National Parks in the USA draw in millions of people each year. Some go to enjoy hiking, but even more people visit National Parks for birdwatching. There are about 900 species of birds native to the USA, so you’re almost guaranteed to see birds no matter which park you go to.
Still, you’ll want to visit the park with the most bird species and the best viewpoints to ensure you get the most out of your visit. So – is Everglades birdwatching better than Yellowstone birdwatching? Which are the Top 10 Birdwatching Parks in the USA? Read on to find out.
What are the Top 10 National Parks for Birdwatching in the USA?
If you’re coming to visit from another country, you may not be familiar with the national parks of the USA. There are 417 parks managed by the National Park Service. Each park features different attractions, but most include important cultural or historical sites. And, all have gorgeous landscapes for viewing and exploring.
Still, don’t let the size of a national park fool you. Just because a park is popular or includes a large plot of land it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s one of the best bird watching locations. Some parks weren’t even created for conservation, so they may not have the most bird species.
Instead, it’s important to look at elements like habitat diversity and migrant traps. Additionally, some spaces, though small and surrounded by cities, are actually bird paradises because of the Central Park Effect – an oasis for wildlife in an otherwise bustling area.
If you’re just getting started on your birdwatching journey and this is all a bit confusing, be sure to check out our guide on how to start birdwatching. We’ll get you out the door and logging sightings in no time.
Also see: best birdwatching apps in the USA
Top 10 Birdwatching Parks in the USA
1 – Acadia National Park | Maine
This park boasts 261 species of birds. The birds of Acadia National Park include birds of prey, seabirds, and boreal birds. Many of the birds live there all year. Some birds do stop in the park during their migrations north and south.
The park itself is on the coast of Maine and includes beaches, lakes, cliffs, and mountains. You’ll find that the best places to bird watch are Jordan Pond, Precipice Trail and Cadillac Mountain.
Find out more about Acadia National Park here.
2 – Everglades National Park | Florida
This park has over 300 species of birds (some sources even report up to 360!) When Everglades birdwatching, you can catch sight of birds of prey, land birds and wading birds. Millions of birds live in the Everglades, so your chances of spotting your favorite ones are high.
The Everglades are primarily wetlands. Located near Miami, this National Park is nicknamed the “River of Grass.” The best Everglades birdwatching spots include the Homestead, Anhinga Trail, Paurotis Pond, Nine Mile Pond and Mrazek Pond.
Find out more about Everglades National Park here.
3 – Grand Canyon National Park | Arizona
Birds of Grand Canyon National Park: Peregrine falcon, California condor, Common raven, Steller’s pinyon, Red-tailed hawk, Scrub jay and Canyon wren.
This park hosts over 370 bird species. While some birds are of a more common species, there are also incredibly rare birds here, like the California condor, Yuma clapper rail and Mexican spotted owl. Expect to see plenty of Common ravens too as they hang around the parking areas, buildings and campgrounds.
While birdwatching in Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll see everything from desert landscapes to lush pine forests to flowing rivers. This is a top birdwatching park as it was named a Globally Important Bird Area in 2014.
Find out more about Grand Canyon National Park here.
4 – Olympic National Park | Washington
Birds of Olympic National Park: Bald eagle, Western gull, Red-breasted sapsucker, Woodpecker, Belted kingfisher, Steller’s and Gray jay, Blue grouse, Peregrine falcon and Northern pygmy owl.
You’ll find diverse scenery and even more variety birdwatching in Olympic National Park. East of Seattle, this park is full of beaches, forests, waterfalls, moss, ferns and mountains. There are more than 250 bird species in this gorgeous habitat.
Find out more about Olympic National Park here.
5 – Haleakala National Park | Hawaii
Birds of Haleakala National Park: Hawaiian short-eared owl, Nene goose, Honeycreeper, Maui petrel and Mauri Parrotbill.
Hawaii is one of the most remote archipelagos in the world, so the birds found there are quite unique. Many birds are native only to this area, endemic, and have ancestors who landed on the island millions of years ago.
The park features rainforests and volcanic craters. You’ll find the best bird watching on the Hosmer Grove Trail, right off the campground of the same name.
Find out more about Haleakala National Park here.
6 – Pinnacles National Park | California
Birds of Pinnacles National Park: California quail, California condor, Turkey vulture, Golden eagle, Prairie falcon, Acorn woodpecker and Steller’s jay.
Although Pinnacles National Park is quite small and less visited, it is a great birdwatching location with more than 160 bird species. In particular, you can see lots of woodland birds and birds of prey at this park. It’s one of few parks where you can see California condor, a species released here after being bred in captivity.
The park has plenty of great camping spots and hiking trails through displaced volcanic formations. Be sure to check out the High Peaks Trail in search of those California condor.
Find out more about Pinnacles National Park here.
