Birds Of Idaho

Birds of Idaho, some inhabitants and some migratory, can be watched in their natural environment in many locations in the state. Whether you are a veteran or an amateur bird watcher, the state is a haven for a wide variety of winged delights, from the minuscule hummingbird to the great cranes. Scores of songbirds, shorebirds, upland game birds, waterfowl and birds of prey put on their show for the curious.

Image Preview Watch birds of Idaho courting, nesting, nurturing and training their young, and making their way in the wilds of the Gem State. Generally, the most active times of the year for bird watching or “birding” are during the spring or fall migrations. At these times, large numbers of birds travel north or south to wintering and nesting sites. The best times for birding is in the early morning hours when many birds are searching for food.

Birding is great fun. It’s easy to do, it’s inexpensive and it puts the observer in a healthy, satisfying setting. Bird watching adults find a kind of comfort in the sport; kids learn about their environment and the mysteries of wild life. It is a great family activity and a ticket to the winged outdoor world of the birds of Idaho.

The American Birding Association has produced a book for bird watching in Idaho. "A BIRDER'S GUIDE TO IDAHO", can be purchased here through Amazon Books. I recommend this useful field guide for Idaho birders!

Image Preview Don’t forget to bring binoculars, cameras, maps and field guides for your viewing excursions for the birds of Idaho!

Here's a listing of some great bird watching locations around the state:


Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Nearly 19,000 acres of open water, marshlands and grasslands make this nesting habitat the perfect setting for the honking Canadian goose, a variety of ducks and the elusive white-faced ibis. Trumpeter swans are also seen more and more in recent times during the spring and fall months. The refuge is a favorite spot for viewing many songbirds, herons, the snowy egret, the sandhill crane. white pelicans and several shore birds. This is a showcase for birds of Idaho. Easy walking trails lead to where the birds and other wildlife can be observed. Located south of Montpelier, Idaho, off U.S. Route 89. This turnoff, the entrance to Bear Lake State Park, is marked. Information: (208) 847-1757

Big Springs Nature Trail
Big Springs is one of the largest springs in the U.S.A., producing 120 million gallons of water each day. The springs form the headwaters of the Henrys Fork of the Snake River. Along a half-mile trail, you can see osprey, bald eagles, and various waterfowl. The easy trail is handicap-accessible. Drive 3 miles northeast from the Island Park Ranger Station on U.S. Route 20 to Mack’s Inn then right on Forest Route 59. Information: (208) 652-7442

Birds of Prey National Conservation Area
The Birds of Prey NCA, established in 1993 to protect one of the highest concentrations of nesting birds of prey, covers nearly 600,000 acres of public and private lands. Birds of Prey, also known as “raptors”, are noted for having a hooked beak, strong feet with sharp talons, keen eyesight, and a carnivorous diet. An interesting group of birds of Idaho. In this unique environment, a number of falcons, eagles, hawks, and owls can be observed, but raptors are wary of people and must usually be viewed from a distance. To find Birds of Prey NCA, travel west on Interstate 84 from Boise, Idaho for about 10 miles, then south on State Route 69 at the Meridian/Kuna Exit (#44). Follow Route 69 through Kuna and continue south on Swan Falls Road for 3 miles to the conservation area boundary. Information: (208) 384-3300

Bruneau Dunes State Park
Located south of Mountain Home, Idaho off State Route 78. The park includes marsh habitat, desert, and small lakes, making a perfect environment for the birds of Idaho: songbirds, birds of prey, and waterfowl. Information: (208) 366-7919

Camas National Wildlife Refuge
The Camas Wildlife Refuge, a 10,578-acre sanctuary for migrating waterfowl and other animals, is located north of Idaho Falls, off Interstate Route 15. Take the Hamer, Idaho exit, go north on frontage road, cross freeway and follow signs. Birds of Idaho such as geese, ducks, herons, egrets, cranes and swans all nest here, and several animals can also be seen. Information: (208) 662-5423

Castle Rocks State Park
Formally a ranch, this newest of Idaho’s state parks is located adjacent to City of Rocks National Reserve. Its 1440 acres includes similar rock formations, early 20th century ranch structures and pasturelands. Bird watching is superb, with nesting populations of common snipe, sandhill crane and sage grouse frequently encountered. Many songbirds and other wildlife is also present. Drive 2 miles north of Almo, Idaho on the Elba-Almo Road, then west for 1.4 miles on 2800 South (Big Cove Ranch Road). Information: (208) 824-5519

