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bird flying in an american state parkBirds fill the sky and our sight, but the most beautiful and unique fowl often remain hidden.

Did you know state parks offer a fantastic place to bird watch?

Our winged friends make the perfect basis for choosing a state park which is why we found the thirteen birds you need to see in person to round out any bird-watching vacation.

Take a look and enjoy the beauty birds bring to your favorite park.

1. Golden Eagle

golden eagle at a state park in californiaWhere to find them: Smith Rock State Park in Oregon

Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon offers more than rugged rivers, canyons, and vistas, as you can find Golden Eagles gliding over the cliffs. Take the time to climb thousands of routes throughout the park where you can gaze upon these majestic creatures. Nesting golden eagles have been a feature of the cliffs of Smith Rock State Park for at least a few millennia.

Keep in mind, because of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act; you should not attempt to touch or otherwise hinder one of these birds. Also, golden eagles take disturbances personally and will attack, so enjoy from a distance. Eagles may depart their nests if they are confronted with such unanticipated stresses, reducing the chances of survival for their offspring.

From the Rim Trail, visitors can view across the Crooked River to the north toward the Monument area or from the little picnic shelter just a short walk from the parking lot. Do not forget to bring binoculars, as the nests just appear to be dark spots on the wall without magnification. Trout Creek, a renowned climbing destination north of Madras on the Deschutes River, has also been used by eagles for nesting.

2. Chickadee

chickadee in flight at a state park in maineWhere to find them: Peaks-Kenny State Park in Maine

Add some sweetness to your life by visiting the Chickadees in Peaks-Kenny State Park in central Maine. The 839-acre park offers camping, hiking, and water access, all perfect for viewing these adorably roly-poly birds. The Black-capped Chickadees spread across the state for locals, but visitors may need to find the sanctuary of a state park to enjoy their company.

The small, straight, and rounded brownish-black beak is distinctive. It has a huge, glossy head, a short neck, and dark brown eyes, which distinguishes it from other birds. Enjoy the tranquility of Sebec Lake with stunning views of Borestone Mountain while bird-watching.

Visit the Appalachian Trail, Baxter State Park, and Moosehead Lake from the perspective of ten miles of easy hiking routes, all for a better chance of seeing a chickadee. The pathways go past majestic stands of hemlock, pines, and other old-growth trees, with birds peppering the branches waiting for you.

3. Owls

owl flying at a state park in arkansasWhere to find them: Hobbs State Park in Arkansas

Fans of the Harry Potter world can catch a glimpse of the Owl Hedwig’s cousins at Hobbs State Park in Arkansas. Located in the northwest corner, visitors from Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri can also visit the park. Bring the children for this bird-watching trip to enjoy the magical Hobbwarts School for Young Wizards and Witches session.

Check ahead for the ever-changing schedule and keep in mind they do not bring owls to the event for safety but do teach about owls. The 12,054-acre Hobbs State Park on the southern bank of Beaver Lake is the largest in Arkansas, with a thriving ecosystem you can view for the network of 54 miles of trails.

4. Whooping Cranes

whooping crane in a texas state parkWhere to find them: Goose Island State Park in Texas

Head to Goose Island State Park north of Corpus Christi in Texas to see the incredibly rare whooping crane. These tall, dignified birds are endangered as they have been close to extinction for nearly a century. However, conservationists have been helping the breed, and now the worldwide population includes about 650 Whooping Cranes, split between a wild population that travels from Canada to Texas.

The Whooping Crane Festival has been held annually in Port Aransas, Texas, to welcome the birds back to their wintering habitat at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, a tradition that dates back to 1996. The festival will return in 2023 to mark its 26th year. In addition to a trade show and workshops for both amateur and professional photographers, the four-day event will feature several well-known speakers, boating and nature tours, and a birding and nature photography competition.

