The Best 5 National Parks for Bird Watching

Where to Plan Your Next Bird Watching Trip

Birds are all around us. They’re so ubiquitous that they’re easy to tune out and take for granted. But birds happen to be infinitely interesting. In fact, our fine feathered friends tie back to the dinosaurs that once dominated the planet.

Honestly, I didn’t give birds a lot of thought until the pandemic hit. It took the world slowing down for me to realize just how cool they are. As I spent more time in my backyard, I grew to appreciate the Downy woodpecker, blue jay and wren (wow, wrens are so territorial). At the height of the pandemic, birds were some of the only visitors I could count on seeing regularly. They were my pals.

Here are five parks that bird-lovers should migrate to at some point soon:

Birds in Yellowstone National Park

You probably knew that mighty Yellowstone National Park is home to bison and gray wolves, along with tyrannosaurus rex about a 100 million years ago. But did you know it’s also a place to find trumpeter swans, osprey and harlequin ducks? Not to mention the world’s fastest animal — the peregrine falcon — which can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour. Spring is an exciting time in the park, as waves of returning birds bring color and life back to the ecosystem. Some of the best places in Yellowstone to observe birds are the Swan Lake Flats, Blacktail Ponds and Lamar Valley.

Trumpeter Swans are a common site in Yellowstone National Park.
Trumpeter Swans are a common site in Yellowstone National Park.
If you look closely, you might spot a Great Horned Owl at the Assateague Island National Seashore.
If you look closely, you might spot a Great Horned Owl at the Assateague Island National Seashore.

Birds at Assateague Island National Seashore

Many visit this oceanfront park to see the wild horses. I got to experience them for myself this year and it’s really something to see horses roaming free like deer. The waters of the bay rarely freeze over, so a number of birds call the area home including the great horned owl, brown pelican and red-winged blackbird. Assateague Island National Seashore hosts a wide variety of migratory and resident bird species, providing feeding grounds when northern areas may be barren.

Birds at Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The Great Barrier Reef is home to sea turtles, whales and miles and miles of brightly-hued coral. Bird lovers will also experience many a g’day in this natural wonder of the world. Approximately 40 species of sea birds live in the Great Barrier Reef — among them, osprey, black-naped tern, the olive-backed sunbird, and the second-largest bird of prey in Australia, the awesome white-bellied sea-eagle.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to a wide variety of colorful wildlife like this Olive-Backed Sunbird.
The Great Barrier Reef is home to a wide variety of colorful wildlife like this Olive-Backed Sunbird.
There are more than 450 species of birds in Big Bend National Park, including the Black Vulture pictured above.
There are more than 450 species of birds in Big Bend National Park, including the Black Vulture pictured above.

Birds in Big Bend National Park

Many things are bigger in Texas — including the birding opportunities at Big Bend National Park. The spectacularly-colored painted bunting, greater roadrunner and black vulture are among the more than 450 species of birds that hang their hats in the 1,251- square-mile park. And Big Bend is the only area in the United States within the breeding range of the Colima warbler. Pro tip: most bird sightings in the park take place near water.

Birds in Grand Canyon National Park

Think the desert is mostly just sand? Think again. Grand Canyon National Park is a very lively place from a wildlife perspective. This includes more than 300 bird species, including the critically endangered California condor. Not to mention the bald eagle, a bird of prey of immense size and a ringing endorsement of the Endangered Species Act. Bald eagles can often be seen near the Colorado River as they hunt for trout. You’re most likely to get a glimpse of one in early morning hours or at dusk.

Bald Eagles are frequently spotted along the Colorado River hunting for trout and other fish species.
Bald Eagles are frequently spotted along the Colorado River hunting for trout and other fish species.

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MEET OUR GURU Jeffrey Bucki

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Jeff Bucki is a copywriter for Delaware North’s Creative Studio, based in Buffalo, N.Y.