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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

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  • Photograph of Red-winged Blackbird

    Red-winged Blackbird at Point Pelee by Steve Rogers.

    NORTH AMERICA

    The destinations listed and linked below are the ones we believe are the best in North America. They have been chosen very carefully and for a multitude of reasons, but mainly based on personal experience of some of them and on dreams of visiting the rest, dreams resulting from what we have heard, read or seen.

    It is our intention to update this list regularly as we add destinations and it was last updated on the 13th of September 2016.

    If there are any other destinations you think should be on the list below then please Email us. Those that have not made it so far include the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada, and the states of Montana, Virginia and West Virginia.

    The destinations are listed alphabetically with very brief, usually one-line, summaries for those linked to more detailed pages (to reach these pages click on the destination name). Those not linked to more detailed pages are described in a bit more detail here, in italics.

    For more information see Top 100 Birds, Top 100 Other Wildlife and Top 50 Other Natural Wonders.

    Destinations

    A

    Alaska
    Grizzly Bear, Beluga, Moose and millions of seabirds on the Pribilof Islands.

    Alaska - Southeast
    A chance to see Humpback Whales bubble-net feeding, as well as Grizzly and Black Bears.

    Alberta - Canada
    Black and possibly Grizzly Bears, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat and Pronghorn.

    Arctic Canada
    Polar Bear, Walrus, Narwhal, Bowhead Whale, Beluga and Musk Ox make this A Top Ten Destination.

    Arizona (Southeastern) - USA
    Southeastern Arizona supports a greater variety of breeding birds than any other area of comparable size in North America (about 190 species). Several Central American species have ranges which extend north into the area, including Zone-tailed Hawk, Elegant Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Mexican Chickadee, Painted Redstart, and Grace's, Olive and Red-faced Warblers. It is also the best place for nightbirds in North America with over ten species of owl and at least three of nightjar usually present and best looked for during May, including Western and Whiskered Screech Owls, Elf and Flammulated Owls, Northern (Mountain) Pygmy Owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will and Common Poorwill. May is also a good time to look for some of Southeastern Arizona's 15 species of hummingbird although late July-early August, during the 'second spring' which follows the beginning of the rainy season, is even better. Many can be seen at the numerous feeding stations, including Blue-throated, Magnificent and Violet-crowned. Most of the hummingbirds (and trogons) leave during the winter when many Sandhill Cranes, raptors and longspurs are present and there is a chance of the nomadic Lawrence's Goldfinch. Southeastern Arizona is also a great place for vagrants from Mexico, with anything from Eared Quetzal to Aztec Thrush possible.

    Northern Arizona is a beautiful part of the world thanks to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and other Red Rock formations, and therefore great country to bird in, in search of high-desert and mountain specialities, many not normally encountered in Southeastern Arizona, including California Condor, which was reintroduced to the Grand Canyon in 1996, Lewis's Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird, Clark's Nutcracker and Pinyon Jay. A top site for mammals is the Aubrey Valley west of Seligman where spotlighting at night may reveal Black-footed Ferret, American Badger, Collared Peccary (Javelina), Gunnison's Prairie Dog, Pronghorn, Coyote and Ord's Kangaroo Rat.

    B

    Baffin Island - Canada
    The best place in the world for Narwhal, plus a chance of Walrus, Beluga and Bowhead Whale.

    Bahamas
    One of the best places in the world to swim with dolphins, as well as sharks and Sting Rays.

    Bosque del Apache (New Mexico) - USA
    Tens of thousands of Snow Geese and thousands of Sandhill Cranes wintering.

    British Columbia (Western Canada)
    Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon and Killer Whales make this A Top Ten Destination.

    C

    California (Northern) - USA
    The tallest, largest and oldest trees in the world, Humpback and possibly Blue Whales, and Yosemite.

    California (Southern) - USA
    A wide range of habitats in a small, often scenic, area means Southern California is a top birding destination. Mountains, pine-oak woods, chaparral, deserts, shoreline and ocean combine to support a great diversity of birds including two endemics (Island Scrub Jay and Yellow-billed Magpie) and several specialities; Black-vented Shearwater (off La Jolla Cove), Brown Booby (on cliffs at La Jolla - now breeding on Los Coronados Islands south of San Diego), Scripps’s (Xantus's) Murrelet, Yellow-footed Gull, Allen’s Hummingbird, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, California Thrasher, California Gnatcatcher (San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Preserve), Wrentit, the nomadic Lawrence's Goldfinch, California Towhee and Tricoloured Blackbird, while other spectacular species include Heermann's Gull, Black Skimmer, Burrowing Owl and Greater Roadrunner. The best times to look for these birds are late April-early May and during the winter when there are thousands of Snow Geese (with Ross's Geese), hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and lots of Mountain Plovers around the southern end of the Salton Sea which is the only regular location for Yellow-footed Gull in the United States, although they are rare in winter (numbers usually peak during late summer). 'Desert' Bighorn Sheep occur in Anza-Borrego SP along with Dulzura and Merriam's Kangaroo Rats.

