Orange-crowned Warbler, right next to Virginia’s Warbler and Red-faced Warbler. Saw-whet and Flammulated owl can be sleeping a stone’s throw away from each other. Evening Grosbeaks and Lesser Goldfinch can be seen on the same day. Red-breasted, White-breasted, and Pygmy nuthatches are all present. The deep canyons that cut into the Rim hold Black Hawks (for example north of Sedona in Oak Creek Canyon).

  • Habitat: pine, fir, and aspen forest; sycamore-lined riparian forest
  • When to go: May, June
  • Birds to look for: Black Hawk; Flammulated Owl; Red-faced Warbler; Virginia’s Warbler
  • More information: Mogollon Rim

Chiricahua Mountains/Cave Creek Canyon /Sky Islands region, southeast Arizona around Portal

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program; Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer; Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: fantastic array of pink granite slopes and access to all of the SE Arizona specialties in a variety of habitats.

  • Habitat: pine-oak woodlands, coniferous forests surrounded by semi-desert grasslands and scrub
  • When to go: summer
  • Birds to look for: Red-faced Warbler; Painted Redstart; Olive warbler; Mexican Chickadee; hummingbirds. Easy views of Elegant Trogon, chance to see Eared Quetzal and other niceties like Mexican Jay and Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher
  • More information: Chiricahua Mountains
    Cave Creek Canyon
    Sky Islands

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, Planet Ranch area, near Lake Havasu

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: amazing spot [need more here]

  • Habitat: beautiful stretch of cottonwood and willow-lined river
  • When to go: early summer
  • Birds to look for: breeding Black Phoebe; Phainopepla; Lucy's Warbler; Townsend's Warbler; Western Wood-Pewee; Willow Flycatcher; California Black Rail
  • More information: Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

Palm Canyon, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, near Quartzite

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

“I love the beautiful desert views and the amazing sunsets. You’ll see tons of migrants here in the spring!”

  • Habitat: desert
  • When to go: spring
  • Birds to look for: Scott's Orioles; Black-throated Sparrow
  • More information: Palm Canyon Trails, Palm Canyon

Arkansas

Lake Fayetteville, Fayetteville

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

Why special: nice mix of bird species all year round, easy access and walks.

  • Habitat: open water, old fields, bottomland and upland forests
  • When to go: year round
  • Birds to look for: spring: American Woodcock; warblers; vireos; thrushes. Winter: Bald Eagle; Bufflehead; Ruddy Ducks. Fall and winter: sparrows
  • More information: Lake Fayetteville

Centerton Fish Hatchery, Centerton

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

Why special: easy access; great looks at expected shorebirds and the occasional rarity; western vagrants

  • Habitat: man-made ponds and mudflats surrounded by agricultural fields; stands of deciduous trees, shrubby areas.
  • When to go: fall, winter, spring
  • Birds to look for: shorebirds and raptors in migration; waterfowl in winter; warblers and vireos in spring; sparrows in fall/winter
  • More information: State Parks Centerton

California

Panoche Valley, Central California

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

Why special: easily birded area for species with limited ranges

  • Habitat: semi-arid grasslands; oak-juniper woodlands.
  • When to go: spring
  • Birds to look for: Yellow-billed Magpie; Tricolored Blackbird; Nuttall’s Woodpecker; Lawrence’s Goldfinch; Chukar
  • More information: Panoche Valley

San Gabriel Mountains, outside Los Angeles

Why special: The drive through the mountains leads through a great variety of habitat, yet it’s very close to an urban area.

  • Habitat: desert; riparian; upper-elevation coniferous forest
  • When to go: year-round; many higher-elevation roads are inaccessible in winter.
  • Birds to look for: White-headed Woodpecker; Mountain Quail; Pygmy Nuthatch; Clark’s Nutcracker; Long-eared Owl
  • More information: Pasadena Audubon

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

“The birds and the trees will knock your socks off—especially the White–headed Woodpecker. Wow, what a bird, especially when seen on a giant sequoia!”

