Northern Flicker Our Long Pond Preserve is the perfect place to spot a Northern flicker in the winter months. ©: Be the Observer via Pexels
A view of a forest with a purple and blue sky featuring pink clouds in the background.
Dick & Nancy Eales Preserve Our Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain is an excellent place for birding in the fall. © Melisa Soysal/TNC

Stories in Pennsylvania

Where to bird watch in Pennsylvania & Delaware

PA & DE offer some of the best places for birding in the country. Learn about sites across both states to see unique birds.

Pennsylvania and Delaware offer some of the best places for bird watching in the country year-round. Pennsylvania’s densely wooded Appalachian forests and mountain ridges offer spectacular glimpses of hawks, ospreys, woodpeckers, warblers, owls, and many more species. Meanwhile, Delaware’s Bayshore ecosystems are a prime location for spotting a wide assortment of migratory songbirds, ducks, wading birds and shore birds, including the federally-threatened red knot which stops at the beaches each spring to feast on horseshoe crab eggs.

Birding is a fun, accessible recreational activity for people of all ages. Each season brings its own unique opportunities to see different kinds of birds. And you don’t even have to drive hours from the city to see all sorts of our feathered friends—plus, if you’re a beginner, birding groups are often easier to find in urban areas. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just getting started, we welcome you to visit our public preserves and other outdoor recreation sites in Pennsylvania and Delaware throughout the year.

Spring

Spring is arguably the best time for bird watching in the Mid-Atlantic region when a wide variety of species are active building nests, searching for mates and raising their young. Some of the most colorful songbirds you’ll see all year long make their way north this time of year during their annual migration.

A small yellow bird perches on a tree branch with green leaves.
Yellow Warbler Spring is the perfect time to be on the lookout for these colorful migratory songbirds throughout the trees of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. © Sheen Watkins

TNC's Hamer Woodlands at Cove Moutain

Marysville, PA: 20 minutes northwest of Harrisburg, PA. Free to visit; open year-round.

A brown and white hawk with yellow talons sits on a tree stump.
Broad-winged Hawk Broad-winged hawks and other raptors can be seen at our Cove Mountain Preserve in abundance during springtime. © Gualberto Becerra/Shutterstock

Cove Mountain Preserve is an amazing location for bird watching year round. In the spring you’ll be able to see raptors, like broad-winged hawks, flying north along the Kittatinny Ridge, a critical connected corridor in the Central Appalachians. You might also see a male scarlet tanager; their nearly fluorescent red plumage and black wings are unmistakable. Keep your ears on alert for the hoots of Great-horned owls. They aren’t usually active during the day but sometimes you’ll hear them calling, especially in the morning or evening hours, and you might see one perched high in a tree along the trails.

TNC recently partnered with Audubon Mid-Atlantic on a proactive restoration project due to the high value of improved ridgetop landscapes. Read more about the project

A great horned owl peeks half of its face around a large tree trunk.
Great Horned Owl Spring offers a great time to both hear and see these majestic birds at our Cove Mountain Preserve. © Ken Miracle
× A great horned owl peeks half of its face around a large tree trunk.
A red and black bird perches on a tree branch with small white flowers.
Scarlet Tangler With their vibrant colors, these birds tend to be easy to spot among the springtime flora of our Cove Mountain Preserve. © Shutterstock
× A red and black bird perches on a tree branch with small white flowers.
Great Horned Owl Spring offers a great time to both hear and see these majestic birds at our Cove Mountain Preserve. © Ken Miracle
Scarlet Tangler With their vibrant colors, these birds tend to be easy to spot among the springtime flora of our Cove Mountain Preserve. © Shutterstock
A large black bird outstretches its wings on a grassy patch as it feeds its offspring.
Glossy Ibis An adult Glossy ibis feeds it's young. © Deb Felmey

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge & Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve

Broadkill Beach, DE: 20 minutes northwest of Lewes, DE Prime Hook is free to visit; Beach Plum Island is part of the Delaware State Park System which charges a fee to visit from March 1 through November 30. Open year-round.

The trail system at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is situated about a mile inland of the Delaware Bay and this refuge is most well-known for its extensive fresh and saltwater wetlands. In 2003, TNC transferred several tracts of lands totaling nearly 50 acres to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to expand Prime Hook. The Refuge provides an important stopover site for migratory birds as they travel up and down the Atlantic Flyway. Three-hundred and eight bird species have been observed here!

