5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in Michigan

By Steve Anderson

5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in Michigan

Michigan is known for its beautiful natural spaces and abundant wildlife. Make the most out of your next trek through Michigan wilderness by bringing along a pair of binoculars. From trumpeter swans, to orioles, to some special bald eagle sightings, here are five of the most wonderful birdwatching hikes in the state.  

1. Pointe Mouillee State Game Area

The Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, near Rockwood, offers 4,040 acres worth of ground to cover, sufficient to rank it among the largest freshwater marsh restoration projects on Earth. While there, you'll not only have one major hike on your hands, but also the ability to see a host of different bird life, from black billed plovers to glossy ibises. You'll even be able to spot bald eagles, and that alone could make the trip worthwhile for some birders. There's some hunting allowed in the area, so be sure to check things out before your trip. 

2. Sleeping Bear Birding Trail

The Sleeping Bear Birding Trail is actually too large to be near any one town, as it encompasses 123 miles of Highway M-22, running from Manistee to Traverse City. Naturally, that's way too much to hike, but you'll have plenty of choices along the trail to set up a hike most anywhere you’d like. The real high point of the trail, however, is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is not only a national park, but also has been designated an Important Bird Area. The area has seen several different birds, including trumpeter swans, American pipits, and even double-crested cormorants.

3. Sunrise Coast Birding Trail

The best part about the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail is that you'll have a staggering array of options in terms of where you want to stage your birdwatching hike, because there are no less than 28 separate hot spots along this run. The Sunrise Coast extends all the way from East Tawas to Mackinaw City, and in 2014, was found to be home to 188 different bird species. The sheer variety of the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail helps ensure that, no matter what you're looking for, it's a pretty safe bet that it can be found here. There are even some special events like the spring Raptor Watch, where you can see thousands of great lakes piping plovers engaged in seasonal migration.

4. Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary

If you're looking for a more contained hike, then head to Pleasant Lake and the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. This sanctuary encompasses fully 1,000 acres of land, and offers two miles of trails therein. It's also home to better than 200 separate bird species, which is impressive enough. However, for those looking for a place to see Michigan's sandhill cranes, the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary will provide in a big way, as it's known to attract several thousand of these birds in the midst of migration.

Eagle lake 💚 #twighlightzone #Michigan

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5. Grand Traverse Commons

Those looking for a more cosmopolitan birdwatching hike will love to know about Grand Traverse Commons, with a 500-acre campus and miles of trails. Birdwatchers will be able to catch an array of species depending on the season; it's said to be home to one of the state’s best spots to catch an oriole or an indigo bunting. That by itself is worthwhile, but even birdwatchers need to eat and rest. So, after all that birdwatching, hit the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, home to an equally broad array of shops and dining options to satisfy those needs for creature comforts.

Beautiful exploration hike with Lucas around the Grand Traverse Commons

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