Audubon's Field Guide to Birding Trails

Audubon's Field Guide to Birding Trails

There are a lot of species to see out there. Here are four sets of regional birding trails to guide you to some of the country's great spots.

By Kenn Kaufman
Published: July-August 2008

Oregon Cascades Birding Trail: The mighty Cascade Range stretches the length of Oregon, from north to south, separating the interior's arid country from the coast's rains and lush forests. These mountains are rightly famous as a place of awe-inspiring scenery, from the deep-blue Crater Lake to the towering snowcapped Mount Hood. Follow the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail and you will get to enjoy both the amazing scenery and a brilliant bevy of colorful birds. The trail, designed by a consortium of groups including the Audubon Society of Portland, features nearly 200 stops. Some are in the lowlands at the base of the mountains, such as along the edge of the Columbia River, where bald eagles and ospreys are celebrities. But most of the real stars are at higher elevations. Brushy thickets may hold bright golden Wilson's and MacGillivray's warblers and the elusive but smartly patterned mountain quail. The tall conifer forests are home to the hermit warbler, a striking bird with its center of distribution in the Oregon Cascades. Up at treeline, you may have to search carefully to find the gray-crowned rosy-finch, but the brash, noisy Clark's nutcracker is more likely to find you. For more information, visit The Oregon Cascades Birding Trail or contact The Audubon Society of Portland (503-292-6855).

Montana Birding and Nature Trail: In Big Sky Country big plans are afoot to provide birding trails throughout six major regions of the state. Routes are already completed for the northwestern and northeastern sections, and more are coming. In the northwest, where the Bitterroot and Missoula loops are finished, magnificent forests and meadows along clear streams are inhabited by everything from massive pileated woodpeckers to tiny Calliope hummingbirds. Brilliantly colored western tanagers flash through the pines, and violet-green swallows circle overhead. In open forest stands you might spot both Lewis's woodpeckers and Clark's nutcrackers, named for the intrepid explorers who passed this way two centuries ago. In northeastern Montana's high plains, the surroundings and the birds are completely different. Swainson's hawks in summer and rough-legged hawks in winter soar and hunt in the prairies. The wide-open sagebrush flats here are among the last strongholds of the greater sage-grouse, and if you visit in spring, you may get to watch the bizarre courtship dances of the males on their traditional lekking grounds. For more information, visit the Montana Birding and Nature Trail or contact the Montana Natural History Center (406-327-0405). 

Idaho Birding Trail: Its license plates may still talk about famous potatoes, but Idaho is a place where birders should keep their eyes on the skies (and leave the fries for later). The plains and canyons along the Snake River are renowned for their concentrations of birds of prey, making Idaho a mecca for raptor biologists and birders from around the world who are drawn to the state's hawks, eagles, and falcons, and hundreds of other bird species. The Idaho Birding Trail features 173 sites in four sections of the state, from north to south. If you hike through the forests of northern Idaho, you're sure to notice many of the smaller songbirds, from hyperactive mountain chickadees to Townsend's warblers and Cassin's finches, all adding their sparks of color to the dark conifers. Get out into more open areas, though, and chances are you will be distracted by the big birds. Powerful golden eagles and ferruginous hawks, dashing peregrine falcons and prairie falcons, and more than a dozen other raptors are the star attractions here. Water birds abound as well. Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge hosts trumpeter swans and one of the largest nesting concentrations of sandhill cranes, as well as Franklin's gulls, ducks, and geese. For more information, visit the Idaho Birding Trail or contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (208-334-3700).

Magazine Category

Author Profile

Kenn Kaufman

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine



What happened to Nevada???

Hey folks, I too see nothing

Hey folks, I too see nothing about the midwestern trails.....the listings skip from p.10 to p. 20.

birding trails

My comments seem to have disappeared ??

14 best birding trails

I think it is unfortunate not to have mentioned Canada's trails such as the ones in the northern parts of this country and also Pelee Point in Ontario. Don't go Hollywood concerning birding which has a large following in this country and who support the audubon society in the Christmas bird count

Midwest trails?

What? What about all of the stopover trails in Ohio and the Midwest.? The spring and fall warblers at Magee Marsh in Lake Erie? All of the woods and parks in that area are filled with birds and water fowl......


I tried to print your article as a pdf, but it just prints the first page and the blog comments below. Isn;' there a way to print the whole article?

Printing the article

Try clicking "Show full page" (located right beneath the page numbers) and then click the print button.

birding trails

Doesn't Audubon have a trail on Hilton Head Island??

Chicago Birding

When in Chicago don't forget the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore for some great vistas and birding. Within 25 miles of downtown Chicago, on a clear day you can get a great view of the Chicago skyline and still see one of the most diverse group of birds in the country depending on the season you can see the migrating Sandhill Cranes, White Crown Sparrows, Gross Beak, Ruby Throated Hummers, shore birds, egrets, herons, and many more. Be back in Chicago via the South Shore rail line in time for dinner.

Merritt Island

You did a great job of covering the entire country, but of course some of the bird sightings would be "iffy," e.g. woodpeckers and smaller birds like Warblers. That takes not just skill and a lot of patience, but sometimes, just plain dumb luck! I've birded in 34 states including Hawaiia and yet for the most "bang for the buck," I would say that Merritt Island Florida NWF can't be beaten, especially if you go in Winter! And if you have disabled family members, they can see many of the beautiful waterfowl right from the auto. We've seen Roseate Spoonbills three times through the years, and our most up-close and abundant sighting of this "luxury" bird was at Merritt. Can't say enough about it for a true birder! : )

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