Favorite Indiana Bird Watching Locations In 2022 (Free & Paid Birding Destinations)

October 22, 2021 // 22 minute read

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Bird watching in the state of Indiana is definitely a great treat. There are urban parks located throughout Indianapolis, or you may want to visit the dunes of Lake Michigan or visit other exceptional hotspots for birding located throughout the Hoosier state.

The best part about Indiana is that it shares 40 miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline, which is the home of quite a few different popular birding destinations. These areas provide opportunities to see many rare and hard-to-find birds including kittiwakes, jaegers, and other rarely seen birds.

In Indianapolis, the very popular Eagle Creek Park is definitely an amazing birding spot for all to visit. We’ll take a look at this wonderful place and many more below. And I’ll even share the names and locations of some of the top birdwatching clubs and groups in this wonderful state, so stick around to discover this important information.

By the way, did you know that the Northern Cardinal is Indiana’s state bird?

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And, if you are traveling to nearby states, check out our birding resources for Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Bird Watching Destinations In Indiana: Free Destinations

Not only are there many amazing places to visit to go birding in the Hoosier state, but there is also a plentiful supply of free destinations to visit. You can certainly go on a birdwatching tour in the area, but if you prefer to go it alone, you’ll definitely find the resources below incredibly valuable on your hunt to find your favorite rare or migratory birds.

Indiana Dunes State Park – Park Permit Required, Paid Parking

As a resident of Indiana, it’s in your best interest to pick up an Indiana State Park permit, since it will allow you to visit all 32 state parks in the Hoosier state. Although the permit technically isn’t free, it’s $50 per year for residents, $70 per year for non-residents, $25 per year for those receiving Social Security, and $25 per year for military veterans. Retirees 65 years of age or older also only have to pay $25 per year for their passport permit.

Although technically not necessarily free, it’s an inexpensive investment that you can use all year long to visit many of the top birding hotspots that I’m about to share with you below. Particularly, this wonderful birding location is situated on the Lake Michigan shore and it’s the home to many gulls, waterfowl, and it’s a regular hotspot for migrating songbirds.

Location:

1600 N. 25 E.
Chesterton, IN 46304
Phone: 219-926-1952

GPS: 41.6626° N, 87.0394° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Porter County, Indiana State Park is open every day, seven days a week, from 7 AM to 11 PM. And this park, created in 1925, remains open all year long, in particular on holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Day, and more.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

Parking Fees:

  • Daily entrance fee – $7
  • Out-of-state daily entrance fee – $12

Hiking Trails:

One of the best things about visiting Indiana Dunes State Park is the vast array of available hiking trails to peruse along your travels. I’ve personally discovered 14 trails in the region, and I would like to tell you a lot more about my top 5 favorites below.

The names of these trails plus much more are as follows:

  • Big Blowout Trail to Trail 9 and the Trail 10 – this is an easy hiking trail, so if you don’t typically spend a great deal of time hiking or walking, you’ll have nothing to worry about because the terrain is in great condition and the paths are clear to see and easy to navigate. This is a longer trail even though it’s easy because the total length is 4.4 miles from one end to the other. And if you decide to walk the entire trail, you will spend two hours completing your mission.
  • Indiana Dunes Trail 2 to Trail 9 Loop – the loop trails tend to be my favorites because you can put in the hard work to complete the trail and end up right where you started at the finish line. Some of these longer trails that don’t loop take you too far out of your way, and you’ll have to walk all the way back again. This particular trail is moderately difficult at 3.9 miles long. The average person takes about an hour and 35 minutes to finish this loop in its entirety.
  • Barnett Hill and Mount Morse via Trail 9 and Trail 10 Loop – this trail is easy to navigate, but it’s definitely a lot more challenging for some people because the entire length of the looping trail from one end to the other is 6 miles in complete distance. Thankfully, the trail is flat, well-maintained, and in excellent condition. Otherwise, the two hours and 35 minutes it takes to walk the loop from beginning to end would be a very difficult task indeed.
  • Indiana Dunes Trail 8 and 7 Loop – this is another great trail that I know you’re going to love because it’s easy and it’s a much shorter trail than the previous one mentioned. As a matter of fact, it’s only 2 miles long, which may seem grueling and difficult to a beginning hiker, but it’s actually only about an hour’s walk, all told, which really isn’t too bad in my personal opinion. I hope you feel the same way, because this gorgeous trail is definitely worth the effort, and the birds you’ll discover will make it more than worthwhile.
  • Mount Jackson, Mount Holden, and Mount Tom Loop – I definitely think you’re going to dig this looping trail because it’s a little more difficult than the previous one because it’s considered moderately difficult, but it isn’t mind numbingly hard and it isn’t that long as well. In fact, the total length of the loop trail is 1.7 miles. I believe that even with the moderate difficulty level, you can still complete the entire trail from start to finish in 55 minutes. It’s more than possible even if you’re a beginner hiker.

