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Birding Wayne County: Hotspots near Detroit


(A) Maybury State Park ★★

Covering land formerly used by a psychiatric hospital, Maybury State Park now consists of hilly forests and open fields. The park has many miles of hiking trails to explore. There is even a 6-mile cross country ski trail that can be used to search the woods for northern specialties in the winter. The birds that nest at the park during the summer are typical of Michigan woodland species, such as the Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Tufted Titmouse, and several different kinds of woodpeckers.

Website: michigan.gov/maybury | Map: Click here
Phone: (248) 349-8390
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

Blue-gray GnatcatcherBlue-gray Gnatcatcher


(B) Newburgh Lake Boat Launch ★

Surrounded by pretty greenery amidst large residential neighborhoods, Newburgh Lake is a pleasant place to stop and scan for Hooded Mergansers, Lesser Scaups, and other species of ducks.

Directions: Click here


(C) William Holliday Nature Preserve ★★

A 550-acre park located in the Tonquish Creek Valley, William Holliday Nature Preserve features some of the Detroit area's most pristine riparian habitat. Unfortunately, many of the hiking trails are not well maintained, and bridges are falling apart. The park’s woods are home to thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, and wood-pewees.

Website: hnpa.org | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Red-eyed VireoRed-eyed Vireo


(D) Lower Rouge River Recreation Trail ★★

The Lower Rouge River Recreation Trail takes visitors through riparian forest and wetlands. Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes, and Red-winged Blackbirds are common springtime residents that visitors are likely to see. There are many other trails nearby, some of which are paved.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(E) Willow Run Airport ★★

A small airport with habitat for many kinds of grassland birds, Willow Run Airport is the only place in the Detroit area to see breeding Upland Sandpipers. There are also Western Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Bobolinks that live in the airport fields. Be sure to bring a spotting scope—direct access to the airfields is disallowed so birding will have to be done at a distance through a fence.

Directions: Click here



(F) Belleville Lake and Van Buren Park ★

Belleville Lake is a long, narrow lake best known for harboring waterfowl and gulls during the cold months. Park in a small lot near the Belleville Rd / Denton Rd intersection. Look for nesting Cliff Swallows underneath the nearby bridges. After searching for the swallows, follow Huron River Drive alongside the lake. There are several parking areas available to stop at and search for waterfowl.

After checking the lake for birds, head north on Belleville Road to I-94 Service Drive and turn left. Drive west several miles to reach the entrance to Van Buren Park on the left (south) side of the road. The park features nature trails, an observation deck, and a beach, all of which give birders another view of the lake and a chance to see more waterfowl.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(G) Grace Lake ★

Not exactly a wilderness retreat, Grace Lake is surrounded by a highway and parking lots for the Visteon Corporation. Surprisingly, the lake is an excellent place to sight migrating gulls and ducks. In the past, over 1,000 gulls have congregated on the lake. Peregrine Falcons have also been reported, most likely in search of an easy meal.

Directions: Click here

Peregrine FalconPeregrine Falcon


(H) Edison Lake Dam ★

Edison Lake Dam is a short distance south of I-94. The lake above the dam is an excellent spot to search for gulls—in recent years, birders have recorded eight species.

Directions: Click here


(I) Lower Huron Metropark ★★

Featuring greater tree diversity than any other Michigan park, Lower Huron Metropark hosts many interesting bird species. The area's birding becomes spectacular during May, when warblers and sparrows fly through while migrating. Leave the car behind and walk the Paw Paw Nature Trail and the Bobwhite Nature Trail to explore the Huron River’s floodplain forest.

Website: metroparks.com/Lower-Huron-Metropark | Map: Click here
Phone: (734) 697-9181
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here


(J) Crosswinds Marsh County Park ★★

At over 1,000 acres, Crosswinds Marsh is one of the largest man-made swamps in the United States. It was originally created to replace wetlands destroyed to enlarge the Detroit Metro Airport. Today, the marsh is an attractive destination with 11 miles of trails, giving birders a lot of territory to explore.

One exciting raptor that can be seen at the marsh is the Bald Eagle, which frequently fly overhead in search of fish. During the spring, hundreds of migrating ducks descend on the wetlands. Double-crested Cormorants and Pied-billed Grebes can also be found. After the ducks migrate north, Tree Swallows, Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroats, and Swamp Sparrows arrive in abundant numbers.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(K) Willow Metropark ★★

Located conveniently close to I-275, Willow Metropark provides residents of Detroit with an excellent place to escape the citified air and retreat into nature. The 1,531-acre park's landscape is covered with a mature forest. The best place to search for birds is a 17-acre lake, where migratory waterfowl often rest. Several species of gulls can sometimes be found nearby as well, including Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls.

Website: metroparks.com/Willow-Metropark | Map: Click here
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here

(L) Oakwoods Metropark ★★

Scenic elements of Oakwoods Metropark include the Huron River and the woodland trails alongside the water’s edge. Birders should first visit the Hike Bike trail and look for Field Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and Eastern Bluebirds. Catbirds and Brown Thrashers can regularly be seen in nearby shrubby areas. Another good birding spot is the Nature Center parking lot—from there birders can walk several different trails through the Huron River floodplain. The Long Bark Trail sometimes floods during the spring, but the chance of seeing warblers, cuckoos, and tanagers make the wet slog worthwhile.

