Top 5 Great Lakes Birding Hotspots for Spring Migration

Make a trip to any of these birding hotspots to observe migration along the shores of one of the Great Lakes.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the top birding hotspots to observe migration along the Gulf Coast. Today, we move north to cover the best birding hotspots around the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes are a big barrier to migrant birds as they head north. They must decide if they are going to fly over the huge lakes or if going around them would be a better idea. This leads to many migrants gathering on the shores of the Great Lakes. Visit any of these five birding hotspots to see how magnificent migration can be in the Great Lakes region.

1. Magee Marsh, OH

Magee Marsh along the shores of Lake Erie has become known as the “Warbler Capital of the World” and hosts the largest birding festival in the US every May. One visit and you’ll see why so many birders love coming to Magee Marsh each spring! Warblers and other migrants are literally everywhere in this region. While birding at Magee Marsh, don’t forget to check out other awesome birding sites like Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Openings Metropark, and the Pipe Creek Wildlife area.

Top 5 Great Lakes Birding Hotspots for Spring MigrationRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Bay-breasted Warblers are one of the many migrants that can be found at Magee Marsh.
2. Indiana Dunes State Park, IN

The Indiana Dunes might not be as well known as Magee Marsh, but birding can be incredible at this site as well. Birds gather here on the shore of Lake Michigan before continuing on their way north to their breeding grounds in the northern US and Canada. Each spring, a bird count is conducted along the lakeshore in order to track how many birds are passing by. There are also plenty of great birding locations close to the Dunes such as Beverly Shores, Kankakee Sands, and Miller Beach.

Top 5 Great Lakes Birding Hotspots for Spring MigrationRob Ripma
Rob Ripma The Chestnut-sided Warbler is a common migrant in the Indiana Dunes area.
3. Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada

Across Lake Erie from Magee Marsh in Ohio sits the world famous Point Pelee. As migrants cross over the lake, this point is one of the first pieces of land that they see, and many of them stop here to feed. During the spring, you can spend a day birding at Magee Marsh and then take the JetExpress (ferry) across Lake Erie to bird in Canada!

4. Tawas Point State Park, MI

Tawas Point offers some of the best birding on Lake Huron. The spot attracts many migrating songbirds during spring migrations. After enjoying the migrants, you won’t be far from a stop to see breeding Kirtland’s Warblers near the city of Mio.

5. Whitefish Point, MI

Whitefish Point is a well-known location for the incredible number of waterbirds that migrate past the point that sticks out into Lake Superior. Thousands of ducks, loons, grebes, geese, and shorebirds migrate past the point each spring and fall. In addition to these species, many songbirds also can be seen around Whitefish Point.

Rob Ripma
Rob Ripma, a lifelong Indiana resident, has traveled and birded extensively throughout the Americas.