Nearly 80% of the 10,000-acre preserve is comprised of fresh and salt water wetlands where you can see wading birds like Green herons and water fowl like Wood ducks. Spot colorful migratory songbirds like the Yellow warbler and the Common Yellowthroat in the spring and fall months. The Refuge’s bird brochure is available here

Beach Plum Island is a scenic, ten-minute drive from Prime Hook through wetlands where you might see a glossy ibis probing the mud with its long bill as it searches for food. But the main draws at Beach Plum Island are the shore birds populating the sandy beaches of the Delaware Bay. The star of the spring migration here each year are the red knot, a stocky, medium-sized shorebird that stops briefly each May to feast on horseshoe crab eggs. The red knot is a federally threatened species that flies more than 9,300 miles from South America to the Arctic every spring—and repeat the trip in reverse every autumn—making this bird one of the longest-distance migrants in the animal kingdom. Also commonly found feasting alongside the red knots: ruddy turnstones and semipalmated sandpipers.

A small gray bird with a mohawk style of feathers on its head perches on a tree branch.
Belted Kingfisher Belted kingfishers can be seen along the water's edge. © Shutterstock

Prince Gallitzin State Park

Cambria County, PA: 25 minutes northwest of Altoona, PA. Free to visit: Open year-round

Prince Gallitzin State Park is a 6,249-acre state park in western-central Pennsylvania that features more than 32 miles of hiking trails and excellent birdwatching opportunities. TNC has recently partnered with the Bureau of State Parks to expand prescribed fire efforts on this critical Appalachian landscape. The 1,635-acre Glendale Lake, with its 26 miles of shoreline, is home to many species of ducks, herons and rails. During the spring and fall, waterfowl stop at the lake to rest on their migrations north and south. If you hike around the lake, look for belted kingfishers sitting in the trees along the water’s edge—you might hear them before you see them as their distinctive call alerts you to their presence.

The forests of the park are excellent for seeing many species of migratory songbirds, especially warblers and vireos, like the magnificent white-eyed vireo. A list of birds you can see at Prince Gallitzin State Park can be found here.

Springtime Events:

Save the date for these exciting birding events!

  • National Go Birding Day
    April 27, 2024

Summer 

Though birds are not migrating in the summer months, this season is still an excellent time to grab your binoculars and head outside. Many birds use the summer months to rest in the shade and replace their feathers, so be sure to grab your water bottles and keep a close eye on the tree branches.

A great blue heron wades in shallow water against a pink and purple sky.
Great Blue Heron Great blue herons are among the many birds you can see in the summer months along the waters of John Heinz Urban National Wildlife Refuge. © Donna Feledichuk/TNC Photo Contest 2023

TNC's Edward H. McCabe Preserve

Milton, DE: 20 minutes northwest of Lewes, DE. Free to visit; open year-round.

A large bald eagle with a brown body and white sits behind it's offspring in a nest.
Bald Eagle Bald eagles have become a common sighting at our McCabe Preserve throughout the summer months. © Robert Wrenn

The Edward H McCabe Preserve is a 143-acre preserve featuring hiking trails and a wide variety of habitats, including open fields, woodlands of various ages as well as tidal marshes and riverine ecosystems. Visitors can access this preserve by canoe or kayak from the town of Milton via the Broadkill River.

Over 100 bird species have been observed here, including a pair of bald eagles that have been nested nearby in recent years making them a common sight from the canoe dock and picnic table. Osprey are also common, hunting for fish and carrying them in their talons back to their nest for their hungry young. As you hike, you may spot a wood thrush hopping around the forest floor searching for insects under the gaze of eastern bluebirds perched on the tips of tree branches along the edge of the fields.

Two bluebirds sit on a stump looking at one another.
Eastern Bluebirds These vibrant birds can be spotted through summer's greenery throughout our McCabe Preserve. © Steve Byland/Shutterstock
× Two bluebirds sit on a stump looking at one another.
A wood thrush opens its mouth while on a log.
Wood Thrush The echoing call of these birds is often heard during the summer, particularly at our McCabe Preserve. © Matt Williams
× A wood thrush opens its mouth while on a log.
Eastern Bluebirds These vibrant birds can be spotted through summer's greenery throughout our McCabe Preserve. © Steve Byland/Shutterstock
Wood Thrush The echoing call of these birds is often heard during the summer, particularly at our McCabe Preserve. © Matt Williams

Birding Checklist

Take a look at the full birding checklist for the McCabe Preserve

See the Checklist
An oriole with an orange body and black wings and head sits on a tree branch.
Baltimore Oriole Keep an eye out for these colorful birds during your visit. © Jason Major

John Heinz Urban National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Philadelphia, PA: 5 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport. Free to visit; open year-round.

