Bird Watching

Spring Birding Along Lake Champlain

As spring begins to force the retreat of winter in the North Country, its advance is first noted in the Champlain Valley. There, birders will note arriving and singing Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, and Song Sparrows. But it is the ducks that often have them most excited. Lake Champlain offers migrating waterfowl a north-south corridor along which to travel, and they oblige by staging some large assemblages of ducks. Many of these birds spent the winter in the lake, while others simply move through from the south. And this winter’s cold has condensed ducks in the valley to the open water around the ferry terminals. Birders should look for: 

  • Wood Duck
  • Mallard
  • American Black Duck
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Northern Pintail
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Canvasback
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Greater Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Red-breasted Merganser

In addition, less common species such as Long-tailed Duck, White-winged Scoter, and Black Scoter can also be found, and a Tufted Duck has even wintered in the valley this year.  

Find raptors in the Champlain Valley

The fields and agricultural lands of the Champlain Valley are also good for wintering and migrating raptors which head north during the early portion of the spring. Birders should look for them perched along fields and hedgerows as they hunt or where they may be visiting local bird feeders in search of unwary songbirds. As wintering Rough-legged Hawks vacate the fields for the summer, other species move into replace them and Osprey arrive from the south to fish in the lake all summer. Birders should look for:

  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • American Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Bald Eagle
  • Osprey

In addition, resident owls such as Eastern Screech Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Barred Owl become more vocal during the spring giving birders an easier time in finding them. And the nights that find the owls calling may also be good nights for migrating passerines to arrive from the south.  

Lake Champlain is a migration corridor

After all, as it does with ducks and raptors, the Champlain Valley provides a good migration corridor for songbirds. As spring advances, sparrows such as White-throated, Savannah, Lincoln’s, and White-crowned move into and through the area. Breeding birds begin to arrive and the forest patches and hedgerows become home to Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Kingbird, and Great Crested Flycatcher.  

One of the best places to witness this migration is Crown Point State Historic Site where a spring bird banding station has been run since 1976 and has banded better than 100 species of birds! Chief among them are the warblers and better than 20 species of warblers move through the valley on their way north or stay to breed in the region. Some of these species are difficult to find elsewhere in the North Country and lucky birders have found breeding Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers in the brushy edge habitat and young forests of the Champlain Valley as they enjoy more common species such as Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler.  

Year-round Birding in Lake Champlain

Birders should also note that larger contiguous habitats for warblers and other forest birds such as Scarlet Tanager and Swainson’s Thrush are an easy drive into the park. There birders can visit locations near Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, or in Hamilton County and it is recommended that they check out the birding websites for those locations. In addition, if a visit up into the Adirondacks is in order, birders can hunt through coniferous habitats for breeding warbler species such as Palm, Magnolia, and Nashville Warblers. And they can also search for resident boreal bird species like Black-backed Woodpecker while they are at it. 

Find your nest

Lake Champlain has an array for even the pickest of birds, browse our lodging selection to find the stay that's right for you. Birding is just one of the many things to do in the region, and many can be done while your birding! 

 

Lake Champlain Birding Trail Brochure

 

This aptly named Lake Champlain Birding Trail brochure will provide you with details of what species can be found in the region and includes a handy map guide. Click on the image to view and print the brochure.


Listing Results:

Page 1 – Displaying 1 – 15 of 30

Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area

Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area
In winter, AuSable Point Campground is closed to camping, but open to walking and birding. It can be a great place to find mixed flocks ...
Location: Plattsburgh, NY
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Chimney Point State Historic Site

Chimney Point State Historic Site
Chimney Point State Historic Site in Vermont sits on the Vermont side of the Champlain Bridge. It offers much the same birding ...
Location: Crown Point, VT
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Cook Mountain Preserve

Cook Mountain Preserve
The Cook Mountain Preserve covers 200 acres with a wide variety of terrain. The summit of the mountain offers views of Lake George, the ...
Location: Ticonderoga, NY
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Coon Mountain Preserve

Coon Mountain Preserve
Coon Mountain has a craggy interior with rocky outcrops, steep cliffs, and talus slopes. In shade there are abundant hemlocks, while the ...
Location: Westport, NY
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Crown Point Boat Launch Area

Crown Point Boat Launch Area
Part of an area with many vantage points to view common merganser, bufflehead, common goldeneye, hooded merganser, mallard, black duck, ...
Location: Crown Point, NY
View Additonal Info & Map

Crown Point Ruins - Birding and Banding

Crown Point Ruins - Birding and Banding
Like Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point State Historic Site offers birding along Lake Champlain against a historic backdrop that is worth the ...
Location: Crown Point, NY
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Cumberland Head

Cumberland Head
Cumberland Head sits just north of Plattsburgh and the area is a good place to check for wintering and migrating water birds. Any water ...
Location: Plattsburgh, NY
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Essex Ferry Terminal

Essex Ferry Terminal
The Essex Ferry area is a good place to look for wintering waterfowl during the cold months. Begg's Point Park, just south of the ferry ...
Location: Essex, NY
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Fort Ticonderoga birding

Fort Ticonderoga birding
While a visit to Fort Ticonderoga is usually aimed at understanding American history, the fort's grounds can be excellent for birding. ...
Location: Ticonderoga, NY
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Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area

Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area
Hurricane Mountain outside the Village of Keene is a popular hike along the three trails that take hikers to the summit. It can also be ...
Location: Elizabethtown, NY
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Lake Champlain Bridge

Lake Champlain Bridge
The Crown Point Bridge area between New York State and Vermont can be a great place to look for wintering and migrating waterfowl. ...
Location: Crown Point, NY
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Magic Triangle

Magic Triangle
The Magic Triangle, composed of Clark, Cross, and Lakeshore Roads (which form a triangle) south of Essex is a collection of woodlots and ...
Location: Essex, NY
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Mouth of the Saranac River

Mouth of the Saranac River
The mouth of the Saranac River in Plattsburgh can be a good place to look for ducks in winter. A small city park provides access to the ...
Location: Plattsburgh, NY
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Noblewood Park birding

Noblewood Park birding
A town park of the Town of Willsboro, Noblewood Park is one of the best birding sites in the Champlain Valley. The wooded trails host a ...
Location: Willsboro, NY
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Pauline Murdock Wildlife Management Area

Pauline Murdock Wildlife Management Area
This wildlife area is 68.5 acres of boreal northern forest, with areas of river and flood plains. It consists of seven different ...
Location: Elizabethtown, NY
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The Great Blue Heron

with a head-to-tail length of 36-55 inches and wingspan of 66- 79 inches, it's no wonder this bird is the largest North American species.

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