Birdwatching on Cape Cod And the Islands


bird watching on cape cod & the islands

Cape Cod and the Islands, as well as Plymouth, are all fantastic destinations for birdwatching due to its diverse habitats, including coastal areas, marshes, forests, and wetlands. The best times for birdwatching in these areas are during the spring and fall when a variety of species pass through the area during their migratory routes.

Popular birdwatching spots and the types of birds you might encounter in the region

It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.
– Aesop

Cuttyhunk, Ma

Cuttyhunk Island

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
Gosnold, Massachusetts

Activity: Tree swallows, blue jays, common grackle, double-crested cormorant

Description: Sits at the end of the Elizabeth Islands, just off Cape Cod in Buzzards Bay. Buzzards Bay is an important habitat for waterbirds, as well as a stopover location for migrating birds. In the spring and fall, birds often congregate on Cuttyhunk Island, as it’s the first (heading north) or last (heading south) landmass in the bay. As a result, birdwatchers can sometimes spot rare birds, like the painted redstart, in this migration funnel. More common bird sightings on the island include tree swallows, blue jays, the common grackle, and the double-crested cormorant.

A forest bird never wants a cage.
~ Henrik Ibsen

Cape Cod

Fort Hill Trail

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
70 Fort Hill Rd |Eastham

Activity: Marsh wrens, seaside sparrows, saltmarsh sparrows, royal terns, spotted sandpipers, yellowlegs

Description: Fort Hill Trail is an expansive historical district that encompasses forests, open fields, and salt marshes in Eastham. The district’s varied terrain attracts a wide variety of bird species. In fact, birdwatchers have recorded seeing more than 280 different species of birds at Fort Hill. In the fields, birdwatchers can observe marsh wrens, seaside sparrows, and saltmarsh sparrows. In the saltmarshes, high tide brings shorebirds like royal terns, spotted sandpipers, and yellowlegs to the banks of Fort Hill.

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
30 Wikis Way, on Morris Island
Chatham, Massachusetts

Activity: American avocet, Hudsonian godwit, Red-necked phalarope, Solitary sandpiper

Description: Established specifically to provide a habitat for migrating birds. The refuge encompasses more than 7,000 acres of forest, kettle ponds, sand dunes, freshwater marshes, salt marshes, and shoreline. Birdwatchers have spotted more than 260 different species of birds in this varied terrain, including rare shorebird species like the American avocet, the Hudsonian godwit, the red-necked phalarope, and the solitary sandpiper. There’s always something to see at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge since, at low tide, the north end of the refuge is a feeding site and, at high tide, the south end of the refuge is a roosting site.

Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary

North Falmouth, Massachusetts
Phone: (508) 548-8484
Activity: Nature Preserve

Description: The mission of Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, Inc. (SPABS) is to protect and preserve Falmouth’s open space wildlife habitat, historic buildings, and to provide educational classes to all ages. Featuring unique properties to explore, and activities for the entire family!

Sandy Neck Beach Park

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
425 Sandy Neck Rd (West Barnstable)

Activity: Snowy owls, Piping plovers, Tern (common, least, and roseate)

Description: Encompasses a long stretch of barrier beach between the Town of Barnstable Public Lands and the sparkling waters of Cape Cod Bay. Birdwatchers have spotted over 260 species of birds in this coastal park, including some migratory birds, like snowy owls, that rarely visit the Cape. Sandy Neck Beach Park is also an important breeding and foraging site for endangered piping plovers, as well as common, least, and roseate terns.

Pochet Island

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
Orleans, Massachusetts

Activity: Black scoters, Herring gulls, Northern gannets, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets.

Description: A small private island that’s accessible by bridge from the northern end of Pleasant Bay. The island consists of wide-open fields dotted with cedar groves, which make it an attractive habitat for all kinds of seabirds and shorebirds, including black scoters, herring gulls, and northern gannets. In the cedar groves, birdwatchers can find ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets, as well as other migratory birds. Overhead, birdwatchers can also sometimes spot northern harriers and other birds of prey circling the island.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
291 US-6
Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Activity: American Kestrel, Northern bobwhite, Northern harrier, green herons, Laughing gulls, Indigo buntings

Description: Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses salt marshes, sandy barrier beaches, and pine woodlands, and is home to threatened shorebirds, sea turtles, diamondback terrapins, and horseshoe crabs. Birdwatchers have spotted more than 300 species of birds in the various ecosystems of the wildlife sanctuary, including endangered bird species like the American kestrel, the northern bobwhite, and the northern harrier. More common sightings include green herons (in the marshes), laughing gulls (on the beach), and indigo buntings (in the woodlands).

