Birdzilla's Top 25 Birding Hotspots.
There are many great birding locations around the country. Certain areas however, often because of their location and a mix of habitats, are recognized as especially good locations for birds. Listed below are 25 of our favorite locations. Some area are more productive during a certain time of year, so do a little planning before taking a trip to one of these locations.
- Best time to visit
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Which birds might be seen
You may not have all this information, just provide what you do have. We'll post your favorite locations on the state birding pages.
The Top 25 Birding Locations
Our selections were made based on four criteria.
1. Abundance and variety of birds
2. Ease of seeing birds
3. Ease of access to the specific location
4. Chance for seeing rarities
1. Texas Rio Grande Valley
Located on the southern tip of Texas, next to South Padre Island, the Rio Grande River and Mexico, the Valley is our favorite birding location. No where in the country will you find as many easy-to-see, colorful species enjoying a wide variety of habitats. It will take a week to do the area justice. Some of the key birding locations include:
South Padre Island
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Benston Rio Grande State Park
Santa Anna National Park
Falcon State Park
Lower Texas Coast
Contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for a map of the South Texas Birding Trail.
2. Southeast Arizona
The hummingbird capital of the United States. If you looking for an August birding location, this is the place.
Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum
Museum and botanical garden. Located west of Tucson, attracts desert species including Verdin, Gilded Flickers and Gila Woodpeckers.
Cave Creek/Portal/Chiricahua Mountains
South Fork Trail may yield Elegant Trogan or Flame-colored Tanager. Good for owls and rare hummingbirds.
Madera Canyon/Florida Wash/Santa Rita Mountains
Magnificent Hummingbirds, Buff-collared Nightjar, Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows at Florida Wash. Strickland's Woodpecker at higher elevation. Elf Owls nest in the area.
Patagonia is famous for its roadside rest area. Look for Gray Hawk, Thick-Billed Kingbird, and Rose-throated Becard. Sonoita Creek Sanctuary is a hot birding spot, but may not be open every day of the week.
Ramsey Canyon/Huachuca Mountains
Head here for hummingbirds. July or August. Blue-throated, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Magnificent and more.
3. Texas Coast
Back to Texas. The entire Texas coast attracts migrants spring and fall, with resident species adding to the fauna.
Corpus Christi - great birding and home to maybe the best hawk watch location in the country.
Matagorda Island - over 230 species reported in recent Christmas Counts
Galveston Island - great for shorebirds, terns and gulls.
Bolivar Peninsula - internationally recognized shore bird location
High Island and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Texas Parks and Wildlife has published excellent information on three Texas coastal birding trails.
4. South Florida
Including the Florida Everglades, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and Corkscrew Swamp.
Lots of large, colorful species, including:
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Herons
A surprising number of wintering warblers can also be found by the determined birder, including Yellow-throated and Palm Warblers.
Visit the Audubon Florida web site for more information.
5. Cape May, New Jersey
The mix of coastal woods and marshes along the southeastern tip of New Jersey located on the Delaware Bay makes Cape May one of the hottest birding locations in the country. More than 400 species have been recorded. Spring and fall migrations can be outstanding, with 30 species of warblers possible on a single day.
Visit the New Jersey Audubon Society web site for more information.
6. Monterey Bay, California
Excellent birding and beautiful surroundings make the Monterey Bay one of our favorite locations.
Pelagic trips from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey offer possible sightings of Sooty Shearwaters, Black-vented Shearwaters, Buller's and Pink-footed Shearwaters, Black and Ashy Storm Petrels, Tufted Puffins, Cassin's Auklets, Rhinoceros Auklets, Xantus' Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers, Sabine's Gulls, Arctic Terns
In August and September shearwaters are the stars.
In October and November, petrels become more common, including black, ashy and the occasional fork-tailed.
The Monterey Bay Birding Festival is held each fall.
7. Point Pelee, Ontario
A 12-mile sand spit projecting into Lake Erie, Point Pelee is a warbler's lover paradise. By the time they reach this far north, the males and singing and in their best plumage.
Along established birding trails, Pelee birders gather to enjoy the show. From late April to early June, the viewing is excellent. Cold temperatures from the lake delay the development of the summer vegetation, leaving the warblers and other migrants in relatively easy view. Some 35 species of warblers may be recorded each year.
8. Plum Island
Plum Island is a barrier island off the northern coast of Massachusetts where the Parker River and the Merrimack River flow into the Gulf of Maine. It contains a mix of summer and year-round residences, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and Sandy Point State Park.
seen might include:
American Black Duck
In nearby Newburyport, Massachusetts birders flock to the sea wall, where (from December through March) they scan for waterfowl and gulls — including possible Glaucous and Iceland Gulls.
9. Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota ( about 45 minutes from Duluth).
The birding in Sax-Zim is good anytime, but may peak during the winter. Minnesota in the winter, are we crazy? Maybe. But check out some of the birds listed below.
Much of the bog can be viewed by automobile and birders frequently find Sharp-tailed Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Boreal Chickadee, Sedge Wren, Connecticut Warbler, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Le Conte's Sparrow. Drive the back roads for Sharp-tailed Grouse, Upland Sandpiper, Great Gray Owl and Connecticut Warblers.
In the winter, look for...Rough-legged Hawk, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Northern Shrike, Snow Bunting, White-winged Crossbill, and both redpolls. Watch the birding reports for irruptive years for the owls.
10. The Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Trips to the Aleutian Islands are expensive, and the birding can be harsh. Serious birders, however, consider a trip to these isolated islands the ultimate birding expedition.