Monterey Bay, sw of San Francisco

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

“The richness of life on the open ocean can be surprising. Imagine being distracted from a huge flock of ocean-going birds by a blue whale or sea turtle. Pelagic birding trips by boat into Monterey Bay will give you the best views, but the on-shore birding isn’t bad either.”

  • Habitat: open ocean, coastal California scrub
  • When to go: August to October (the bird species present vary dramatically through the year)
  • Birds to look for: Black-footed Albatross; shearwaters; storm-petrels
  • More information: Monterey Bay

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, near Huntington Beach

Tim Gallagher

Recommended by: Tim Gallagher, Living Bird editor-in-chief

Why special: Photographers will love this spot because you can get fairly close to the birds. They’re used to people passing by so you get great views.

  • Habitat: coastal wetland
  • Birds to look for: shorebirds; terns; waterfowl; Black-necked Stilt; Brown Pelicans; Peregrine Falcon
  • More information: Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Back Bay Newport (also called Upper Newport Bay)

Tim Gallagher

Recommended by: Tim Gallagher, Living Bird editor-in-chief

Why special: Stop by the interpretive center for advice on what’s been seen and where. You may be lucky enough to spot the Clapper Rail or the endangered California Gnatcatcher.

Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco

Tim Gallagher

Recommended by: Tim Gallagher, Living Bird editor-in-chief

Why special: This large area encompasses many kinds of habitat and terrain yielding an equally-impressive array of birds, including the rare Spotted Owl, Pacific Golden Plover, as well as raptors, vagrants, and migrants.

Why special: A great place with a wide range of habitats; Point Reyes Bird Observatory has a major trapping and banding operation there.

  • Habitat: coastal cliffs, beaches, woodlands
  • When to go: spring or fall migration
  • Birds to look for: Spotted Owl; longspurs; Osprey, Red-throated and Pacific loons.
  • More information: Point Reyes National Seashore, Bird observatory

Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park

Tim Gallagher

Recommended by: Tim Gallagher, Living Bird editor-in-chief; Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

“I love to spend time in the high country here, above the treeline in an area of alpine tundra. Sometimes you’ll even see herds of elk, not to mention all the great birds!” (Tim Gallagher)

  • Habitat: tundra; Ponderosa pine and quaking aspen; riparian areas
  • When to go: spring
  • Birds to look for: Rosy-finches; White-tailed Ptarmigan; Blue Grouse; Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers; Clark's Nutcracker; Prairie Falcon; American Dippers
  • More information: Rocky Mountain National Park

Florida

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, east of Naples

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

“Corkscrew sticks in my mind because of the magnificent old-growth cypress swamp and how close the birds are. You may see Anhingas or night-herons just a few feet away.”

  • Habitat: southeastern pine forest; cypress swamp
  • When to go: March, April
  • Birds to look for: Swallow-tailed Kite (spring/summer); herons; Wood Stork; Painted Bunting (winter)
  • More information: Corkscrew Swamp

Anhinga Trail in the Everglades National Park, Homestead

Recommended by: Eduardo Inigo-Elias, Neotropical Bird Conservation

Why special: the diversity of aquatic and land birds; how close you can get

  • Habitat: sawgrass, willow, and cattail marshes; wet prairie/slough; swamp forest; hardwood hammocks.
  • When to go: January to March for local breeders and lots of migrants; fewer tourists and mosquitoes in early morning
  • Birds to look for: Anhinga; Limpkin; Sora; Glossy Ibis; Purple Gallinule; Tricolored Heron; White Ibis
  • More information: Everglades National Park Anhinga Trail

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville

Why special: This place is saturated with birds and other wildlife, especially during migration and winter. Cruising around the Black Point Wildlife Drive you see hundreds of herons, egrets, and ducks. We watched a family of otters cavorting up the waterway near our car.

