The Pacific Northwest is a prime hotspot for birding enthusiasts, but perhaps not enough attention is paid to Idaho, nestled between the diverse environment of Washington and the majestic wilds of Montana. Idaho is a beautiful region full of mountains, valleys, plains, and forests that offer a vast network of remarkable trails for birding enthusiasts.
- Most Common Birds — Gadwall, Herring Gull (not very common though…)
- Rare Birds — Siberian Accentor, Ross’s Gull, Bushtit, Snowy Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Rusty Blackbird, Summer Tanager
- Environment of Idaho — Mountains, rivers, lakes, valleys, canyons, forests
- Best Time for Birdwatching Travel — Year-round opportunities are available, but northern climate makes spring and summer the best birding months
Top 5 Idaho Birding Areas
Thinking of taking a trek to the Gem State for some northwestern birding? If so, be sure to check out these top five birding trails in Idaho.
Idaho Birding Trail
The Idaho Birding Trail is not just a single path, but rather a vast network of birding trails in the state. It incorporates just about every major birding hotspot into one great statewide birding adventure.
Spanning over 2,000 miles and featuring no less than 175 sites in four regions, the Idaho Birding Trail is the place to be for birders visiting the Potato State. This is certainly no single destination, but rather a gigantic resource for planning a bird watching vacation. Diverse in its beauty, its avifauna, and its geography, the Idaho Birding Trail features some of the very best birding opportunities in the whole country, let alone northwest.
Visit the official site of Idaho Birding Trail
Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area
Established in 1993 by the U.S. Congress to protect a special desert area that is the home of a variety of nesting raptors, the Snake River Birds of Prey NCA is a year-round hotspot for birding enthusiasts of the great northwest. There are more than 700 pairs of nesting raptors in the area, making it the most densely populated raptor nesting site in the entire country–no wonder it’s preserved and protected.
With more than 485,000 acres of conservation area encompassed in this region of Snake River, you’re bound to get your fill of raptor collecting–if that’s even possible! Among the various species you might be lucky enough to spy on are: Prairie Falcons, American Kestrels, Golden Eagles, Northern Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, and Great Horned Owls–though you’re bound to see way more than that!
The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area is an important legacy of the U.S. government–vowing the protection of so many majestic flyers. It’s also plain paradise for serious and casual birders alike.
Visit the official site of Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area
American Falls Area
The American Falls Area is by far one of Idaho’s best birding hotspots. This 3-mile area located in the state’s southeastern region features opportunities for birders to collect a vast variety of species, including shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, water fowl, and upland birds.
On the southern edge of the American Falls Reservoir sits the American Falls Area, a prime destination for birders from all over the country. It’s also a fantastic spot for family vacations, being on the water and in the state’s warmer region. A nearby marina, a shopping area, and the beautiful Snake River are found in this area, too, so every member of the family can find something to do keep him or herself busy and happy.
The birders, though, are bound to have the best time of all. Among the wide variety of species you’ll find in the American Falls area are: Common Loons, Bald Eagles, White-throated Sparrows, Harris’s Sparrows, Wilson’s Warbler, and Blue-winged Teals.
Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Located along the eastern shores of Lake Lowell in southwestern Idaho, the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge is yet another mammoth hotspot for birding aficionados. Near the town of Nampa, the Deer Flat NWR is a 10,500 acre area that’s open from sunrise to sunset, every day of the year–free of charge.
Even though it’s open year-round, you have to wonder if there’s just one specific time that you should make the trek to see some birds. The answer is no. During any point in the year, you can collect a great variety of beautiful flyers. Come in the late summer to see an incredible array of shorebirds. Come during the fall and winter months to take in some gorgeous birds of prey. Come in springtime for a great migration of diverse avifauna. Any time is the right time for birding at the Deer Flat NWR.
What kinds of species will you find here? To name just a few: Canada Goose, Mallard, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Barred Owl, and Peregrine Falcon.
Visit the official site of Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh Wildlife Management Area
From April to June, Camas Creek is full of water (before drying up in July), making the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh WMA an excellent spot for shorebird viewing in the spring.
The WMA is 3,100 acres large and features thousands of water fowl during the spring months, allowing for some of Idaho’s most amazing birding opportunities. Here, you’ll find Ring-necked Ducks, Killdeers, American Avocets, Spotted Sandpipers, American Coots, Sandhill Cranes, Snowy Egrets, California Gulls, and much, much more.
About the State of Idaho
Idaho is a quiet state, holding steady at as the 7th least densely populated state in the union, but its beauty is undeniable. Whether or not the quiet is because residents don’t want to draw too much attention to the natural majesty of the state’s mountainous environment, the truth remains that you can find some perfect solitude in the Idaho wilderness while collecting and cataloging gorgeous birds.
Though its population is comparatively low, the state of Idaho is bigger than all of New England put together. The region is considered mostly mountainous, though it does have an incredibly diverse environment, offering high peaks, deep valleys, and everything in between. Located on the northern border of the continental United States, embraced by Washington and Oregon to the west and Montana and Wyoming to the east, Idaho is situated in the middle of the Rocky Mountain range, as it spans from Colorado up through Canada to the north.
Idaho has two nicknames: the Gem State (because you can find nearly every type of gemstone in its wilderness) and the Potato State (because it’s a region famous for growing American spuds). But it might as well also be called the Avian State, too, because Idaho is an absolute birder’s paradise.
Jay Carlisle and Gregory Kaltenecker of Boise State University and the Idaho Bird Observatory for assisting on the research for this article.