Friday, August 17, 2007

>>Where to Bird

Check out the CLO staff's favorite birding spots—our favorite birding locations across the country.

Where to Bird

Check out 50 favorite birding spots recommended by Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff.

  • What makes them special
  • Geographic location
  • Habitat description
  • When to go
  • Birds to look for

Our birding hotspots run the gamut from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado to the more intimate Malloryville Nature Conservancy Preserve near Dryden, NY. Each of these areas offers the chance to see both rare and locally common birds in a beautiful natural setting.


Resurrection Bay (MP)

Location: Southcentral Alaska
Why Special: Long days for birding, incredible scenery, salmon bakes.
Habitat: Open water surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and 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

Gambell (JF)

Location: St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
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 4 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.

Volcanos NP (JG)

Location: Hawai'i, Hawai'i
Why Special: Where else can you see a tropical rainforest, volcanic scrub, a tropical ocean and a live volcano in the US? (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.

Ellensburg, Washington area (WH)

Location: East of Seattle, Washington on Interstate 90
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

Olympic Peninsula (JG)

Location: Washington
Why Special: Western birds and if the birds aren't there, the landscape more then makes up for it.
Habitat: Ocean, coniferous and deciduous forest, tundra
When To Go: Spring and summer
Birds to Look For: Can't narrow it down!

Hoh Rainforest (BC)

Location: Hoh River Valley, Olympic National Park, WA
Why Special: Amazing temperate rainforest
Habitat: Temperate rainforest
When To Go: Summer
Birds to Look For: Rufous Hummingbird, Gray Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and the beautiful ethereal tones of Varied Thrush singing from the tops of enormous Sitka Spruce

Willapa Bay (JE)

Location: south coast of Washington State
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, and late August to September
Birds to Look For: Large flocks of Short-billed Dowitchers, Whimbrel and Black-bellied Plover can be seen near Bay Center, WA. Also throughout the bay are large flocks of peeps (perhaps best seen from Leadbetter State Park, WA); almost any species of shore-bird expected in the area could be found here. 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.

Malheur Natl Wildlife Refuge (JE)

Location: Malheur Co, Oregon
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, and some riparian woodland.
When To Go: Go in mid-spring and fall for migrants, and 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 100s 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.

Waldo Lake (JE)

Location: Lane County, Oregon
Why Special: Amazing Scenery, good potential for boreal birds
Habitat: Mountain forest, on the wetter side of the Cascade Mountains, often including burned areas. The lake itself is one of the clearest in the world.
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)

Steens Mountain (JE)

Location: Malheur Co. Oregon
Why Special: A huge, tipped block of stone towering over the Alvord Desert at approx. 9700 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.

South Jetty of the Columbia River (JE)

Location: Clatsop Co, Oregon
Why Special: A great place both for shorebirds and seabirds, as well as a great migrant trap for anything.
Habitat: Open Coast, Tidal estuary, and coastal shore 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.

Panoche Valley (MP)

Location: Central California
Why Special: Easily birded area for birds 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.

San Gabriel Mountains (AW)

Location: Outside Los Angeles, California
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: The birding here is good year-round, but in winter, many higher-elevation roads are inaccessible due to snow.
Birds to Look For: White-headed Woodpecker, Mountain Quail, Pygmy Nuthatch, Clark’s Nutcracker, Long-eared Owl

Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP (JG)

Location: California
Why Special: Birds and TREES
Habitat: Coniferous and deciduous forest
When To Go: Spring
Birds to Look For: White-headed Woodpecker: wow, what a bird, especially when seen on a giant sequoia!

Monterey Bay (WH)

Location: Coastal California southwest of San Francisco
Why Special: Imagine having to avert your gaze from a swarm of ocean-going birds visiting the northern hemisphere from their Austral nesting grounds in order see a blue whale or sea turtle. For a typically land-locked bird watcher the richness of life on the open ocean can be surprising. On the west coast of North America oceanic birds are most accessible on pelagic birding trips on Monterey Bay, most of which leave from the city of Monterey. The on-shore birding isn’t bad either, with birds like Wrentit and Yellow-billed Magpie present in appropriate habitats.
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

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (TG)

Location: Near Huntington Beach, California
Habitat: Coastal wetland
Birds to Look For: Numerous shorebirds, terns, waterfowl, Black-necked Stilt, Brown Pelicans, etc. Also has Peregrine Falcon.

