Top Ten National Park Bird-Watching Sites - Page 2
Everglades National Park
Geographically speaking, it's no surprise Everglades National Park hosts a distinctive set of birds: It's located at the southern tip of peninsular Florida, just 120 miles from the tropics. Bird-watchers come here in search of the short-tailed hawk, limpkin, white-crowned pigeon, mangrove cuckoo, gray kingbird, and black-whiskered vireo. Much more obvious, though, are flocks of herons, egrets, ibises, roseate spoonbills, and wood storks. These species may appear abundant at times, but in fact the southern Florida population of wading birds has dropped as much as 90 percent over the past century because of development and disruption of water flow through the "river of grass." The Everglades is the only place in the United States where greater flamingo can be found with regularity (check at the end of Snake Bight Trail). Shark Valley is a good spot to look for snail kite, a raptor that feeds almost entirely on large snails. Along the Anhinga Trail, at the Royal Palm Visitor Center, birders can get excellent close-up views of numerous species—including anhingas.
Chiricahua National Monument
Zone-tailed Hawk and Anna's Hummingbird
Southeastern Arizona undoubtedly rates among America's two or three most popular birding destinations, and within that region the Chiricahua Mountains rank among the very best sites. One of several mountain ranges popularly called "sky islands," the Chiricahuas rise up from the surrounding arid lowlands, cloaked in dense forest like an oasis in the desert. Chiricahua National Monument is best known for its spectacularly varied rock formations, eroded from 27-millionyear- old volcanic material called rhyolite. It's also home to many southeastern Arizona specialty birds, from the aptly named Arizona woodpecker to the beautiful and graceful painted redstart. The 8-mile scenic Bonita Canyon Drive leads up to 6,870-foot Massai Point, passing through forests of pine, spruce, sycamore, Douglas-fir, Arizona cypress, and oak. Bird-watchers search along the road and on hiking trails for zone-tailed hawk, Anna's hummingbird, white-throated swift, dusky-capped flycatcher, Mexican chickadee, bridled titmouse, Mexican jay, black-throated gray warbler, and Scott's oriole. Most birders combine a trip to the national monument with a drive up Pinery Canyon Road to visit the adjacent Coronado National Forest, home to even more regional specialties.
Blue Ridge Parkway National Park
The late Ludlow Griscom, one of the original gurus of American bird-watching, once said, "Be near Asheville, North Carolina, the third week in April and you will see warblers pour across the mountains." Certainly spring migration is a wonderful time to be in the southern Appalachians, but these mountains are also known for a diverse collection of breeding birds more reminiscent of Canada than of the American Southeast. With elevations up to 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell (the highest U.S. point east of the Mississippi River), the southern Appalachians are home to coniferous forests that mimic habitats far to the north. So, too, does the bird fauna seem more like Quebec than North Carolina or Virginia. Birds found on Appalachian ridges include ruffed grouse, saw-whet owl, yellow-bellied sapsucker, common raven, red-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet, veery, black-throated blue warbler, Blackburnian warbler, Canada warbler, dark-eyed junco, and red crossbill. Many excellent sits for seeing these and other birds can be accessed along the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic drive administered by the National Park Service. Overlooks, picnic sites, and trails offer chances to leave vehicles and enjoy the varied birdlife.
Glacier National Park
Calliope Hummingbird and Pine Siskin
Northern Montana's Glacier National Park combines dense forest, meadows, lakes, streams, cliffs, and tundra above tree line to create one of the region's best birding destinations. The fabulously scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road crosses the park from west to east, reaching its highest point at 6,646- foot Logan Pass. Some of the species that can be seen at overlooks, picnic areas, campgrounds, and trails along the road are dusky grouse, three-toed woodpecker, red-naped sapsucker, calliope hummingbird, Hammond's flycatcher, gray jay, Clark's nutcracker, boreal chickadee, hermit thrush, varied thrush, Townsend's warbler, evening grosbeak, Brewer's sparrow, red crossbill, and pine siskin. Birds found near the park's lakes and streams include harlequin duck, Barrow's goldeneye, bald eagle, osprey, and American dipper. Both Vaux's swift and the elusive black swift nest on cliffs, while white-tailed ptarmigan and gray-crowned rosy-finch nest on the highest peaks, above timberline. Glacier's list of 12 owl species is notable, although many of them are rare and seldom observed.
Gateway National Recreation Area
325 Species Including Curlew Sandpiper
This multi-unit park encompasses 26,000 acres around the entrance to New York Harbor. Unlikely as it may seem, this area near the nation's largest metropolis includes two excellent birding destinations. Sandy Hook, a 5-mile-long peninsula on the eastern New Jersey shore, is famed among birders mostly for spring and fall migration, when raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds pass through in great numbers. In winter, waterfowl and seabirds can be observed in the bay to the west and in the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Gateway's Jamaica Bay Unit in Brooklyn and Queens encompasses Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where the major birds of note include waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds. Eagle-eyed birders have seen a large number of rarities over the years. Curlew sandpiper, for example, an Old World species, is found at Jamaica almost every year. Black-crowned night-heron, yellowcrowned night-heron, osprey, American oystercatcher, glossy ibis, and barn owl are among the breeding birds here. More than 325 species have been recorded at Jamaica Bay in total.