Birding Hotspots

Are you wondering where to find birds in Detroit and the surrounding areas? Look no further. The following list was compiled by experienced local birder James Bull and informed by A Field List of Birds of Detroit Windsor Area (published in 1960 by the Cranbrook Institute of Science and written by Ralph O’Reilly, Jr., Neil T. Kelly and Alice H. Kelly– a project of Detroit Audubon’s Bird Survey Committee) and A Birder’s Guide to Michigan by Allen T. Chartier and Jerry Ziarno 2004.

Interactive Map available!

The list is organized by region.

Lake Erie-Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River, Lake Huron Corridor (S to N).

Erie Marsh Nature Preserve: Formerly known as the Erie Gun Club, it is now owned by the Nature Conservancy but managed by the Erie Shooting and Fishing Club.   Excellent for waterfowl and sometimes for songbirds.  Trails around dikes.  Closed Sept. 1- Dec. 15 for hunting.  I-75 to the Erie Road exit. Turn R on Erie Road, L on Bay Creek Road.  Turn Left on Dean Road and follow it to the end.

Pointe Mouillee
Pointe Mouillee State Game Area

Pointe Mouillee State Game Area:  An extensive marsh south of the mouth of the Huron River, enclosed by a dike or “banana.” Good for water birds and shorebirds.  Most areas closed during hunting season.  Access of Jefferson Avenue south of Gibraltar.  Ask for a map at the headquarters during the week. No restrooms on site.
Directions

Antenna Fields: Near Point Mouillee there is another place that is a must see area for rare grassland birds, so a good place to bird before or after you visit the marshy state game area— what are known as the Antenna Fields. In spring and summer you can depend on seeing Bobolinks, Horned Larks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, and Northern Harriers.  Other possibilities in some years are Clay Colored Sparrows, Dickcissels, and Lapland Longspurs, In winter both Horned Larks and Snow Buntings are often in abundance and Harriers may still be around.
Directions

Additional directions: From the Sigler Road parking lot for Point Mouillee come back to US Turnpike (the extension of Jefferson Avenue).  Turn left/south. You will see radio antennas on your right side. That is your destination. Now you have two choices, you can turn right on Labo Road, or go on further and turn right on Haggerman Road.  Near the intersection of Labo and Haggerman Roads is where the radio antennas are located—the whole road on both sides is good for birding, but especially around the fenced enclosure around the antennas.

Lake Erie Metropark:  Access off Jefferson Avenue just S. of the city of Gibraltar.  Entrance fee required. Good for waterfowl, herons, gulls, hawks migration is spectacular in the fall, and songbirds on the woodland trail opposite the nature center.  Bald eagles and Long-eared owls are specialties.
Directions

Grosse Ile:  Access from Jefferson Avenue just S. of the city of Trenton. Great view of waterfowl along perimeter roads (East and West River Roads) and now there are a few places to stop and park and use an observation platform.  The Grosse Ile Nature Area near the airport is open for public tours occasionally (contact the Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy).  Westcroft Gardens is great for songbirds in the winter.  This is an active landscaping business so tread gently and ask permission if you see anybody about.  Common Terns are now nesting on the piers on both the north and south bridges.
Directions

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center

Humbug Marsh and Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge:  N. of City of Gibraltar on Jefferson Avenue. Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge habitats support 300 species of birds including 30 species of waterfowl, 23 species of raptors and 31 species of shorebirds. More than three million waterfowl migrate through the Great Lakes annually. American black ducks gather in the marshes of western Lake Erie before completing their fall journey south. Migrating canvasbacks rest and feed on beds of wild celery in the lower Detroit River. Wood ducks, mallards and blue-winged teal nest in the area, and a wide variety of wading birds and shorebirds reside within the refuge boundary during the summer months. 

