The pandemic encouraged everyone to pick up new hobbies, especially those that bring us outdoors and help us connect with nature. Bird watching is one such pastime that saw a boom across the U.S. and is now more popular than ever, especially with millennials. Here are the top destinations across the nation on every birders’ must-see list.
1. Cape May, New Jersey
If you like to pair your birding sessions with a day on the beach, Cape May is the place for you. You’ll be able to find hawks and other raptors in September and October as well as shorebirds in May and June all feeding on coastal animals and taking flight en masse. At the furthest tip of the Cape you’ll even find the Cape May Bird Observatory, home to world renowned bird experts who are happy to give a tour to visitors.
2. Toledo, Ohio
Ohio may not be a top tourist destination, but it is certainly a must-go for birders. Toledo is home to the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival which takes place on the shores of Lake Eerie. Every May, 300 species of warblers travel from South America and converge at the lake to fatten up before continuing their trip to Canada.
3. Point Reyes National Seashore, California
At yet another gorgeous seashore destination, birders stroll through a vast protected area near the San Andreas fault line, where a variety of habitats such as estuaries, wetlands, and grasslands support over 500 species of birds including the endangered (and very cute) Snowy Plover.
4. Tucson, Arizona
Saguaro National Park is a site itself, but birders love the area since it is home to bird species that can’t be seen anywhere else. Long-time birders have formed a helpful community in the area and plenty have started bird tour companies to help people fill their bird logs throughout the seasons. Depending on what time of year you visit, you can spot varied, colorful Hummingbirds migrating north from Mexico, cactus dwellers such as the Gilded Flicker and Woodpecker, giant Owls, and beautiful Warblers, Sparrows, and Flycatchers galore.
5. New York, New York
It may surprise you that the concrete jungle is a fantastic place to see tons of species in a short amount of time. Birders flock to Central Park and other green spaces where birds migrating along the Atlantic flyway take much needed pit stops to eat. Using an app like eBird is a great way to see what types of birds fellow enthusiasts are spotting and where throughout the city.
6. Homer, Alaska
While not as easily accessible as the other areas on our list, Alaska offers a huge array of unique bird species. Bald Eagles are as common as pigeons are in New York, but there are some species you won’t find anywhere else on the massive state’s shores. Homer in particular hosts the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival every May to welcome hundreds of thousands of migrating birds of over 25 species. If you stick around until June, you’ll see the endemic Sandhill Cranes raise their young. Grab binoculars and take a taxi boat into the bay to visit Gull Island, a rock covered in different gull species as well as adorable Tufted Puffins, Egrets, Cormorants, and more.