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.