Back Bay Newport (also called Upper Newport Bay) (TG)

Location: Southern California
Habitat: tidal estuary
When To Go: autumn through spring
Birds to Look For: attracts a wide range of waterfowl, shorebirds, rails, raptors, songbirds.

Point Reyes (TG)

Location: California (north of San Francisco)
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: migration

Bear River National Wildlife Refuge (WH)

Location: west of Brigham City, Utah
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

Rocky Mountain National Park, (MP) (TG)

Location: Estes Park, CO
Why Special: There’s nothing like compiling your day’s checklist of birds at the Estes Park Brewery. (MP) I love to spend time in the high country here, above the treeline in an area of alpine tundra; can see herds of elk (TG)
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, and on the rivers are American Dippers.


Saguaro National Park (east unit) and adjacent sites (WH)

Location: Just west of Tucson, Arizona
Why Special: This part of Saguaro National Park is as good as any to explore, but nestled on one side is the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum in which wild birds are as tame and approachable as the captive ones. The combination of interpretive efforts of the national park and Desert Museum provide a thorough introduction not just to desert birds but the Sonoran Desert in general.
Habitat: Sonoran desert
When To Go: any time of year…just bird early in the day (high midday temps)
Birds to Look For: Black-chinned Sparrow (winter), Greater Roadrunner, Scott’s Oriole (summer), Costa’s Hummingbird, Gambel’s Quail

East side of Huachuca Mountains (WH)

Location: Southeast of Tucson, Arizona; Sierra Vista is the closest larger town
Why Special: There are several “sky islands” rising out of the desert of southeastern Arizona all of which hold several species of principally Mexican bird species, but the Huachuca Mountains are my favorite because there are several different areas to explore, all 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

Mogollon Rim, Arizona (WH)

Location: South and east of Flagstaff
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. The elevation of the plateau, and rapid elevation drop make 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

Chiricahua Mountains/Cave Creek Canyon /Sky Islands region (MP) (JG) (BC)

Location: Southeastern Arizona around Portal
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 and 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

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge (BC)

Location: Planet Ranch area, near Lake Havasu, AZ
Why Special: Amazing spot
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 and California Black Rail, all in surprising abundance

Palm Canyon, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (BC)

Location: near Quartzite, AZ
Why Special: Beautiful desert views, migrant trap in spring, also amazing sunsets
Habitat: desert
When To Go: Spring
Birds to Look For: Scott's Orioles and Black-throated Sparrow

Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (MR)

Location: An hour or so south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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: Best between Thanksgiving and early February. Time of day: get there before dawn to watch the Snow Geese lift off en masses. 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)

Gila National Forest - Black Range and Pinos Altos Mountains (AW)

Location: Near Silver City in southwestern New Mexico
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


Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (WH)

South coast of Texas, near Brownsville
Why Special: Most of the southern Texan habitats, complete with their Mexican specialties, are present in this National Wildlife Refuge, with grassland and coastal habitats present that are not found in any of the other famous Lower Rio Grande birding locations. Within the refuge boundaries it is possible to see a wide assortment of birds, ranging from northern and prairie migrant waterfowl and waders, through southeastern waders like 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

Bentson-Rio Grande Valley State Park (WH) (AW)

Location: Lower Rio Grande River, near McAllen, Texas
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. (WH) It’s one of those legendary birding places that has earned its reputation. The park no longer allows trailer or RV camping but numerous trailer and RV campgrounds are available nearby. Tent camping is still allowed. A World Birding Center is located near the entrance to the park and WBC staff can help visitors enjoy the nearby mind-blowing birding. I remember arriving right before dusk near the tree a pair of Elf Owls were using. There were dozens of birders already there, with scopes and cameras ready. When the tiny owl popped up into the cavity, in full view, there was a collective, “Ooohh.” Added bonus: saw my first free-ranging tarantula here (headed straight for the women’s bathrooms!) (AW) 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, Common Pauraque

Chapinga and Salineno

Location: Texas, just south of Falcon Lake
Why Special: These two locations are ideal for birders looking for great birds but are unable to move around as well as when they were young. Look for the "bird lady" at Chapinga and the beautiful but natural birding locations right on the Rio Grande River.
Just south of Chapinga is a small trailer parker where the Dewinds welcome birders each winter. The area is now owned by the Valley Land Fund.
Why Special: The great mix of both common and rare birds, please the laid back approach.
When to go: November to March is the most productive.
Birds to Look For: Here's a sample.