Website: metroparks.com/Oakwoods-Metropark | Map: Click here
Phone: (734) 782-3956
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here

Brown ThrasherBrown Thrasher


(M) Riverfront Park ★

Surrounded by water on three sides, Riverfront Park provides birders with a small “parking island” next to the Huron and Detroit rivers. The parking lot is an excellent place to search for wintering ducks, including Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Directions: Click here


(N) Lake Erie Metropark ★★★

Lake Erie Metropark is one of the best hawk watching hotspots in North America. Every fall, over 100,000 raptors migrate south past the Metropark alongside the Lake Erie coastline. The amazing spectacle brings hundreds of birders in September and October, hoping to catch a “banner day” where the steady stream of birds flying overhead rarely ceases. The area also provides excellent opportunities to spot waterfowl and migrating songbirds.

Before leaving, visit Lake Erie Metropark Marshlands Museum & Nature Center, which has a giant aquarium, a Bald Eagle, and other critters for visitors to enjoy. The nature center is on the south side of Lake Erie Metropark.

Website: metroparks.com/Lake-Erie-Metropark | Map: Click here
Phone: (734) 379-5020
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here

Red-tailed HawkRed-tailed Hawk


(O) Elizabeth Park ★★

Situated alongside the Detroit River, the highlight of Elizabeth Park is a 1300-foot long riverwalk, creating an excellent spot to search for wintering Bald Eagles and ducks. The 162-acre park features several walking trails and a swimming pool.

Directions: Click here


(P) Westcroft Gardens ★★

Westcroft Gardens is a 27-acre nature preserve located on the banks of the Detroit River. Other highlights include a small 13-acre forest and a 6-acre botanical garden. The gardens, which were originally established in 1776, are considered to be a part of the oldest farm in Michigan.

When visiting Westcroft during the summer months, look for Baltimore Orioles and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. The birds thrive because of the many flowering trees and plants present.

Website: westcroftgardens.com
Directions: Click here

Ruby-throated HummingbirdRuby-throated Hummingbird


(Q) Bishop Park ★

An observation deck and a boardwalk are some of the highlights of Bishop Park, a 12-acre recreation area alongside the Detroit River. Many kinds of waterfowl can be seen during the winter months. Search the wider areas of the river during spring for Common Loons, Horned Grebes, and Pied-billed Grebes.

By summertime, many new species of birds join the fishermen alongside the piers. Watch for Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Bald Eagles as they fly over the river in search of fish to bring to their youngsters.

Directions: Click here


(R) John Dingell Park ★

A spotting scope is a necessary tool for birders visiting John Dingell Park, a small, riverside tract with great views of the Detroit River. The best time to visit the park is during the wintertime, when hundreds of Canvasbacks and Common Mergansers can be seen floating downstream alongside smaller numbers of other duck species. Greater Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls are also easily sighted.

Directions: Click here



(S) Rouge River Bird Observatory ★★

Formerly owned by Henry Ford, Rouge River Bird Observatory is next to the Ford Motor Company’s headquarters. The nature preserve has riparian habitat, creating a surprisingly busy hotspot for migrating birds. The observatory bands up to 2,000 birds every year. The middle of May is the best time to watch the spring songbird migration—over 40 different species of warblers have been seen. Search underneath the Rouge River bridge for Cliff Swallows, and keep an eye open for Swainson’s Thrushes, which are common in the area. Birders visiting during the cold months should look for sparrows, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls, which are often abundant because of the berry bushes Henry Ford planted.

Website: rrbo.org | Map: Click here
Phone: (313) 593-5338
Directions: Click here


(T) Eliza Howell Park ★★

Covering over 250 acres, Eliza Howell Park is one of the largest nature preserves in Detroit. The park features a river floodplain, meadows, and a forest. Unfortunately, up until a few years ago the park’s grounds were poorly maintained because of Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Recently, Friends of Eliza Howell Park adopted the preserve and cleaned up the trails, making the park a much nicer place to visit. When visiting the preserve, watch for Northern Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, and Indigo Buntings.

Website: friendsofelizahowell.org | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Indigo BuntingIndigo Bunting


(U) William Milliken State Park ★★

The first urban state park in Michigan, William Milliken’s green oasis provides residents with opportunities for walking, fishing, picnicking, and birding. The park features a wetland area and riverwalk, located next to the Detroit River. The 31-acre park offers birders an opportunity to search for different kinds of waterfowl. Ospreys and Bald Eagles can occasionally be sighted.

Website: michigan.gov/milliken
Directions: Click here


(V) Belle Isle Nature Zoo ★★

Considered a crown jewel of Detroit, Belle Isle Nature Zoo features 20 acres of protected wetlands and forests. There are several trails that lead through lagoons and marshes, giving birders a chance to see different kinds of wading birds. After walking the trails, visitors may also be interested in examining indoor animal exhibits, a butterfly garden, and a bird observation window.

Website: belleislenaturezoo.org
Hours: The park is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Directions: Click here