Birdwatching is a truly rewarding pastime, whether you’re a die-hard ‘bird nerd’ or just an aspiring ornithologist. Most seasoned birdwatchers will tell you that Africa, Australia, and Central America are the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of our feathered friends, and they have a point ― but there are plenty of prime birding spots here in the United States, as well.
Big Bend National Park (Texas)
Big Bend is a perfect storm of avian activity; bird species from the Northern U.S. and Canada flock to the West Texas national park during the winter months, while tropical fliers migrate to Big Bend to cool off during the spring. Visitors can see a variety of hawks, doves, hummingbirds, swallows, and flycatchers ― and if you’re lucky, you might spot a gray catbird or a golden eagle.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (New Mexico)
Nestled in central New Mexico near the town of San Antonio, this refuge is home to dozens of bird species ― although the residents will change from month-to-month. During the first three months of the year, visitors will see numerous waterfowl (particularly snow geese), woodpeckers and sapsuckers, and birds of prey.
Cape May Bird Observatory (New Jersey)
Warblers and shorebirds comprise the most commonly spotted species at the Cape May Bird Observatory, but hundreds of species are listed in the site’s birding checklist; the observatory is also a great spot to see butterflies, if that’s your thing. The Northwood Center is open year-round, although the Center for Research and Education is only open to visitors between the months of March and May.
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Florida)
For a fee of just $1, hikers and bikers can check out this gorgeous spread of land on Florida’s Sanobel Island; for vehicles, the fee is $5. December to March is the best time for birders to visit, although anyone who visits outside the summer months will catch an eyeful of the local wildlife. Pelicans, wood storks, herons, and anhingas are commonly spotted ― as are the refuge’s resident alligators.
Snake River Valley (Idaho)
Nicknamed ‘The Magic Valley’, the Snake River basin features plenty of golden eagles, great blue herons, and other birds that make their living in and around the canyon walls. Hagerman Wildlife Management Area is the best spot to view wintering waterfowl, while the ponds and cattail marshes of Billingsley State Park are home to dozens of different species.
Steele Birdi ng Drive (North Dakota)
Situated in the heart of North Dakota, the town of Steele is a major birding hotspot. Visitors who participate in the Steele Birding Drive can choose from three different routes that correspond to three nearby wildlife refuges (Chase Lake, Long Lake, and Slade). Snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, and white-winged crossbills are just a few of the local denizens; the best times to visit are April and May (for spring migration) and August to October (for fall migration).
By Brad Nehring