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325. Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls, New York

The park that is home to iconic waterfalls attracts waterfowl, raptors, and many gull species.

Niagara Falls State Park, established in 1885, is the oldest state park in the United States. It stretches over 400 acres, with close to 140 acres of that underwater. Not only is it home to the iconic waterfalls, but the Niagara River Corridor is also an incredible spot for birdwatching. In fact, it was designated a Globally Significant Important Bird Area in 1996. The river supports thousands of wintering gulls and waterfowl, including up to 50,000 Bonaparte’s Gulls (10% of the world population), as well as many of New York’s protected species, such as Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle.

I am fortunate to be able to access Niagara Falls State Park easily year-round to get my birdwatching fix. I remember the first time I peered into the Niagara Gorge below Niagara Falls and saw a blizzard of gulls actively feeding on the baitfish near the water’s surface. The mix of species was mindboggling — I counted eight different gull species that day.

The Niagara River offers 30 miles of birdwatching opportunity, and Niagara Falls State Park is located right in the middle of it. One thing that I find most unique about the park is that it is almost two different birding areas in one. The downriver side of Goat Island is a gull-watcher’s paradise, as the birds take advantage of baitfish stunned by the raging currents of the Falls. Many birds use the gorge walls and rocks below as nesting areas. But if you head upstream to the other side of the island, you will find waterfowl feeding and resting in the shallow reefs and islands. 

325. Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls, New York

Directions

From the New York side of the border, the park can be reached from Niagara Scenic Parkway. From Ontario, cross the Rainbow Bridge, then follow Rainbow Blvd. to 4th Street to Riverway.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
43°4’47.68″N 79°4’26.51″W

Habitat

Marine (most bird viewing occurs over the water).

Terrain

Mostly flat with numerous wheelchair-accessible paved paths. Hiking trails are dirt paths, some are uphill. Several areas to park and birdwatch just outside the park entrance.

Birds

More than 200 species. Spring: Swallows, warblers, vireos, kinglets. Summer: Common and Caspian Terns, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Turkey Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle. Fall: Raptors, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, and other waterfowl. Winter: Bonaparte’s, Little, Sabine’s, Slaty-backed, California, Ross’s, Ring-billed, Herring, Iceland, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Long-tailed Duck, Hooded, Common, and Red-breasted Mergansers, Harlequin Duck, White-winged Scoter, Canvasback, Redhead, Common Goldeneye, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Bald Eagle.

When to go

Year-round. Cold-weather months provide unique viewing opportunities as the Niagara River never freezes, offering open water where the birds can feed all winter long.

Amenities

Restrooms. Pet-friendly. Concessions available during the peak season.

Access

State park. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round. Paid parking available in four different lots.

Tips

The colder the winter, the better the birding opportunities. Dress warm and bring your spotting scope as birds can be far from the shoreline. Hotspots north of the falls include Whirlpool, Devil’s Hole, and Fort Niagara State Parks. At Fort Niagara in winter, look for Razorbills and jaegers. South of the falls, along the river, are several overlooks with views of shallow reefs that attract diving ducks and other waterfowl.

For more info

Niagara Falls USA, (877) FALLS-US 
Niagara Falls State Park

 

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Frank Campbell

Frank Campbell is the director of outdoor promotions for Destination Niagara USA, a birdwatcher, and a fishing charter captain.

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