Birdwatchers’ 15 favorite birding destinations in the U.S. and Canada

13. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Pennsylvania

There’s really nothing quite like looking down on a migrating raptor. Yet it’s a regular autumn experience at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. The site in central Pennsylvania is an amazing place to watch southbound hawks and eagles, and it’s one of the environmental movement’s truly historic sites. The annual slaughter of hawks there ended in the 1930s after conservationists bought the land and founded the sanctuary — one of the most significant conservation victories of the century.

Riding columns of air deflected upward by the ridges of the surrounding Kittatinny Mountains, an average of 20,000 birds of prey glide past the rocky North Lookout each fall, often just yards away from onlookers. Carolyn Gulick of Ocean, New Jersey, cherishes her memories of Hawk Mountain, a place she returns to each fall. “Hawk Mountain is the place that sparked my boys’ interest in birdwatching (who can resist a hawk?),” she says.

Dick Blewett of Homosassa, Florida, whose memories of the mountain go back 50 years, says despite large crowds of people, “the beauty of Hawk Mountain is that it can handle all the birders without any concern from the hawks. They just come and pass on their way to South America. The beauty overlooking the north face and the closeness of the hawks as they pass always overwhelms first-time visitors.”

Location: North of Hamburg, in eastern Pennsylvania, approximately 9.4 miles northeast of I-78 • Best time to visit: September and October for hawk migration; late spring and early summer for nesting songbirds • Birds:Hawks, falcons, kestrels, eagles, and other southbound raptors, plus resident and migrating passerines • Contact: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary: (610) 756-6961

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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