8 Great Summer Birding Trails
Audubon's guide to unforgettable trips that wend through charming towns and rural outposts while also connecting the dots between many Important Bird Areas.
The hardest thing about birding in Colorado is the distracting scenery. This trail will help you manage that delightful problem. In the state's rugged southwestern quadrant, it leads you to Mesa Verde National Park. There juniper titmice chatter in the woods and white-throated swifts zoom overhead. Among the Rockies' peaks you can hear Townsend's solitaires singing in the forests, or head to high elevations for specialties like the brown-capped rosy-finch or white-tailed ptarmigan. East of the mountains on the sweeping short-grass plains are the misnamed mountain plover and other prairie birds, including Colorado's show-stealing state bird, the lark bunting. The trail connects nearly 220 sites, including designated Important Bird Areas. More information: coloradobirdingtrail.com
Idaho Birding Trail
Idaho may not be a famous birding destination yet, but it should be. Explore this trail's four sections and you'll enjoy enough sites and birds to keep you fascinated all summer long. Marshes and lakes in the southeastern quadrant support nesting sandhill cranes, Franklin's gulls, and white-faced ibises. The southwestern section includes the Snake River Canyon, a national IBA and breeding territory for prairie falcons, golden eagles, and other raptors. In the east-central and northern regions' forests, there are plenty of chestnut-backed chickadees, Townsend's warblers, Cassin's vireos, and others. River groves host colonies of bizarrely colored Lewis's woodpeckers, while skyblue mountain bluebirds hover over the meadows. More information: fishandgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/ibt
Central Coast Birding Trail
Halfway between bustling Los Angeles and San Francisco, California's stunning central coast is tranquil and filled with birds. This trail, sketched by Audubon California, highlights 83 top sites in four coastal counties (Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura), including eight Globally Important Bird Areas. At rocky points along the shore, you'll see black oystercatchers, pigeon guillemots, and other Pacific Coast specialties. The chaparral in the lowlands and canyons shelters California quail, wrentits, California towhees, and more. Interior valleys on the east side of the coastal hills are home to the flashy yellow-billed magpie. With some effort and luck, you may see the endangered California condor, which has been reintroduced in this region. More information: ca-ccbt.info
Klamath Basin Birding Trail
This basin straddling the California-Oregon border contains abundant lakes and marshes protected by a network of National Wildlife Refuges. When there's enough water, tens of thousands of waterfowl, including cinnamon teal, gadwalls, ruddy ducks, and redheads, linger through the summer to nest and raise their young. But the ducks are upstaged by western grebes performing their crazy high-speed courtship displays across the water surface. Continue on the birding trail and you'll also find forests haunted by Cassin's finches, fox sparrows, and varied thrushes. The peak is Crater Lake National Park you'll have to tear yourself away from the vistas to look at Clark's nutcrackers and other birds. More information: klamathbirdingtrails.com
Looking for more great routes? Check out Audubon's Field Guide to Birding Trails.