  • Habitat: wetlands and grassy palm savannah
  • When to go: fall through spring.
  • Birds to look for: Roseate Spoonbill; White Pelican; Anhinga; ducks; shorebirds; herons; egrets; terns
  • More information: Merritt Island

Georgia

Little St. Simons Island, near Brunswick

John Fitzpatrick

Recommended by: John Fitzpatrick, Cornell Lab of Ornithology director; Scott Sutcliffe, Development and Philanthropy director

Why special: Undisturbed, relatively pristine barrier island with miles of undeveloped shoreline provide original coastal forest habitat, top-quality rustic lodging, huge numbers of staging shorebirds in late April, and deserted Atlantic beaches

  • Habitat: coastal pine/oak forest; sand dunes and pristine beach below mouth of Altamaha River; saltmarsh estuaries
  • When to go: any time of year, but mid-April to early May is best for shorebird numbers and diversity
  • Birds to look for: 30 species of shorebirds regularly seen during spring migration including Piping Plovers, thousands of Red Knots, hundreds of Whimbrel; Peregrine Falcon and Merlin common flyovers; Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orchard Oriole, Summer Tanager, and Painted Bunting are common breeders
  • More information: Little St. Simons Island

Hawaii

Volcanoes National Park

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

Why special: Where else can you see a tropical rainforest, volcanic scrub, a tropical ocean, and a live volcano in the U.S.? (along with their associated birds)

  • Habitat: rain forest; dry forest; scrub; grassland; beach and ocean
  • When to go: anytime
  • Birds to look for: Nene; Akiapolaau; Elepaio; Omao; Palila; Apapane; I'iwi and more
  • More information: Volcanoes National Park

Indiana

Willow Slough State Fish and Wildlife Area

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

“This place has a great variety of birds—in fact, it’s where I first got into bird watching.”

  • Habitat: marsh; swamp; coniferous and deciduous forest; grassland
  • When to go: early spring to early summer
  • Birds to look for: ducks; rails; eastern migrants; western vagrants.

Jasper-Pulaski State Fish and Wildlife Area

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

Why special: Sandhill Cranes by the thousands

  • Habitat: forest; grassland; agricultural fields; ponds
  • When to go: mid-October to November
  • Birds to look for: Sandhill Cranes

Kansas

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge/Cheyenne Bottoms, Great Bend

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

Why special: Wetland habitat surrounded by grasslands and agricultural fields attracts an incredible diversity of birds.

  • Habitat: salt marsh; sand dunes; prairie grasses; tree lines
  • When to go: spring
  • Birds to look for: migrant passerines; waterfowl, shorebirds and waders, including Snowy Plover, phalaropes, and Black Rail
  • More information: Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
    Cheyenne Bottoms

Maine

Bald Head Cliff, York

Why special: One of the southernmost rocky peninsulas along the Maine coast, this site is well-known as a guaranteed location to see Harlequin Ducks at close range from late fall through early spring. The area abounds in other sea ducks and wintering waterbirds and is a great place to watch for alcids and Black-legged Kittiwakes in winter.

  • Habitat: rocky coast; open ocean
  • When to go: winter
  • Birds to look for: Harlequin Duck; Common Eider; King Eider (occasional); White-winged Scoter; Surf Scoter; Black Scoter; Long-tailed Duck
  • More information: Bald Head Cliff

Monhegan Island, Maine, 10 miles off the coast

Why special: a haven for migrants and rare species

  • Habitat: rocky coast; open ocean; spruce forests; low-growing island vegetation
  • When to go: spring and fall. Commercial ferries leave out of Tenants Harbor and Boothbay Harbor.
  • Birds to look for: Ivory Gull (in winter); Swallow-tailed Kite; Blue Grosbeak; Painted Bunting; Cerulean Warbler; Yellow-breasted Chat; Summer Tanager; Clay-colored Sparrow; Lark Sparrow
  • More information: Mohegan Island

Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport

Why special: One of few Maine breeding locations for the endangered Piping Plover and Least Tern. Roseate and Arctic terns have bred on the offshore islands, and a small colony of Common Terns has also bred nearby. A program is in place to educate the public and protect the birds, sponsored by Maine Audubon.

