Fall is the time of year when the leaves change colors in the northern part of the United States. Many people will travel northward to see the bright reds, oranges, and yellows. If you don’t care all that much about the leaves, you might consider traveling instead to see the birds. If that sounds interesting to you, here are 8 popular fall bird watching locations in the U.S. for your consideration.

You’ll notice that not all of these locations are in the north. In fact, I’ve chosen the locations so they cover pretty much the whole country. That way, you can travel to whichever section you like for some Fall birding, as dedicated bird watchers often call it.

For each destination below, you’ll find a brief description of the area and a list of some of the birds you are likely to find there. These are the birds most commonly reported by birders who have visited the site before you. Bird watchers have seen hundreds of different species in each of these locations. Here’s hoping that you find many you haven’t seen before on your trip.

Visit These 8 Bird Watching Destinations This Fall

1. Indiana Dunes State Park, Lake Michigan shore, Porter, Indiana

Tucked between Gary, Indiana, and the state of Michigan, along the shores of Lake Michigan, just north of Interstate 94 is a strip of land roughly 15 miles long known as Indiana Dunes State Park - it is also one of Tripping.com's top five reasons to visit Indiana!

If you are an adventurous birder, you might take the 3 Dune Challenge and attempt to climb 3 of Indiana’s highest dunes located within the park.

When you’re done looking for the birds listed below (and many more), you can take in the eclectic night life just inland from the shoreline. Be sure to look for:

  • Ring-billed gull
  • Black tern
  • Redhead
  • Yellow-rumped warbler
  • Long-tailed duck
  • Canvasback
  • Bufflehead
  • Snow bunting

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2. Plum Island, Newburyport, Massachusetts

You’ll notice, as you read through these birding sites, that they all have bodies of water nearby. Guess what! Birds love (and need) water, so you’ll find many of them close at hand.

Plum Island is a barrier island forming the northeastern portion of Massachusetts along the Atlantic coast, southeast of the city of Newburyport. The smaller towns of Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich are also nearby.

Several observation posts have been prepared especially for birders who often find the birds listed here as well as many migratory species. Fall is a great time to see them. Be on the lookout for:

  • European starling
  • Semipalmated plover
  • Double-crested cormorant
  • Herring gull
  • Semipalmated sandpiper
  • Ring-billed gull
  • Tree swallow
  • Sanderling

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3. Barr Lake State Park, Brighton, Colorado

Outside the beltline of Denver, Colorado, along Interstate 76 is Barr Lake. Surrounding most of the lake is Barr Lake State Park.

You can walk the trail that surrounds the lake. The southern area is a wildlife refuge where fishing and boating are prohibited. You can make use of the wildlife viewing stations and nature center as well. Watch for:

  • Western grebe
  • California gull
  • American coot
  • Chipping sparrow
  • Barn swallow
  • Double-crested cormorant
  • American white pelican
  • Killdeer

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4. Point No Point, Washington

Within Puget Sound, north of Seattle, Washington, near the small town of Hansville is Point no Point, home of the oldest lighthouse on the sound.

Whether you look for birds along the shores or from atop the lighthouse, you should be able to find many of these species:

  • Green-winged teal
  • Bonaparte’s gull
  • American pipit
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Black swift
  • Northern shoveler
  • European starling
  • Trumpeter swan

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5. Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, Arcata, California

In northern California along the Pacific coast, snuggled between Arcata Bay and the city of Arcata is the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. What is special about this location is that it is closely connected to the local wastewater treatment plant. At first, that might not sound all that attractive, but the residents have been able to maintain the area as a wonderful place to observe wildlife and birds in particular.

Along the 5 miles of surfaced trails near the marsh, you should easily be able to spot these birds and many more:

  • Marbled godwit
  • Cackling goose
  • Canada goose
  • Dunlin
  • Brant
  • Least sandpiper
  • White-crowned sparrow
  • Willet

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6. San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine, California

If you prefer southern California, make your way south of Los Angeles to Irvine. In the middle of much urban activity, you’ll find the San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary.

With over 300 acres of land and 12 miles of trails, you could spend a lot of quality time looking for these birds:

  • Black skimmer
  • White-faced ibis
  • American white pelican
  • Bushtit
  • Great-tailed grackle
  • House sparrow
  • Marbled godwit
  • Cinnamon teal

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7. Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, Texas

You’ve probably heard of South Padre Island. The Padre Island National Seashore is just next door on North Padre Island near Corpus Christi. One of its claims to fame is that it’s the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.

The claim is important to birders. It’s on the Central Flyway, which is a major migratory path for birds through the Great Plains. Fall is one of the best times to catch sight of these birds and potentially hundreds more species:

  • Laughing gull
  • White-faced ibis
  • Cattle egret
  • Roseate spoonbill
  • Reddish egret
  • Canvasback
  • Bufflehead
  • Lesser scaup

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8. Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

South of the peninsula on which you find St. Petersburg, Florida, is a little piece of land on which you can visit Fort De Soto Park. The beach itself near Fort De Soto has been recognized as one of the best in the country and is probably worth the trip, even if there weren’t so many birds.

Once again, you can find hundreds of species in this park, including these popular species:

  • Sandwich tern
  • Least tern
  • European starling
  • Black skimmer
  • Royal tern
  • Laughing gull
  • Common tern
  • Short-billed dowitcher

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These are just a few samples of popular birding hotspots you can visit. There are many other great places for birding in the fall. If I didn’t include your favorite, tell us about where you like to go, especially in Fall.


Gary Sonnenberg is an amateur birder (he has bird feeders in his backyard), board gamer (he has played Agricola over 400 times), and optics fan (he owns a pair of binoculars and a telescope). Gary is also the owner of Optics Owl.