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Five Great Birding Destinations in August Across the US and Canada

Get ready for some great August birding!

a gif of a pectoral sandpiper
Shorebirds are a frequent target of August birding expeditions!

Birdwatching, or birding, is a captivating recreational activity and hobby that nature enthusiasts across North America enjoy. And as the dog days of summer transition into the 'back-to-school bashes' of August, an exciting variety of avian species take flight, making it an ideal time for untethered birdwatchers to embark on unforgettable adventures (or those with ample PTO saved up). To help guide those with the late summer birding itch (make sure it's not a rash, first), we will explore the top five birding destinations in the United States and Canada during the month of August, based upon hotspot data from eBird, a valuable resource for birdwatchers and ornithologists alike.


While some eBird hotspots may have a greater individual count than others, we may often group several hotspot points together to offer a superb general location to visit for a few days while maximizing your birding checklist! Finally, this list is not exhaustive. It is not a pure ranking, but the top ten locales or areas that could help someone new notch a few ticks on their life list. I know there is a lot of birding patch pride out there. Leave it at the door, and instead, offer helpful tips on each of these recommendations in the comments! Local input can only strengthen the desire for an out-of-area birder to visit.


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1. Point Reyes National Seashore (north of San Francisco, CA, US)

a red-necked phalarope sits in the water
Red-necked Phalarope migrate by the thousands off of the Pacific Coast!

The Point Reyes and San Francisco Bay region of Northern California may be the single most species-rich birding area in all of the United States and Canada during the month of August. With a regional list of over 374 species of birds, there are few rivals, even amongst the following sites in the list. What makes this location so unique? The combination of the food-rich San Francisco Bay and the funnel effect of Point Reyes allows bird lovers to capture moments with waterfowl, seabirds, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds by the dozens to thousands.


High counts of shorebirds, such as the Red-necked Phalarope, are frequently seen in the area. Thousands of cormorants, auklets, and other unique species can be seen near the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge for those willing to take a longer boat ride.

 

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Keep a great pocket-sized field guide with you on your journeys!

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See our full list of recommended bird guidebooks!

 

It is not just immaculate birding that is available in this region. Whale-watching, seals and sea lions, and sea otter experiences are also on the menu of activities! Seeing the antics of these charismatic mega-mammals is only icing on this delicious treat of Pacific Coast birding. And finally, for the extra curious birders, stop into the Point Reyes Bird Observatory sites that are open to the public!


Recommended area eBird Hotspots:

Flocking Note: I would visit this area REPEATEDLY to see the sea otters. The antics of these sea dogs are ridiculous. Plus, seeing a sea otter road-crossing sign (coming from a life mostly in the Great Plains) was hilarious. Also, see how many times I said see sea otters? You could see the joke coming. From the sea.

a sea otter crossing sign
What an unusual crossing sign!

2. Cape May Point State Park (Cape May, NJ, US)

As summer draws to a close, Cape May, New Jersey, can become a bustling hotspot for birdwatching enthusiasts. Positioned on the Atlantic Flyway, this coastal gem witnesses an incredible migration of raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds. August marks the upward tick of the fall migration, where colorful songbirds like the American Redstart and Scarlet Tanager dazzle birders with their vibrant plumage. The Cape May Bird Observatory organizes guided tours and workshops, ensuring visitors can make the most of their birding experience.

 

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Starting in late August, Cape May attracts a magnificent variety of raptors. Birders can witness the mesmerizing sight of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks soaring high above, forming "kettles" as they journey southward. The peak of the Broad-winged Hawk migration through the cape falls between the second and third weeks of September. Raptor species like the Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and Northern Harrier also appear on the cape. Still, the peaks for these three species also fall in mid-September. The expansive sandy beaches and tidal marshes of Cape May host an impressive array of shorebirds, including the Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, and the striking American Oystercatcher. While the Red Knot spectacle occurs during spring migration, shorebird fanatics can still see hundreds of Red Knots on Cape May in August.