  • Habitat: Sandy beach, with small offshore islands and a tidal river
  • When to go: In summer, seeing Least Terns and Piping Plovers are a virtual guarantee, especially if you’re willing to stroll the beach. In winter, sea ducks are always around.
  • Birds to look for: Least Terns and Common Terns (especially diving for fish in the tidal river); Roseate Tern; Arctic Tern; Piping Plover
  • More information: Goose Rocks Beach Association

Massachusetts

Katama Farm, Edgartown

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: This beautiful preserved meadow is also a stone’s throw from the ocean, with nice salt marsh grasses. It is also hHome to breeding Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows. Nice spot to catch views of fall migrant shorebirds.

  • Habitat: meadow; salt marsh grasses
  • When to go: summer and fall
  • Birds to look for: Upland Sandpiper; Buff-breasted Sandpiper and American Golden-Plover; hunting Northern Harrier
  • More information: The Farm Institute

Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge (Parker River)

Scott Sutcliffe

Recommended by: Scott Sutcliffe, Director of Development & Philanthropy

Why special: undisturbed barrier beach

  • Habitat: beach, sand dunes and salt marsh
  • When to go: anytime
  • Birds to look for: shorebirds in summer; Snowy Owls in winter
  • More information: Parker River

Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and Wasque Reservation, Chappaquidick

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: There are great views of both land and water birds at the southeast corner of Martha’s Vineyard, fronting Nantucket Sound.

  • Habitat: Salt marsh edged with islands of scrub oaks, vaccinium and pitch pine
  • When to go: fall
  • Birds to look for: shorebirds, sea ducks and loons; land views of Northern Gannets and jaegers; tons of migrant warblers in the fall
  • More information: Cape Poge

Minnesota

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, Duluth

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

“Fall hawk migrations here are fantastic! The birds funnel down the shore of Lake Superior and movements of more than 100,000 Broad-winged Hawks are not unheard of.”

  • Habitat: mixed deciduous/coniferous woods around the ridge
  • When to go: late September, October, or early November
  • Birds to look for: Broad-winged Hawks; Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks; Northern Goshawk; Golden Eagle; passerines during migration such as crossbills
  • More information: Hawk Ridge

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Bloomington

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: It's long and it's urban, and is therefore easily accessible. It protects habitat both for resident breeding species such as Prothonotary Warbler and Dickcissel, and for a massive number of migrants of all types, including ducks and more than 20 species of wood-warblers.

  • Habitat: backwater marshes of the Minnesota Rive; upland prairies; remnant and restored oak savannah
  • When to go: any time. There are gulls and wasterfowl in winter, warbler fallouts in spring and fall, and breeding marsh birds in summer.
  • Birds to look for: Prothonotary Warbler; Virginia Rail; Least Bittern; Scarlet Tanager; Dickcissel; Bald Eagle; Peregrine Falcon; Iceland Gull; Thayer's Gull; Great Black-backed Gull; Glaucous Gull; Common Merganser; Snow Geese; Goldeneye
  • More information: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Park Point (Minnesota Point), Duluth

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: A great migrant trap in fall and spring, both for birds on Lake Superior and migrating passerines moving up the shore.

  • Habitat: open beach; lake; park; woods When to go: early spring and late fall for migration.
  • Birds to look for: Red-throated Loon; scoters;Mourning, Golden-winged, and Connecticut warblers and many other passerines
  • More information: Minnesota Point Pine Forest

McGregor Marsh, McGregor

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: This is a western oasis in eastern Minnesota, with Yellow Rails and Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows that breed there in the summer.

  • Habitat: sedge marsh
  • When to go: summer
  • Birds to look for: Yellow Rail; Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow
  • More information: McGregor Marsh

New Hampshire

Perry Stream and surrounds, Pittsburgh

Scott Sutcliffe

Recommended by: Scott Sutcliffe, Development & Philanthropy Director

“This is a relatively undisturbed stretch of northern yellow birch and spruce forest where you may catch a glimpse of boreal species.”