The 405.16-acre Humbug Marsh Unit is a major part of the conservation crescent of the lower Detroit River – including Humbug mainland, Calf Island, Gibraltar Bay and Sugar Island – and a hotspot of biodiversity in an urban landscape. Sitting south of the Refuge Gateway, Humbug Marsh is mostly forested. Detroit Audubon helped save this gem from development.  For now only open for scheduled tours or by special arrangement.
Directions

Milliken State Park: This state park, located right on the Detroit River in downtown Detroit, is a green oasis amidst the city and a great location for an urban birding stop. The RiverWalk trail winds through the park and provides access to riverfront habitat and restored wetland habitat. Good for songbirds, raptors, and waterbirds.
Directions

Belle Isle Nature Center

Belle Isle:  A large island of green, this Detroit’s premier park was designed by Fredrick Law Ohlmstead.  Some of the original swamp remains, but much has been filled.  Great for waterfowl in late fall, winter and early spring. Good for songbirds and raptors in all seasons. There are plenty of places to park all around the perimeter of the island where you can stop and get your scope out, and several trails for woodland birds. Access the island by bridge off East Jefferson Avenue, Detroit. Click Here to view Allen Chartier’s Belle Isle Birding page! Directions

Lake St. Clair Metropark: Take I-94 to Metro Parkway (Mt Clemens area) and take Metro Parkway East.  It continues into the park. Inquire at the nature center for latest sightings.  Nice woodland/marsh trails and beach.
Directions

Anchor Bay, St. John’s Marsh And Harsen’s Island:  I-94 to M-29 (exit 243).  Go East. You will first come to Anchor Bay, then St. John’s Marsh and then if you take a ferry Harsen’s Island.  All good for wintering and migrant waterfowl.
Directions to Harsen’s Island

Port Huron State Game Area:  I-94 to the end in Port Huron, Exit to M-25 West.  Left on M-136, it becomes North and then Beard Road.  Open uplands, river-bottom and upland hardwood forests, and swamps.  Good for land birds at all seasons.  Outstanding because of summering Mourning, Pine and Black-throated Green Warblers, and other birds of more northerly distribution.  Better than average for winter visitants.

Southeast Michigan Inland Areas (E to W):

Elmwood Cemetery

Elmwood Cemetery: Elmwood Cemetery is one of the oldest continuously operating cemeteries in Michigan and is Detroit’s first certified arboretum! Because Elmwood has been a cemetery for so long, the landscape reflects what the city of Detroit would have looked like pre-urbanization, complete with rolling hills and a small creek. Elmwood is a great city birding spot all year round but is especially good in the spring and fall for migrating songbirds. There are resident Red-Tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, as well.
Directions

Eliza Howell Park: Eliza Howell Park is a city park on the far west side of Detroit, and is a true hidden gem in the city. There is a loop trail running through the riparian corridor of the Rouge River and native grassland habitat, making this a good spot for both grassland and forest birds, especially during migration.
Directions

Rouge Park: At nearly 1,200 acres, Rouge Park is Detroit’s largest city park and a truly wonderful place to explore. The Rouge River runs through the entire length of the park, and the Stone Bridge Nature Trail is an especially beautiful trail that winds along an oxbow of the river. There is also a fairly large piece of restored native prairie, making it good for grassland birds, as well.
Directions

Environmental Interpretive Center

University of Michigan-Dearborn Environmental Study Area:  This 300-acre Natural Area was once part of Henry and Clara Ford’s backyard.  The EIC and the Environmental Study Area are part of the UM-Dearborn campus.  A variety of habitats, including an 8-acre lake, marsh, open meadow, the Rouge River and its mature floodplain forest, attract resident and migrating songbirds and birds of prey.  Nearly 2 miles of walking trails are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, for quiet enjoyment and nature study.  Located at 4901 Evergreen Rd. in Dearborn. Take the north entrance onto the UM-Dearborn campus and park in the multi-level Monteith Parking Structure, adjacent to the Environmental Interpretive Center (EIC), located at the corner of Fair Lane Drive and Monteith Road; weekend parking is free. 

Dogs are not permitted in the Study Area.

Directions

Wayne State University Bird Walk: Enjoy a leisurely walk around Wayne State Campus using one of our birding hotspots maps. Start out at the yellow star and follow the blue stars around campus to our hand picked birding spots on Wayne State Campus. While following the map, read what birds and habitat to expect at each stop along the way.