Whooping cranes spend at least five months of the winter in central Texas, having migrated there from their Canadian breeding grounds. Finding them is very simple if you know where to look, as they like to return to the same regions year after year. The best way to get up and personal is to take a boat cruise through the marshes and brackish water, where you can get close to Big Tree, one of the crane’s favorite haunting grounds.

5. Brown Pelicans

brown pelican at a state park in new jerseyWhere to find them: Island Beach State Park in New Jersey

Head to the Island State Park in New Jersey off the shore along the Hudson River north of New York City to spot some brown pelicans in their natural habitat. The long, skinny barrier island offers a thriving ecosystem with the largest sand dune system in the world. Here you can find various coastal creatures on land and in the sky.

The brown pelican first appeared on the endangered species list in 1970 but now, thankfully, is out of danger as of 2009, with the state park offering the most common location for these beautiful birds. Whenever possible, a flock of pelicans will do anything together, forming colonies for hunting and having babies, so you should not expect to see one alone.

Birdwatchers can also expect to spot the state’s largest osprey colony, peregrine falcons, wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and migratory songbirds. Barnegat Bay, located on the island’s western (bayside) coast, provides a good food source for various birds and other species, which you can tour by canoe or kayak. Visitors may also see the wildlife in this vital environment thanks to bird observation blinds.

6. Wild Turkeys

wild turkeys fighting at a state park in pennsylvaniaWhere to find them: Blue Knob State Park in Pennsylvania

Blue Knob State Park, near the southern border of Pennsylvania, offers visitors the chance to see wild turkeys near a towering mountain. It is the northernmost of the Allegheny Mountain Range peaks, the second-highest peak in Pennsylvania. Bird watchers enjoy the Lost Turkey Trail, built in 1977, offering 26 miles of trails through the state forest.

The wild turkey is one of my favorite native birds of Pennsylvania and one of the major reasons people travel to the Blue Knob area to spot one in the wild. They may be seen very well in this secluded spot. Since the wild turkey is such a shy creature, spotting one in the wild requires a lot of patience, waiting, and observing.

7. Hummingbirds

pair of hummingbirds at a state park in ohioWhere to find them: Lake Hope State Park in Ohio

If you have ever wanted to try hand-feeding hummingbirds, the Nature Center at Lake Hope State Park is the place to go. The entire 2,983-acre park is located in the Big Sandy Run valley inside the Zaleski State Forest, with tons of wildlife everywhere you look. Feeding hummingbirds takes the cake, though. It’s fun to enjoy these incredibly wild, small creatures approaching for a bottle of nectar!

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are a fascinating species, and visitors may learn more about especially as you do not need a reservation to visit. Visitors can park close to the nature center, where they can watch the crew clean and refill as many as ten feeders every day. Each summer, the tiny birds drink as much as 80 pounds of sugar from visitors!

8. Flamingos

a flamingo at a state park in floridaWhere to find them: Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Florida

Flamingos can be seen off the coast of Florida in the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which is located an hour north of Tampa. The park houses a first-rate wildlife rehabilitation facility, where visitors have the opportunity to see more than just these odd pink birds with tons of sea creatures available and bald eagles.

Because of their towering stature and surprisingly lightweight, flamingos are widely considered one of the most interesting birds. They can be any color from the lightest pink to a deep magenta, depending on the amount of beta-carotene in their diet, which can range anywhere from zero to ten. The Wildlife Walk is where one may find the vast majority of the animals. Participate in a Wildlife Walk Tour to gain additional knowledge and see nests that contain adorable baby flamingos.

9. Golden-Winged Warbler

a golden winged warbler singing at a state park in North CarolinaWhere to find them: Elk Knob State Park in North Carolina

On the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, you will find the Elk Knob State Park, home to the Golden-Winged Warbler. The park was established in 2003 to protect Elk Knob Mountain and the North Fork of the New River and provides an incredible 360-degree view of the vista of North Carolina’s mountain range. The rustic park gives you tranquility rarely afforded, perfect for bird-watching.

