Birding in Michigan I Top 10 Bird Watching Spots in Michigan

Bird Flying

Michigan’s many lakes, rivers, and forests create the perfect habitat for over 400 species of birds, making it one of the best places in the US to go birding. But with so many species and so many places to see them, where should you go?

Below are ten of the best spots in Michigan to enjoy some birding while on vacation or visiting friends and family.

i. Kensington Metropark Nature Center – Milford, MI

As one of oldest and largest nature centers in Michigan, Kensington Metropark is located adjacent to Lake Erie, where more than 200 species of birds have been spotted by park visitors. Park wildlife includes white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes and various wild turkey varieties.

For birders looking for a challenge, you can compete with other birders to see who can tally up the most species in a 24-hour period during its annual Big Day event. Bird watching isn’t all Kensington Metropark has to offer: Activities include paintball and canoeing.

ii. Huntington Woods Nature Center – Huntington Woods, MI

To see and hear a variety of birds, head to Huntington Woods Nature Center. Its 437 acres are home to various bird species, including white-tailed deer, bald eagles and a great blue heron. There are more than 6 miles of trails for visitors to explore during their visit. Don’t forget your binoculars! 

White Eyed Warbling

iii. Lake Erie Metropark, Brownstown, MI

Wildlife watching is one of Michigan’s favorite outdoor activities, so if you are a birdwatcher or just want to learn more about birds and other wildlife, head on down to Lake Erie Metropark! Birds such as common mergansers and sandhill cranes are frequent visitors at Lake Erie Metropark.

The preserve boasts miles of trails for hiking and biking, but be sure to keep your eye out for wildlife along with beautiful views. The park also offers canoe rentals (canoes can be taken out on multiple waterways) as well as boat docks that you can fish from. Head on over here and find yourself immersed in nature!

iv. Peltier Pond National Wildlife Refuge – Saginaw, MI

The Peltier Pond National Wildlife Refuge is an amazing birdwatching destination, boasting over 200 species of birds including many endangered or threatened ones. In addition to its 400-acre wetland habitat, it also has 40 miles of hiking trails and 10 miles of biking trails for visitors to explore.

The refuge is open year-round, although hours vary depending on season and weather conditions. The best time to visit is during peak migration times, when you’re likely to see large flocks of geese flying overhead. Keep an eye out for great blue herons, barred owls and bald eagles throughout your stay!

Bird with Red Head
v. Herrick Lake National Wildlife Refuge – Grand Rapids, MI

This spot is a short drive south of Grand Rapids on I-96. The refuge is open every day of the year, dawn to dusk, and offers trails that are great for hiking or jogging and birdwatching. There’s also a nature center that houses exhibits on local wildlife and hosts children’s events.

The Herrick Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of three sites in Michigan managed by Tri-City National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWR). It was established to help protect migratory birds from oil spills during their seasonal travels through West Michigan.

Over 100 species of birds have been recorded at Herrick Lake NWR over time, including wood ducks, belted kingfishers, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and many more.

vi. Clay Bank Lake – Romeo, MI

The clay banks that give Clay Bank Lake its name are one of its most popular attractions. Though it has a reputation for being one of Michigan’s dirtiest lakes, it also attracts birds like godwits, marbled godwits, ruddy turnstones, and American avocets.

There are ample hiking trails around the lake, which are perfect for spotting waterfowl, shorebirds and even eagles. Clay Bank is home to more than 200 species of birds. Bring your binoculars and bird-watching field guide when you visit!

vii. Lower Huron River Bird Refuge – Wyandotte, MI

The Lower Huron River Bird Refuge is a great location for bird watching. It is located on Milford Road, near 26 Mile Road. There are several parking lots and open areas to walk and observe various birds. This area was once called Bird Town USA because of all of its wonderful migratory bird populations, including warblers, kingfishers, herons and more!

Owl perching at tree
viii. Maple Swamp – Jackson, MI

Michigan is home to all four species of North American woodpeckers, and that’s something I believe every birder should witness. There are only two places in Michigan where you can see them all at once: Maple Swamp, a 16-acre conservation area that borders I-94 near Jackson; and Arcadia Dunes, a short drive from Saginaw.

A plethora of wildlife thrives here, including many birds such as great blue herons and peregrine falcons. But if you want to spot an osprey or a goshawk, you’ll need to check it out mid-summer when they’re nesting.

ix. Carman Millpond – Ann Arbor, MI

Carman Millpond is one of the most important waterfowl stopovers in Southeast Michigan. The best time to spot waterfowl is early fall or late spring, but you can see some nice variety at any time of year.

Bald eagles are often spotted here and it’s not uncommon to catch a glimpse of wood ducks, mergansers, blue herons, great egrets and more. Be sure to visit during migration season – roughly mid-April through early July.

In addition to birds, Carman Millpond has several hiking trails for birdwatchers looking for close-up looks at avian species. To reach Carman Millpond from Ann Arbor, head north on S Huron River Dr toward S State St.

Red Head bird flying
x. Eckert Lake – Fowlerville, MI

Eckert Lake is a great place to bird for a few reasons. It is located on Eckert Lake, making it accessible by boat, canoe or kayak for some added fun. The water level here fluctuates with each season, so spring and summer might be more ideal times to go if you plan on using water transportation.

However, during cold months and wintertime when there are fewer people out on the lake, winter can be a great time to bird as well. Whatever time of year you choose, birding at Eckert Lake will reward you with yellowthroat sparrows and red-breasted nuthatches among other avian creatures—it’s definitely one of Michigan’s best birding spots!

Birding in Michigan FAQ
What is birding?

Birdwatching, or birding, is an activity that involves watching birds and wildlife to identify species and behaviors. The hobby has become a popular global pastime; more than 50 million people worldwide regularly engage in birdwatching. It is most popular in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America.

In North America alone, about four percent of people are core birders (meaning they observe birds on twenty or more days per year), another thirty-three percent are casual observers. Birders age 15 years or older make up a total of roughly 80 million individuals. People who do not identify as birdwatchers can also enjoy watching birds as a leisure activity.

What is best time for birding in Michigan?

Although birders will travel far and wide to find a new species or a rare sighting, they agree that there’s something magical about being able to see birds right where you live. You can get up early and be back home at noon, tired but happy.

Birding is more convenient when you live close to where you want to go birding, says David Anable, past president of Massachusetts Audubon Society.

The best time for birdwatching in Michigan is roughly from mid-March through mid-June—the height of spring migration. If seeing birds from many different parts of North America is your goal, then late April through early June is also a good bet as many eastern birds are winging their way west.

What do bird eat?

Birds have a varied diet. Their dietary habits vary with species, season, location and abundance of prey. Strict carnivores eat flesh exclusively while some herbivores also consume insects or other animal products.

Most birds hunt invertebrates and vertebrates alike for food; only one species is known to feed exclusively on blood. Some eat carrion and a few scavenge; still others sieve terrestrial vegetation for insects and larvae.

What do I feed?

While many bird feeders will attract some birds, you may want to try our list of seeds that attract more species. Black oil sunflower seed is a classic choice and can be used for small or large-sized birds.

Another favorite is niger seed, which will bring a wide variety of beautiful songbirds like grosbeaks and sparrows to your yard. Finches love niger because it’s small enough for them to swallow whole, while they love black oil sunflower because it has plenty of fat content.

Many people choose safflower as their main source of seed since it attracts so many different types of birds and includes lots of protein.

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