  • Habitat: bog; boreal forest; birches; mature northern hardwoods; recently logged areas
  • When to go: May (unfortunately, the peak of black fly season)
  • Birds to look for: Northern boreal-nesting warblers; Lincoln Sparrow; Three-toed Woodpeckers; Boreal Chickadee
  • More information: Fishing the Connecticut River

Squam Lake, Holderness

Scott Sutcliffe

Recommended by: Scott Sutcliffe, Development & Philanthropy Director

Why special: Abundance of loons

  • Habitat: Northern clearwater lake that's not overdeveloped with miles of undeveloped shoreline, several sanctuaries, an abundance of nesting loons
  • When to go: June is the best but anytime will do
  • Birds to look for: Loons and a host of central NH breeding birds
  • More information: Squam Lakes Association, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

McCrillis Hill, Center Harbor

Scott Sutcliffe

Recommended by: Scott Sutcliffe, Development & Philanthropy Director

Why special: It's fairyland in the spring--an aspen haven.

  • Habitat: aspen groves; old fields; mature northern hardwood forests
  • When to go: May
  • Birds to look for: Neotropical migrants

New Jersey

Cape May

Tim Gallagher

Recommended by: Tim Gallagher, Living Bird editor-in-chief

“As a raptor freak, this is a heavenly place to be in early October when hordes of Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and other favorite hawks of mine are blasting through. There are also lots of migrating songbirds in spring and fall.”

  • Habitat: seashore; coastal marshes
  • When to go: spring and fall migration
  • Birds to look for: Peregrine Falcons; Merlins; other hawks
  • More information: Cape May Bird Observatory

Turkey Point, Cumberland County

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: Great spring migrant spot and great place to listen to nocturnal migrant flyovers.

  • Habitat: deciduous woods; open expanses of salt marsh
  • When to go: spring
  • Birds to look for: warblers; vireos; cuckoos; Black Rails; Clapper Rails; a huge Black-crowned Night-Heron flyover at dusk
  • More information: New Jersey Birding and Wildlife Trail

Parvin State Park

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: Labyrinth of trails provides a really nice place to easily see spring migrants.

  • Habitat: mixed pine; deciduous forest; blackwater streams; wetland hollows
  • When to go: spring
  • Birds to look for: Prothonotary Warbler; Summer Tanager
  • More information: Parvin State Park

New Mexico

Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, south of Albuquerque

Recommended by: Marie Read, wildlife writer and photographer

Why special: Tens of thousands of overwintering Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese, closely approachable, as well as awesome mountainous scenery and sunrises/sunsets

  • Habitat: Man-made wetlands and farmland adjacent to the Rio Grande, surrounded by high, cold desert ("Chihuahuan desert") against a backdrop of mountains
  • When to go: Late November to early February. Get there before dawn to watch the Snow Geese lift off en masse. Get there late afternoon to watch the cranes and geese return to the roost pools.
  • Birds to look for: Greater Sandhill Cranes (and a few Lesser Sandhill Cranes): 10,000 to 20,000 depending on year; Snow Geese: sometimes 40,000+ (a few Ross's Geese too); numerous ducks (Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, etc); many raptors e.g. Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, American Kestrel; closely approachable Greater Roadrunners; Gambel's Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant; many songbirds, good place for Say's Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, etc. (Visitor's Center feeds birds daily)
  • More information: Bosque del Apache

Gila National Forest-Black Range & Pinos Altos Mountains, near Silver City

Why special: In summer, a gorgeous place to look for southwestern specialties.

  • Habitat: ponderosa pine; oak-juniper; riparian.
  • When to go: summer, for the specialty breeders.
  • Birds to look for: Olive Warbler; Red-faced Warbler; Painted Redstart; Virginia’s Warbler; Lucy’s Warbler; Greater Pewee
  • More information: Gila National Forest

New York

Mays Point Pool at Montezuma NWR, East Seneca Falls

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: A nice open mudflat with great views of migrant shorebirds, often offering several species in the same scope field.

