Connecticut’s birding trails are some of the most diverse in the country: rivers, coastal lands, rolling hills & expansive meadows. Learn about the 5 best areas in Connecticut for birding.
- Most Common Birds — American Goldfinch, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, Wood Thrush
- Rare Birds — Common Murre, Pine Grosbeak, Hoary Redpoll
- Environment of Connecticut — River, Coastal Lands, Forests, Rolling Hills, and Meadows
- Best Time for Birdwatching Travel — Year-round birding for a variety of resident and migratory avifauna
Top 5 Connecticut Birding Trails and Areas
Take a closer look at these birding spots, some of the absolute best in Connecticut.
Air Line State Park Trail
Cutting through four counties and running more than 22 miles in length, the Air Line State Park Trail is a living tribute to the old Air Line railway that used to make trips between Boston and Manhattan in the late 19th century. The famous writer and devout lover of nature Rudyard Kipling was a frequent rider of the line, and even penned a few poems that feature that beautiful railroad route.
Air Line State Park Trail is made from asphalt and crushed stone, so it’s easily navigable, especially for those who aren’t particularly experienced with wilderness trail walking. Over brooks, streams, and other waterways–including the broad Blackledge River–the trail meanders across gorgeous country from Willimantic to East Hampton.
Obviously, birders are in store for a great many species of waterfowl on the Air Line State Park Trail, it being near so many sources of water, but there are also plenty of opportunities to take in birds of prey and meadow flyers along the lengthy path.
Visit the official site of Air Line State Park Trail
Branford Trolley Trail
The Branford Trolley Trail is quite short at just half a mile long, but it’s an excellent place for spotting shorebirds and other fabulous flyers. Basically, the Branford Trolley Trail occupies a long footbridge that connects various nature trails at either end over a wet, marshy land.
The land itself is gorgeous, but the birds that live in and visit the trail area are even more beautiful. There is parking available at either end of the Trolley Trail, but the location can be a bit difficult to find. If you have trouble navigating by yourself, your best bet is to ask a local of Pine Orchard or Stony Creek–the towns at either end of the half-mile trail–to give you precise walking directions.
You can walk Branford Trolley Trail rather quickly, but you’d do well to take your time, take in the well-manicured wilderness vista, and see if you can spot some of those rare Connecticut flyers.
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
Stretching from the Massachusetts/Connecticut state border in the north to the Yale University campus in Hartford to the south, this currently 40-mile-long heritage trail is a great hot spot for a vast variety of bird species and breathtaking natural vistas. The trail is still under construction, though not in such a way that it will ruin your experience; when it’s completed, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail will span an amazing 80 miles through the heart of The Nutmeg State.
What can you expect to see along the Farmington Canal path? Meandering streams, innumerable bridges, historic buildings, beautiful flora, and an amazing array of colorful avifauna are awaiting your arrival. Especially on the Hartford end, the trail can be a bit heavy, traffic-wise, with runners and joggers and cyclists taking advantage of the trail, but there’s plenty of opportunities for solitude the farther along you walk into the center of Connecticut.
The trail itself is composed of asphalt, gravel, grass, crushed stone, and cinder, so anyone equipped with decent hiking shoes is bound to have an easy time birding along this spectacularly scenic footpath.
Visit the official site of Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
Thought of as one of the best birding sites in the entire country, let alone the state, Milford Point is located along Long Island Sound and features almost 75% of the number of species found in Connecticut–that’s 300 of the total 403 seen in this area.
The state gave Milford Point to the Audubon Society of Connecticut for management and they’ve been able to preserve a large and positively elegant home for residents and migrants alike. Among the various locales within Milford Point for seriously good birding is the Smith-Hubbell Wildlife Refuge and Bird Sanctuary, which features a wide array of majestic coastal flyers.
Milford Point also features visitor centers at which birders and general nature lovers can learn about the land–salt marshes and dunes–and how it provides the perfect home for flyers from around the continent.
Quinebaug River Trail
Running four miles–the perfect length for a birding afternoon–the Quinebaug River Trail is generally broken down into two separate segments: the south side and the north side. On the south side, the trail follows along its namesake, the Quinebaug River. The north side stretches parallel with Tracy Road and Park Road, and if you continue along this way you can join up with the Putnam River Trail.
The scenery is phenomenal as the trail courses through Windham County, on a path made from asphalt. You can catch swallows, jays, flickers, and hummingbirds along the short path, and if you’re lucky, you might even collect a rare flyer or two.
About the State of Connecticut
It may not be a very large state, but there’s plenty of opportunity to get into the wilderness and observe some of the more than 400 species of bird that visit or live in Connecticut.
Nestled in the New England region of the U.S., bordered by Rhode Island to the east, New York to the west, Massachusetts to the north, and Long Island Sound to the south, Connecticut offers a good variety of climates and environs for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. From rolling mountains to coastal shorelines, The Nutmeg State is a permanent and temporary home to some of the Northeast’s most beautiful and diverse flyers.
Aside from the numerous public wilderness spaces available for birding, there are a great many privately-owned conservation areas on the menu. So whether you like to catch your flyers by surprise or watch a giant migration in a protected space, you’re sure to satisfy your collecting and cataloguing desires here.