The Northern Great Lakes Visitor
Center, near Ashland, Wisconsin, is a major stop
in the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail.
Adjacent to the Whittlesey Creek National WIldlife
Refuge, the site has a popular boardwalk, observation
tower, viewing platform, and trail system.
Photo: Wisconsin Dept of Tourism, Dale Thomas
This first-year Altamira Oriole is a
"South Texas specialty," a species found nowhere else in the US.
Birders visit Santa Ana NWR in search of this essentially
Photo: FWS/John & Karen Hollingsworth
across North America are a number of innovative birding
trails. Some are finished; some are in development;
others are in the idea- or planning-phase. These trails,
covering tracts of roadway across many miles, offer
birders, wildlife-watchers, naturalists, and the general
public opportunities to explore diverse habitats near
home and in distant places. Birding and nature trails
are essentially driving-routes linking premier birding
and wildlife-watching locations. They often link National
Wildlife Refuges with other prime birding and wildlife-watching
areas in a region.
The growth of birding trails combines Americans' love
of the automobile with the increasing interest in birds
and other wildlife. Like the phenomenon of birding festivals,
birding trails will often highlight community involvement
and commitment to preserve natural resources based on
responsible tourism and bird appreciation.
trails began in Texas in 1996, when the first of three
segments of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail opened.
Similar trails began appearing across North America.
The trails, often marked roadways with site-specific
stops, combine regional education, conservation, and
ecotourism. Most of these trails also have detailed
accompanying maps or booklets, furnishing guidance to
the sites and to the birds and other wildlife to be
found at each stop.
The Fox Sparrow is a chunky
sparrow that nests in the far north and in western
mountains. It is often seen scratching on the ground,
in leaf litter, with both feet.
Photo: FWS/James C. Leupold
construction, promotion, and development of birding
trails have used various funding sources, often using
state, county, and federal transportation dollars (federal
roadside enhancement funds, for example, have been important).
Sometimes it's a combination of state tourism dollars,
state or federal wildlife dollars, community foundations,
local business funds, non-profit backing, and individual
contributions that combine to make birding trails happen.
For a summary of these trails, from coast to coast,
page from Bird Watcher's Digest.
Birding Community E-Bulletin