    Canada - Alberta
    Black and possibly Grizzly Bears, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat and Pronghorn.

    Canada - Arctic
    Polar Bear, Walrus, Narwhal, Bowhead Whale, Beluga and Musk Ox make this A Top Ten Destination.

    Canada - Baffin Island
    The best place in the world for Narwhal, plus a chance of Walrus, Beluga and Bowhead Whale.

    Canada - Eastern (New Brunswick-Nova Scotia)
    Fin, Northern Right and a chance of Humpback Whales, seabirds, shorebirds and warblers.

    Canada - Manitoba
    The greatest concentration of Polar Bears in the world, during October.

    Canada - Newfoundland
    Humpback Whales and spectacular seabird colonies.

    Canada - Point Pelee (Ontario)
    A migration bottleneck in spring, great for up to 30 species of New World warblers.

    Canada - Quebec
    See Quebec, below.

    Canada - Western (British Columbia)
    Grizzly Bears fishing for salmon and Killer Whales make this A Top Ten Destination.

    Cape May, New Jersey - USA
    Cape May is one of the best places on Earth to experience visible bird migration. During the autumn/fall birds from a huge area of northern North America pass through this peninsula at the southern end of the state of New Jersey, 160 miles south of New York, before continuing south. Small bird migration usually peaks during the middle two weeks of September and the main period of migration for all species usually lasts between mid-September and mid-October and includes waterbirds, shorebirds, raptors, warblers, vireos, sparrows and buntings. They may occur in astonishing numbers if there has been a 'fallout', usually after wet cold fronts sweep across the cape from the northwest. During such times there are also likely to be lots of Northern Flickers, Blue Jays and Tree Swallows, and plenty of Belted Kingfishers, while the freshwater and saltwater marshes and beaches also support a few Bald Eagles and hundreds of Black Skimmers. The best sites, crowded with birders during peak season, are Higbee Beach WMA (especially for passage migrant passerines early morning, in what is known as the 'morning flight' when nocturnal migrants flit north and west over the dike in search of roosting and foraging sites for the day), Cape May Point SP (for waterbirds, shorebirds, migrating raptors (the Cape May Bird Observatory's hawk watch platform is here) and the 'morning flight' over the dunes), and Edwin B. Forsythe (formerly Brigantine) NWR, about 50 miles north of Cape May (for waterbirds, shorebirds and raptors).

    Although most famous for the autumn/fall migration it is also worth considering visiting Cape May during the spring, when: the spawning of tens of thousands of Horseshoe Crabs in Delaware Bay takes place, their eggs in turn providing food for thousands of passage migrant shorebirds (the spawning usually peaks during the last week of May); over 20 species of warbler may be seen, with nesting and passage migrant species both singing (the greatest variety of warblers and other small migrants usually occurs during the first half of May, especially on overcast days with southwesterly winds); and freshwater and saltwater marshes and beaches support the rare Piping Plover, as well as Bald Eagle and Black Skimmer.

    For information on Cape May Bird Observatory, the annual Cape May Autumn Birding Festival (usually held in late October) and the annual 24-hour fundraising birdrace known as the World Series of Birding (usually held in early May) see the New Jersey Audubon website.

    Colorado - USA
    Seven species of displaying grouse in spring, plus Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Pronghorn.

    D

    Dakota, North - USA
    See North Dakota, below

    F

    Florida - USA
    West Indian Manatee, waterbirds, Swallow-tailed and Snail Kites, and the endemic Florida Scrub Jay.

    M

    Maine
    From late May to late June in Maine (and New Hampshire), the peak of the breeding season where many species reach their northernmost or southernmost limits, it is possible to see thousands of seabirds such as Great Shearwater, Leach's and Wilson's Petrels (all three as well as Fin Whales in 'the Ballpark', a rich area of upwelling accessible, along with Petit Manan Island, on half-day boat trips out of Bar Harbor), and Atlantic Puffin (on Machias Seal and Petit Manan Islands), Ruffed and Spruce Grouse, Bald Eagle, 'Eastern' Willet, Upland Sandpiper, Blue-headed Vireo, lots of flycatchers, Blue and Grey Jays, Boreal Chickadee, several thrushes including Bicknell’s (at Jefferson Notch/Mount Washington in the White Mountains, just across the state border in New Hampshire) and up to 25 species of warbler including Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided and Magnolia, as well as, possibly, American Woodcock, Piping Plover and Black-backed Woodpecker, while other mammals include Moose, Eastern Chipmunk and Snowshoe Hare, with a chance of Atlantic White-sided Dolphin (especially in September) out of Bar Harbor.

