Indiana’s diverse habitats are home to over 400 documented bird species, making it the perfect place for a birding adventure. The birding experiences won’t disappoint, from the one-of-a-kind migration of Sandhill Cranes to Bald Eagles perched atop tree-tops. Luckily, the Indiana Audubon Society recently created the Indiana Birding Trail, featuring 64 great bird watching locations. Divided up into five regions of the state, the trail guide covers everything you need to know on each area, including eco-regions, climate influences, bird species, and more. Below, we have outlined every site on the Indiana Birding Trail, with a few of our favorite spots highlighted. For the complete Indiana Birding Trail Guide, click here.
Travel is permitted, and getting outside is great for mental and physical health, but it is still best to practice social distancing as we continue to fight COVID-19. Please take precautions, plan ahead, and follow CDC and local guidelines while visiting the Hoosier state.
While most Fish & Wildlife areas offer excellent birding opportunities, Jasper-Pulaski is one of the best spots in the entire state. It has become known for the annual migration of Sandhill Cranes each spring and fall. Jasper-Pulaski is home to the largest gathering of Sandhill Cranes east of the Mississipi River. Fall daily peak counts usually exceed over 15,000 birds. The property is also suitable for migrating and breeding other types of birds.
Birds: Sandhill Crane, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk
Over 250 species of birds have been documented at Willow Slough! A diverse set of habitats allows this property to be a year-round birding destination. J.C. Murphey Lake, located on the property, attracts migrating waterfowl and is a hotspot to see migrating American White Pelicans, Bald Eagles. Osprey and Sandhill Cranes. Waterfowl also like to nest on the northern wetland side of the lake.
Birds: American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Waterfowl, Virginia Rail
Indiana’s first national park is also arguably its best birding destination. Over 350 bird species have been spotted in the greater Indiana Dunes area, with most of them detected at Indiana Dunes National Park. The top birding locations at the park include Beverly Shores, Heron Rookery, Cowles Bog, and West Beach. The swamp habitat of Cowles Bog produces a large number of migrant birds in both the spring and fall.
Birds: Whip-poor-will, Warbler, Western Kingbird, Long-eared Owl
Birds: Warbler, Summer Tanager, Winter Finch, Harris’ Sparrow
Birds: Passerine, Waterfowl, Sparrows
Birds: Cattail, Eurasian Wigeon, Eared Grebe, American Avocet
Birds: Shorebird, Gulls, Jaeger, Tern
Birds: Sandhill Crane, Waterfowl, Shorebird, Eastern Screech-Owl
Birds: Large-Flowered Trillium, Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Woodpecker
Birds: Henslow’s Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Eastern Meadowlark, American Kestrel
Birds: Belted Kingfisher, Pied-billed Grebe, Wood-Pewee
Birds: Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Baltimore Oriole, Woodpecker
Birds: Waterfowl, Warbler, Shorebird
Birds: Bald Eagle, Blackbird, Golden eagle, Brewer’s Blackbird
Birds: Bell’s Vireo, Blue Grosbeak, Bobolink, Western Meadowlark
Birds: Western Whip-poor-will, Heron, Passerine, Waterfowl
Resident and migrant birds can be encountered at Eagle Creek Park. Close to 4,000 acres of ponds, mudflats, grasslands, and woods make up diverse wildlife perfect for all kinds of birds. The Ornithology Center overlooks a bird sanctuary featuring ducks, geese, gulls, cormorants, and herons rest. A 2-mile loop around the bird sanctuary, The Coffer Dam, provides outstanding reservoir views.
Birds: Geese, Duck, Cormorant, Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Nuthatch
Urban areas are excellent for birding too! Fort Harrison State Park, located in Indianapolis, offers great birding throughout its expansive woodlands and riparian corridor. Migrant bird species can be found in season at the Fall Creek trailhead, and migrant species are usually spotted further up the trail. Breeding species like the Orchard Oriole and American Kestral can be spotted while mountain biking the Schoen Creek Trail.
Birds: Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker
Prophetstown is one of Indiana’s more unique state parks, and this is no different for birding. Its location between the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers provide a gorgeous prairie habitat with ponds and creeks. When arriving at the park entrance, watch the fence line for sparrows, including Henslow’s and Lark Sparrow. The village trails provide views of Common Yellowthroats, Indigo Bunting, Brown Thrasher, and more. A local tip: Close your eyes in the morning and listen for Ring-necked Pheasants.
Location: West Lafayette
Birds: Henslow, Lark Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Ring-necked Pheasant
Birds: Hudsonian, Marbel Godwit, Warbler, American Bittern
Birds: Herons, Hawks, Woodpecker. Bluebird
Birds: Northern Parula, Scarlet Tanager, Blackburnian Warbler, Wood Thrush
Birds: Rock Pigeon, Swallow, Waterthrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Birds: Warbler, Cooper’s Hawk, Yellow-throated Vireo
Birds: Songbird, American Woodcock, Virginia Rail, Rusty Blackbird
Birds: Geese, Belted Kingfisher, Song Sparrows, Woodpecker
Birds: Scoter, Long-tailed duck, Gull, Pelican, Bald Eagle
Birds: Wood Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Saw-whet owl
Birds: Waterfowl, Passerine, Raptor, Warbler
Our top 3 spots on the trail in Northeast Indiana:
Established over 60 years ago, Pigeon River Fish & Wildlife Area is now a birder’s paradise with almost 12,000 acres of land and 529 acres of lakes. Migratory waterfowl make their home near Nasby Dam, Deep Lake, and Mongo Reservoir. Over 36 woodland warbler species have been identified on-site with many hotspots giving year-round productivity. Pigeon River is known for the great opportunity to see several species of owl, as pictured above!