Big Bend NP (JG)

Location: Texas
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.

High Island (JG)

Location: Texas
Why Special: If you time it right, I don't know any place that will give you better/closer looks at warblers.
Habitat: Hammock forest, fresh and salt marsh and 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.

Santa Ana NWR (JG)

Location: Texas
Why Special:
Never know what you'll see here, always seems to have a rarity or two.
Habitat: Scrub forest, grassland, ponds
When To Go:
Winter and late summer, though I'd go anytime
Birds to Look For: Altimira Oriole, Hook-billed Kite, Ringed Kingfisher, and who knows?

South Padre Island Convention Center (WH)

Location: South Texas coast, northeast of Brownsville on South Padre Island
Why Special: Rails, particularly the elusive Yellow Rail and Black Rail, are much sought after by birders. At this location it is possible to see every single species of U.S. rail, particularly in winter, using a couple of short boardwalks built into the salt marshes that lie between South Padre Island and mainland Texas. Sora and Clapper Rail are particularly visible in winter…even Clapper Rails eating Sora can be seen at the Convention Center. Also Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbill.
Habitat: Coastal saltmarsh
When To Go: Winter, best time determined by the tides (higher is better for flushing the rails out of the salt marsh).
Birds to Look For: Rails, herons, Roseate Spoonbill

Quivira NWR/Cheyenne Bottoms (MP)

Location: Great Bend, KS
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

Lake Fayetteville (MP)

Location: Fayetteville, AR
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: American Woodcock, warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other songbirds in spring, Bald Eagle, Bufflehead, Ruddy Ducks and others in winter, sparrows in fall and winter

Centerton Fish Hatchery (MP)

Location: Centerton, AR
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

Willow Slough State Fish and Wildlife Area (JG)

Location: Indiana
Why Special: A great variety of birds (this is where I started birdwatching)
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 (JG)

Location: Indiana
Why Special: Sandhill Cranes by the thousands
Habitat: Forest, grassland, agricultural fields and ponds
When To Go: Mid-October to November
Birds to Look For: Sandhill Cranes

Hawk Ridge (JE)

Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Why Special: Incredible hawk migration during most of fall.
Habitat: Mixed decid/coniferous woods around the ridge.
When To Go: Go in late September, October or early November.
Birds to Look For: Hawk Ridge is at the south end of the North Shore of Lake Superior, which funnels migrants down the shore in fall. Very large (100,000+) movements of Broad-winged Hawks have occurred here, as well as large movements of Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks. This is a reliable spot late in the season for Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle. Passerine migration can be quite good, with large numbers of birds (sometimes including crossbills and Evening Grosbeak) moving through. Early in fall, large numbers of Common Nighthawks pass by as well.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (JE)

Location: Bloomington, Minnesota (in the Saint Paul/Minneapolis area)
Why Special: It's long and it's urban, and is therefore easily accessible. It protects habitat both for resident breeding species such as Prothontary Warbler and Dickcissel, and for a massive number of migrants of all types, from ducks to wood-warblers.
Habitat: Covers a wide range of habitats, ranging from backwater marshes of the Minnesota River to upland prairies and remnant and restored oak savannah.
When To Go: Go almost any time - there are gulls in the winter at Black Dog Lake, warbler fallouts in spring and fall, and breeding marshbirds in summer.
Birds to Look For: Nesting Prothonotary Warbler, Virginia Rail, Least Bittern, Scarlet Tanager, Dickcissel, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon. Migrant: Over 20 species of wood-warblers, ducks galore. Winter: Gulls of several species, including Minnesota rarities like Iceland Gull, Thayer's Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull. Large concentrations of wintering waterfowl, including Common Merganser, Snow Geese, and goldeneye.

Park Point (Minnesota Point) (JE)

Location: Duluth, Saint Louis County, Minnesota
Why Special: A great migrant trap in fall and spring, both for birds on the lake (Lake Superior), and migrating passerines moving up the shore.
Habitat: Open beach, lake, park, parking lot, and a strip of woods down the middle.
When To Go: The point is best during migration, and is worth checking both early in spring and late in fall.
Birds to Look For: This is one of the best places in Minnesota to find Red-throated Loon. Shorebirds may turn up on the beach, and on the bay side of the point, and scotors (tough to find in MN) may be found in either the bay on the south side or the lake side. Foggy mornings in spring sometimes cause a buildup of migrating passerines on the point, waiting for better weather to cross the lake, and some mornings have 20+ warblers (including Mourning, Golden-winged, and Connecticut), and many other passerine birds.