In late May and June the outermost islands act as magnets for Asian wanderers and birders travel to the island of Attu to search for these rarities.
Which rarity will be seen varies from year to year, but birders might expect to observe:
Practice your bicycle riding before making the trip.
That's it for our TOP 10. Sorry if we missed your favorite. Here are 15 additional top birding locations.
11. The Gulf Coast
Almost any location along the Gulf Coast offers excellent birding, especially during migration.
Alabama Coastal Birding Trail
Dauphin Island is a well known Alabama birding hot spot.
Louisiana Birding Trail
12. Salton Sea, California
One of the best areas for bird watching in Southern California is the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.
The Salton Sea is located in the Sonoran Desert of Imperial and Riverside counties just north of El Centro, California. The habitat contains 35,484 acres of salt marsh and open water, 2,000 acres of pasture and freshwater marsh. The sea is 35 miles long and is one of the lowest places in the United States, about 228 feet below sea level.
13. Point Reyes National Seashore
Beautiful scenery along the northern California coast and great birding make this a popular mecca for birders. Be sure to plan a visit to the Point Blue Conservation Science.
14. Pawnee Grasslands, Colorado--northeast corner of the state
This is not the most diverse area, but some hard-to-find birds make the area home.
15. Platte River/Rowe Sanctuary in south central Nebraska
March and early April each year over 500,000 sandhill cranes along with hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese converge on the Platte. Rowe Sanctuary is located right in the heart of the sandhill crane staging area where the birds can be viewed in huge gatherings on their nighttime roosts.
Not too distant from the Rowe Sanctuary is a chance to see prairie chickens.
The only lek available for public viewing is north and west of Grand Island on private property known as the Taylor Ranch. Viewing is from your vehicle or the side of the road.
To reach Taylor Ranch, take Interstate-80 exit No. 311, drive north on the Highway 281 for 9 1/2 miles then go left (west) on Highway 2 for almost four miles then right (north) on 60th Road until you reach a stop sign (about 2 1/2 miles). Then turn left (west) on One R Road and go one mile. Stop there, pull over to the right side and watch the hills directly north.
16. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Beautiful surroundings and some excellent birds make Yellowstone a great place to take the family birding. Great Gray Owl, Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpecker. Hike the trails and check the habitat at different elevations. After watching "Old Faithful" erupt, bird the areas between it and Mammoth Hot Springs.
17. Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin
Visit the Horican Marsh Bird Club for information on recent sightings.
18. Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge lies along the Rio Grande in the dry areas of south-central New Mexico. Dikes have created extensive water impoundments which are ideal for wintering ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and waders.
The riparian habitat of the Rio Grande River, combined with the adjoining arid uplands and cultivated fields furnish additional food for a diverse selection of birds.
Over 350 species have been observed on the refuge.
19. Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
A mix of 15,000 acres of freshwater marsh and open water attract a variety of species to the Upper Klamath Wildlife Refuge. Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl visit the area during migration.
American bald eagle
American white pelican
20. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. PA
West of Allentown, PA lies one of the best hawk and falcon watching sites in North America. Over 2,200 acres straddle the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains where migrating raptors pass on their way south.
21. Acadia National Park, Maine
The Ship Harbor Nature Trail is one of the more popular birding locations in the park. Look for breeding Yellow-bellied and Alder Flycatchers, Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush, and warblers including Nashville, Black-throated Green, Palm, Wilson’s, Northern Parula, and American Redstart.
The Blue Nose Ferry on the northern tip of Maine is famous for offering birders a chance to see northern pelagic species, including:
Northern Fulmar, Cory’s Shearwater, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Great and South Polar Skuas, Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Common and Thick-billed Murres.
The Bar Harbor area offers birders the chance to see Osprey, Bald Eagle, Ruffed Grouse, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Blue and Black-and-white Warblers, Ovenbird, and Dark-eyed Junco.
22. Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains, Texas
While not easy to reach, the mix of desert, mountains and the Rio Grande River make this part of Texas a must-visit for the serious birder. The desert scenery is as amazing as the birds.
What are we waiting for?
23. Hakalau Forest, The Big Island of Hawaii
If you want to Bird Hawaii, try the Hakalau Forest on the big island. Watch for species like;
Contact the Hawaii Audubon Society for birding information.
24. Copper River Delta, Alaska
In early May, the tidal flats of the Copper River Delta shimmer with the activity of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds. As many as 5 million shorebirds rest and feed in the area during spring migration.
Contact the Cordova Chamber of Commerce for more information.
25. Gray's Harbor, Washington
Each spring, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds stop to rest and feed in Grays Harbor estuary on their migration northward. Coming from as far south as Argentina, these Arctic-bound shorebirds are among the world's greatest migrants. Some birds travel over 15,000 miles round trip! Tens of thousands of shorebirds feed on the open mudflats in the estuary. This concentration of birds offers people a great chance to view a number of shorebird species, and with luck, to see the birds fly together in beautiful formations while trying to escape the fastest creature on earth, the Peregrine Falcon.
Visit the Gray's Harbor Shorebird Festival web site for more information or stop by the Gray's Harbor Audubon Society web site.
How about a break?
Up for a little fun? Visit Birdzilla Games. In this version of Hangman, you'll have to guess the name of a popular birding location.
Another good source of birding locations is the Explorer's Map on the Bird IQ web site. There you will find a list of festivals, birding locations, bird observatories and special events, from Canada to South America.