  • Habitat: mudflats
  • When to go: late summer
  • Birds to look for: Stilt Sandpiper; Dunlin; Marbled Godwit; sandpipers
  • More information: Montezuma NWR

Niagara Falls, Buffalo

Why special: The gull capital of the world. An important area for Bonaparte’s and other gulls (an estimated 20% or more of the world’s population of Bonaparte’s Gulls use the area).

  • Habitat: fresh-water river; waterfalls. The falls stir up the water below, and the result is a feeding frenzy.
  • When to go: October through December
  • Birds to look for: Gulls—Franklin’s, Sabine’s, Black-headed, Glaucous, Iceland, Little, Black-legged Kittiwake, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed. Look for other rare birds along the river; a Pacific Loon was found here one year, for example.
  • More information: Niagara Falls Birding

Hawthorn Orchard, Ithaca

Chris Tessaglia-Hymes

Recommended by: Chris Tessaglia-Hymes, Bioacoustics Research Program

“This is a phenomenal migrant trap during spring migration. Birds come to feed on the nectar of the hawthorn florets and on the millions of insects that are also attracted to the trees.”

  • Habitat: mostly hawthorn trees; some buckthorn, apple, pear, white pine, and honeysuckle.
  • When to go: mid-May
  • Birds to look for: Warblers: Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Cape May, Blackpoll, Nashville, Wilson's, Golden-winged, Worm-eating; Yellow-Breasted Chat; Whip-poor-will; Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  • More information: Hawthorn Orchard

Malloryville Nature Conservancy Preserve, between Ithaca & Cortland

Why special: A little bit of northern forest within a 10-minute drive of northeast Ithaca

  • Habitat: hemlocks; small bog
  • When to go: year-round, though the trails are a little tough in winter without snowshoes or skis.
  • Birds to look for: Northern Waterthrush; Black-throated Green Warbler; Ruffed Grouse; Winter Wren; Common Redpoll
  • More information: Malloryville Nature Conservancy Preserve

Mundy Wildflower Garden, Ithaca

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: Great spot for a quiet walk through tall deciduous woods along a babbling creek, as well as a good fall migrant trap for species below.

  • When to go: fall
  • Birds to look for: Swainson's Thrush; lots of warblers and several sparrows
  • More information: Mundy Wildflower Garden

Lake Ontario Lakefront, Rochester

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

Why special: The stretch from Irondequoit Bay to Braddock Bay is worth several stops to view enormous rafts of waterfowl and gulls.

  • Habitat: open water; marsh; mudflats and beach
  • When to go: winter
  • Birds to look for: Tufted Duck; Arctic gulls; all three jaegers; Snowy Owl

Oregon

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Malheur County

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: A huge wetland in the middle of dry Great Basin country, this site attracts both migrants and breeders that are not easily found in other areas of the state.

  • Habitat: large marshes; sage-brush; some riparian woodland.
  • When to go: mid-spring and fall for migrants; all summer for breeding wetland and sagebrush birds
  • Birds to look for: Several oases, such as the Refuge Headquarters, attract huge concentrations of migrating passerine birds when conditions are right, including western rarities such as Black-and-White Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and many others. At times the trees drip with hundreds of Western Tanagers, Bullock's Orioles and Lazuli Buntings. Many shorebird species pass through, as well as hawks. Long-billed Curlew, Wilson's Phalarope and Avocets breed. Ferruginous and Swainson's hawks, as well as Golden Eagle, are also resident. Riparian habitat attracts Ash-throated Flycatcher, Great-Horned Owl, and others.
  • More information: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Waldo Lake, Lane County

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: amazing scenery, good potential for boreal birds

  • Habitat: mountain forest; burned areas; clear lake
  • When to go: Go in the breeding season, when the passes are open and the birds are active.
  • Birds to look for: Red Crossbill; Townsend's Warbler; Townsend's Solitaire; Black-backed Woodpecker; Red-breasted Sapsucker; Black Swift (at nearby Salt Creek Falls)
  • More information: Waldo Lake

Steens Mountain, Malheur County

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: A huge, tipped block of stone towering over the Alvord Desert at approximately 9,700 feet, with sagebrush habitat on its slopes and stunning scenery.