Eagle Creek Park – Minimal Entrance Fee, Paid Parking

Even though it technically isn’t free, pedestrians and bicycle visitors are only required to pay $1.50 to enter the park, which isn’t going to break the bank one way or another. There are also parking fees involved, which I will share later, but they are also minimal at best.

You’ll love visiting Eagle Creek Park for a lot of reasons, but in the US, it’s actually one of the largest top 10 municipal parks in the entire country. And it’s also one of the best self-sufficient parks to visit for bird watching, because there is an Ornithology Center on the premises and plenty of birdwatchers in abundant supply. 

There are hiking trails, building rentals, and so much more to enjoy. Even better, they have Sunday morning bird walks from 9 AM to 11 AM, which is also a wonderful treat.

Location:

6515 Delong Road
Indianapolis, IN 46278
Phone: 317-327-2473

GPS: 39.8738° N, 86.2962° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park’s hours change regularly depending on the month of the year. The full breakdown is as follows:

  • January – 7 AM to 6 PM
  • February – 7 AM to 6:30 PM
  • March (pre DST) – 7 AM to 7:30 PM
  • March (post DST) – 7 AM to 8:30 PM
  • April & May – 7 AM to 8:30 PM
  • June, July, & August – 7 AM to 9:30 PM
  • September – 7 AM to 8:30 PM
  • October – 7 AM to 7:30 PM
  • November – 7 AM to 6:30 PM
  • December – 7 AM to 6 PM

The Ornithology Center hours are as follows:

  • Monday through Saturday – 10 AM to 5 PM
  • Sunday – 1 PM to 5 PM

Admission is free once you enter the park.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Wood Duck
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Henslow’s Sparrow
  • Double-Crested Cormorant
  • Blue-Winged Warbler
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Sandhill Crane
  • American Coot
  • Belted Kingfisher

Parking Fees:

  • Motor Vehicle Fee (Marion County Residents) – $5 per day, $50 per year
  • Motor Vehicle Fee (Out of County) – $6 per day, $60 per year
  • Senior Citizen Motor Vehicle Annual Fee – $40 per year, no daily discount
  • Veterans Daily Discount – 50% off
  • Daily Bus Entry Fee – $15

Hiking Trails:

Eagle Creek Park is another excellent place to visit if you love bird watching and hiking, because the two definitely go hand in hand. In fact, I can proudly say that I discovered 13 distinct and interesting hiking trails with lots of waterfowl, migrating songbirds, and other birds along the way. I would like to share my top five favorites with you below.

The names and other important info about these hiking trails include:

