Scenic Bird Watching Destinations Ranked

Barn owl in its natural habitat perched on the camera of a bird photographer

Bird watching is a popular pastime, especially when you’re on vacation! Birders explore natural landscapes and learn about each majestic species. To help you decide where to bird watch next, check out our list. We’ve ranked and rated the best places for bird watching in the United States.

Each destination is unique, so we’ve ranked them based on Seed Stats: Bird Diversity 🐦, Photo Opportunities and Scenery 📷, Bird-Related Events 🗓, and Birding Organizations 👥. Here they are in descending order:

8. Seney Township, Michigan


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥


It’s no surprise bird watching in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is one of the most scenic experiences. Settle in with your camera at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. If you like to hike, follow the Superior Birding Trail. It runs between the refuge and Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. Join fellow birders anywhere along the 150-mile trail. Look for local trumpeter swans, nesting loons, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and more. Along with the 337 recorded bird species, you might spot nearly 100 kinds of butterflies, too.

Plan your trip: Spring is the best season for senior travelers to bird here. The season welcomes the return migration of sandhill cranes and sharp-tailed grouse. They usually visit during the Spring Fling at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. Every season has lots of bird and wildlife activity, and Michigan Audubon is a great place to start. Book one of our Seney hotels and pack your camera!

 

7. Kempton, Pennsylvania


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥
BONUS Accessible for Disabled Birders*: ♿


Want to really get away on your next birding excursion? Kempton is a small community in Albany Township. Here, you’re more likely to encounter a unique species of bird than a local resident. Don’t believe us? Kempton’s population is approximately 170 humans. Meanwhile, the area’s bird sightings include close to 250 species! In fact, raptors are the most common residents. While you’re here, head to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, named after one of the species you’re likely to see here. Be sure to follow Pinnacle Trail though the sanctuary for a great birding hike. Silhouette Trail to Lookout Point is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, as are the sanctuary’s buildings and the Native Plant Garden.

Plan your trip: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a community resource. Ornithological experts and volunteers lead eco-tours throughout Eastern Pennsylvania. The sanctuary also hosts events all year, such as the annual Birds and Brew Festival. Find your Kempton hotel and enjoy the trip!

 

6. Klamath Falls, Oregon


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥
BONUS Accessible for Disabled Birders*: ♿


In Southern Oregon’s high desert, the horizon seems endless. It’s perfect for getting snapshots of the 350 species of bird that call the region home. Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge straddles parts of Oregon and northeastern California. The Klamath Basin Birding Trail offers a peaceful experience for birders. The Wood River Wetland, Crystal Springs, and Rocky Point areas are wheelchair accessible. Look for eagles, raptors, and waterfowl as well as mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Plan your trip: In February 2019, the Winter Wings Festival celebrated 40 years. Birders sighted 121 different species during the event. Join the 2020 event and see if you can break the record! Hunting is allowed in the parks and refuge, so be sure to avoid hunting areas and seasons. Check out hotels in Klamath, Oregon and start planning.

 

5. Las Cruces, New Mexico


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥 👥


The state’s beautiful biodiversity is one reason they call it the Land of Enchantment. You could encounter as many as 350 species of birds in the Mesilla Valley. These include hummingbirds, nuthatches, juncos, warblers, chickadees, towhees, goldfinches, vireos, robins, and others. Known to locals as the Old Refuge, Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park is a popular birding spot. Want to keep exploring? Follow the Southwest New Mexico Birding Trail around the region.

Plan your trip: Audubon New Mexico and the local chapter, Mesilla Valley Audubon Society, have great online information. Join their email list for updates on events and guided field trips for birders. Mesilla Valley Audubon Society is another excellent resource for hyperlocal birding advice. There are always great things to do in Las Cruces. Browse hotels in Las Cruces and book your dream trip.

 

4. Cape May, New Jersey


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥


Bird watching in Cape May is a must for any senior traveler. You’ll find spots where photography is a major part of the birding culture. At Higbee Beach, sight more than a million migratory birds each year. See if you can identify the 325 unique species that make their habitat in Cape May. These include hawks, warblers, shorebirds, waterfowl, swallows, wrens, sparrows, and buntings. Visit September through October for the raptor migration. Or see the shorebirds on their annual journey May through June.

Plan your trip: New Jersey Audubon and the Cape May Bird Observatory will be your number one resource. Check out the Cape May Spring Festival and Cape May Fall Festival. They celebrate the region’s fowl, flora, and foliage during major migrations. And don’t miss next year’s World Series of Birding. It’s a 24-hour marathon of nature conservation and bird photography. Browse hotels in Cape May and book a great stay.

 

3. Chicago, Illinois


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥
BONUS Accessible for Disabled Birders*: ♿


There’s no need to stray far from the city when you go birdwatching in Chicago. The area is habitat to more than 300 species of birds and it’s a uniquely urban backdrop for photographers. Head to Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, on the banks of Lake Michigan. You’ll be surrounded by rare and migratory birds, including the black-tailed gull. Don’t miss the Magic Hedge, which seems to cast a spell to attract the sanctuary’s feathered friends! Chicago Botanic Garden is another birding hot spot with events for all skill levels.

Plan your trip: Chicago Ornithological Society hosts several birding events. You’ll find guided bird walks and workshops for varying ages and experience levels. Not sure when to visit? There are plenty of things to do in Chicago year-round. Spring and autumn are busy migration seasons. Meanwhile, winter is also a great time for birding, because the birds are more visible. Ready to travel? Book one of our Chicago hotels.

 

2. Everglades National Park, Florida


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥 👥
BONUS Accessible for Disabled Birders*: ♿


Near some of South Florida’s best beach cities, Everglades National Park is great for birding. More than 360 species of birds have been spotted in the park so far. No wonder this was a favorite destination for John James Audubon! You’ll have no problem seeing several for yourself at the local lookout spots and trails. Looking for wheelchair-accessible birding places? Check out Anhinga Trail and Mahogany Hammock Trail. Both trails offer gorgeous views whatever your range of mobility may be.

Plan your trip: There are many fun things to do in Homestead. Everglades Birding Festival flies through the region, landing in Davie every January. Join a birding tour or field trip with the Tropical Audubon Society or the South Florida Audubon Society. Many of the tours are even led by bilingual ornithologists. Stay in one of our Homestead hotels to be close to the Everglades.

 

1. San Diego, California


Seed Stats:
Diversity: 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦 🐦
Photo Ops and Scenery: 📷 📷 📷 📷 📷
Events: 🗓 🗓 🗓
Birding Organizations: 👥 👥 👥 👥
BONUS Accessible for Disabled Birders*: ♿


Make sure to put bird watching in San Diego near the top of your list. The city and surrounding area are home to more than 520 bird species. And it is a beautiful beachfront destination for avid bird photographers. There’s no need to venture far from the city center. You’ll find spots in areas such as Ocean Beach, Crown Point, Fiesta Island, La Jolla, and Mission Trails. The rest of the county is also brimming with gorgeous photo ops. Explore San Elijo Lagoon and the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Plan your trip: Want to get the most out of your birding trip? Check out fun activities in San Diego. The San Diego Audubon Society and San Diego Field Ornithologists also offer things to do. Plus, you can plan ahead to attend the next San Diego Bird Festival, every February and March. Book one of our San Diego hotels and head to the coast!

Did we include your favorite birding destination? Plan your next birding getaway around special events, activities, and organizations. And don’t forget your camera!

*This reflects the information available online. If you represent one of the points of interest featured in this article and feel this does not accurately portray its disability access, please let us know so that we can all provide more thorough resources for disabled travelers.


Header image via Don Mammoser/Shutterstock.com

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