Top Locations to Go Birding in Southeast Michigan

Types of Birds You Will Find

State Bird of Michigan—the American Robin

Linda Tanner/Flickr/cc by-nc-nd 4.0

The environment—climate, geography, availability of food, and pollution—dictates the types of birds that breed in or migrate through Southeast Michigan. If you are thinking of birding in Southeast Michigan, you'll find plenty of opportunities as the area's deciduous forests, rivers, and lakes cater to several broad categories of birds. Categories you will find include shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, birds of prey, and perching/songbirds. You may also spot a species or two of birds that are rare for the area.

While the parks listed here represent some of the best locations for birding and hawk watching in the nation, they are but a handful of the places for birding in Southeast Michigan.

Best Locations for Birding

As might be expected, parks, nature areas, and preserves make for the best locations for birding in southeast Michigan. While the list of birding locations in and around the Metro-Detroit area is long and varied, there are a few locations that have earned some national and maybe even international renown.

Lake Erie Metro Park

The park, located in Brownstown, is often referred to as one of the best locations for birding in North America and for watching hawks. The park contains three miles of shoreline along both the Detroit River and the western shore of Lake Erie. It forms a unique geography migratory corridor for hawks and other birds of prey.

The park has been named a "Global Important Bird Area." Hawks within the park include Red-Tailed Hawks, Sharp-Shinned Hawks, and large kettles of Broad-Winged Hawks. You will also find the larger Cooper's Hawk that likes wooded and urban areas, and has been known to snatch songbirds out of mid-air for a meal. Other birds of prey spotted in the park include Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles.

The park covers over 1,607 acres. Its river backwaters and coastal wetlands attract waterfowl to the area, as does the Wild Celery that grows in the Detroit River, and the Trenton Power Plant that heats the water and keeps the lakefront free of ice.

Several exotic birds have been spotted among the 300 species of birds reported in the park. This includes the Glossy Ibis from Florida, White Pelican, and White-tailed Eagle.

Pointe Mouillee State Game Area

This area in Rockwood is another popular location for birding in Southeast Michigan. The area is located along the shore of Lake Erie by the mouth of the Huron River. It, too, is located by the Detroit River corridor through which many hawks and other birds of prey travel on their way south.

Marshes, mudflats and open water provide a unique habitat for over 290 species of birds, including shorebirds, waterfowl, and wading birds. Perching/songbirds also frequent the area, including the Passerine that is attracted to the park's Cottonwood Trees and Willows.

For fun, you may want to attend the annual Waterfowl Festival held at the park in September.

Checklist: Birds of Pointe Mouillee State Game Area

Belle Isle Park

Bird Watching Daily ranked Belle Isle Park as one of the best locations for birding in the nation. While Belle Isle Park was the only location listed in the southeast region of Michigan, it ranked 13th out of the 160 birding hot spots chosen.

Belle Isle is an island located in the Detroit River just northeast of Rivard Plaza and Chene Park on the Detroit Riverfront. In addition to migrating waterfowl and songbirds, the Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Saw-whet Owl have been spotted on the island.

The island's other claim to fame comes courtesy of its swamp woods, which help feed a recorded 20 species of Warblers, including the Golden-Winged, Hooded, Prothonotary, and Kentucky Warbler, as well as the rarely spotted Connecticut and Worm-eating Warblers.

Checklist: Birds of Belle Isle Park

Rare Birds

If you like your birds rare when birding in southeast Michigan, then finding the best locations for birding may be more of a challenge. There is at least one tool that will help you to find that bird that's visiting our shores on a lark or through a navigational error: Michigan Rare Bird Alert. This site archives rare-bird reports from birders across the state. 

Michigan State Bird

The American Robin was chosen as the Michigan State Bird in 1931. The Robin, a common backyard bird in the Thrush family, is also the state bird of Connecticut and Wisconsin.

Sources

  • Birds of Michigan / Ted Black and Gregory Kennedy (2003 Edition)
  • Birds of the Lake Erie Region / Carolyn Platt (2001, Kent State University Press)
  • Birding / Huron-Clinton Metroparks
  • BywaysToFlyways / Metropolitan Affairs Coalition
  • Discover the Southern Lower Peninsula / Michigan DNR
  • Important Bird Areas in Michigan / National Audubon Society
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