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Niagara Falls USA Is for the Birds

The waters surrounding Niagara Falls USA attract plenty of visitors of the winged variety, and present all kinds of opportunities for birders.

Niagara County’s ample waterways — the mighty Niagara River, for one, as well as Lake Ontario — make the area prime for birdwatching, especially in the spring and autumn, when migration season is underway.

“It could best be described as a smorgasbord,” says Frank Campbell, Destination Niagara USA’s outdoor promotions director. “Niagara County is referred to as a lake plain and many birds use the area for its topography. Birds from the arctic and Alaska will migrate through the Niagara Region in flocks of thousands or as a single passer through, either stopping on their way farther south or using our area as a winter home.”

Known as a globally significant Important Bird Area, the Niagara River Corridor is brimming with opportunities for bird viewing, whether you’re brand new to the hobby or have years of experience. All you need is a pair of binoculars or a sighting scope, and the inside scoop on where to head — and which birds on the Niagara to keep an eagle-eye out for.

Best Places to Birdwatch in Niagara County

  • Niagara Falls State Park. Harlequin ducks and purple sandpipers can be viewed around the Three Sisters Islands area of the park. The area is also home to up to 14 species of gulls. Birders love to use the Observation Tower and Goat Island as stake-out spots while in the park.
  • Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Known as the “Alabama Swamps” to locals, this wetland draws a host of birds to upstate NY, including sandhill cranes, snow geese, flocks of purple martins and swallows — and the peregrine falcons and merlin who prey on them.
  • County Line Road (Route 269). A low-lying lake plain lies along this road dividing Niagara and Orleans counties. When it rains in the fall, the water gathers into shallow ponds that draw numerous migrating birds. Pull onto the shoulder to look for snow geese and egrets.
  • Lake Ontario shoreline. The lake attracts scooters, long-tailed ducks, eiders, loons and gulls. (Occasional birdwatching treats like parasitic jaegers and razorbills have been known to make appearances, too.) Spots to see migrating birds include Fort Niagara State Park, Golden Hill State Park, Wilson Pier and Olcott Pier.
  • Niagara River shoreline. Along the Upper Niagara River, keep an eye out for tundra swans and waterfowl. Along the Lower Niagara River, look for snowy owls, short-eared owls, bald eagles and rough-legged hawks. Near the river in Lewiston, you may spot some overwintering black vultures. The state parks along the Niagara Scenic Parkway and the Niagara Gorge provide excellent birdwatching opportunities: Artpark, Joseph Davis State Park, Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool State Park.

Birdwatching Resources

  • Birds on the Niagara. Here you’ll find a checklist of birds to spot locally, details on places to birdwatch and info on the organization’s annual winter birding festival.
  • eBird. This website/app is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and aggregates sighting data from bird enthusiasts around the world.
  • I Bird New York: A Beginner’s Guide to Birding. This booklet created by the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation is a one-stop shop for budding birders.