Apart from the avian spectacle, Cape May offers a range of amenities for birdwatchers, such as birding-friendly accommodations, specialized tours, and renowned local bird guides, ensuring that every visitor has an enriching experience.


Recommended eBird Hotspots:

Flocking Note: I have never had the pleasure of visiting Cape May. But I saw a Cape May Warbler once. It's basically the same thing, right? I'm going to say yes.


3. Arizona Sky Islands (southeast of Tucson, AZ)

a violet-crowned hummingbird sits on a tree branch
See the Violet-crowned Hummingbird in Patagonia, AZ!

Birding the sky islands of southeastern Arizona during August offers a unique and rewarding experience for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. The sky islands, a series of isolated mountain ranges, serve as critical habitats for a wide variety of bird species, making this region a hotbed of biodiversity. During August, many migratory birds pass through the area, making it an excellent time to witness a diverse range of species. From the colorful and charismatic hummingbirds to the majestic raptors soaring through the clear blue skies, birdwatchers can expect to encounter an array of avian wonders amidst the lush montane forests and rocky canyons. If you want to maximize your time in the Sky Islands, consider staying at (and taking a class or two) the Southwestern Research Station.

 

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The monsoon season in August brings life to the sky islands, with brief but intense afternoon showers rejuvenating the arid landscape and filling natural water sources. These conditions create a surge in insect and flower bloom activity, attracting insectivorous and nectarivorous bird species and providing ample food for the arriving migrants. As you explore the higher elevations, you may spot Elegant Trogons, Elegant Flycatchers, and Flame-colored Tanagers among the dense foliage, while the lower foothills offer opportunities to observe Elf Owls, Vermillion Flycatchers, and Gila Woodpeckers. The mesmerizing sights and sounds of these avian inhabitants in such picturesque surroundings make birding in this region an unforgettable experience.


Although August in the sky islands can be hot during the day, the cooler mornings and evenings are perfect for birding expeditions. As you hike through the diverse habitats, keep an eye out for rare and elusive species like the Montezuma Quail and the Elegant Trogon, which have established stable populations in this region. Additionally, the unique geology and vegetation of the sky islands offer birdwatchers the chance to encounter a mix of species from both the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre Occidental (which are connected via the Chiricahuas), adding further excitement to the birding adventure. The monsoonal bloom lures in over TEN species of hummingbird, including the Rufous, Violet-crowned, Lucifer, Broad-tailed, Black-chinned, Anna's, Rivoli's, Blue-throated Mountain-Gem, and in recent years, the Berylline Hummingbird. Overall, birding the sky islands of southeastern Arizona in August promises an extraordinary avian spectacle and an unforgettable journey through some of North America's most striking landscapes.


Recommended eBird Hotspots:

Flocking Note: The Chiricahua Mountains and the Sierra Madre Occidental might be the favorite birding destination(s) for Zach, the "Head Flocker." These fantastic ranges also host remarkable reptiles, amphibians, and mammals that would make even the least-interested persons perform a double-take. PS - Do not lick any of the toads you find on the road in this area. Actually, that's just sound wisdom for all toads. Don't lick toads. I feel like I should not have to say that out loud.

 

Show off your life list after adding all these new species of birds!

 

4. Point Pelee National Park (east of Windsor, ON, CA)

Crossing the border into Canada, Point Pelee National Park in Ontario beckons birdwatchers with its diverse habitats, including marshes, woodlands, and beaches. Situated on a major migration route, this park becomes a vital stopover for numerous bird species, especially songbirds, during their arduous journey southward. August sees a splendid mix of warblers, vireos, and thrushes, offering visitors a chance to expand their life lists with rare sightings. While there is no fall version of the "Festival of Birds" in August, the funneling migratory birds can still attract birdwatchers from all over, making it a must-visit site for any avid birder during late summer.

a male bay breasted warbler sits in a tree
Check out the colors of the Bay-breasted Warbler!

