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Birding Kalamazoo County: Hotspots near Kalamazoo


(A) Prairie View County Park ★★

Situated on the shores of Hogsett Lake and Gourdneck Lake, Prairie View County Park provides visitors with access to a beautiful swimming beach placed amidst a deciduous forest. There are many amenities available for guests, including a picnic shelter, playground, volleyball court, dog park, and hiking trails.

The shores of Hogsett Lake are undeveloped, creating a peaceful setting to relax and watch for Common Loons, Great Blue Herons, and Ospreys. While part of Gourdneck Lake’s shoreline is developed, the lake's open waters are still a reliable spot for migrating waterfowl.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Common LoonCommon Loon


(B) Bishop’s Bog ★★

Located next to West Lake Nature Preserve, Bishop’s Bog is a relict swamp left over from the Ice Age. The site’s best birding takes place during the summer, when flycatchers, kingbirds, and sparrows can be found nesting in the pristine swamp habitat. For botany lovers, the bog has a unique attraction—many rare species of plants, such as the Orange Fringed Orchid and the Stemless Pink Lady Slipper. Visitors in the springtime should come prepared to get their feet wet as high water levels sometimes cover the boardwalk with water.

Website: goo.gl/2tbClk | Map: Click here
Hours: 8am to dusk
Directions: Click here


(C) West Lake Nature Preserve ★★

West Lake Nature Preserve provides birders with access to a 110-acre bog and a quarter-mile of West Lake frontage. One of the park’s highlights is a beautiful bark trail which leads through a shadowy deciduous forest to a scenic view of the lake. Large numbers of waterfowl can be seen resting on the lake during migration. Unlike most nature preserves, West Lake offers guests many amenities, including a playground, shelter, picnic tables, restrooms, and BBQ grills.

Website: goo.gl/BDfp1I | Map: Click here
Hours: 8am to dusk
Directions: Click here


(D) Millennium Park Wetlands ★

A natural oasis in the heart of Kalamazoo, the cattails of Millennium Park form a good spot to watch Great Blue Herons, Common Coots, and Mallards. Birders have recorded over 50 different kinds of birds at Millennium Park.

Directions: Click here


(E) Al Sabo Preserve ★★

Al Sabo Preserve covers 741 acres of wetlands, hardwood forests, and open meadows. The preserve is a result of the foresight of Albert Sabo, who was the former director of Kalamazoo’s Utilities Department in the 1950’s. Sabo helped persuade the city to protect the land for future generations. Unfortunately, the terrain became heavily damaged due to its popularity with mountain bike riders, and it was only after a massive restoration project was the land fit for walking on again.

Today, the rules limit bikes to a small section of the park while birders get to enjoy the rest. A wide variety of bird species can be seen at Al Sabo Preserve. Eastern Bluebirds can be found nesting in the meadows, and Least Bitterns raise chicks in the marshes every year. Special birds that are hard to find elsewhere but can commonly be seen at Al Sabo Preserve include Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Blackburnian Warblers.

Website: goo.gl/lx3Gip | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Yellow-billed CuckooYellow-billed Cuckoo


(F) Asylum Lake Preserve ★★

Positioned on the western fork of the Portage Creek Watershed, Asylum Lake Preserve is used annually for scientific research by Western Michigan University. There are two lakes available for birders to visit—Asylum Lake and Little Asylum Lake. Both of these bodies of water may hold Common Loons, Green Herons, and other water birds.

In the past, several species of rails and herons rarely seen in southwest Michigan have been spotted. The area is an important destination during migration for birders trying to achieve a record “Big Day”, where they race to see as many bird species as possible in 24 hours. Visitors have seen over 180 species of birds at Asylum Lake Preserve.

Website: wmich.edu/asylumlake | Map: Click here
Phone: (269) 387-8557
Directions: Click here


(G) Kleinstuck Preserve ★★

Kleinstuck Preserve is one of the last large nature areas to be found in the city of Kalamazoo. The 48-acre preserve has a unique ecosystem consisting of marshland, swamp forest, and dry upland forest. Managed by Western Michigan University, Kleinstuck’s natural areas provide visitors with many good places to search for birds. The diverse display of birdlife and wildflowers is especially bold during the spring, making it the best season to visit. Over 20 species of warblers can be seen in one day.

Because of the wide variety of habitat it offers, Kleinstuck Preserve is a good destination for individuals trying to see as many birds as possible in one day.

Website: wmich.edu/kleinstuck | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(H) Markin Glen Park ★★

Markin Glen Park is a picturesque green preserve located next to the Kalamazoo River. The 160-acre park features a large pond, with a bridge leading to an island. Bird species recently sighted at the preserve include Mute Swan, Spotted Sandpiper, Cedar Waxwing, and Indigo Bunting.

Markin Glen Park offers many amenities for guests to enjoy, including 38 modern campsites, restrooms, tennis courts, playgrounds, picnic shelters, and much more.