    Manitoba - Canada
    The greatest concentration of Polar Bears in the world, during October.

    Massachusetts - USA
    Humpback Whales and seabirds during the summer.

    Minnesota
    The boreal bogs and forests of northern Minnesota, especially Sax-Zim Bog and the Superior National Forest north of Duluth, are famous for Great Grey Owls, although there are not many of them and they can be difficult to find. It is probably easier to find them during the extremely cold winter months when it is also possible to see Boreal (Tengmalm's), Hawk and Snowy Owls, Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, and Hoary (Arctic) Redpoll, as well as white Short-tailed Weasel (Stoat) at some of the several feeding stations. Looking for them in early June it is also possible to see over 20 species of warbler including Blackburnian, Canada, Cape May, Connecticut, Golden-winged, Magnolia and Mourning, all in full song and breeding plumage, as well as Sandhill Crane and Blue-headed Vireo. Resident species include Ruffed Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Grey Jay and Boreal Chickadee. Elsewhere in the state Maplewood State Park is a particularly good place for Golden-winged Warbler and out west in the Felton prairies Greater Prairie Chicken is possible. To the west lies North Dakota, described below.

    N

    Nebraska (Platte River) - USA
    A resting and refuelling place for half a million migrating Sandhill Cranes during March.

    New Brunswick-Nova Scotia (Eastern Canada)
    Fin, Northern Right and a chance of Humpback Whales, seabirds, shorebirds and warblers.

    Newfoundland - Canada
    Humpback Whales and spectacular seabird colonies.

    New Mexico (Bosque del Apache) - USA
    Tens of thousands of Snow Geese and thousands of Sandhill Cranes wintering.

    North Carolina
    During the summer, especially late May to early June, up to 40 miles off Cape Hatteras, where the warm waters of the Gulf Stream meet the cool waters of the Labrador Current, there is a considerable upwelling of nutrients which in turn provide a rich food supply for a wonderful selection of seabirds. Regular species are Black-capped Petrel, Audubon's, Cory’s (borealis and diomedea) and Great Shearwaters, Band-rumped (Grant's), Leach's and Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Bridled Tern and Pomarine Jaeger (Skua), less regular species include Manx Shearwater, South Polar Skua, Long-tailed Jaeger (Skua) and Sooty Tern, and rare species include Bermuda, Fea's and Herald (Trinidade arminjoniana race) Petrels. Whales, dolphins, turtles, flying fish and even Blue Marlin are also possible. The all-day pelagics are run by Seabirding. Along the coast and inland there are some great birds too, including Brown Pelican, a wide variety of herons, Clapper Rail, shorebirds including Piping Plover, Black Skimmer, Blue Jay and Seaside Sparrow, as well as Southeastern United States specialities such as Wilson’s Plover, Red-cockaded (Croatan NF) and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Swainson’s and Prothonotary Warblers, Summer Tanager, Bachman’s Sparrow and Painted Bunting.

    North Dakota
    The rolling grasslands and wetlands in prairie-pothole country near Jamestown in Kidder County on the Great Plains of eastern North Dakota are famous for nesting waterbirds, especially ducks (the region is often referred to as the 'Duck Factory' of North America), but also Western Grebe, American White Pelican (one of the continent's largest breeding colonies is at Chase Lake NWR), American Bittern, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, California and Franklin’s Gulls, and Black and Forster's Terns. The grasslands support the rare Sprague's Pipit and Baird's Sparrow, as well as Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ferruginous Hawk, Dickcissel, Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Bobolink and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Just to the east is Minnesota, described above. The peak time for birding is early June.

    Nova Scotia-New Brunswick (Eastern Canada)
    Fin, Northern Right and a chance of Humpback Whales, seabirds, shorebirds and warblers.

    O

    Ontario (Point Pelee) - Canada
    A migration bottleneck in spring, great for up to 30 species of New World warblers.

    Oregon
    Because there are so many habitats in such a small area in Oregon there is a greater diversity of birds than in any other similar-sized area in the world at a similar latitude. The range of birds is impressive, whether it is the second half of May, the peak spring period when songbirds are singing and in spring plumage or the first two weeks of September when huge numbers of birds are passing through on southward migration, and includes Harlequin Duck, Mountain Quail, Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Sandhill Crane, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, several owls, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, lots of woodpeckers and flycatchers, Clark's Nutcracker, Wrentit, Mountain Bluebird, Varied Thrush, Lazuli Bunting and Evening Grosbeak, with trickier species including Tufted Puffin, Great Grey Owl (sometimes nesting on known nesting platforms in the Blue Mountains near La Grande) and Tricoloured Blackbird. Mammals include several chipmunks and ground-squirrels, Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn and Yellow-bellied Marmot. In addition, on full-day pelagic trips out of Newport in September it is possible to see Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel and other seabirds such as Laysan Albatross.