  • Fowl Sanctuary South Overlook Trail – this hiking trail has been deemed moderately difficult for a few reasons. For starters, the path is uneven, a bit rocky, and it isn’t the most clearly defined path in the world, which makes it a little bit more challenging than an easier trail. It’s also 5.1 miles long and it takes about two hours to finish the trail from beginning to end, so you’ll have your work cut out for you if you decide to hike this gorgeous trail.
  • Eagle Creek Volksmarch and South Overlook Loop – this is a fun trail because it takes you right along the edge of the water, and it’s a looping trail that is easy to navigate and even easier to walk along because it doesn’t have too many twists and turns or difficult terrain. The total length of the trail is 2.7 miles, which takes the average hiker around an hour and 10 minutes to finish from beginning to end.
  • Eagle Creek Internal Loop – I typically tend to share loop trails because they’re my favorite hiking trails because you end up back at the destination that you started from. But in this particular case, this easy trail is actually a bit on the longer side since it’s 5.8 miles in total length. So, if you plan to walk the entire trail, be prepared to commit 2 ½ hours of your life to this pursuit. But don’t worry because you’ll see many stunning birds along the way.
  • Eagle Creek Orange-Red Loop – I like this particular loop because it’s about half the size of the last one I mentioned even though it’s moderately difficult and the terrain gets a bit rocky at times. The total length is 3.1 miles, which the average person can complete in its entirety in about an hour and 15 minutes. You’ll really enjoy the lush scenery, the amazing wildlife, and the plentiful supply of local and migratory birds in the area.
  • Eagle Creek Park Orange and Red Trail Loop – although named similarly to the previous trail mentioned above, this one is a bit different because it’s an easy trail, it has a wooden boardwalk that you’ll have to cross during part of your trip, and it’s very clearly defined and well maintained. The wooded scenery is very eye-catching to say the least, and the trail is relatively short at 2.6 miles long. The average hiker can complete this trail from start to finish in an hour and five minutes.

Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area – Free Entrance

This magnificent wildlife area is managed by the state of Indiana and the main attraction is the wetlands at the state line. It’s a great area to visit if you’re looking to see a plethora of marsh birds and waterfowl. But that’s not your only option, because in the area they’ve documented more than 260 different types of bird species. Stop by today with family and friends if you’re in the area and plan to have a birdwatching outing with the people you care about.

Location:

1803 S. 700 W.
Morocco, IN 47963

Mailing Address

6312 W. 100 N.
Morocco, IN 47963
Phone: 219-285-2704

GPS: 40.9730° N, 87.5178° W

Hours Of Operation:

The fish and wildlife area itself is open seven days a week from dusk till dawn, so you can visit at any time to experience a fun-filled time bird watching with family and friends.

The main office hours are as follows:

  • Monday through Friday – 7:30 AM to 2 PM
  • Saturday and Sunday – Closed

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Sedge Wren
  • Lapland Longspur
  • Ovenbird
  • Virginia Rail
  • Wild Turkey
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Common Gallinule
  • Northern Shrike
  • Sandhill Crane

Hiking Trails:

Even though birdwatching, hiking, and wildlife watching are very popular things to do at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, it doesn’t appear that they’ve named the hiking trails or determined how many miles or the degree of difficulty of each trail.

But I can tell you this. The entire area is made up of 9956 acres of land. There’s a lot of poorly drained wetlands, there are marshes, ponds, farmland, and sandy hills as well. So, there will definitely be a degree of difficulty walking around the oak barrens and the other areas that I mentioned because it isn’t necessarily well-maintained.

At the same time, hikers like to go foraging for nuts, berries, and mushrooms in this area as well, but you must have a permit for plant removal to participate in this activity. I mention all this to let you know that hiking is possible and it happens all the time, so this is definitely a wonderful bird-watching hotspot in the state of Indiana.

Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admission to the Park

This incredible national wildlife refuge is located in southeastern Indiana, and it’s only a couple of minutes away from Interstate 65, which is very convenient. Even more important, it’s a great area to visit for birding because it has different types of scenic areas including scrub, cropland, bottomland hardwood forest, lakes, upland forest, and much more. Plus, it’s a great place to visit to see your favorite winter fowl along with other migrant birds.