  • Habitat: sagebrush; alpine habitat
  • When to go: Any time in the spring, fall or summer, when there's not too much snow.
  • Birds to look for: Greater Sage-Grouse; Black Rosy-Finch; Prairie Falcon; Golden Eagle; other migrating raptors.
  • More information: Steens Mountain

South Jetty of the Columbia River, Clatsop County

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: A great place both for shorebirds and seabirds, as well as a great migrant trap for anything.

  • Habitat: open coast; tidal estuary; coastal pine woodland
  • When to go: Almost any time of year. Bad weather sometimes means good birds!
  • Birds to look for: During migration, this is a great place for shorebirds. The estuary attracts large flocks of peeps including Baird's and the rarer Semipalmated Sandpiper, while the rocky jetty hosts Black Turnstone and Wandering Tattler. Migrating alcids and loons, grebes and shearwaters fly by in sometimes mind-boggling numbers, and the river itself, as well as the shore, can host a wide variety of gulls. Wrentits and sometimes rare wandering passerines can be found in the woods, and the jetty was one of the spots to host a Bristle-thighed Curlew in Oregon in 1996.
  • More information: South Jetty of the Columbia River

Pennsylvania

Hawk Mountain, Kempton

Tim Gallagher

Recommended by: Tim Gallagher, Living Bird editor-in-chief

Why special: lots of raptors!

  • Habitat: mountain ridge; forest
  • When to go: fall and spring migration
  • Birds to look for: migrating hawks
  • More information: Hawk Mountain

Rhode Island

Block Island

Scott Sutcliffe

Recommended by: Scott Sutcliffe, Development & Philanthropy Director

Why special: Windy island habitat with an abundance of natural areas and miles of beaches for ideal birding.

  • Habitat: sandy beaches; tidal feeding habitats; bluffs; saltwater fields and meadows; some forest
  • When to go: fall
  • Birds to look for: shorebirds; migrating warblers; peregrines; harriers
  • More information: Block Island

Texas

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Brownsville

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

“Within the refuge boundaries it is possible to see everything from Rosette Spoonbill and Reddish Egret, to Mexican “exotics” like Green Jay and Plain Chachalaca. This sort of diversity cannot be matched anywhere else in southern Texas in a single day of birding at one location.”

  • Habitat: thorn scrub; grassland; coastal beach
  • When to go: winter; mornings and afternoons
  • Birds to look for: Green Jay; Crested Caracara; White-tailed Hawk; waders; waterfowl; Plain Chachalaca
  • More information: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, McAllen

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

Why special: Accessible to the public not just during the day, but also at night when birds like Common Pauraque can easily be seen by walking the roads in the park.

  • Habitat: riparian forest; thorn scrub
  • When to go: winter and early spring
  • Birds to look for: Elf Owl; Hook-billed Kite; Common Pauraque; Plain Chachalaca; Neotropical Cormorant; Harris’ Hawk; Tropical Parula
  • More information: World Birding Center

Big Bend National Park

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

Why special: The variety of habitats makes this a great place to bird and hike.

  • Habitat: River; desert; coniferous and deciduous forest; desert scrub
  • When to go: spring and fall (when the agaves are blooming)
  • Birds to look for: Quail; Colima Warbler; Painted Redstart; Gray Vireo; Zone-tailed Hawk; western sparrows; Lucifer and Blue-throated hummingbirds
  • More information: Big Bend National Park

High Island

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

“If you time it right, I don't know any place that will give you better or closer looks at warblers!”

  • Habitat: hammock forest; fresh and salt marshes; beach
  • When to go: spring migration immediately after a storm front has gone through the gulf.
  • Birds to look for: spring migrants; warblers, including Swainson's; grosbeaks; tanagers; orioles; cuckoos, etc.
  • More information: Houston Audubon: High Island
    About High Island

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

Why special: Never know what you'll see here, always seems to have a rarity or two.

