Birdwatchers’ 15 Favorite Birding Destinations in the United States and Canada

Birdwatchers' 15 Favorite Birding Destinations in the United States and Canada
Redstart painted at Cave Springs Campground, Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, by Gary Botello.

In 2002, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of The world of bird watchers magazine (now known as Bird watching), we asked our readers to share their favorite birding hotspots. We’ve been profiling birding hot spots since our first issue in 1987 (Washington’s Skagit River Flats was our first), and the truth is, we’ll never run out of places to feature. The United States is home to 61 national parks and more than 350 other units of the National Park Service, as well as 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetlands management districts, as well as hundreds of state, city, and county parks . Canada has 39 national parks and eight other national park reserves. Countless other reserves, observatories and sanctuaries offer ample birding opportunities. The list of birders’ favorite hotspots is presented in order here.

1. Southeastern Arizona

With at least 24 notable birding hotspots in southeastern Arizona, it’s impossible to describe the entire region in just a few words. But one thing’s for sure: Our readers love Cave Creek Canyon, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Saguaro National Park, Madera Canyon, and other area hotspots.

“The bottomless blue sky is my cathedral,” wrote John Kelly of Glendale, Calif., of the San Pedro River region. “It’s like you’ve arrived as a bird watcher and are walking on sacred ground,” reports Charles Morris of Owensboro, Kentucky.

For Stan Lilley of Weidman, Mich., it’s the appeal of a red-bellied, green-headed Arizona specialty: the Elegant Trogon. Volunteering in the Cave Creek trogon survey for a year, Lilley will never forget his sighting. “I barely hear a rustling of wings above me. A hoarse and unmistakable noise coah-coah-coah brings me to full alert. I swallow hard to get my racing heart out of my throat. It’s right above my head! At first all I can see is a long, gray and white banded tail…then a bright red belly, a white stripe above it, and a deep jade green throat. There is a bright yellow beak. He tilts his head back and belts another coah-coah,then, with a chuckle, he crosses the stream in a cloud of feathers.

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Location: South of Tucson and east of Interstate 19 • Best time to visit: From April to September • Birds: Elegant Trogon, Painted Redstart, Gray Hawk, Mexican Jay, a dozen species of hummingbirds • Contact: Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory: (520) 432-1388; Tucson Audubon Society: (520) 622-5622

“Like many, I have come, over the years, to revere the Chiricahuas. Bird watching is unparalleled in the United States, and it’s also a place to retreat from a hectic lifestyle and spend time with nature. — “The Chiricahua Mountains” by Mary Ann Chapman, The world of amateur ornithologists, October 1987, p. 38-42