Top Birding Hotspots for Observing Warbler Migration

One of the best parts of spring is observing warblers, and the birding hotspots below are the best places to see these colorful migrants.

Rob Ripma

One of the major highlights of living in the eastern part of the United States is the incredible warbler migration that you get to experience each spring. Let’s be honest – most birders spend the winter months dreaming about the day that the first migrant warbler will arrive. In spite of the snow and cold,  we know that it won’t be long until these bright and colorful migrants will be flitting through freshly leafed-out trees. You can find warblers in your area no matter where you live, but there are a few birding hotspots around the country that are exceptional places to watches these beauties.

Blackburnian Warblers are one of my favorite warbler species. They can be seen throughout Eastern North America.

Blackburnian Warblers are one of my favorite warbler species. They can be seen throughout Eastern North America.

1. High Island – Texas

High Island is one of the most famous birding hotspots in the whole country, and all it takes is one stop here during migration to see why. The birding is always good during migration (best in April), but if you happen to visit High Island on the right day, you might get to experience a fall out. Fall outs are incredible events where the birds get slowed down during their migration over the Gulf of Mexico and use up their stored energy very quickly. When they reach land, they must find the first good habitat with shelter and food. Birds can drop in by the thousands, and quality habitat like that found at High Island is critical for the survival of hundreds of thousands of migrating birds.

2. Magee Marsh – Northwest Ohio

Magee Marsh is my personal favorite birding hotspot for warbler migration. The park is located just east of Toledo, Ohio and is right on the shores of Lake Erie. Although small, the area attracts an incredible number of migrating warblers during May. It is not uncommon to find over 30 species of warblers in the area in just a few days’ time. Also, over the last few years, at least one Kirtland’s Warbler has been seen here during the month of May! There are also many other wildlife areas in northwest Ohio that are worth visiting while in the area such as Oak Openings, Metzger Marsh, and Pipe Creek Wildlife Area. Be sure to stop at  Black Swamp Bird Observatory at the entrance to Magee Marsh to learn about their important research.

Prothonotary Warblers can be seen at all of the birding hotspots that are mentioned here.

Prothonotary Warblers can be seen at all of the birding hotspots that are mentioned here.

Yellow Warblers not only migrate through the Eastern United States, they also breed across much of the area.

Yellow Warblers not only migrate through the Eastern United States, they also breed across much of the area.

3. Cape May – New Jersey

Cape May has a long tradition as one of the best warbler migration hotspots on the East Coast. There are many different places that you can go birding throughout the Cape May area, and this leads to some fantastic species totals. If you are looking to join in the extreme side of birding, check out the World Series of Birding!

4. Dry Tortugas National Park – Florida Keys

The Dry Tortugas is a very interesting migration spot. The site is only accessible via boat or seaplane making it a rather difficult place to get to, but that is part of the fun. Once you are there, the birding can be fantastic! You will be looking for warblers on the ground of an old US Fort. Inside the Fort is a water feature that provides the only fresh water available on the islands making it a magnet for birds. Find a spot to sit and then enjoy the show as the warblers come in to get a drink!

5. Fort Morgan – Alabama

This is the least known of the birding hotspots that I’ve included, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting! The Fort Morgan Historic State Park sits at the tip of the Fort Morgan Peninsula that sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico. Its location makes it an ideal place for warblers on their northward migration to stop and fuel up before continuing on. If the conditions are right, you just might experience a fall out like I mentioned when writing about High Island.

Black-throated Green Warblers can also be seen throughout the east during migration.

Black-throated Green Warblers can also be seen throughout the east during migration.

  1. Peter Whitmore says

    Hey, what about Point Pelee, Ontario Canada! Canada’s premiere warbler spot, across the lake from Magee Marsh. And Canadian:-) So that makes it really, really good…

  2. kim riley says

    When you go to High Island, check out the barbeque dinners at St. Matthews Methodist Church on Saturdays in April. Been serving the birders for years! Have fun!

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