Special Report

Best Places to Birdwatch in Every State

mirceax / iStock

There’s a good chance your neighbor is a birdwatcher. In the United States, there are 45 million of them, or almost 1 in 7 people in this country. Entry to this club is pretty easy — just look out the window and log the different varieties of birds that alight on telephone lines, tree branches, or bird feeders.

There are hundreds of bird clubs and societies nationwide. This growing pastime, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, generates about $36 billion for the U.S. economy — that’s a lot of binoculars, pairs of cargo pants, caps, and cameras.

To coincide with the observance of National Bird Day on January 5, 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the most popular places to birdwatch in each state.

Click here see the best places to birdwatch in every state.
Click here to read our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Jeremiah A. Gourd / iStock

1. Alabama
> Best place to birdwatch: Dauphin Island
> All-time bird sightings in Dauphin Island: 326 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Black Tern (12,400 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Alabama last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (95,000 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Flicker, Eastern Wild Turkey

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Source: Joesboy / iStock

2. Alaska
> Best place to birdwatch: St. Paul Island
> All-time bird sightings in St. Paul Island: 303 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Northern Fulmar (150,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Alaska last 10 yrs.: Crested Auklet (2,000,000 sightings)
> State bird: Willow Ptarmigan

Source: photosbyjimn / iStock

3. Arizona
> Best place to birdwatch: Patagonia Lake State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Patagonia Lake State Park: 314 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Red-winged Blackbird (2,500 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Arizona last 10 yrs.: Tree Swallow (1,200,000 sightings)
> State bird: Cactus Wren

Source: Charlesjsharp / Wikimedia Commons

4. Arkansas
> Best place to birdwatch: Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge: 281 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Mallard (245,961 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Arkansas last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (250,000 sightings)
> State bird: Mockingbird

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Source: Ingrid Taylar / iStock

5. California
> Best place to birdwatch: Hayward Regional Shoreline
> All-time bird sightings in Hayward Regional Shoreline: 363 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Western Sandpiper (35,631 sightings)
> Most seen bird in California last 10 yrs.: Brewer’s Blackbird (500,000 sightings)
> State bird: California Quail

Source: creighton359 / iStock

6. Colorado
> Best place to birdwatch: Barr Lake State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Barr Lake State Park: 336 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Cackling Goose (35,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Colorado last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (175,000 sightings)
> State bird: Lark Bunting

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Source: Jllm06 / Wikimedia Commons

7. Connecticut
> Best place to birdwatch: Sherwood Island State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Sherwood Island State Park: 307 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Common Grackle (40,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Connecticut last 10 yrs.: Common Grackle (220,000 sightings)
> State bird: American Robin

Source: aimintang / iStock

8. Delaware
> Best place to birdwatch: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge: 322 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Red-winged Blackbird (250,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Delaware last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (700,000 sightings)
> State bird: Blue Hen Chicken

Source: danlogan / iStock

9. Florida
> Best place to birdwatch: Fort De Soto Park
> All-time bird sightings in Fort De Soto Park: 339 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Redhead (10,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Florida last 10 yrs.: Tree Swallow (1,500,000 sightings)
> State bird: Mockingbird

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Source: BrianLasenby / iStock

10. Georgia
> Best place to birdwatch: Jekyll Island
> All-time bird sightings in Jekyll Island: 303 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Tree Swallow (22,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Georgia last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (2,000,000 sightings)
> State bird: Brown Thrasher, Bobwhite Quail

Source: passion4nature / iStock

11. Hawaii
> Best place to birdwatch: James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge: 114 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Cattle Egret (337 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Hawaii last 10 yrs.: Sooty Shearwater (14,700 sightings)
> State bird: Nene

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Source: avs_lt / iStock

12. Idaho
> Best place to birdwatch: Camas National Wildlife Preserve
> All-time bird sightings in Camas National Wildlife Preserve: 275 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: European Starling (10,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Idaho last 10 yrs.: Mallard (100,000 sightings)
> State bird: Mountain Bluebird, Peregrine Falcon

Source: Alanscottwalker / Wikimedia Commons

13. Illinois
> Best place to birdwatch: Montrose Point, Lincoln Park
> All-time bird sightings in Montrose Point, Lincoln Park: 328 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Red-breasted Merganser (6,985 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Illinois last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (500,000 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Cardinal

