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Hotspots Near You

314. Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan

With 125 acres on the shore of Lake St. Clair, this bird sanctuary attracts raptors, forest passerines, and more.

Although Ford House is primarily known for its place in American automotive history, it’s a great place to see birds, particularly during migration. When Edsel and Eleanor Ford built their Cotswold-style home on more than 125 acres on the shore of Lake St. Clair, they decided they wanted to surround themselves with nature. To achieve their goals, they hired Jens Jensen, the famed landscape architect who had designed the landscaping for the estate of Edsel’s father, Henry Ford.

Jensen was trained in his native Denmark to regard nature as an enlivening force of human life, and he used this principle throughout his work. For Edsel and Eleanor, he built an island that was allowed to grow wild as a bird sanctuary, created a great lawn that points in the direction of the summer sunset, and designed a swimming pool surrounded by native Michigan trees and plants.

The astonishing thing about Ford House is the diversity of habitat. Lake St. Clair is a regionally important bird area because it hosts hundreds of thousands of diving ducks every winter. Bald Eagles, which nest nearby, are often seen over the water or sitting on a tree along the shoreline in all seasons. The grounds attract raptors and forest passerines as year-round residents. In spring and fall, the grounds are a notable migrant trap. This is a testimony to Jensen’s use of native trees and plants that make up the landscape, which remains beautiful in all seasons. 

314. Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan

Directions

Ford House is a museum located at 1100 Lake Shore Rd. in Grosse Pointe Shores that is home to a bird sanctuary. From Detroit, take eastbound I-94 and exit at Vernier Rd. Turn right, go 2.2 miles, and turn left on Lake Shore Rd. Drive 1.3 miles and turn right into the property. Or use bus route 635, which has a stop at Lake Shore and Fair Lake Lane.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
42°27’16.09″N 82°52’7.33″W

Habitat

The historic estate of Edsel and Eleanor Ford that is now a privately run museum. Freshwater lake and shoreline, mixed use mesic forest, manicured lawn, a diversity of gardens.

Terrain

Flat. Easy walking on a mix of paved roads, lawn, wood-chipped path. Certain locations are usually mushy, but the ground can be particularly muddy or flooded after heavy rain or high lake levels. Snow covered and icy in winter. Bird Island has a wood-chipped path; wheelchair accessibility is difficult.

Birds

205 species. Breeding: Mallard, Canada Goose, Red-tailed Hawk, Warbling Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Blue Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, Gray Catbird, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow Warbler, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow. Migratory: Brown Thrasher, Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Palm, Nashville, Tennessee, Black-and-white, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, and other warblers, Scarlet Tanager.

When to go

Year-round.

Amenities

Bird checklist, paved parking, restrooms, restaurant with outdoor dining.

Access

National Historic Landmark. Grounds open from 8 a.m.-dusk Tuesday-Sunday, and access is free to members. A grounds pass is $5 for non-members, with an additional fee for a tour of the historic house.

Tips

A spotting scope is particularly helpful when searching for ducks and other waterfowl.

For more info

Ford House, (313) 884-4222, [email protected]

Sites nearby

Belle Isle State Park, Hotspot Near You No. 13

A large island park in the Detroit River, about 30 minutes south from Ford House on Lake Shore Dr./Jefferson Ave.

Lake St. Clair Metropark

About 15 minutes north of Ford House. The park is a mixed-use facility with a nature center and nature trails. In spring, it is a notable migrant trap. In late winter, the shallow water of Lake St. Clair attracts thousands of ducks and other waterfowl.

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Bill Rapai

Bill Rapai is president of Grosse Pointe Audubon.

Bill Rapai on social media

Rosann Kovalcik

Rosann Kovalcik is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited of Grosse Pointe Woods.

Rosann Kovalcik on social media