Looking to switch up your usual weekend activities? Add bird watching to your list! Early September in PA kicks off fall bird migration season and with our diverse natural scenic places, including vistas, ridges, mountains, and gorges, Pennsylvania is a hot spot for bird watching this time of year.
New to birding? Follow the below tips from the National Audubon Society to make your experience memorable and safe.
- Do research. Plan your trip ahead of time and bring a field guide and map to keep your sense of direction, as well as to help identify each bird and maps of their range.
- Bring a phone or friend and tell people where you are going.
- Gear up. Birding requires little equipment, but you do need a pair of binoculars. As you improve, you may want to invest in a nice camera or spotting scope. Also be prepared for inclement weather and dress appropriately.
- Watch out for your surroundings. It’s easy to get caught up in the activity in the trees, but make sure to check in on where you’re walking.
- Get out and explore! You’ll gain experience and knowledge after you spend more time with the birds.
Now that you’re ready, decide which of these viewing locations across the state are best for you. We recommend contacting your destination before your visit to confirm their latest rules and regulations. You can also find up-to-date COVID-19 traveler resources on visitPA.com.
1. Bald Eagle State Park
Bald Eagle State Park contains diverse habitats that attract many bird species. The mountain ridges create excellent flyways for migrating birds that stop at the park to rest and feed during their migration. Beginner and life-long birders find exploring the park with a pair of binoculars a treat no matter the season.
2. Blue Knob State Park
Featuring Blue Knob, the second-highest point in Pennsylvania, this state park in Bedford County offers spectacular views of the Ridge and Valley Province. Catch a glimpse of owls, wild turkeys, peregrine falcons, hawks, and woodpeckers that all flourish in this diverse habitat.
3. Codorus State Park
Designated by The National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area, Codorus State Park is home to nearly 240 species of birds. Five miles of trails provide easy access to varied habitats where you can spot waterfowl, osprey, bald eagles, hawks, and more.
4. Fort Washington State Park
Beginning in September, Fort Washington State Park invites visitors to view hawks from their observation deck. During their hawk watch, from September 1 through October 31, you can see all 16 species of raptors that migrate on the east coast.
5. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, along the Kittatinny Ridge near Pottsville, is a great option for viewing the migration of raptors. The sanctuary makes available peak migration dates and times, and also provides educational opportunities to learn more about raptors.
6. Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area
Situated in Lancaster County, the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is an Important Bird Area, owned and managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The space is an exceptional location for viewing nesting, migrating, and wintering birds.
7. Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle State Park is an ideal spot for bird watching with a variety of habitats. The Youghiogheny River provides habitat perfect for water-loving birds such as osprey, mergansers, kingfishers, and occasional bald eagles.
8. Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park’s location on the Atlantic Flyway makes it a favorite spot for birds to stop to feed and rest on their migration across Lake Erie. In the months leading up to September, visitors can spot both shorebird and warbler migration. Those who wish to visit at a later time can enjoy waterfowl migration during late November through December.
9. Promised Land State Park
Designated as an Important Bird Area, Promised Land State Park is situated on the Pocono Plateau, 1,800 feet above sea level, and offers a wildlife observation station. While there, catch a glimpse of bald eagles native to the area and their nests.
10. Samuel S. Lewis State Park
Samuel S. Lewis State Park overlooks and offers stunning views of the Susquehanna River. Hike the Hill Top Trail for plenty of bird viewing opportunities or climb the 885-foot Mount Pisgah, the highest point in the area, for even more spectacular panoramic views.
11. Second Mountain Hawk Watch
Second Mountain Hawk Watch offers an awesome vantage point to see Fort Indiantown Gap and overlook Stony Valley and the mountains beyond. A variety of raptors can be seen here including sharp shinned hawks, harriers, bald eagles, and golden eagles.
12. Susquehannock State Park
Four properties along the scenic Lower Susquehanna River comprise the Susquehannock State Park Complex, totaling 224 acres. Two must-see stops include Hawk Point and Wissler’s Run overlooks to view migratory birds, such as bald eagles, osprey, turkey, and black vultures.
13. Waggoner’s Gap
You’ll find very few wildlife experiences that are more exciting than the sight of a golden eagle gliding over a landscape painted in autumn reds, yellows, and oranges. During Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch, August 1 through December 31, birders can experience one of the largest concentrations of raptors in the U.S.
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