Race Point Beach

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
End of Race Point Rd (Off Route 6)
Provincetown, Massachusetts

Activity: Rarer roseate, Black terns, Black-bellied and Piping plovers, Red-throated loons, Great shearwaters

Description: Located on the very tip of the Cape Cod peninsula. This desolate section of the Outer Cape is an ideal place to watch seabirds and shorebirds. The beach is often crowded with hundreds of terns, including rarer roseate terns and black terns, and dozens of plovers, including black-bellied and piping plovers. Just offshore, birdwatchers can spot common loons, red-throated loons, and great shearwaters feeding in the Atlantic surf.

Pilgrim Heights and High Head

bird watching on cape cod & the islands
Truro, Massachusetts

Activity: Mississippi kite, Virginia rails, red-winged blackbirds, broad-winged hawks

Description: Located in a desolate section of the Outer Cape that’s covered in a blanket of rolling, shifting sand dunes. Many birdwatchers make the trek to these remote historical sites for the chance to spot hawks and other birds of prey circling the sand. These majestic birds include the Mississippi kite, a graceful gray and white bird of prey that passes through High Head and Pilgrim Heights on its migration route. Birdwatchers can also spot Virginia rails, red-winged blackbirds, broad-winged hawks, and more than 260 other species of birds at High Head and Pilgrim Heights.

“Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble.”
– Roger Tory Peterson

Plymouth, Ma

Myles Standish State Forest

194 Cranberry Rd
Plymouth |Phone: (508) 866-2526
Activity: Bird Watching

Description: This property is open daily from sunrise to sunset and offers year-round activities such as camping, swimming, horseback riding, walking, canoeing, hunting, and hiking. The facility includes picnic areas, showers, restrooms, grills, and a boat ramp. There are also miles of biking trails, hiking trails, and horseback riding trails for all to enjoy.

Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary

60 Beaver Dam Road
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Activity: Bird Watching

Description: This wildlife sanctuary was once a working cranberry farm and is now open to the public to enjoy. The property boasts cold-water streams, ponds, and woodlands with trails great for birding, hiking, and walking, and is filled with all different types of birds and wildlife.

Ellisville Harbor State Park

1861 State Rd | Plymouth
Activity: Bird Watching

Description: This beautiful state park offers a coastal experience on the South Shore. Here you can enjoy the rolling meadows and red pine forest, and the view of fishing boats and even harbor seals from the shoreline, even in the winter months. The park is a suitable place for wildlife and bird watching.

Manomet Point

260 Manomet Point Rd
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Activity: Bird Watching

Description: Manomet Point is a beautiful place to birdwatch because it is located along a migratory path where birds are traveling from their breeding grounds to their wintering grounds and back again. The area is on a patch of coastal forest and wetland habitat, which makes a great spot for migrating birds to rest.

It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.
– Muhammad Ali

Marthas Vineyard, Ma

Wasque Point Reservation

11 Dike Rd (Chappaquiddick Island)
Edgartown, Massachusetts
Activity: Bird Watching

Description: Wasque or Wasque Beach is a 200-acre nature reserve on Chappaquiddick Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The site was established as a reservation for the public in 1967 and is one of five conservation areas on “the Vineyard” managed by the Trustees of Reservations.

Birding for All on the Islands

Whether you are just beginning to enjoy birdwatching or participate in the annual migration counts, opportunities abound on Cape Cod and the surrounding region. The diverse habitats of Cape Cod and the surrounding area offer birdwatching opportunities year-round with its resident and overwintering species as well. Before heading out, check local birdwatching forums or contact local birdwatching clubs for current sightings, tips on the best locations or interesting lectures in the area.




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