McGregor Marsh (JE)

Location: McGregor, Aitkin Co, Minnesota
Why Special: A western oasis in eastern Minnesota, with Yellow Rails and Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows
Habitat: Sedge marsh
When To Go: summer, when both of these birds are breeding and calling
Birds to Look For: Yellow Rail is very reliable here, as is Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow. For the former, you have to much further north to find them again, and the latter, north and far west.


Bald Head Cliff (AW)

Location: York, Maine
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. The odd thing about the site is that it is the location of a hotel complex that is little-used in winter so you can drive up and set up a scope near the ocean and still be close to your car for cover. On our 10-hour drive from Maine to Ithaca, NY, after our annual family Christmas holiday visit, we almost always stop here for our fix of harlequins in their incredible colors.
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

Misery Township (AW)

Location: Northwestern Maine
Why Special: This is “bleak” northern wilderness—just right for those highly sought northern birds. It has personal meaning because my first date with the man who is now my husband was a Christmas Bird Count to Misery. It’s even more memorable because the heater boxes in his car at the time—a little VW bug—were rusted out, so we had to choose between carbon monoxide poisoning and freezing our toes (our trip to “Misery” was more than a trip to a township!)
Habitat: Spruce fir forests, tracts of deciduous northern hardwood forests.
When To Go: Year-round, but in winter, Great Gray Owls have visited the area.
Birds to Look For: Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, White-winged Crossbill. In winter, Great Gray Owl (sometimes), Northern Shrike.

Monhegan Island, Maine (AW)

Location: 10 miles off the coast of Maine. Commercial ferries leave out of Tenants Harbor and Boothbay Harbor.
Why Special: In spring and fall, it is a haven for migrants and rare species. Huge numbers of migrants alight all over the island to rest during migration. There are always rarities among them. In winter, it’s a great place to look for alcids, but very cold with whipping winds, so bundle up! Monhegan is such a great birding spot that we spent our honeymoon here.
Habitat: Rocky coast, open ocean, spruce forests, low-growing island vegetation
When To Go: Winter, but especially spring and fall. Throughout the migration seasons, there are lots of birders around so there are many eyes for finding birds.
Birds to Look For: Keep your eyes peeled for anything. The island has had Ivory Gull (in winter), Swallow-tailed Kite, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Clay-colored Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, to name just a few.

Goose Rocks Beach (AW)

Location: Kennebunkport, Maine
Why Special: One of few Maine breeding locations for the endangered Piping Plover and Least Tern. Roseate and Artic terns have bred on the offshore islands, and a small colony of Common Terns have also bred nearby. I spent a few summers working as an innkeeper’s assistant at the only inn near the beach, and birding along the beach after work was always a treat. Fortunately, the residents know about the birds and their plight and 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

Perry Stream and surrounds (SS)

Location: Pittsburg, NH
Why Special: Relatively undisturbed example of northern yellow birch, spruce forest.
Habitat: Bog habitat, boreal forests, birches, mature northern hardwoods, and recently logged areas
When To Go: During peak of blackfly season in May
Birds to Look For: Northern boreal-nesting warblers, Lincoln Sparrows, 3-toed woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadees, and more

Squam Lake (SS)

Location: Central New Hampshire
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

McCrillis Hill (SS)

Location: Center Harbor, NH
Why Special: It's fairyland in the spring--an aspen haven
Habitat: Aspen groves,old fields, and mature northern hardwood forests.
When To Go: May 21
Birds to Look For: Phenomenal place for neotropical migrants

Name Katama Farm (BC)

Location: Edgartown, MA
Why Special: This beautiful preserved meadow is also a stone’s throw from the ocean, with nice salt marsh grasses. Home 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

Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge (Parker River) (SS)

Location: Massachusetts
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

Cape Poge and Wasque on Chappaquidick (BC)

Location: Martha's Vineyard, MA. Southeast corner of the island fronting Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean
Why Special: Great views of both land and water birds.
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

Mays Point Pool at Montezuma NWR (BC)

Location: East Seneca Falls, NY
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 and several “peeps” (sandpipers.

Niagara Falls (AW)

Location: Near Buffalo, NY
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: C’mon, this is Niagara Falls! A fresh-water river featuring some of the most dramatic waterfalls in the world. The falls stir up the water below, and the result is a feeding frenzy.
When To Go: October through December are the gulliest months.
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.

