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Ten Great Birding Destinations Part 2

Some of the best birding locations are on military bases

  • Chris Eberly
  • Oct 01, 2005
An abbreviated version of this list appears in the article “Bases Loaded,” written by National Wildlife Senior Editor Laura Tangley.


Eglin AFB – west Florida (panhandle)

Location: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton Counties (FL), between I-10 and the Gulf of Mexico, north of Fort Walton Beach and Destin.

Size: 464,000 acres, more than half of which are open to public access on a regular basis; 17 miles of barrier island and beach dune habitat.

Best time to visit: year-round

Habitats: longleaf pine (including old growth), bottomland hardwoods, freshwater marshes, beach dunes.

Bird species: Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Southeastern American Kestrel; Prothonotary and Swainson’s Warblers (summer); Snowy Plover, Least Tern, and Black Skimmer (spring and summer); Mississippi Kite (spring and summer).

Access requirements: Recreational Permit required ($7, good for one year, Oct 1-Sept 30).

Contact Information: Jackson Guard (natural resource office), Route 85 North in Niceville, FL, 850-882-4164

More details: Winging It, October 2003 (accessible from checklists page,


Fort Drum – upstate New York

Location: Jefferson and Lewis Counties (NY), just northeast of Watertown.

Size: 107,265 acres.

Best time to visit: spring and summer.

Habitats: coniferous/deciduous forest, oak savannas, grasslands, wetlands.

Bird species: BREEDING: American Woodcock (also early spring), Upland Sandpiper, Bobolink, Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrow, Common Nighthawk, Blackburnian and Chestnut-sided Warblers; WINTER: Snow Bunting, Snowy Owl, Rough-legged Hawk.

Access requirements: Driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance required for vehicle pass and Recreation Permit and Access Pass. $5 annual fee for Other Activities (includes bird watching), valid through September 30 each year.

Contact Information: Natural Resources Branch, Fish and Wildlife Program, 315-772-4999; also see


Fort Belvoir – northern Virginia

Location: Fairfax County (VA), 10 miles south of Washington DC along the Potomac River.

Size: approx. 9,000 acres; includes 1,360-acre Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge,146-acre Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, and 742-Forest and Wildlife Corridor.

Best time to visit: year-round

Habitats: bottomland hardwood and upland pine forests, early successional grass-shrub, freshwater marshes, mud flats, open water.

Bird species: WINTER: Bald Eagle, waterfowl (diversity and abundance), Brown Creeper; MIGRATION: shorebirds, thrushes, warblers, orioles, tanagers, Chimney Swift (fall); BREEDING: Northern Parula, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary, Prairie and Worm-eating Warblers.

Access requirements: Driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance required for vehicle pass. No fee.

Contact Information: Environmental and Natural Resources Division, 703-806-0049; see []Directions and additional access information.

More details: Winging It, April 2004 (accessible from checklists page,


Fort McCoy – west central Wisconsin

Location: Monroe County (WI), 8 miles east of Sparta.

Size: 60,000 acres; includes 47,000 acres of woodlands, 4,000 acres of wetlands, 9000 acres of grasslands,13 lakes, and streams.

Best time to visit: spring and fall migrations, summer.

Habitats: coniferous, oak, and mixed conifer/deciduous woodlands, sand prairie, grasslands, oak savanna/barrens, wetlands.

Bird species: WINTER: Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Saw-Whet and Short-eared Owls, Evening Grosbeak; MIGRATION: shorebirds, waterfowl, thrushes, warblers, orioles, tanagers; BREEDING: Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrow, Dickcissel, Upland Sandpiper, Black-billed Cuckoo, Veery.

Access requirements: Driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance required for vehicle pass. No fee.

Contact Information: Wildlife Program office, 608-388-5374, -2308, or -5766. Map will be provided showing open areas, plus a bird checklist.

More details: Winging It, May/June 2005 (accessible from checklists page,


Orchard Training Area (Idaho Army National Guard) – southwest Idaho

Location: south of Boise; within the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Ada, Owyhee, and Elmore Counties (ID).

Size: approx. 138,000 acres; Snake River NCA totals approx. 485,000 acres.

Best time to visit: spring-early summer.

Habitats: sage-shrublands, grasslands, streams and rivers, cliffs.

Bird species: YEAR-ROUND: Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Long- and Short-eared Owls; Canyon Wren; WINTER: Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Gyrfalcon, Bufflehead; MIGRATION: waterfowl, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Goshawk; BREEDING: Northern Saw-Whet and Burrowing Owls, Ferruginous and Swainson’s Hawks; Wilson’s Phalarope, Long-billed Curlew.

Access requirements: No fee.

Contact Information: Bureau of Land Management, 208-384-3300.

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