When I first encountered the term “Birding Trail,” a mental image flashed into my mind of a migrating flock trudging down the road, heading south with their suitcases tightly grasped in their wings. Turns out that wasn’t quite right.
Birding trails are actually comprised of a series of birding hotspots (places where birds are known to congregate) connected by a driving route. You pick up the map, hop in the car, and set off on your birding adventure.
Texas started the whole idea several years ago with the establishment of the Texas Coastal Birding Trail. A special map marks out the route, and signs along the highway indicate where to pull over, take a break, and look for birds. The concept is so popular that half the states have followed suit, and birding trails abound.
For the out-of-towner, birding trails are a tremendous resource. While bird guides have been published for most states, these quickly become out of date as roads and landmarks change over time. The internet is a great resource for traveling birders, but it takes hours to search for and read all the pertinent sites. A birding trail makes planning your trip much easier as it combines all that information into one source.
To get you started, Audubon has compiled a list of birding trails around the country. It’s incomplete, however. My husband and I just returned from a trip to the Oregon coast for a somewhat delayed thirtieth anniversary celebration. The Oregon birding trails (there are more than one) weren’t on the Audubon list, but were easy to find just by Googling “Oregon birding trail.”
In addition to the benefit birders derive from following a designated birding trail, local business also proper. All those people hunting birds also need food, gas, and in many cases, a place to spend the night. Those providing these services start catering to birders, and everyone wins. Even the birds win. Good bird habitat is more easily protected when the locals realize it’s a money-making resource.
Now that we know where to look, we should be able to find all those rarities, right?