Hawthorn Orchard (CTH)

Location: East Ithaca, NY
Why Special: Phenomenal migrant trap during spring migration under normal migratory conditions. Insectivorous birds descend to feed on the millions of insects attracted to the hawthorn florets; nectar-eating birds descend to feed upon the ample nectar food supply provided by the florets.
Habitat: 75% of the area is covered in solid hawthorn trees, with the rest consisting of buckthorn, apple, pear, white pine, and honeysuckle. This hawthorn orchard reached this state of maturity by selective grazing of cattle, years ago, and is kept in this state by continuous selective grazing by white-tailed deer.
When To Go: Mother's Day weekend (mid-May)
Birds to Look For: Tennesee Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, plus many of the more common migrant species. Other goodies seen there include Golden-winged Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-Breasted Chat, Whip-poor-will, and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. High numbers on a single day have been seen of Nashville (30+), Northern Parula (20+), Black-throated Blue (25+), Bay-breasted (6+), Cape May (6+), Mourning (3), Wilson's (3), Yellow-rumped (70+) Warblers, and American Redstart (25+).
Note: Thanks to the Cayuga Bird Club, there is a website available with information, pictures, bird list, directions, aerial shot, etc.

Malloryville Nature Conservancy Preserve (AW)

Location: Technically part of Dryden, NY, between Ithaca and Cortland.
Why Special: A little bit of northern forest within a 10-minute drive of northeast Ithaca
Habitat: Hemlocks and a 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 are among the breeders. We’ve had Winter Wren and Common Redpoll here.

Mundy Wildflower Garden (BC)

Location: Ithaca NY
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

Lake Ontario Lakefront (MP)

Location: Rochester, NY
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.

Hawk Mountain (TG)

Why Special: I also love this place, for similar reasons as Cape May, though the habitat is completely different.
Mountain ridge with forest all around
When To Go: Fall and spring migration
Birds to Look For: Migrating hawks

Cape May (TG)

Location: New Jersey
Why Special: 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, though you don't see the huge flights of raptors in the spring that you do in the fall
Habitat: Seashore, coastal marshes
When To Go: (Spring) and fall migration
Birds to Look For: Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and other hawks

Turkey Point (BC)

Location: Cumberland County, NJ
Why Special: Great spring migrant spot and great place to listen to nocturnal migrant flyovers.
Habitat: Deciduous woods abutting open expanses of Salt marsh
When To Go: Spring
Birds to Look For: warblers, vireos, cuckoos, Black Rails, clattering Clapper Rails and a huge Black-crowned Night-Heron flyover at dusk

Parvin State Park (BC)

Location: southern NJ
Why Special: Labyrinth of trails provides a really nice place to easily see spring migrants.
Habitat: Mixed pine and deciduous forest with blackwater streams, wetland hollows
When To Go: Spring
Birds to Look For: Prothonotary Warbler and Summer Tanager

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (MP)

Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia
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.
Habitat: Open ocean, salt marshes, beaches and dunes, pine-dominated woodlands
When To Go: Fall, Winter, Spring
Birds to Look For: Migrating shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors, pelagic species and gulls, Saltmarsh and Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrows, an incredible assemblage of Snow Geese

Monticello Park (MP)

Location: Alexandria, VA
Why Special: 15-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 – you’re able to really watch the individual, not just tick off the species.
Habitat: Tall deciduous trees, open understory, creek.
When To Go: Spring
Birds to Look For: Warblers, vireos, thrushes, other passerines

Block Island (SS)

Location: Rhode Island
Why Special: Windy island habitat with an abundance of natural areas and miles of beaches for ideal birding.
Habitat: Mix of sandy beaches, tidal feeding habitats, bluffs, saltwater fields and meadows, with a sprinkling of dense island forests
When To Go: Fall
Birds to Look For: Shorebirds, migrating warblers, peregrines, harriers


Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (WH)

Location: East of Naples, southwestern Florida
Why Special: Corkscrew sticks in my mind because of the approachability of the birds that are there and the old-growth cypress swamp that serves as their backdrop. It’s literally possible to see birds like Anhingas or night-herons a few feet beside, over or even under you. The birds’ tameness lets you not just see a bird, but really watch it and learn what it does for a living.
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)

Anhinga Trail in the Everglades National Park (EIE)