Established as the first urban wildlife refuge in in America in 1972, the refuge features more than 10 miles of trails, including the popular 3.5-mile Wetland Loop. The Big Boardwalk Loop is less than 1 mile and is wheelchair accessible—both trails are excellent for birding. Most days, it’s not a question of if you will see a great blue heron but how many. Keep your eyes peeled for the American coot—a plump, black chickenlike bird with a rounded head and a white sloping bill—and the Baltimore oriole with its trademark orange breast. Check out the refuge’s calendar of events to find various birding events offered throughout the year.

Fall

The change into the fall season brings along a busy time for birds as they begin their seasonal migrations southbound to prepare for the cold. Local birding hot spots become dynamic locations for hearing and identifying a slew of bird species during this critical migratory time.

A small humming bird with a red throat flys with its wings outstretched.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird You'll often hear the distinct call of ruby-throated hummingbirds in the fall, more times than you will see these birds, especially in First State National Historical Park. © Kent Mason

TNC's Dick & Nancy Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain

Jessup, PA: 15 mintues east of Scanton, PA. Free to visit; open year-round.

A small brown hermit thrush sits on a tree branch.
Hermit Thrush To many, the flute-like song of this bird is the voice of Moosic Mountain and can be heard echoing throughout Eales Preserve. © Becky Matsubara

The Dick and Nancy Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain is one of TNC’s most-visited preserves in Pennsylvania. Visitors can enjoy miles of hiking trails and mountain bike access, as well as incredible mountaintop views and excellent options for birdwatching, especially during the fall and spring migrations of songbirds and raptors. An array of ecosystems can be found across the 2,250-acre preserve including mature forest and ridgetop heath barrens which are comprised of a healthy mosaic of pine and oak forest dominated by huckleberry, blueberry, rhodora and other low-lying shrubs that attract a broad array of birds, butterflies and moths.

The small, zebra-striped black and white warbler breeds in Pennsylvania's forests each summer and spends its winters as far south as Colombia and Venezuela. You may see it creeping along branches searching for insects but are more likely to hear its very high-pitched two-note song, which some describe as a squeaky wheel. 

With its flute-like song, the hermit thrush has been lauded by Walt Whitman and is, to many, the voice of Moosic Mountain. After a long journey from its wintering grounds in the southern United States and south to Central America, the hermit thrush breeds and forages for insects and berries in northeast Pennsylvania's forests. And every autumn, hundreds of thousands of broad-winged hawks depart the forests of North America for their winter grounds in South America. They fill the sky in sometimes huge flocks—called kettles—that can contain thousands of birds at a time

A black and white warbler perches on a tree branch.
Black and white warbler These visually unique birds breed in Pennsylvania's forests and can be seen at our Eales Preserve. © Angie Cole
× A black and white warbler perches on a tree branch.
A large hawk flies with its wings outstretched.
Red-tailed Hawks Red-tailed hawks are just one of the many raptor species that can be seen at Moosic Mountain. © Shutterstock
× A large hawk flies with its wings outstretched.
Black and white warbler These visually unique birds breed in Pennsylvania's forests and can be seen at our Eales Preserve. © Angie Cole
Red-tailed Hawks Red-tailed hawks are just one of the many raptor species that can be seen at Moosic Mountain. © Shutterstock
A screech owl yawns in a tree.
Eastern Screech Owl If you look closely at tree cavities and nesting boxes, especially on cold sunny days, you may see a screech owl sunning itself sleepily. © Matt Williams

First State National Historical Park, Brandywine Valley Unit

Wilmington, Delaware. Free to visit; open year-round

The park features more than 20 miles of hiking trails across more than 1,300 acres of rolling agricultural fields, pastures, forested hills, and streams that showcase the natural and cultural legacy of the larger Brandywine Valley in northern Delaware and southern Pennsylvania. According to the National Park Service (NPS), “105 species of birds have been identified, however, there are probably many more species of birds that have not yet been confirmed.” TNC has been partnering with the NPS since 2016 when our community-science Stream Stewards program volunteers first began tracking water quality in the streams that run through the park.

If you listen for the call of the ruby-throated hummingbird you’ll hear these tiny birds more than you may see them. Both the males and females feature a dazzling emerald-green coat, but only the males have the namesake ruby-red throat. Look for these birds foraging for nectar among wildflowers or searching for insects as they fatten up before their long flights back to Mexico and Central America.

