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

Home: ‘My backyard’

When we asked our readers where they love to bird, we left room for write-ins, and we’re glad we did! We heard about places we’ve never been — Romania’s Danube River delta — and hotspots we know well, such as Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax, Virginia. The most common write-in location was — and wasn’t — a surprise. It was “My backyard.”

Micki Dunakin’s letter stood out. Her backyard encompasses 27 acres in Antwerp, Ohio. It’s an area where you’d expect to find corn, soybeans, and wheat, not Kirtland’s Warblers, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Bell’s Vireos, and Golden and Bald Eagles, but the birds are there. She and her husband have counted 176 bird species in all. Yet even as the Dunakins’ list grows, Micki says it’s the everyday, not the rare sightings, that make their backyard a wonderful place: “Simple things, like standing at the edge of the field in late winter listening to the American Woodcocks performing their flight-display, or seeing the first Yellow-rumped Warbler in spring and knowing that many more warblers will follow. I have made the trip to Lake Erie many times, but there is something special about being able to walk out the back door and into a world of birding joy.”

Melissa Whitmire of Greensboro, North Carolina, knows that same feeling. Her house is in the middle of the city, near strip malls, banks, and fast-food restaurants. A 30-yard-wide strip of “near jungle” behind her house constitutes her backyard, and it’s a haven for migrating birds. “I first realized I had a gem of a backyard when one Sunday morning last spring I heard an interesting song that reminded me of the theme from Chariots of Fire,” Whitmire writes. “The singer was moving about quickly, high in the treetops, and when he settled long enough to catch a glimpse, I gasped. A Blackpoll Warbler! I was thrilled beyond belief and in awe of the fact that he chose my yard to rest and refuel.”

Rare backyard sightings such as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a White-eyed Vireo have awed Joseph Klimek of Norwich, Connecticut. But as he takes his two-year-old daughter on walks in their neighborhood, he’s watching something just as wonderful: her curiosity in birds taking flight. “As my daughter says, ‘Look Daddy, there’s a Downy Woodpecker at the suet feeder!’ I’m seeing the birding world through the eyes of my child, and it’s just the most fantastic experience, which I’m sure most of your readers would understand.”

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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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