The Top Warbler Hotspots to Visit in Spring

One of the best parts of spring for birders is observing colorful migrating warblers. Plan a trip to the best warbler hotspots for spring migration.

blackburnian warbler, warbler migrationCourtesy Cam Kline
Blackburnian warbler 

One of the major highlights of living in the United States is the incredible warbler migration that we get to experience each spring. Let’s be honest—most birders spend the winter months dreaming about the day that the first spring 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 warbler hotspots around the country that are exceptional places to spot these beautiful birds.

1. High Island, Texas

High Island is one of the most famous warbler hotspots in the whole country, and all it takes is one stop here during migration to see why. The birding is always good during spring migration (best in April), but if you happen to visit High Island on the right day, you might get to experience a fall out of warblers. 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. Learn more secrets about bird migration.

kirtlands warbler, warbler migrationCourtesy Jamie Burning
Kirtland’s warbler

2. Magee Marsh, Northwest Ohio

Magee Marsh is my personal favorite warbler hotspot for spring 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 warbler species in the area in just a few days’ time. When birding expert Kenn Kaufman tweeted that he’d discovered the rare Kirtland’s warbler here, hundreds came to see it. 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.

cape may warbler, warbler migrationCourtesy Catherine Forrest
Cape May warbler

3. Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May has a long tradition as one of the best warbler 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. Maybe you’ll even spot a Cape May warbler. Check out the best coast to coast birding hotspots for every season.

4. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Keys

The Dry Tortugas is a very interesting warbler hotspot. 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 grounds of an old U.S. Fort. Inside the fort, a water feature provides the only fresh water available on the islands making it a magnet for migrating birds. Find a spot to sit and then enjoy the show as the warblers come in to get a drink! Discover more birding hotspots in lesser-known national parks.

5. Fort Morgan, Alabama

This is the least known of the warbler hotspots that I’ve included, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting! The Fort Morgan State Historic Site sits at the tip of the Fort Morgan Peninsula that sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico. The 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.

Next, learn how to identify black-and-white warblers, palm warblers, yellow warblers and magnolia warblers.

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