As the daylight hours continue decreasing slightly in August and nesting has finished, songbirds begin their southbound trek, seeking their migratory stopovers and, finally, their wintering grounds. Warblers like the Magnolia Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and the dainty Tennessee Warbler are commonly spotted during this time. The park's many bird blinds and viewing platforms make it easier to observe these feathered travelers up close without disturbing their natural behavior.


Visitors can also enjoy the calming melodies of vireos like the Red-eyed Vireo and Philadelphia Vireo, whose soothing songs resonate through the woodlands. However, by August, these songs may be ceasing. Birders might encounter the elusive Veery or the Swainson's Thrush among the thrushes, which often remain hidden in the undergrowth.


Recommended eBird Hotspots:

Flocking Note: Americans, please do not make "EH" jokes when visiting Canada. That would be unwise, buddy.

 

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5. Colorado Front Range (near Denver, CO)

a dusky grouse displays
See birds of the Rockies like the Dusky Grouse on the Front Range!

The Rocky Mountains in Colorado present an enticing array of avian species for birdwatchers seeking a mountainous adventure. As the summer progresses, many birds begin dispersing off of nesting grounds, making the Front Range an excellent location for finding wayward raptors, hummingbirds, and seemingly lost songbirds. August also offers a chance to spot the magnificent White-tailed Ptarmigan, known for its winter-white plumage. It camouflages perfectly with the alpine environment at higher elevations. The scenic vistas and diverse habitats of Rocky Mountain National Park create an unforgettable birding experience. Use the Colorado Birding Trail to help navigate through all the hotspots of the Front Range!


High-elevation songbirds, such as the stunning Western Tanager and the Audubon's Warbler, add splashes of vibrant colors against the mountain backdrop. Birders might be rewarded with sightings of the charismatic American Dipper, which adeptly hunts for aquatic insects in the park's cold, clear streams.


Additionally, hummingbird feeders placed strategically around visitor centers and nature centers attract species like the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, and Rufous Hummingbird, providing birdwatchers with close-up encounters of these tiny, iridescent gems.


Recommended eBird Hotspots:

Flocking Note: Yes, this is also the place to see the Great Subaru Migration. While I did not list this in the merits for this site, it should definitely be considered a fun bonus. I have to weed out some potential highs and lows for a site to stay within the word limit. (See what I did there? It was like two marijuana jokes... because marijuana is legal in Colorado.)

 
 

Missed the Cut

These following eight locations are no slouches when it comes to late summer birding. They absolutely deserve a spot on this list. Still, only so many words can be typed into an article before people stop reading. And we have reached that point. So here are the next eight best birding spots to visit in August in North America (north of Mexico)! The links will lead to the most prominent hotspot in the area.

Flocking Note: I made an attempt to pick a plethora of spots scattered throughout the continent (the northern parts). But seriously, I deserve a pat on the back for finding spots in Kansas AND Missouri. Psh. I am only a step away from digging up a birding jewel in Nebraska, of all places. Or better yet, I might find something for Oklahoma. Wouldn't that be an accomplishment!?

 

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Birding in August is Hot

August is a fiery time for birdwatchers in the United States and Canada. Not just because of the extreme heat (and other reasons that we won't make a joke about) but also due to the early waves of migration that lap upon our optic shores! From the Pacific to the Atlantic and to the breathtaking landscapes of the Rocky Mountains, each destination offers a unique and thrilling birding experience. Armed with eBird data, birdwatchers like you can plan their trips more effectively, increasing chances of encountering rare and beautiful avian species. So, pack your binoculars, grab your favorite bird guide or app, and embark on an unforgettable journey to the top five birding destinations in North America this August.


Keep your lens clear and your heart full; go forth and watch more birds!


Will you visit any of the 13 listed locations this August?

  • Yes

  • No

  • I wish!


 

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