Location: South Florida, Homestead near U.S.1
Why Special: The large diversity of both aquatic and land birds, and that they are so tame and close that is the best place in the US to see in detail the iris color differences between species and among ages in birds!
Habitat: Sawgrass marsh, wet prairie/slough, swamp forest, willow and cattail marshes, alligator holes, hardwood hammocks. Within the sawgrass marsh are channels and ponds of deeper water that contain water year round, except in the driest years. The wider, deeper channels of water are called sloughs, while the smaller ponds are often maintained by alligators and thus are called gator holes.
When To Go: January to March when you have local breeders and lots of migrants such as ducks and passerines. Go early in the morning when there are few tourist and few mosquitos
Birds to Look For: Anhinga, Limpkin, Sora, Glossy Ibis, Purple Gallinule, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis

Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge (AW)

Location: Titusville, Florida
Why Special: This place is saturated with birds and other wildlife, especially during migration and winter. We visited during the Space Coast Birding Festival in November when our son was only 3 _ months old and especially enjoyed cruising around the Black Point Wildlife Drive. Along with hundreds of herons and 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, many species of ducks, shorebirds, herons and egrets, terns, etc.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary (CC)

Location: Dauphin Island, AL
Why Special: Great beach-side birding in a beautiful setting, huge fallouts of migrants
Habitat: lots of habitat types - fresh water lake, beaches, swamp, pine forest, dunes, and hardwoods
When To Go: during spring migration, just before a storm
Birds to Look For: every neotropical migrant!

Little St. Simon's Island (JF) (SS)

Location: near Brunswick, coastal Georgia
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 is fabulous, 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 fly-overs; Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orchard Oriole, Summer Tanager, and Painted Bunting are common breeders

>>Identifying Birds

Learn some of the secrets of bird identification using silhouettes, posture, flight pattern, size and habitat, in addition to key field marks.

How to ID Birds

Are you amazed at how quickly birders can identify birds? Actually, it's just like getting to know your human neighbors. When you move into a new neighborhood everyone is a stranger, but soon you learn to tell people apart as you unconsciously catalog their characteristics. Their habits, shape, styles of walking, and "habitats" become familiar enough that you can recognize each neighbor immediately, even at a distance.

Paying attention to individual differences can help you identify birds, too. You can recognize many birds simply by noting their shapes, even if seen only in silhouette. Other useful characteristics are a bird's posture, size (easiest to judge if you use familiar birds as a size reference), flight pattern and/or head-on flight profile, and the kind of habitat in which the bird
was seen.

Start by learning to identify general groups of birds- warblers, flycatchers, hawks, owls, wrens- whose members all share certain similarities. As your observation skills improve, familiarize yourself with the field marks -- colored or patterned areas on the bird's body, head, and wings -- that help distinguish species.

Identifying Bird Groups by Silhouette

Birds in the same general group often have the same body shape and proportions, although they may vary in size. Silhouette alone gives many clues to a bird's identity, allowing birders to assign a bird to the correct group or even the exact species.
In the above illustration are 23 different birds. How many can you recognize just by their silhouettes? Look carefully - don't miss the ones hiding in the leafy tree!
Pay attention to the following:
  • body shape
  • proportions of the head, legs, wings
  • tail shape
  • length of the bill


  • Medium-sized finch-like songbird with long tail
  • Strongly conical, seed-eating bill
  • Crested head


  • Large size
  • Stout body, medium-length tail
  • Heavy, strong bill

Dabbling Duck

  • Typical duck shape, with heavy body
  • Short tail, held above water's surface
  • Horizontally flattened bill


  • Plump body, with short legs and neck
  • Small head
  • Pointed wings
  • Slight swelling at base of upper bill


  • Small to medium size
  • Conical, seed-eating bill
  • Notched tail


  • Slender body, long tail
  • Strong, slightly curved bill


  • Mid-sized crow-relative with long tail
  • Some have crest on head


  • Small bird of prey
  • Typical streamlined falcon shape, with long pointed wings and long tail
  • Short raptorial (sharply hooked) bill, feet with sharp talons


  • Medium-sized perching bird with relatively large head
  • Broadly-flattened, typical flycatcher bill


  • Large head, often with shaggy crest
  • Very short legs and tail
  • Long, strong, pointed bill

  • Chunky body, short tail
  • Strong legs
  • Straight, strong, pointed bill
  • Long, slender body, long legs and tail
  • Small, slender bill


