When you think of a great birding spot, what do you imagine? Broad wetlands, a dense forest, or an expansive prairie? How about an isolated canyon, a winding mountain trail, or a pristine beach? These can all be ideal places to see birds. But, there are many other unusual places to see birds as well. Get out and go birding in these weird places and you’ll be surprised at how many birds you see!
Weird Places to Go Birding
Birds can be seen everywhere. Even experienced birders can be astonished at how many species might appear in unusual spots. Many of these locations are urban or suburban hotspots and are more easily accessible than distant preserves. Because they’re smaller as well, it is possible to thoroughly explore each spot in a much shorter time. This gives birders the chance to really get to know each habitat and the birds it supports.
While one of these spots might not host dozens of species at once, birders can still have great sightings at unusual destinations that aren’t normally associated with birding:
1. Business Parks
Many business parks that are home to a variety of offices are also home to a variety of birds. These complexes often feature mature trees, cultivated landscaping with dense shrubbery, and attractive flowerbeds. Songbirds, hummingbirds, thrushes, and other birds will take advantage of those urban habitats—especially when the adjacent areas are often parking lots or less hospitable designs.
2. College Campuses
Colleges and universities often have wide green spaces and healthy landscaping—ideal habitats to attract birds, just as they attract lounging students. Larger campuses may also have ponds or dedicated nature areas or trails, ideal for urban birding. Birds may even nest in college clock towers or visit campus fountains for a quick drink or bath. Swifts, swallows, martins, ducks, geese, songbirds, and even more species can be right at home at school.
With a quiet, peaceful atmosphere ideal for shy birds, the mature trees and beautiful flowers found in many cemeteries will attract a wide range of species. Cemeteries may be home to nuthatches, kinglets, titmice, and many other songbirds. Owls and other raptors may also be seen. The large size of many city cemeteries provides abundant space for birds. Because the area is relatively undisturbed, many birds feel right at home.
4. Amusement Parks
The excitement and energy of an amusement park might seem counterintuitive to a good birding spot. Yet many birds thrive in the flowerbeds, midway trees, and decorative fountains of amusement parks. Scavenging birds such as crows, gulls, and blackbirds also flock to the spilled treats of an amusement park, and many parks feature ponds or lakes, petting zoos, and other bird-friendly areas.
Not amused by amusement parks? Attending Your First (or Fiftieth!) Birding Festival
While the captive resident birds at a zoo wouldn’t generally count on a birder’s life list, many wild birds may also be seen in zoos. Wild hummingbirds, quail, and songbirds are attracted to the native plants, mature trees, and water features of open habitats. Visiting zoos also gives birders the chance to interact with exotic species, see birds they might otherwise never see, and support the conservation programs of the zoo.
One community’s trash is a birder’s treasure when it comes to birding at landfills, waste centers, and dumps. The decomposing debris will attract great populations of insects and rodents, which will serve as food to hungry gulls, raptors, vultures, crows, ravens, magpies, and many other bird species. As new trash is added to the landfill, new birds will arrive to investigate the bounty. That means the bird population is always changing.
An active, productive fishing wharf, dock, or pier is a great place to spot birds with a taste for seafood. Pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns, eagles, and ospreys may all be regular guests at piers and wharfs—particularly if local fishermen happily toss scraps and offal to feathered foragers. Wading birds such as herons and egrets may also regularly visit fishing docks where they can often find helpful handouts.
Active, working farms are home to much more than crops and livestock—many different birds will feast on spilled grain, ripening crops, and insects attracted to the animals. Sparrows, longspurs, meadowlarks, and many other birds can be found around fields, while barn owls and corvids may be spotted near outbuildings. A farm is active year-round, and it can be a great birding spot at any time.
See also: Bald Eagle Facts and Trivia
While too many birds can cause problems near an airport, the large swaths of buffer land and wetlands around many airports can be a prime birding habitat. Raptors often seek out prey in the open areas, while wading birds and shorebirds are residents of adjacent wetlands. Savvy birds such as sparrows, starlings, and grackles even end up inside airports, leading to interesting bird sightings right in the terminal.
10. Berry Patches
Berry patches, orchards, and vineyards that welcome guests to pick their own produce are just as welcoming for berry-loving birds. Waxwings, thrushes, catbirds, and thrashers, as well as sparrows can be found at field edges. Hawks may soar above the fields. Not only can birders have a great birding experience, but they’ll get the extra treat of farm-fresh berries, fruit, or vegetables to enjoy.
Quick Tips for Visiting Weird Birding Spots
Unique birding spots come with different challenges for visiting birders. While guests are almost always welcome, it is important to ask permission to go birding on the property and follow all rules and guidelines for visitors. Respect off-limits areas, and not disturb regular operations.
Visiting the same area at different times of year will reveal different birds. These weird places may not have as many different species as dedicated birding preserves, but each one can be a remarkable birding opportunity for birders who don’t mind going off the beaten path.