Source: Todd Petrie / Wikimedia Commons

14. Indiana
> Best place to birdwatch: Indiana Dunes State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Indiana Dunes State Park: 304 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Long-tailed Duck (20,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Indiana last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (250,000 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Cardinal

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Source: mirceax / iStock

15. Iowa
> Best place to birdwatch: Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area
> All-time bird sightings in Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area: 276 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Snow Goose (11,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Iowa last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (400,000 sightings)
> State bird: Eastern Goldfinch

Source: photographybyJHWilliams / iStock

16. Kansas
> Best place to birdwatch: Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
> All-time bird sightings in Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area: 303 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Red-winged Blackbird (150,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Kansas last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (1,500,000 sightings)
> State bird: Western Meadowlark

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Source: EEI_Tony / iStock

17. Kentucky
> Best place to birdwatch: Sloughs Wildlife Management Area
> All-time bird sightings in Sloughs Wildlife Management Area: 249 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Snow Goose (12,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Kentucky last 10 yrs.: Common Grackle (50,000 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Cardinal

Source: BrianEKushner / iStock

18. Louisiana
> Best place to birdwatch: Grand Isle
> All-time bird sightings in Grand Isle: 315 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Lesser Scaup (9,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Louisiana last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (1,000,000 sightings)
> State bird: Brown Pelican

Source: jtstewartphoto / iStock

19. Maine
> Best place to birdwatch: Monhegan Island
> All-time bird sightings in Monhegan Island: 301 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Common Eider (15,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Maine last 10 yrs.: Atlantic Puffin (11,000 sightings)
> State bird: Black-capped Chickadee

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Source: Preservation Maryland / Wikimedia Commons

20. Maryland
> Best place to birdwatch: Sandy Point State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Sandy Point State Park: 293 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Canvasback (5,555 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Maryland last 10 yrs.: Common Grackle (50,000 sightings)
> State bird: Baltimore Oriole

Source: CraigStocks / iStock

21. Massachusetts
> Best place to birdwatch: Plum Island
> All-time bird sightings in Plum Island: 363 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Tree Swallow (200,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Massachusetts last 10 yrs.: Tree Swallow (100,000 sightings)
> State bird: Black-capped Chickadee, Wild Turkey

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Source: smontgom65 / iStock

22. Michigan
> Best place to birdwatch: Whitefish Point
> All-time bird sightings in Whitefish Point: 332 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Long-tailed Duck (11,861 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Michigan last 10 yrs.: Broad-winged Hawk (190,000 sightings)
> State bird: Robin Redbreast

Source: Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

23. Minnesota
> Best place to birdwatch: Park Point Recreation Area
> All-time bird sightings in Park Point Recreation Area: 278 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Ring-billed Gull (7,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Minnesota last 10 yrs.: Broad-winged Hawk (26,270 sightings)
> State bird: Common Loon

Source: BrianLasenby / iStock

24. Mississippi
> Best place to birdwatch: Seaman Road Sewage Lagoons
> All-time bird sightings in Seaman Road Sewage Lagoons: 270 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: American Coot (4,653 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Mississippi last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (100,000 sightings)
> State bird: Wood Duck, Mockingbird

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Source: Wildreturn / Wikimedia Commons

25. Missouri
> Best place to birdwatch: Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
> All-time bird sightings in Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary: 313 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Common Grackle (197,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Missouri last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (7,200,000 sightings)
> State bird: Eastern Bluebird, Bobwhite Quail

Source: Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

26. Montana
> Best place to birdwatch: Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge: 254 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Wilson’s Phalarope (13,826 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Montana last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (250,000 sightings)
> State bird: Western Meadowlark

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Source: daniel50 / iStock

27. Nebraska
> Best place to birdwatch: Branched Oak State Recreation Area
> All-time bird sightings in Branched Oak State Recreation Area: 269 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Snow Goose (260,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Nebraska last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (750,000 sightings)
> State bird: Western Meadowlark

Source: Ken Lund / Flickr

28. Nevada
> Best place to birdwatch: Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Corn Creek Field Station
> All-time bird sightings in Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Corn Creek Field Station: 291 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Yellow-rumped Warbler (700 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Nevada last 10 yrs.: Wilson’s Phalarope (100,000 sightings)
> State bird: Mountain Bluebird