    P

    Platte River (Nebraska) - USA
    A resting and refuelling place for half a million migrating Sandhill Cranes during March.

    Point Pelee (Ontario) - Canada
    A migration bottleneck in spring, great for up to 30 species of New World warblers.

    Q

    Quebec - Canada
    A good chance of Beluga, Blue, Fin, Humpback and Minke Whales by boat, zodiac and kayak where the Saguenay Fjord meets the St Lawrence out of the town of Tadoussac from mid-June to September, especially mid-September for Blue Whale. Also Laurentides Wildlife Reserve for Black Bear (from hides and vehicles), Matane Wildlife Reserve for Moose and the Gaspe Peninsula/Gaspesie National Park for (Woodland) Caribou and a colony of nearly 50,000 pairs of Northern Gannets, possibly the largest on Earth, on Bonaventure Island. Other birds possible include Bald Eagle, Ruffed and Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, up to 20 species of warbler, and Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, with Bicknell's Thrush at the top of Mount Saint Anne near Perce. During late September-early October, when the autumnal colours are usually at their peak, up to 50,000 migrating (Greater) Snow Geese and other waterfowl gather at the Cape Tourmente National Wildlife Area.

    T

    Texas - USA
    Thousands of migrating hawks, shorebirds and small birds, especially colourful warblers, in spring.

    U

    USA - Alaska
    Grizzly Bear, Beluga, Moose and millions of seabirds on the Pribilof Islands.

    USA - Alaska - Southeast
    A chance to see Humpback Whales bubble-net feeding, as well as Grizzly and Black Bears.

    USA - Bosque del Apache, New Mexico
    Tens of thousands of Snow Geese and thousands of Sandhill Cranes wintering.

    USA - California (Northern)
    The tallest, largest and oldest trees in the world, Humpback and possibly Blue Whales, and Yosemite.

    USA - Colorado
    Seven species of displaying grouse in spring, plus Elk, Bighorn Sheep and Pronghorn.

    USA - Florida
    West Indian Manatee, waterbirds, Swallow-tailed and Snail Kites, and the endemic Florida Scrub Jay.

    USA - Hawaii
    Humpback Whale, Manta Ray, Bristle-thighed Curlew, seabirds and the endemic honeycreeper family.

    USA - Maine
    See Maine, above.

    USA - Massachusetts
    Humpback Whales and seabirds during the summer.

    USA - Minnesota
    See Minnesota, above.

    USA - North Carolina
    See North Carolina, above.

    USA - North Dakota
    See North Dakota, above.

    USA - Oregon
    See Oregon, above.

    USA - Platte River, Nebraska
    A resting and refuelling place for half a million migrating Sandhill Cranes during March.

    USA - Texas
    Thousands of migrating hawks, shorebirds and small birds, especially colourful warblers, in spring.

    USA - Washington
    See Washington, below.

    USA - Wyoming (Yellowstone)
    Wolf, Grizzly Bears, Bison, Moose and geothermal phenomena such as geysers like Old Faithful.

    W

    Washington
    This west coast state supports an impressive range of birds, whether it is the second half of May, the peak spring period when songbirds are singing and in spring plumage or the first two weeks of September when huge numbers of seabirds, shorebirds and songbirds are passing through on southward migration. The list includes Harlequin Duck, Bald Eagle, White-tailed Ptarmigan (Mount Rainier NP, along Skyline Trail near Panorama Point above Paradise, and along Mt Fremont Lookout Trail above Sunrise), Sandhill Crane, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds (these, as well as Cassin's Finch, and Black-headed and Evening Grosbeaks, are attracted to the feeders at Mt Adams Lodge), Tufted Puffin (on Protection Island NWR, accessible via two-hour boat trips from Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula), lots of woodpeckers, Clark's Nutcracker, Varied Thrush, Mountain Bluebird, Lazuli Bunting and Grey-crowned Rosy Finch (Mt Fremont Lookout Trail above Sunrise in Mount Rainier NP). Mammals include Killer Whale (the waters around the San Juan Islands, accessible from Port Townsend, are some of the best in the world for this species), Black Bear, Elk and various chipmunks and ground-squirrels. During September Washington is not only a great place for rare shorebirds in North America it is where a wide range of seabirds gather offshore and on full-day pelagic trips out of Westport Harbor it is possible to see lots of Black-footed Albatrosses, as well as Buller’s and Pink-footed Shearwaters, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel and South Polar Skua. In addition, Laysan Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater and Tufted Puffin are seen on some trips and rarities have included the likes of Murphy’s Petrel.

    Wyoming (Yellowstone) - USA
    Wolf, Grizzly Bears, Bison, Moose and geothermal phenomena such as geysers like Old Faithful.