Website: kalcounty.com/parks/markinglen | Map: Click here
Phone: (269) 383-8778
Directions: Click here

(I) Kalamazoo Nature Center ★★

The staff of the Kalamazoo Nature Center have done everything they can to make the sanctuary a kid-friendly destination. Every Sunday at 2 p.m. there is a special program for families, which is just one of the many events that take place throughout the year. The biggest event hosted by the Kalamazoo Nature Center is the Nature Up Close exhibit, which shows visitors a new, magnified perspective of the world around them.

Adult birders without children in tow will also find many enjoyable things to do at the nature center. There are 11 miles of trails available, which allow visitors to explore 1100 acres of floodplain forest next to the Kalamazoo River and a reconstructed prairie.

The riparian areas near the Kalamazoo River are the best places to look for birds. Thrushes, warblers, and vireos can be heard singing from the treetop branches. Nest boxes placed alongside the trails provide visitors with an opportunity to observe Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows flying to feed their broods.

Website: naturecenter.org | Map: Click here
Phone: (269) 381-1574
Hours: The nature center is open from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Saturday, and on Sunday it is open from 1pm to 5pm. The trails are open from dawn to dusk all week long, except on Sunday, when they open at 9am.
Fees: The admission rate for adults is $7, for seniors it is $6, and for children ages 4 to 17 it is $4. Children ages 3 and under are admitted free.
Directions: Click here

Kalamazoo Nature Center (CCC License)Kalamazoo Nature Center (CCC License)


(J) Fred McLinden Nature Trails ★★

Located 5 miles northeast of Kalamazoo, Fred McLinden Nature Trails feature several hiking paths that lead guests to Comstock Creek. Another trail offers visitors a scenic view of Campbell Lake. Most of the park is wooded, except for a swampy area near Comstock Creek. Red-bellied Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Great Horned Owls live in the area.

Directions: Click here


(K) Robert Morris Park ★

Robert Morris Park is a 40-acre park on the south side of Campbell Lake. With tables and other amenities available for visitors to use, the park is a great place to stop for a picnic. The lakeside park is also a good spot to search for birds, including Osprey, Gray Catbirds, Eastern Phoebes, and Yellow-throated Vireos.

Hours: The park is open from 9am to sunset
Fees: The admission fee amount is posted at the park entrance
Directions: Click here

Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe


(L) W. K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary ★★

Kellogg Bird Sanctuary provides access to a lake with an ice-free zone during the wintertime. Kids will enjoy throwing corn to geese and ducks. Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, and many other kinds of water birds can be seen resting in the lake. There are also many cages holding injured birds of prey on the sanctuary grounds. Another notable resident is the peacock, several of which roam the area looking for free handouts.

The sanctuary is home to the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), which studies environmental effects on birds. Operated by Michigan State University, the field station bands thousands of birds every year. The sanctuary is famous for being instrumental in helping Trumpeter Swan populations reach normal levels after the population collapsed in the early 20th century.

Website: kbs.msu.edu/visit/birdsanctuary
Phone: (269) 671-2510
Hours: From November to April the sanctuary is open 9am to 5pm, and May to October the sanctuary is open from 9am to 7pm.
Fees: The entrance fee for adults is $4, for seniors it is $3, for children ages 2 to 12 it is $2, and for kids under 2 the entrance fee is waived.
Directions: Click here


(M) Fort Custer Recreation Area ★★

Once used by the U.S. Army for military training, the land formerly covered by Fort Custerk now contains a wildlife preserve. There are over 100 different kinds of birds that nest in the park’s trees every summer. The area hosts one of the largest populations of nesting Cerulean Warblers and Hooded Warblers in southeast Michigan.

Birders with an adventurous spirit should canoe the Kalamazoo River through the spongy wetlands. Pristine marshes provide great habitat for Pileated Woodpeckers, Great-crested Flycatchers, and Belted Kingfishers. Black-crowned Night-Herons and Orchard Orioles can sometimes be seen in the summer months.

Visitors should plan on arriving during the middle of the week when the level of human activity is significantly less. There is a 219-site campground located on the state park grounds. Park rules permit mountain bikers, dogs, and equestrians on the trails.

Website: michigan.gov/fortcuster | Map: Click here
Phone: (269) 731-4200
Hours: Open from dawn to dusk
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

Black-crowned Night-heronBlack-crowned Night-heron


(N) Fort Custer National Cemetery ★

Fort Custer National Cemetery is a large burial ground dedicated to the memory of war veterans. The cemetery’s property consists mostly of mowed lawns surrounded by forest. In early May, check the trees near the cemetery for Pine Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and other migrating songbirds.

Directions: Click here


(O) Cold Brook County Park ★★

Located on the pretty green shores of Portage Lake, Cold Brook County Park protects 276 acres of forest, containing a swimming beach, boat ramp, picnic areas, disc golf course, volleyball court, and hiking trails. The shoreline of Portage Lake is mostly undeveloped.

Cold Brook County Park is a good place to search for different kinds of waterfowl and wading birds—Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, and Least Bitterns are all possible sightings.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here