  • Small size, chunky body, short tail
  • Straight, slightly upturned bill
  • Strong legs and feet
  • Clings to tree trunks, usually head downwards


  • Small to medium-sized shorebird
  • Relatively large head, short neck
  • Short, rather thick bill, sometimes slightly swollen at tip
  • Ground dwelling


  • Chunky, rounded body, with short tail
  • Small head, very short neck
  • Ground dwelling


  • Small nocturnal bird of prey
  • Chunky body, large head
  • Feathered tufts on head resemble ears
  • Upright stance


  • Medium-sized predatory songbird
  • Relatively large head
  • Perches horizontally
  • Bill with strong hook at tip


  • Chunky body, short tail
  • Strong legs and feet
  • Straight bill


  • Small size
  • Very slender body, short legs, and long, pointed wings
  • Small bill with wide gape


  • Small, tree-dwelling bird
  • Small, cylindrical bill (slight hook at tip, visible only at close range)
  • Perches horizontally, often leans forward while foraging


  • Very small, tree-dwelling bird
  • Perches horizontally
  • Slender insect-eating bill


  • Clings to tree trunks, head upwards
  • Uses tail as prop as it hitches its way up tree trunks
  • Strong but short legs and strong feet
  • Straight, strong bill for excavating wood


  • Very small size
  • Compact body, with relatively long legs
  • Thin, slightly curved bill
  • Holds tail upright
  • Skulking habit

Using Field Marks to Identify Birds

In order to describe a bird, ornithologists divide its body into topographical regions: beak (or bill), head, back, wings, tail, and legs. To help with identification, many of these regions are divided still further. This diagram of regions of the bird's body shows some of the commonly used descriptive terms.

Birds display a huge variety of patterns and colors, which they have evolved in part to recognize other members of their own species. Birders can use these features - known as field marks - to help distinguish species.

Pay particular attention to the field marks of the head and the field marks of the wing.

Field Marks of the Head
When identifying an unknown bird, the following field marks of the head are particularly important:
  • Eyebrow stripe (or superciliary line, above the eye)
  • Eyeline (line through the eye)
  • Crown stripe (stripe in the midline of the head)
  • Eyering (ring of color around eye)
  • Throat patch
  • Color of the lore (area between base of beak and eye)
  • Whisker mark (also called mustache or malar stripe)
  • Color of upper and lower beak
  • Presence or absence of crest
Beak shape and size are also important identifying characteristics.

Field Marks of the Wing
In a few groups, notably warblers and vireos, the presence of wing markings gives positive identification even if the bird is in non-breeding plumage. In other groups, such as flycatchers and sparrows, the absence of any wing markings may be an important distinguishing characteristic. Note the presence or absence of the following:
  • Wingbars
  • Wing patches


Striking a Pose

Posture clues can help place a bird in its correct group. Watch an American Robin, a common member of the thrush family, strut across a yard. Notice how it takes several steps, then adopts an alert, upright stance with its breast held forward. Other thrushes have similar postures, as do larks and shorebirds.

Vertical Posture

Certain bird groups have distinctive vertical posture when perched on a branch. Flycatchers, hawks, and owls typically sit in an upright pose with tails pointing straight down.

Horizontal Posture

Other birds perch horizontally on vegetation with tails pointing out at an angle, for instance vireos, shrikes, crows, and warblers.

Distinguishing Similar Birds

Distant perched crows and hawks may look alike, but paying attention to their different postures may help to tell them apart. The Red-tailed Hawk perches upright, whereas the similarly-sized American Crow perches horizontally.

Once you have assigned a bird to its correct group, size can be a clue to its actual species. Be aware, though, that size can be difficult to determine in the field, especially under poor lighting conditions or at a distance. Size comparisons are most useful when the unknown bird is seen side-by-side with a familiar species. In the absence of that, you can use the sizes of well-known birds, such as the House Sparrow, American Robin, and American Crow, as references when trying to identify an unfamiliar bird.


A crow-sized woodpecker would be a Pileated, but one the size of a sparrow might be a Downy Woodpecker (or a Ladder-backed Woodpecker in the Southwest).

Confusing Coloration:
A yellow-and-black finch smaller than a sparrow is probably an American Goldfinch. Evening Grosbeaks have similar colors and patterns, but are almost robin-sized.

In-between Sizes:

Sometimes you need two reference birds for comparison. A Cedar Waxwing is bigger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin. A Blue Jay is larger than a robin but smaller than a crow.