Location: North Mongo
Birds: Warbler, Waterfowl, Great Horned Owl, Common Gallinule
Thirteen lakes in total make up Chain O’Lakes State Park in Albion. Birds like to hang around each lake, but the trails around Dock Lake, Sand Lake, and Trail 4 are the best viewing locations. Prothonotary Warblers, American Redstarts, Eastern Kingbirds, and more can usually be found. For a unique experience, consider canoeing around the park via the interconnecting channels.
Birds: Prothonotary Warbler, American Redstart, Red-headed Woodpecker
The 2,665-acre Salamonie Lake is bordered by amazing forests, prairies, farmlands, marshes, and ponds that birds love. Tailwaters below the Dam and State Forest are perfect wintering grounds for Bald and Golden Eagles. Waterfowl especially enjoy the open waters during winter. The Interpretive Center at Lost Bridge West SRA features a raptor center and bird viewing room.
Birds: Bald Eagle, Leucistic Northern Cardinal, American White Pelican, Thrush
Birds: Henslow’s Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Sandhill Crane, Wilson’s Snipe
Birds: Cerulean Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, Sora, Common Gallinule
Birds: Sandhill Crane, Least Bittern, Marsh Wren
Birds: Ring-necked duck, Wild Turkey, Common Gallinule, Green Heron
Birds: Pileated Woodpecker, Fox Sparrow, Eastern Towhee
Birds: Migrant duck, Shorebird, Rail, Bittern
Birds: Short-eared Owl, Northern harrier, Waterfowl, Migrating Shorebird
Birds: American White Pelican, Waterfowl, Warbler, Oriole, Bald Eagle
Our top 3 spots on the trail in Southwest Indiana:
Some of Indiana’s most towering trees can be found in Wesselman Woods, with a few getting up to over 100 feet! Five miles of trails give quality access to the wildlife here, with the biggest draw for birders being the old-growth forest. Thrushes, warblers, tanagers, vireos, and flycatchers are easily spotted in the spring and fall. Wood Ducks nest at the pond while owls are breeding residents. Rarities can sometimes even be detected at Wesselman Woods!
Birds: Thrush, Warbler, Barred Owl, Wood Duck
Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area is the second location in Indiana that boasts significant numbers of migrating Sandhill Cranes to and from the north. Marsh Madness Sandhill Crane Festival, which takes place with the peak Sandhill Crane migration in the fall, is truly something to behold. The shallow water wetlands, marsh, and grassland are vital for over 260 bird species. Goose Pond has become a stopover site for Whooping Cranes as well.
Birds: Sandhill Crane, Rail, Shorebird, Raptor
An exceptional location for wildlife viewing due to its diversity, Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge is great for year-round birding. Bottomland forests offer valuable habitat to nesting birds like the Hooded Mergansers and Red-headed Woodpeckers. Grasslands also play home to nesting Henslow’s Sparrows, Northern Bobwhites, and more. A significant number of waterfowl are spotted from winter into April.
Location: Oakland City
Birds: Prothonotary warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, Henslow’s Sparrow, Hooded Merganser
Birds: Wood warbler, Flycatcher, Tanager, Magnolia, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
Birds: Warbler, Thrush, Vireo, Waterfowl
Birds: Hawks, Barred Owls, Migratory Songbirds
Birds: Waterfowl, Wader, Shorebird, Gull, Tern
Birds: Waterfowl, Sharped-shinned Hawks, Merlin, Short-eared Owl
Birds: Mississippi Kite, Pileated Woodpecker, Oriole, Osprey
Birds: Rail, Heron, Warbler, Thrush
Our top 3 spots on the trail in Southeast Indiana:
Muscatatuck National Wildlife is nearly 8,000 acres of fabulous wetlands and nature at its best. The refuge is designated as a continentally important bird area and is managed to give habitat to migratory birds as an essential stopover site. Shrublands and its forest are full of species, such as the Kentucky Warbler, Summer Tanager, and Orchard Oriole. Dickcissels and Grasshopper Sparrows love to nest in the Endicott grassland. A viewing room for feeder birds is located in Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge’s Visitor Center.
Birds: Kentucky Warbler, Summer Tanager, Orchard Oriole, Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Is it really a surprise that the “Little Smokies” are on this list? The vast, rugged hills and beautiful ridgetops give way for unforgettable views. Vultures and raptors ride thermals on Brown County’s iconic ridges. Upland mesic forests are usually home to an array of warbler species, while the lush wooded areas are habitats for Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers. Don’t miss out on Bald Eagles gliding along Salt Creek looking for food!
Birds: Kentucky Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Migrant Songbird, Sparrow
The youngest state park in the state is fantastic for finding waterfowl, warblers, and thrushes. Plus, the abundance of ponds and wetlands give a home to a variety of woodpecker species. O’Bannon Woods State Park’s year-round nature center has two large bird-viewing windows where visitors can experience the park out of the elements! There’s also an ADA accessible trail that loops a mile around the visitor center where birds can usually be found nesting.
Birds: Wood Thrush, Hooded Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker
Birds: Sparrow, Migrant Songbird
Birds: Louisiana Waterthrush, Great Crested Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, Pine Siskin
Birds: Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Prairie Warbler, White-eye Vireo
Birds: Black-crowned Night-Heron, Cattle Egret, Baltimore Oriole, Cedar Waxwing
Birds: Warbler, Summer Tanager, Thrush, Golden Eagle