Best Places to See Migrating Birds in Michigan 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Whether you’ve always loved spotting wild birds or you have recently embraced the popular hobby of birdwatching, there is no better time or place than springtime in Michigan to see our feathered friends high overhead. This state is like a bird superhighway for several weeks each spring as migrating birds take their annual trip to their northern nesting grounds. More than 350 species of birds move through the Great Lakes region during this migration. And while you can probably see some of these in your own neighborhood, we’re sharing some of the best places to see migrating birds in Michigan.

Migration flyways

The sharp trills of arriving red-winged blackbirds are among the first sounds of spring migration. So are the trumpeting calls of sandhill cranes. As hundreds of thousands of birds leave their overwintering spots in southern states, Mexico and South and Central America, the ones heading for breeding grounds in the U.S. funnel into one of four different migration flyways spread across the country. These flyways are corridors in the sky, each over a different region of the U.S., according to the Michigan Audubon society. The Great Lakes region is part of the Mississippi Flyway, which extends from Florida and the Gulf Coast north through Michigan and into Canada.

Earliest migrating birds

From hawks and owls to songbirds and tiny shorebirds, a dazzling variety of birds fly over Michigan during their migration. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, some of the early arrivals include:
  • Canada geese
  • Red-winged blackbirds
  • Sandhill cranes
  • Turkey vultures
  • Warblers
  • Sandpipers
  • Puddle ducks

Prime birdwatching spots

There are lots of different places across the state that offer prime birdwatching real estate each migration season. Some are on windy peninsulas along a Great Lake. Some are in state parks. Others are wetland expanses where loons and other water birds touch down in search of a mate. The state’s wildlife experts recommend these spots:

State Parks:

  • Tawas Point State Park
  • Port Crescent State Park
  • Belle Isle in the Detroit River
  • Sterling State Park in Monroe
  • Sleeper State Park in Caseville
  • Bay City State Park
  • Leelanau State Park
  • Fisherman’s Island State Park in Charlevoix
  • Fort Wilkins Historic State Park in Copper Harbor
  • McLain State Park in Hancock

Wetland Wonder areas

These areas are open to the public, and managed to provide good nesting areas for waterfowl.
  • Fennville Farm Unit at the Allegan State Game Area
  • Fish Point State Wildlife Area in Unionville
  • Harsens Island at St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area
  • Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center
  • Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area in Pinconning
  • Pointe Mouillee State Game Area in Rockwood
  • Shiawassee River State Wildlife Area in St. Charles

Hawk-Watching Sites

  • Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor
  • Mackinaw City
  • Mackinac Island
  • Lakeport State Park
  • Whitefish Point in Paradise
Photo credit: Getty Images

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