Flight Pattern

Most birds fly in a straight line, flapping in a constant rhythm, but certain bird groups have characteristic flight patterns that can help identify them. Birds of prey may be identified by the characteristic way they hold their wings when viewed flying toward you. Here are some useful identification tips:

Up-and-down Flight Pattern

Finches exhibit a steep, roller-coaster flight, whereas woodpeckers generally fly in a pattern of moderate rises and falls.

Flapping Versus Gliding

Flying accipiters such as Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, and Northern Goshawks typically make several wing flaps followed by a glide. Buteos, such as the Red-tailed Hawk, are usually seen soaring. Dashed lines indicate flapping, solid lines soaring.

Crow Versus Raven

Flight patterns can sometime distinguish similar species. The American Crow, for instance, flies with deliberate, flapping wingbeats. The similar Common Raven often alternates flapping with hawk-like soaring.

Head-on Flight Profiles

Head-on flight profiles may also give identity clues. Soaring Turkey Vultures may look like hawks, but they hold their wings in a shallow V-shape, whereas most hawks and eagles hold their wings out flat. Black Vultures also have a flatter, more hawk-like profile. Northern Harriers hold their wings in more of a V-shape, but their slow, flapping flight near the ground generally gives away their identity. Notice how the Bald Eagle's profile is even more flat than that of a typical hawk, such as the Red-tailed Hawk.


In general, each species of bird occurs only within certain types of habitat. And each plant community - whether abandoned field, mixed deciduous/coniferous forest, desert, or freshwater marsh, for instance - contains its own predictable assortment of birds. Learn which birds to expect in each habitat. You may be able to identify an unfamiliar bird by eliminating from consideration species that usually live in other habitats. (Be aware, though, that during spring and fall migration birds often settle down when they get tired and hungry, regardless of habitat.)

Below are some common birds of common plant communities. As you'll see, bird groups such as sparrows, wrens, hawks, and warblers are common to each community, but the actual species differ depending on the habitat.

Abandoned Field

Agricultural fields no longer used for farming form an "old field" habitat as they slowly revert to forest. In the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic states, the original grasses are replaced with plants such as goldenrod, mullein, asters, and brambles (blackberry). Thickets of woody shrubs - such as honeysuckle and multiflora rose - develop, mixed with small trees such as red cedar, black locust and hawthorn. Birds found there include Field Sparrow, House Wren, Red-tailed Hawk, and Blue-winged Warbler.

Mixed Deciduous / Coniferous Forest

In a broad band stretching from the Great Lakes region eastward to New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, the southern deciduous woodlands and the coniferous forests of the north meet and intermingle. There broad-leafed trees such as oaks, hickories, beeches, and maples mix with conifers such as spruces, firs, and hemlocks. Birds that live there include Winter Wren, Northern Goshawk, White-throated Sparrow, and Black-throated Green Warbler.

Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert is a hot, dry region covering 120,000 square miles in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California, as well as most of Baja California and the western half of the state of Sonora, Mexico. Tall saguaro cactus and spiny cholla cactus are common, mixed with trees such as ironwoods and palo verdes, and shrubs such as saltbush, creosote bush, and mesquite. Black-throated Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Harris's Hawk, and Lucy's Warbler can be found there.

Freshwater Marsh

A freshwater marsh is a treeless wetland whose shallow water supports dense stands of mostly emergent plants (rooted in mud but with most of their foliage above water). Marshes are found throughout North America, often forming when ponds and shallow lakes fill in, although beavers may also play an important role in their formation. Typical vegetation includes cattails, bulrushes, sedges and reeds. In deeper pools submerged and floating aquatic plants occur, including water lilies, pondweed, arrowhead, duckweed, smartweed, bladderwort, pickerel-weed, water-shield, and sweet flag. Bands of shrubs such as alder and willow occur at drier marsh edges. Swamp Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Marsh Wren, and Common Yellowthroat are typical residents.


Welcome! You've joined the millions of people worldwide who enjoy watching birds!
Have you always wondered how experienced birders can confidently identify birds with just a glimpse? We'll help you learn the identification skills you need by describing the characteristics birders pay particular attention to in the field.
Wondering where to go to find birds? The best place to start birding is locally—in your own backyard or neighborhood park. But if you're yearning for parts unknown, we'll share with you some of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff's favorite birding spots in North America.
Looking for a way to use your birding observations to help birds? We invite you to become a participant in one of the Lab's many Citizen Science projects.