Cougar Bay Preserve
Just minutes from downtown Coeur d’Alene, this wildlife nursery is located on the northwest shore of one of Idaho’s most beautiful mountain lakes. From Coeur d'Alene, travel south on U.S. Route 95 about 2 miles to the preserve entrance sign on the east (left) side of the road. Cougar Bay attracts migrating and nesting waterfowl, numerous shorebirds, songbirds, and a host of other animal life. Information: (208) 788-2203

Farragut State Park
Here is a diverse biological community in a scenic forest setting of lodgepole, ponderosa and white pines, Douglas fir, poplar, western larch and grand fir. This grand setting is on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, the state’s largest lake, and is a birder’s paradise. Birds of Idaho found here include owls, hummingbirds, hawks, woodpeckers, ducks and Idaho’s state bird, the mountain bluebird. Drive 30 miles north of Coeur d'Alene on U.S. Route 95, then 4 miles east of Athol, Idaho on State Route 54. Information: (208) 683-2425

Grays Lake Wildlife Refuge
From Soda Springs, Idaho, go north on Highway 34 for about 27 miles. Turn at refuge sign and travel 3 miles north to the refuge office, visitor center and overlook. This 18,330 acre preserve is for migrating waterfowl, such as sandhill cranes, Franklin‘s gulls, geese, ducks and hawks. During fall migration as many as 3,000 cranes may be found at the marsh and, at times, there may be as many as 40,000 Franklin's gulls here. Wldflowers here generally peak in mid-June. A visitor center educates the public about species found in the area. Information: (208) 574-2755

Kootetnai National Wildlife Refuge
The 2,774 acre refuge encompasses a wide variety of habitat for the birds of Idaho. Meadows, grain fields and wetlands are interspersed in the valley bottom adjacent to the Kootenai River. Wetlands include open-water ponds, cattail marshes, tree-lined ponds and rushing creeks. A small portion of the refuge ascends the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains which consists of dense coniferous forest. The pied-billed and red-necked grebe, great blue heron, mallard, wood duck, green-winged teal, pintails and wigeons are among the many ducks observed here. The Canada goose, bald eagle, several hawks, and a number of shore and song birds can also be seen at this location. This small refuge is located in the Northern Panhandle approximately 20 miles south of the Canadian border and 5 miles west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Take Riverside Street in Bonners Ferry (south side of the Kootenai River) to Westside Road. Information: (208) 267-3888

Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area
Averaging only 5-feet deep, Mud lake is bordered by saltgrass, bulrush-cattail stands, and willows. Sagebrush, farmland and pastures surround the wildlife management area, Drive Mud Lake's roads or walk out on several points jutting into the water. Maps and bird checklists are available. A viewing platform is strategically placed near nesting waterbirds. March to April are best to see snow and Canada geese, tundra and trumpeter swans and many duck species. Spring visitors include the American white pelican, Clark's and Western grebe, common loon, black-crowned night heron, white-faced ibis, snowy egret, black tern and double-crested cormorant. Birds of Idaho, for sure! To reach Mud Lake WMA headquarters, exit Interstate 15 at Sage Junction (exit 143) and travel 14 miles west on State Highway 33. Just inside the city limits of Mud Lake, turn north on County Road 1100 East and drive three miles to County Road 1800 North. Turn east on this gravel road and drive 0.5 miles. Information: (208) 525-7290

Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey
The Peregrine Fund is an international organization dedicated to conservation of birds of prey and their natural habitats. The innovative, interactive exhibits at the visitor center will leave a lasting impression. The encounters with live birds of prey, including the endangered California condor, harpy eagle, and aplomado falcon will leave a lasting memory for adults and children alike. South of Boise, take Exit 50 off Interstate Route 84 to South Cole Road, then 6 miles south to Flying Hawk Lane. Information: (208) 362-8687

Tubbs Hill Nature Park
Tubbs Hill is a forested peninsula that extends nearly a mile and a half into picturesque Lake Coeur d'Alene. The park features numerous trails excellent for bird watching. Birds commonly sighted on the lake are osprey, common merganser and pied-billed grebe in the summer and bald eagles, hooded mergansers and horned, eared and Western grebes in the winter. At Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, exit Interstate Route 90 onto Business 90 South (Northwest Blvd.). Then, right onto Front St. and to a city parking lot at Third Street. A map is available. Information: (208) 292-1626