7 – Yellowstone National Park | Wyoming, Idaho, & Montana
Birds of Yellowstone National Park: Bald eagle, American white pelican, Canada geese, Common loon, Osprey, Sandhill crane, Trumpeter swan and American dipper.
There is no doubt that you’ll enjoy your Yellowstone birdwatching experience as there are close to 300 bird species in this massive park. You’ll likely see other wildlife as well, since this park is known for its wolves, bison, elk, bears and other animals.
Whilst birdwatching in Yellowstone, you’ll experience rivers, hot springs, forests and valleys. About 150 bird species nest within the park. Be sure to spend some time in the Hayden Valley where you’ll find both water birds and birds of prey.
Find out more about Yellowstone National Park here.
8 – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore | Indiana
Birds of Indiana Dunes National Park: Virginia rail, Red-throated loon, Green heron, Great blue heron, Waterfowl and warblers.
This National Park is home to 285 species of birds, as well as the endangered Karner blue butterfly. It’s best to visit in the spring and fall when thousands of birds migrate through. Expect to traverse wetlands, prairies, dunes and forests.
Find out more about Indiana Dunes National Park here.
9 – Carlsbad Caverns National Park | New Mexico
Birds of National Park: Gray and Bell’s vireo, Vermillion flycatcher, Cactus wren, Ladder-backed woodpecker and varied bunting.
Birders report anywhere from 310 to 357 different bird species at the Carlsbad Caverns. Over 300 of those species have been spotted at the Rattlesnake Springs within the park so you can easily spend much of your time there alone.
The park is also a recognized Important Bird Area where you can spot almost any Eastern warbler including the Kentucky, Cape May, and Prothonotary varieties. Be sure to visit in the spring or fall for the best bird watching.
Find out more about Carlsbad Caverns National Park here.
10 – Big Bend National Park | Texas
Birds of National Park: Vermillion flycatcher, Colima warbler, Mexican jay, Lucifer hummingbird and Green kingfisher.
The Big Bend National Park borders Mexico, so it presents a unique opportunity to see birds that you don’t often see in more northern parks. This is especially true of the Colima warbler, which you can’t reliably find anywhere else in the USA.
Enjoy over 450 different bird species when birdwatching at Big Bend National Park. The diversity of the location and habitat includes desert springs and oak-pinyon woods which allows you to see a wide range of birds.
Find out more about Big Bend National Park here.
Hidden Gems: Less Common Birdwatching Park Options in the USA
Although the following parks are less common for birdwatching, they deserve an honorable mention.
1. National Mall | Washington, DC
While the National Mall is home to famous statues and memorials, it’s also got a great expanse of greenery that’s home to many birds. Here you can expect:
- 260 bird species
- Waterfowl and songbirds
- Lots of activity during migration
- Must visit: Hains Point
2. Cabrillo National Monument | California
Cabrillo National Monument is a historic site but is home to rocks, tide pools and more. What to expect:
- 262 bird species
- Seabirds and migrating vagrants
- Migrating whales
3. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine | Maryland
Fort McHenry includes a great waterfront that draws in birds both year-round and seasonally. You can expect:
- Over 260 bird species
- Osprey, Baltimore oriole, Canada geese, ducks, and American bald eagle
4. Lake Mead National Recreation Area | Arizona & Nevada
Lake Mead is a man-made body of water in the Mojave Desert that attracts birds year-round. What to expect:
- 268 bird species
- Waterfowl, ducks, and geese.
- Find the best birdwatching spots near the western shore.
5. Death Valley National Park | California & Nevada
Death Valley does, indeed, contain life in the form of birds and other animals. It’s the hottest and driest National Park, so be sure to bring plenty of water. You can expect:
- 357 bird species
- Loggerhead shrikes, coots, Rufous hummingbirds and Meadowlarks
- Find the best Death Valley bird watching in the Furnace Creek area – home to 330 species
6. Gateway National Recreation Area | New York & New Jersey
New York and New Jersey contain bustling urban zones, but the Gateway National Recreation Area offers several gorgeous green areas that provide habitats to birds. You can expect:
- 375 bird species
- Shorebirds and waterfowl
- Migrant traps, especially in the Sandy Hook unit
7. Point Reyes National Seashore | California
California is one of the best US states for birdwatching. Birders have recorded more bird species at Point Reyes National Seashore than at any other National Park in the US. Here’s what to expect:
- 490 bird species
- Diverse habitats with wetlands, fields, forests and coastlines
- Snowy plover and Northern spotted owl
No matter which birdwatching park you visit, you’re sure to spot some exciting bird species and make cherished memories. There are so many birdwatching locations to check out in the US, you’ll certainly need to make more than one trip!
As you check them off your list, be sure to keep track of all the places you’ve been and birds you’ve spotted with the Birda app. It’s totally free and connects you with a community of like-minded folks. Read about all of Birda’s features here.
Or, if you’re looking to learn more, be sure to check out our article on the best binoculars for birdwatching.