The Golden-winged Warbler, a migratory bird species only found in North Carolina, makes its home in this park, making it a very interesting destination for birdwatchers. There are just 1,000 birds left, and most of them hide on private land, so this state park is the only place you can view one. Spend your time camping and fishing while searching for these tiny puffy ball birds in the branches above.

10. Tufted Puffins

tufted puffin swimming at a state park in oregonWhere to find them: Ecola State Park in Oregon

Cannon Beach and its surrounding areas are fantastic for bird-watching, especially if you are looking for tufted puffins. Start at the nine-mile-long coastline of Ecola State Park before heading slightly south to Haystack Rock and the Ecola Creek Forest Preserve. When not watching the birds, the park also offers year-round outdoor activities, including hiking and sightseeing, picnicking, surfing, and exploring tide pools.

The brightly colored Tufted Puffins of Cannon Beach return each spring to Haystack Rock to nest and raise their young after spending the previous eight months at sea. Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest to see puffins in their natural habitat. Puffins, commonly seen in the area, prefer to nest on rocky islands with grassy areas where they can burrow their nests.

Puffins are one of the west coast’s most beloved birds because of the vibrant display of color that occurs during the breeding season in the spring. These puffins are also easily identifiable, even at a distance. The diving skills of puffins far surpass their flying abilities making them a unique creature to spy on in their natural habitat.

11. Florida Scrub Jay

scrub jays at a state park in floridaWhere to find them: Blue Spring State Park in Florida

Blue Springs State Park, just north of Orlando, is home to more than the Florida manatee as it’s also home to the scrubbing jays of Florida, the only native bird species in the state and endangered. These tiny blue and cream-colored birds are about 12 inches in length, with gray on the back and belly and blue on the tail, wings, head, and collar.

They are known for their keen intelligence and fearlessness. These birds love the low-growing oak scrub and scrubby flat-woods in Blue Springs park. For the Florida scrub jay, mating season is from March to May, and once a pair forms; they stay together for life. Hike along the Pine Island Trail to increase your chances of seeing this incredible species and hairy woodpeckers and Bachman’s sparrows.

12. California Condor

california condor at a state parkWhere to find them: Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur in, California

If you love Big Sur in California and unique birds, you need to visit the Andrew Molera State Park to see the California Condors. The park offers a ‘Bringing the Condors Home’ exhibit about the Discovery Center’s work to restore condors to the wild, and it’s free to visit. The Ventana Wildlife Society cares for the discovery center while helping to rescue and rehabilitate these massive birds.

The hiking trails at Andrew Molera State Park take you through a wide variety of landscapes, including breathtaking coastlines, peaceful riverbanks, redwood-studded ridges, and open meadows. Anglers and birdwatchers will love the park as they search for the condor’s nesting in the cliffs or gliding at high speeds in search of prey. At twenty-plus pounds with a wing span of over nine feet, you will definitely notice these birds while enjoying the park.

13. Hooded Mergansers

hooded mergansers at a state park in coloradoWhere to find them: Eleven Mile State Park in Colorado

The large reservoir at Eleven Mile often gains praise from anglers and writers for its excellent fishing, but the park also offers a unique species of duck, the hooded merganser. Situated on the water in central Colorado, the park provides many outdoor activities for bird watchers and the entire family. Start by taking the family out on the boat or setting up along a shoreline campsite in search of these strange-looking fowl.

Every fall, there is a fantastic opportunity to go waterfowl hunting for a wide variety of ducks. The merganser is the only duck species that exclusively feeds on marine life, and the park has three species in the swamps and wooded ponds. Ridgway State Park nearby is home to over 140 species of birds, both seasonal and permanent. Besides the hooded monochromic Mergansers, you can spot Goldeneyes, bald eagles, and great horned owls.

Final Thoughts

Avid and casual birdwatchers are always on the hunt for a new bird to study. While most state parks offer a massive variety of fowl to spy on, some birds stand out.

From majestic eagles and gigantic condors to tiny hummingbirds, you can find the right feathered creature to entertain you on your next camping trip at one of America’s state parks.