Source: gailf548 / Wikimedia Commons

29. New Hampshire
> Best place to birdwatch: Odiorne Point State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Odiorne Point State Park: 289 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Double-crested Cormorant (3,800 sightings)
> Most seen bird in New Hampshire last 10 yrs.: Herring Gull (14,000 sightings)
> State bird: Purple Finch

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Source: Paul Lowry / iStock

30. New Jersey
> Best place to birdwatch: Cape May Point
> All-time bird sightings in Cape May Point: 367 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: American Robin (80,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in New Jersey last 10 yrs.: American Robin (250,000 sightings)
> State bird: Eastern Goldfinch

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Wikimedia Commons

31. New Mexico
> Best place to birdwatch: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge: 360 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Snow Goose (60,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in New Mexico last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (60,000 sightings)
> State bird: Greater Roadrunner

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Source: Linda Tanner / Wikimedia Commons

32. New York
> Best place to birdwatch: Jones Beach State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Jones Beach State Park: 308 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Surf Scoter (12,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in New York last 10 yrs.: Common Grackle (750,000 sightings)
> State bird: Eastern Bluebird

Source: Ken Lund / Flickr

33. North Carolina
> Best place to birdwatch: Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge: 326 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Redhead (11,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in North Carolina last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (70,000 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Cardinal

Source: Karen R. Ryberg / Wikimedia Commons

34. North Dakota
> Best place to birdwatch: Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge: 250 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Snow Goose (200,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in North Dakota last 10 yrs.: Franklin’s Gull (340,000 sightings)
> State bird: Western Meadowlark

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Source: mirceax / iStock

35. Ohio
> Best place to birdwatch: Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area
> All-time bird sightings in Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area: 282 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Mallard (11,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Ohio last 10 yrs.: Ring-billed Gull (100,000 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Cardinal

Source: Willbrasil21 / iStock

36. Oklahoma
> Best place to birdwatch: Red Slough Wildlife Management Area
> All-time bird sightings in Red Slough Wildlife Management Area: 314 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Common Grackle (100,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Oklahoma last 10 yrs.: Common Grackle (100,000 sightings)
> State bird: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

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Source: Barbara Wheeler / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons

37. Oregon
> Best place to birdwatch: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: 301 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Wilson’s Phalarope (13,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Oregon last 10 yrs.: Sooty Shearwater (350,000 sightings)
> State bird: Western Meadowlark

Source: Robert K. Grubbs / Federal Highway Administration

38. Pennsylvania
> Best place to birdwatch: Presque Isle State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Presque Isle State Park: 313 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Ring-billed Gull (330,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Pennsylvania last 10 yrs.: Common Grackle (200,000 sightings)
> State bird: Ruffed Grouse

Source: Timothy J. Quill / Wikimedia Commons

39. Rhode Island
> Best place to birdwatch: Block Island
> All-time bird sightings in Block Island: 293 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Common Eider (5,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Rhode Island last 10 yrs.: Tree Swallow (150,000 sightings)
> State bird: Rhode Island Red

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Source: Pendragon1998 / Wikimedia Commons

40. South Carolina, Wild Turkey
> Best place to birdwatch: Huntington Beach State Park
> All-time bird sightings in Huntington Beach State Park: 325 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Tree Swallow (7,500 sightings)
> Most seen bird in South Carolina, Wild Turkey last 10 yrs.: Tree Swallow (144,000 sightings)
> State bird: Carolina Wren, Wild Turkey

Source: Farm Island Recreation Area / Facebook

41. South Dakota
> Best place to birdwatch: Farm Island
> All-time bird sightings in Farm Island: 268 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Canada Goose (4,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in South Dakota last 10 yrs.: Snow Goose (200,000 sightings)
> State bird: Ring-Necked Pheasant

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Source: Bear Golden Retriever / Wikimedia Commons

42. Tennessee
> Best place to birdwatch: Ensley Bottoms Complex
> All-time bird sightings in Ensley Bottoms Complex: 317 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Tree Swallow (75,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Tennessee last 10 yrs.: American Robin (250,000 sightings)
> State bird: Mockingbird, Bobwhite Quail

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

43. Texas
> Best place to birdwatch: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge: 368 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Lesser Scaup (20,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Texas last 10 yrs.: Barn Swallow (3,500,000 sightings)
> State bird: Mockingbird

Source: Staplegunther / Flickr

44. Utah
> Best place to birdwatch: Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge: 287 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: American Coot (30,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Utah last 10 yrs.: Wilson’s Phalarope (600,000 sightings)
> State bird: California Gull