For a shorter walk, enjoy this map which starts at Fountain Court on Wayne State Campus. (Estimated time ~ 1 hour)

Oakwoods Metropark:  On Huron River Drive near Flatrock.  Dickcissels and other grassland birds are sometimes present.
Directions

Crosswinds Marsh: Take I-94 to I-275 South.  Exit at Will-Carleton Road.  Go West and the entrance to the marsh will be opposite a huge landfill (Carleton Farms).  Eagles can be seen nesting from the road and can be seen in all seasons.  Boardwalk and trails through wooded wetland margins.  This is one good example of a created wetland that really works (it was really a restored wetland).  It was created to compensate or mitigate wetlands destroyed in putting in the new McNamara terminal at the Metro Airport.
Directions

Indian Springs Metropark:  Take M-59 to Terrgerdine Road North, L on White Lake Road to entrance.  One of few places where Henslow’s Sparrows have still been known to nest in the metro area.  Other grassland birds too if the metroparks don’t crazy with mowing.
Directions

Kensington Metropark- Nature Center Trail

Kensington Metropark: Take I-96 West.  Entrance on Kent Lake Road just past Brighton.  Hardwoods, marshes and artificial lakes and ponds.  Good waterfowl area, osprey were reintroduced here and are still being hacked each year, good land bird concentration especially in winter.
Directions

Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor:  US 23 to Geddes road West, S. on Huron Parkway, then Left on Geddes Road to Observatory Road.  Look for parking on residential streets of find a parking lot and walk back.  Especially good for migrants.
Directions

Haehnle Sanctuary: Here’s the place to watch Sandhill Cranes in migration—up to 4,000 at one time stop over at this marsh just before dusk from mid-October until mid-December.  Go West on I-94 past Chelsea and almost to Jackson.  Take the Race Road Exit and go north until it dead ends. Turn left and look on right for sign for the Haenhle Sanctuary parking lot.  It is short walk trough the gate to the observation hill.  A few benches are provided but you can bring your own lawn chair or blanket to sit on.  Scope is recommended.  Also nice trail through restored prairie, woodland, lakes, and a fen.
Directions

Ohio

Magee Marsh

Crane Creek State Park and Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area, And Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge: Take I-75 South to I-280 East, to Ohio State Route 2 East.  About 10 miles East of Oregon, Ohio.  You will come to Ottawa’s entrance on your left first.  There will be ponds on both sides as you go in, then a small parking lot with a trail though a small woodland swamp to shallow impoundments good for shorebirds.  Across the dike form the parking lot is the refuge headquarters open weekdays and a few weekends.  Crane Creek and Magee Marsh seem like the same place.  Entrance is almost immediately on your Left once you turn left on SR 2.  Migratory Bird Center at Magee Marsh has a trail with nesting Prothonotary Warblers, herons, swallows, and feeder birds.  Continue north and the marsh will be on both sides of you as you drive.  There are a few places to pull over but you aren’t supposed to do that.   Most folks go very slowly on this short section of road.  Once your get to parking lot and go to the far end.  The birding trail, only 3/4 of mile starts there.  But it may take several hours to walk it during peak migration.  Incredible concentration of warblers and other songbirds.
Directions

Oak Openings Metropark: A Toledo Metropark.  Specialties include nesting Lark Sparrows and good songbird migration area.  Go W. from Toledo on SR 2.  About 10 miles W of I-475 turn S. on Girdham Road which leads through the heart of the park.
Directions

Ontario

Holiday Beach Conservation Area (and Hawk Observatory):  Flight usually best from Sept. 10-mid October.  From Ambassador Bridge take Highway 20 (it used be Highway 18 but was recently renamed).  Turn R. on County Road 18 in Malden Center (just a few miles outside Amherstburg), 1.5 miles to Holiday Beach Conservation Area.
Directions

Pointe Pelee AND Hilman Marsh:  From Ambassador Bridge take Highway 3 to Leamington and from there follow National Park signs (a beaver) to the park entrance.  Visitor Center is best place to start.  You can take the train to the point and walk back.  No cars beyond the nature center.  DeLaurier is also worth checking out.  Best birding site in North America but it can get crowded with people.  If you go, get there early or you may not be able to park in the large visitor center parking lot and may wind up walking from a more distant parking lot.
Directions

Jack Miner’s:  Between Highway 18 and 3, near Kingsville.  A world famous refuge for Canada Geese.  In years past when Canada Geese were not so ubiquitous it was more of must see.  The huge number of geese that drop in at dusk is still quite impressive.  The sanctuary itself where you can see waterfowl on exhibit is closed on Sunday, but you can still see the geese land in the field across the road.
Directions

Ipperwash Kettle Point and Pinery Provincial Park:  Ipperwash Beach and Kettle Point can be good for Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings and other good sightings.  Pinery is known for Bohemian Waxwings along the river trail (next the campground) and good feeder birds at the nature center.  Cross over to Canada from Port Huron and go north along Highway 7.
Directions to the Pinery