Eight Great Fall Birding Trails

Illustration by Noah Woods

Eight Great Fall Birding Trails

Autumn migration season is here. Millions of birds are on the wing, covering thousands of miles across oceans and continents. Grab your favorite field guide and hit the road to see one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.

By Kenn Kaufman
Published: September-October 2013

Great Washington State Birding Trail

This is one of the most detailed and ambitious statewide bird- ing trails in the country. Created by Audubon Washington to cel- ebrate the state's natural diversity, the trail is divided into seven distinct loops, each focusing on a different ecological region, and each with its own maps and site guides. East of the mountains, the Palouse to Pines loop explores grassland and desert country, with many oases that serve to concentrate migrating songbirds. Multiple loops connect parts of the mighty Cascades, guiding you to northern pygmy-owls, pine grosbeaks, varied thrushes, and other forest birds. The loops that meander along the outer coast and Puget Sound lead to tidal flats that host great concentrations of migrant shorebirds in fall. At some ports you can find offshore boat trips to pursue albatrosses, shearwaters, and other seabirds. A companion iPhone app can help you navigate. For more: wa.audubon.org/great-washington-state-birding-trail

California Redwoods Birding Trail

Tucked away in the northwest corner of California are some of the most astonishing landscapes on the continent. This compact trail leads to 43 choice destinations in beautiful Del Norte County. At vantage points along the coast in fall you might look offshore and find such seabirds as rhinoceros auklets and marbled murrelets. On the shoreline, see a pageantry of whimbrels, willets, and other sandpipers marching across the sand. In the magnificent groves of iconic coast redwoods, some towering more than 250 feet in the air, pileated woodpeckers hammer on tree trunks, gray jays lurk, and endangered spotted owls roost in the secluded shadows. Farther inland, in cedar and fir old-growth forests at higher eleva- tions, you might see flashy white-headed woodpeckers, roving flocks of Cassin's finches, or gangs of perky mountain chickadees. For more: californiaredwoodbirdingtrail.org

Great Salt Lake Birding Trails

Much of Utah is desert--magnificent desert, with its own unique beauty. But in northern Utah the desert is interrupted by towering mountains and lush canyons. As if this weren't enough, some of the greatest wetlands on the continent ring the Great Salt Lake. These birding trails, created by the Wasatch Audubon Society, feature 49 destinations. The birding is good all year but especially in the fall, when staggering numbers of birds use this area as an essen- tial migratory stopover. Early in the season, squadrons of American avocets, marbled godwits, long-billed curlews, and dozens of other shorebird species stride across the flats. The lake's open waters hold more than half a million each of Wilson's phalaropes and eared grebes during their peak fall migration, creating a stunning display. For more: wasatchaudubon.org/mapn_birding_trails.htm


Southwest New Mexico Birding Trail

Sandwiched between Arizona and Texas, New Mexico is some- times overlooked as a birding state, but it offers remarkable re- wards--if you look in the right places. The southwestern region's wild and rugged backcountry holds particular gems. This carefully crafted trail hosts more than 40 of the best birding sites in the state, from quiet desert canyons haunted by crissal thrashers and rock wrens to mountain forests where summer resident olive war- blers and hepatic tanagers mix with migratory birds from farther north in early fall. The easternmost points on the trail, along the Rio Grande, include isolated groves of trees that may swarm with Wilson's warblers and other migrant songbirds in fall and reser- voirs that attract a surprising diversity of waterbirds. For more: wildlife.state.nm.us/recreation/birding


Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail

With beautiful prairies, forests, and marshes, Wisconsin helped to inspire the great Aldo Leopold's love of nature decades ago. Along this birding trail, the state continues to inspire birders today. Divided into five ecological regions, the trail spotlights 368 sites, many of which are also designated Important Bird Areas. Explore the route during fall migration and you'll converge on natural corridors for southbound birds. Both the Lake Michigan and Mississippi-Chippewa rivers sections offer an abundance of choices for seeing massive movements. Warblers and shorebirds peak in early fall, followed by broad-winged hawks, peregrine falcons, and other raptors, and finally great flights of waterbirds. Tundra swans, canvasbacks, sandhill cranes, and bald eagles are among the birds that make Wisconsin unforgettable in late fall. For more: wisconsinbirds.org/trail/index.htm


America's Wetland Birding Trail (Louisiana)

Magazine Category

Author Profile

Kenn Kaufman

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


Great work Ken. It is so hard

Great work Ken. It is so hard to suggest the right place to view wildlife.
San Francisco Bay Wildlife Tours.com offers customized forays into the great outdoors and finds a large variety of species on every trip. Like many of the quotes from the novel Humans Need Three Hands say, we need to work with nature, not against it; and getting out and learning about nature is the best way to appreciate it. Keep up the great work.



i agree with Dana Visalli

i agree with Dana Visalli about thinking where our fuel comes from before people drive or fly to these trails. And yet, seeing wildlife in natural habitat can a powerful educator and motivator for people to want to learn more and protect the birds and their habitats. What to do? interactive live websites, slide shows and videos, (with audeo) are other ways to bring more birds to our awareness that are more carbon-friendly and don't support the polluting fossil fuel giants who don't give a rat's behind about birds, trees, or anything else. Winged Migration (the movie) was amazing in this way.

Saw thousands of Sandhill

Saw thousands of Sandhill Cranes fly into nature preserve in Bellevue, Michigan last weekend. You could hear them coming before you saw them. It was spectacular.

The first commenter is

The first commenter is right--global warming will affect birds everywhere. Get on your bike or go for a walk with your field guide and check out the birds around you.

Remember before you drive too

Remember before you drive too far that approximately 10% of our fuel now comes from oil sands in Alberta--which destroys bird habitat, 10% comes from fracking, which injects 50,000 gallons of toxic chemicals into the ground per well, and 10% comes from the Niger Delta, which has been mutilated by the oil industry.

Great sugestions

Great sugestions

My wife and i had a wonderful

My wife and i had a wonderful trip to Wisconsin this past weekend. We were extremely fortunate to see 8 Whooping Cranes at Necedah!!

Very beautiful. I wish i go

Very beautiful. I wish i go to here. Do you want to go Vietnam to look the autumn. You can book cheap ticket of my company

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.