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Source: Andy Arthur / Flickr

45. Vermont
> Best place to birdwatch: Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area
> All-time bird sightings in Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area: 238 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Snow Goose, Red-winged Blackbird (15,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Vermont last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (32,000 sightings)
> State bird: Hermit Thrush

Source: Leonard J. DeFrancisci / Wikimedia Commons

46. Virginia
> Best place to birdwatch: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
> All-time bird sightings in Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge: 340 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Semipalmated Sandpiper (20,400 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Virginia last 10 yrs.: Red-winged Blackbird (64,001 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Cardinal

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Source: f1monaco31 / iStock

47. Washington
> Best place to birdwatch: Neah Bay
> All-time bird sightings in Neah Bay: 284 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Common Murre (23,566 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Washington last 10 yrs.: Sooty Shearwater (352,000 sightings)
> State bird: Willow Goldfinch

Source: Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia Commons

48. West Virginia
> Best place to birdwatch: Greenbottom Wildlife Management Area
> All-time bird sightings in Greenbottom Wildlife Management Area: 249 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: European Starling (1,125 sightings)
> Most seen bird in West Virginia last 10 yrs.: Common Grackle (5,000 sightings)
> State bird: Northern Cardinal

Source: Chris Rand / Wikimedia Commons

49. Wisconsin
> Best place to birdwatch: Manitowoc Lakefront
> All-time bird sightings in Manitowoc Lakefront: 298 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: Greater Scaup (15,000 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Wisconsin last 10 yrs.: Double-crested Cormorant (100,000 sightings)
> State bird: American Robin, Mourning Dove

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Source: USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Wikimedia Commons

50. Wyoming
> Best place to birdwatch: Wyoming Hereford Ranch
> All-time bird sightings in Wyoming Hereford Ranch: 256 species
> Most seen bird in Dauphin Island: European Starling (1,350 sightings)
> Most seen bird in Wyoming last 10 yrs.: American Coot (6,225 sightings)
> State bird: Western Meadowlark

Detailed Findings & Methodology

“Even in your own backyard you can do some pretty significant birdwatching,” Christie Vargo, center strategy specialist with the National Audubon Society in Columbus, Ohio, said. “It’s a matter of learning what birds are going to be in those specific habitats.”

Learning about the habitat preferences of birds can help a birdwatcher identify different species common to particular places. Hawks and owls inhabit forest or woodland; blue herons and swamp sparrows frequent wetlands such as bogs and swamps; and meadowlarks and bobolinks flit about grasslands or prairies.

The top birdwatching areas in each state have many characteristics in common. Many lie in designated wildlife areas such as national wildlife refuges and state parks. The protected lands offer birds a more natural place to build nests and find food away from humans.

Many of the areas are also near water, whether they’re rivers, marshes, lakes, oceans, or anything in between. Water is an ideal place to find the fish, worms, or bugs that many bird species rely on to survive.

David Ringer, chief network officer at National Audubon Society, says “ high species diversity usually means that the spot has a good habitat for birds – lots of food, water, and shelter.”

The most passionate of birdwatchers, or birders, travel the country to wildlife preserves and parks — from St. Paul Island in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to Fort De Soto Park in Florida. They also attend festivals and special events nationwide, such as the annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration in the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Mississippi.

“A birder will follow wherever the bird is that they need to add to their life list,” said Vargo, referring to the term for a birder’s bucket list. “We’re getting a lot of snowy owls in Ohio, and birders are flocking to the locations where the snowy owls are right now.”

Yet as the popularity of birdwatching increases, so do the risks to birds. According to the science news website LiveScience.com, climate change is altering migration patterns, with migrations beginning earlier in the year. This is setting back the success of bird breeding and increases mortality rates of migratory birds not strong enough to make long journeys.

Audubon’s 2014 Birds and Climate Change Report shows that 314 species of North American birds are threatened by shifting and diminishing habitats because of a changing climate.

To preserve the future of our beaked friends, the National Audubon Society has created more than 2,500 Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas to identify and protect bird habitats from coast to coast.

In order to determine the best places to birdwatch in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed community-submitted data at ebird.org, a site created for birdwatchers to share and track data about what birds they see and where. Each area was ranked by the number of different bird species that have been seen at the site. The area with the most birds seen was determined to be the best place to birdwatch in the state.

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