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

For a shortcut to trails in your region, click the brief description below.

WESTWARD HO! The astonishing diversity of birdlife in the West mirrors the extreme variety of conditions.

SOUTHERN COMFORT: Throughout the South, birds are found in dazzling abundance.

EASTERN EDENS: The Northeast Corridor may be the most heavily settled part of the country, but it is still a land of amazing natural riches.

STOPOVER COUNTRY: Incongruous as it might seem, the center of the continent funnels millions of migrating birds.


When I trekked among the stark cactus gardens of the Arizona borderlands for the first time, I saw a dozen new birds for my life list in the first half-hour: quirky roadrunners, noisy cactus wrens, sleek phainopeplas, and enough others to make my head spin. The same thing happened when I hit central California's rockbound coast, with its tattlers and surfbirds clambering over the boulders, gulls and terns swarming offshore. In the flower-filled meadows of the Colorado Rockies the source of my vertigo was the dazzling hummingbirds, elusive grouse, and ethereal mountain bluebirds. I felt like it was 1848 and I was in the creek at Sutter's Mill, discovering gold. 

The astonishing diversity of birdlife in the West mirrors the extreme variety of conditions. California's Death Valley may broil at 115 degrees while the peak of Mount Whitney, less than 100 miles away, is still covered with snow. Washington State can boast temperate rainforest to the west of the Cascades and desert to the east of those same mountains. No wonder I sometimes lost my way en route to a rare bird.

But those days are over. Today we avian explorers have maps to help us find our treasures. Built on a concept pioneered in Texas in the 1990s, birding trails link sites where the public is welcome and the birding is superb. These routes have become a bonanza for birders and for local communities that have profited from ecotourism. The trails featured here are among my favorite Westerns, but there are plenty of others to discover, and a lot more in the works. So grab your binoculars and one of these guides--X marks the spot where you might strike it rich. (Click here to download the guide.)

Great Washington State Birding Trail: The great state of Washington is too diverse to be encompassed by one birding trail, which explains why Audubon Washington has established a series of looping trails and mapped them independently. Seven proposed loops will cover the entire state. Four are already completed, and they furnish a spectacular cross-section of a remarkable set of landscapes. The outer coast of Washington hosts a wide array of migrating shorebirds, including huge flocks of western sandpipers and lesser numbers of Pacific Coast exclusives like surfbirds and black turnstones. Fog-shrouded forests that cover the coastal slope and the Olympic Peninsula echo with the ethereal whistles of varied thrushes, while richly colored birds like red-breasted sapsuckers, Townsend's warblers, and chestnut-backed chickadees hide in the shadows. Ascending toward the high peaks of the Cascades, you'll find black-backed woodpeckers, gray jays, and many other birds of northern affinities lurking in the forest. East of the mountains, the landscape changes abruptly to drier settings, with different birds. Rock wrens bounce and chatter along the edges of craggy arroyos, while long-billed curlews stalk over the open grasslands. Sage thrashers and Brewer's sparrows, plain but tuneful birds, sing surprising melodies from the sagebrush flats, and golden eagles wheel overhead. For more information, visit Audubon Washington and contact 866-WA-BIRDS to order maps.

Magazine Category

Author Profile

Kenn Kaufman

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


Nothing about South

Nothing about South Carolina's great birding trails & parks???

print article

how can one print the entire article to pdf for future reference? the print button only prints the web page it's on.

There is a link to a pdf of

There is a link to a pdf of the article at the bottom of the first section (Westward Ho!) before the list of maps begins. Unfortunately, only one page shows on that pdf and the second page is blank (at least for me)! Here's the link:

There is a "show full page"

There is a "show full page" link at the bottom of the article (above the comments). Print from that once it's open. The print option should definitely NOT only print one page - we can figure out how to do that ourselves - when there is a print icon, it generally prints the entire article, minus comments. Something is definitely broken on this site!

I just got to this amazing

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page!


HIghlight, copy and paste the text you want to Word or some other word-processing program, click save, give it a file name and save it to your My Documents folder.

Smoky Mountain Trails

A very diverse birding area anywhere along this area and over into South Fork. Why leave this beautiful area
Out of your sites?

There is a website glitch, to

There is a website glitch, to see the midwestern trails, look for the "show full page" link.


Seems as if Iowa Wisconsin and Illinois are not on the Mississippi River. Many excellent birding areas on the Upper Miss. Too bad none were mentioned for the midwest at all. Birds fly, but they do stop in various locations to make great birding opportunities.

Birding Trails

Not a mention of Birding Trails or opportunities in the Midwest. Iowa, Ilinois and Wisconsin have some of the best birding spots along the Mississippi River. Article about the Mississippi River, but nothing about Upper Mississippi. Guess birds fly right over.

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