Becoming a birder is easy – all you have to do is step outside.
Be it NYC's urban jungle or California's wild coast, birds are everywhere – and enjoying the winged wonders is free.
According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, roughly 45 million Americans consider themselves birders – and during the pandemic, the number of avian enthusiasts soared. In 2020, downloads of online bird-identification apps like Merlin Bird ID and the National Audubon Society's Mobile Bird Guide doubled their usual rate. Sales of birding merchandise shot up nearly 50%. Even today, the popularity of birding shows no signs of fading.
“Birding shifts your perceptions, adding new layers of meaning and brokering connections: between sounds and seasons, across far-flung places, and between who we are as people and a wild world that both transcends and embraces us,” writes NYC-based birder Christian Cooper in his 2023 memoir Better Living Through Birding (a New York Times Bestseller). “In my life, it has been a window into the wondrous.”
But not all birding locations are equal – so we chatted with American bird specialists to find out which US destinations are top-tier for twitchers. Here are their recommendations.
The southern tip of Texas is tops for birding, particularly when Harlingen hosts the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival during fall's migration season.
A good day of birding on the East Coast might mean spotting 50 to 60 species. In Harlingen, you might spot nearly 100 species after a few hours. Birders will appreciate the riot of breeding birds migrating south from places like Canada, but they'll lose their minds over colorful species from Central America and Mexico that sometimes visit the area.
With a list of endemic birds found nowhere else in the US, the Lone Star State has plenty of reasons to lose their minds year-round. Noteworthy residents include the green jay – which flashes brilliant emerald, saffron, and navy plumage – and the chachalaca. Although this pheasant-sized bird boasts the elegant profile of a tiny velociraptor, it screeches like a remedial trumpet player.
Molly Adams, founder of theFeminist Bird Club, was surprised when she opened the app eBird and found that Brooklyn's Prospect Park is one of New York City's most ecologically rich hotspots for birdwatching. Although the pigeon reigns supreme on NYC's streets, it's got stiff competition in the 1700 parks around town.
New York City's urban green spaces provide a much-needed respite for over 200 species of migratory birds traveling throughout spring and fall. “These pocket parks are part of the Atlantic Flyway, so during migration, you can see close to 100 species in one day,” she explains.
Adams, who creates inclusive birdwatching opportunities for
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At 27 years old, I completed my wanderlust dream of traveling to every country in the world as a solo female traveler. To be exact, I've visited all 193 sovereign nations — plus Taiwan, Kosovo, and Palestine. Then, by the age of 30, I achieved my athletic dream of becoming an Ironman. I find great fulfillment in inspiring and educating young women to get out and pursue their passions — or whatever gets them excited in life.
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