Not all birds fly south for the winter. Here’s a list of 6 incredible trails across the country, where magnificent birding is possible on even the coldest of days.
1. Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail:
Trail: Many of us head to Florida for the winter, so we shouldn't be surprised that birds do the same. This trail covers 2,000 miles, and has a diverse 500+ locations for you to stop and birdwatch.
Look for: Which part of the trail you focus on will determine what you see. Along the western side and Panhandle, you’ll find flocks of shorebirds and waterfowl. In the center, you’ll find wooded areas, home to the endangered and elusive Florida Scrub Jay. And we can’t forget the Everglades, where you’ll find Wood Storks and Snail Kites. Heading further south to the Keys, you’ll find White-crowned Pigeons and Reddish Egrets. Truly something for everyone!
2. Delaware Birding Trail
Trail: Don’t knock Delaware just because it’s small! This is a bird watcher’s paradise, and the Delaware Birding Trail consists of 27 birding locations, weaving through six distinct ecological areas.
Look for: Along the shore, you’ll spot gannets, gulls and loons. In forests, you’ll find Brown-headed Nuthatches and woodpeckers galore. In inlets, you’ll find wintering waterfowl, and if you’re very lucky, you might spot a rare Savannah Sparrow.
3. Oregon Coast Birding Trail
Trail: Although your adventure may require a raincoat and umbrella, at least temperatures on the West Coast are mild. The trail is split into four sections, with 150 birding lookouts.
Look for: Along the coast, keep your eyes peeled for various rockpipers, including Black Oystercatchers and Black Turnstones. Just off shore, you’ll find gulls, grebes, scoters, Brandt’s Cormorants, and three species of loon. Among the Douglas Firs and redwoods, you’ll find Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Steller’s Jays in the trees, and Pacific Wrens and Varied Thrushes closer to the ground.
4. Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma
Trail: You’ll be surprised by the number of birds you can find along this trail’s 13 loops. It somehow appears even more majestic under open winter skies.
Look for: Among marshes and lakes (found aplenty along the Hackberry Flats and Salt Plains loops), you’ll find wintering waterfowl like Gadwalls and Common Mergansers, and even roosting Bald Eagles if you’re lucky. You’ll also find more typical southwestern birds like Scaled Quail and Pinyon Jays along many of the trails.
5. Southeastern Arizona Birding Trail
Trail: If freezing temperatures aren’t really your thing, this is the stop for you. Even in the coldest months, the low hovers around 47°F (with highs of 68°F). There are 52 birdwatching sites identified on this arid trail, lined with willows, cottonwoods and grasslands.
Look for: Albert’s Towhees and colorful Vermilion Flycatcher along the trees. Keep your eye on the skies for raptors like the Ferruginous Hawk above, and head lower along canyons for Bridled Titmice, Acorn Woodpeckers, Mexican Jays and more. You may even get lucky and spot flocks of Sandhill Crane if you’re an early riser.
6. Audubon Niagara Birding Trail
Trail: From Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, this trail follows the Niagara River with 13 incredible sites for cold-weather birding. Be sure to pack your gloves and parka.
Look for: Stop at the overlooks for a glimpse of wintering waterfowl - like scoters, scaup and mergansers. If you head away from the river’s edge, look to the skies and you might see a soaring Rough-legged Hawk or Northern Shrike. And, of course, end your search at the grand attraction: Niagara Falls. While you’re sure to see tourists, it’s also one of the best places to find gulls.