As you walk through the woods, look up into the trees for holes and nooks where the eastern screech owl might be roosting for the day. These small owls are well camouflaged so your best chance of seeing one may be to listen for the noisy commotion of songbirds mobbing an owl they have found. If you look closely at tree cavities and nesting boxes, especially on cold sunny days, you may see a screech owl sunning itself sleepily.

Falltime Event:

Save the date for these exciting birding events!

Winter

Though winter does not seem like the obvious season for birding, the colder months bring a unique birding experience. Winter offers the perfect opportunity to spot various kinds of woodpecker and waterfowl species. So be sure to grab your warm layers and head out to explore.

These birds can often be found feasting on dried berries and fruits in the winter months.
Cedar Waxwings These birds can often be found at our Long Pond Preserve feasting on dried berries and fruit in the winter months. © Deb Felmey

Long Pond Preserve and Hauser Nature Center

Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Free to visit; open year-round.

A spotted bird sits on a tree branch.
Northern Flicker Unlike most woodpeckers that you’ll find high up in a tree, the northern flicker is often found closer to the ground. © Susan Young/CC Public Domain 1.0

The Nature Conservancy’s Long Pond Preserve complex in western Monroe County, Pennsylvania, includes the Hauser Nature Center and the nearby Long Pond Barrens. Situated along the southeastern edge of the Pocono plateau, the preserve is one of Audubon Society’s Important Bird Areas of Pennsylvania and contains a wide variety of wildlife habitats including bogs, swamps, barrens, oak forest, boreal forest and northern hardwood forest.

In winter, you have a good chance to spy the uniquely patterned northern flicker, which has a black polka-dotted breast and red on its face.  Unlike most woodpeckers that you’ll find high up in a tree, the Northern flicker is often found closer to the ground. You’ll also see cedar waxwings feasting on dried berries and fruits in the winter. These unique birds have a silky, shiny appearance of brown, gray and yellow, accented with a subdued crest, a black mask and red on the wing feathers.

An adult woodpecker with a red head and black and white body looks into a tree with two of its offspring sticking their heads out.
Pileated Woodpecker America’s largest woodpecker species stays near our Ponders Tract Preserve for winter. © Liz Holmes/TNC Photo Contest 2021
× An adult woodpecker with a red head and black and white body looks into a tree with two of its offspring sticking their heads out.
A small songbird with dull brown feathers sits on a thin tree branch.
American Goldfinch Normally a vibrant yellow color, these birds' feathers change to a dull brown color with a slight yellow tint to their face and black wings in the winter. © Mark Daniels
× A small songbird with dull brown feathers sits on a thin tree branch.
Pileated Woodpecker America’s largest woodpecker species stays near our Ponders Tract Preserve for winter. © Liz Holmes/TNC Photo Contest 2021
American Goldfinch Normally a vibrant yellow color, these birds' feathers change to a dull brown color with a slight yellow tint to their face and black wings in the winter. © Mark Daniels

Ponders Tract at Pemberton Forest Preserve

Milton, DE: 40 minutes south of Dover, DE. Free to visit: Open year-round.

A cardinal with gray feathers and red accents perches on a pine tree with snow falling in the background.
Northern Cardinal These birds spend their winters at our Ponders Tract Preserve and have even been spotted nesting at the preserve. © Mark Archibald/TNC Photo Contest 2022

When TNC acquired Ponders Tract in 2004, it was a former pine plantation lacking in biodiversity. Today, after years of forest restoration efforts including prescribed burning, a more natural, mixed hardwood forest is returning. This preserve features 9 miles of trails over mostly flat and sandy terrain making it accessible to all.

Pileated woodpeckers, America’s largest woodpecker species, stays around for the winter and is known to search trees and logs in search of insects. With a distinct call and a unique flight pattern, this species is hard to miss.

Bird List

Take a look at a complete four-season bird list for Ponders Tract

See the list

Wintertime Events:

Save the date for these exciting birding events!

A close up of a flock of snow geese in mid-flight.
Migratory Snow Geese Delaware winters can see up to 500,000 snow geese annually. © Michael McAuliffe

Birding Resources & Groups

Birding Apps for Smartphones:

  • A phone with the Merlin app open on the screen.

    Merlin

    Identify the birds you see or hear with Merlin Bird ID. Free global bird guide with photos, sounds, maps, and more. Learn More

  • A phone with the iNaturalist app open on the screen.

    iNaturalist

    Log your bird sightings (along with other wildlife and plants) and get help from a community of scientists and experts who can identify any unknown birds you observe. Learn More