Great Bird Migration Spots
It’s the event that birders around the state have been waiting for: spring migration. At this time of year, birds are leaving their winter grounds in the south and heading north. Spring migration in Massachusetts usually occurs from March to June, peaking around Mother's Day for many species.
So where do in-the-know birders go to best enjoy this annual occurrence? In addition to our many wildlife sanctuaries, here are a few of Mass Audubon’s favorite birding spots to visit this spring. Find out why we love them, what you'll see, and how to make the most of your visit.
1. Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge & Watertown
Why: Mt. Auburn, on the border of Cambridge and Watertown, is a “migrant trap” – a sizable area of greenery within a highly-developed urbanized area. The many trees, water features, and ornamental shrubs in the cemetery offers a safe place for birds to rest, find food, and prepare for the next leg of their migratory journey.
What: Songbirds, especially vireos, warblers, thrushes, and sparrows.
How: This is such a popular spot that many Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries offer walks through Mt. Auburn during spring migration.
2. Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Newbury & Newburyport
Why: The extensive and varied habitats of this barrier island offer ideal stopover conditions for migrants along the coast, a pathway that many migrating birds follow in both spring and fall. The combination of salt, brackish, and freshwater wetlands—as well as extensive coastal thickets—attracts a wide variety of species. Birders like the area because many species are relatively easy to observe on the refuge.
What: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is attractive to a wide variety of species, especially waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, and warblers in late spring and early fall.
How: Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport runs Wednesday and Saturday morning birding programs through Parker River National Wildlife Refuge as well as other great area locations.
3. Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshfield
Why: In a state where forests grow up so quickly, and developments grow quicker still, areas of extensive grassland habitat are fairly rare, especially in eastern Massachusetts. This makes Daniel Webster an important place for many grassland birds to stop during migration and also nest. It’s one of the largest regularly-maintained open grasslands in Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries and is a popular birding destination at all times of year.
What: Daniel Webster offers a fine chance to see various wetland species including waterfowl, herons, shorebirds, and swallows. Mixed flocks of blackbirds (i.e., grackles, cowbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and even the occasional rusty blackbird) as well as grassland specialties like bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks are possibilities. It’s also a favorite spot for raptors, especially open-country species like northern harriers and American kestrels.
4. Scusset Beach State Reservation, Sandwich
Why: The Cape Cod shoreline is often one of the first land masses that migratory birds encounter as they are moving north over the open ocean. These birds often follow the Cape Cod Bay shoreline directly to Scusset Beach State Reservation, where they sometimes pause in the thickets before turning north and continuing their migration.
What: In addition to the songbirds that sometimes collect in the shrubby thickets behind the beach, seabirds like northern gannets, and sea ducks including scoters, eiders, and long-tailed ducks are regularly seen from the jetty near the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal.
How: Stop by on your way to or from the Cape. Afterward, hop back on Route 6 toward Barnstable to visit Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary.
5. Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, Pittsfield
Why: Canoe Meadows borders the Housatonic River, a natural migration pathway, and it’s part of the Upper Housatonic Important Bird Area (IBA). The wildlife sanctuary includes a variety of habitat types including hayfields, beaver wetlands, riparian woodland, old fields, and mixed woodland. Three miles of marked trails traverse these habitats.
What: A wide variety of birds from waterfowl and raptors to flycatchers, warblers, and sparrows can be seen. Be on the lookout for red-breasted nuthatches, blue-gray gnatcatchers, blackburnian warblers, northern waterthrushes, and bobolinks.
How: Visit on your own or join one of the bird walks during April and May at Canoe Meadows.
New Places to Explore
Where will you find your favorite bird species this spring? Visit one of Mass Audubon's 60+ wildlife sanctuaries to experience the excitement of spring migration yourself.
Upcoming Birding ProgramsSee More
Wednesday Morning Birding
Newburyport and vicinity
Wednesday, February 28
Winter Waterbirds: Ducks, Geese, Loons & More
Thursday, February 29
Friday Morning Bird Walks
Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Worcester
Friday, March 1
Don't miss a beat on all the ways you can get outdoors, celebrate nature, and get involved.