South Padre Island Convention Center, near Brownsville

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

Why special: It is possible to see every single species of U.S. rail, particularly in winter, along a couple of short boardwalks built into the salt marshes that lie between South Padre Island and mainland Texas.

  • Habitat: coastal salt marsh
  • When to go: winter (High tide is better for flushing the rails out of the salt marsh.)
  • Birds to look for: rails; Sora; Reddish Egret; Roseate Spoonbill
  • More information: World Birding Center

Utah

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, west of Brigham City

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

Why special: Imagine standing on one spot and slowing turning around, seeing literally dozens of American Avocet nests, while flocks of White-faced Ibis fly against a backdrop of rugged mountains. Western and Clark’s Grebes can be watched in their courtship dashes across the water surface. The concentration of waterfowl, shorebirds and larger waders in the right seasons is amazing, especially in contrast to the more arid habitats typical of the Great Basin.

  • Habitat: freshwater marsh; wet grassland; desert scrub
  • When to go: spring; summer; fall
  • Birds to look for: Snowy Plover; Western Grebe; Clark’s Grebe; Long-billed Curlew
  • More information: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Virginia

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

Why special: Diversity of habitats, variety of birds, great seafood. Close proximity to other worthwhile stops: Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR, Kiptopeke State Park, and Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel.

Monticello Park, Alexandria

Mike Powers

Recommended by: Mike Powers, Acoustic Analyst, Bioacoustics Research Program

Why special: Fifteen-acre park in developed area with incredible diversity of warblers. You can sit just a few yards away as they forage and bath in the creek.

  • Habitat: tall deciduous trees; open understory; creek
  • When to go: spring
  • Birds to look for: warblers; vireos; thrushes; other passerines
  • More information: Monticello Park Trails

Washington

Ellensburg, east of Seattle on Interstate 90

Wesley Hochachka

Recommended by: Wesley Hochachka, Bird Population Studies assistant director

Why special: This isn’t a single site, but a general area that packs a range of habitats into a small area, with a variety of species present that have fairly restricted ranges or habitat preferences. You can travel quickly from lowland sagebrush (Sage Thrasher) up to ponderosa pine forest (White-headed Woodpecker), see American Dippers in snow-fed streams, and scan cliff faces for nesting Prairie Falcons and other raptors.

  • Habitat: grassland; sage-brush; coniferous forests; aspen poplar woodland
  • When to go: May, June
  • Birds to look for: White-headed Woodpecker; Sage Thrasher; Prairie Falcon
  • More information: Ellensburg Trails

Olympic Peninsula

Jeff Gerbracht

Recommended by: Jeff Gerbracht, Information Technologies application developer

Why special: Western birds—and if the birds aren't there, the landscape more then makes up for it.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

Ben Clock

Recommended by: Ben Clock, Macaulay Library video archivist

Why special: You can hear the beautiful ethereal tones of Varied Thrush singing from the tops of enormous Sitka Spruce.

  • Habitat: temperate rainforest
  • When to go: summer
  • Birds to look for: Rufous Hummingbird; Gray Jay; Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Varied Thrush
  • More information: Hoh Rainforest

Willapa Bay, south coast

Jesse Ellis

Recommended by: Jesse Ellis, former graduate student

Why special: Huge tidal mudflats attract a large number of shorebirds, and support a thriving and tasty oyster industry.

  • Habitat: mudflat, mudflat, mudflat (also open beach at Leadbetter State Park)
  • When to go: late April through May; late August to September
  • Birds to look for: Large flocks of Short-billed Dowitchers, Whimbrel and Black-bellied Plover (near Bay Center). Large flocks of peeps (perhaps best seen from Leadbetter State Park); almost any species of shore-bird; Parasitic Jaegers sometimes harass the Caspian Terns that are common; peregrines go for shorebirds; Wilson's Warbler and Rufous Hummingbird nest in the thickets along the bay; and huge flocks of Sanderling can be found on the open beach on the west side of the state park.
  • More information: Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
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