Location:

12985 E. US Highway 50
Seymour, IN 47274
Phone: 812-522-4352
Email: [email protected]

GPS: 38.9380° N, 85.8035° W

Hours Of Operation:

The current refuge hours are simple enough to understand. You’re permitted to enter the park one hour before sunrise, and you have to leave the park one hour after sunset. Otherwise, you’re welcome to come and go as you please as long as you do it within the designated hours.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Yellow Warbler
  • Tundra Swan
  • Marsh Wren
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Wood Duck
  • Northern Parrilla
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Bald Eagle
  • Black Vulture
  • Wild Turkey
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker

Hiking Trails:

It’s my pleasure to tell you that there are some wonderful easy hiking trails for you to travel upon when you visit Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in the near future. In fact, these four hiking trails are all relatively short, very easy to walk along since one is across a wooden bridge, and navigation is a snap.

The hiking trails I’m referring to include:

  • Richard Hunt Trail – this easy hiking trail will take you directly into the heart of the national wildlife refuge, but it’s well-maintained and you’ll have no trouble walking along the simple 0.9-mile path. Most people can complete the trail from beginning to end in around 25 minutes.
  • Wood Duck Hiking Trail – hopefully the name says it all, because if you visit here looking to see your favorite wood ducks, you’re in for a treat if you walk along this particular easy hiking trail. It’s relatively short since it’s 0.7 miles in total length, and the average person can complete the trail in roughly 20 minutes.
  • Chestnut Ridge Trail – like the rest, I’m happy to tell you that this is also a laidback trail that will not take very long for you to complete since it’s also relatively short. It’s 0.5 miles long, which means you can walk the entirety of the trail in around 15 minutes.
  • Turkey and Bird Trail – this is the longest trail out of the four, but it isn’t so long that it’s nearly impossible to finish. On the contrary, it’s 1.7 miles long, which the average hiker can finish in around 45 minutes or less.

Hammond Lakefront Park & Bird Sanctuary – Free Park Admission

This area isn’t extremely large, since it’s only 600 m wide, but it represents a wooded strip at the Lake Michigan Lakefront. It is a beautiful area filled with oasis vegetation, nestled right in the middle of an enormous urban landscape. 

Many people stop by to see many of their favorite birds in this beautiful location, even though it’s only a tiny patch of scrubland and trees. You’d be surprised that even in this small area, they’ve discovered 215 different bird species, so it’s definitely an exciting Lake Michigan birding hotspot.

Location: 

701 Casino Center Dr.
Hammond, IN 46320
Phone: 219-659-7678

GPS: 41.6996° N, 87.5146° W

Hours Of Operation:

Since this strip of land is part of a public lakefront park, you are allowed to visit during daylight hours, because public parks are open from dusk till dawn. The months of May and September are the best times to visit for Songbird migration. You tend to see more waterfowl during late October, so keep that in mind.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

Hiking Trails:

Unfortunately, this is not a huge wildlife preserve like many of the other parks and recreation areas that I share. It’s a simple 600 m strip of land, but there is a single trail that runs throughout the bird sanctuary. This looping trail is 1.2 miles long, and you’ll see plenty of your favorite birds along the way. If you take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds of this gorgeous place, you could easily spend 1-2 hours covering the entire area from start to finish.

Bird Watching Destinations In Indiana: Paid Destinations

IndiGo Birding Nature Tours

This nature tour company is based in Bloomington, Indiana, and they serve the South-Central Indiana area and much more. The company was founded by David Rupp, and his overall goal is to give Indiana residents and visitors memorable touring experiences. 

He wants everyone on his tour to have a much better appreciation and a fuller understanding of the natural world. You can be a local resident or a visitor and still enjoy and appreciate one of his amazing upcoming nature tours and birding extravaganzas.

Contact Info:

Mailing Address:

IndiGo Birding Nature Tours
933 South Meadowbrook Dr.
Bloomington, IN 47401
Phone: 812-679-8978
Email: [email protected]

Upcoming Birding Tours

David doesn’t post information about his upcoming tours on his website. He asks anyone interested to contact him directly via phone or email to find out about his upcoming excursions.

But he does share a little information about previous places he and his groups have visited while going on a nature tour. They include:

  • Goose Pond FWA – he hosts a sunset tour every February and March that costs $200. At Goose Pond, you’ll have an opportunity to see many wonderful birds including greater white-fronted geese, snow geese, sandhill cranes, short-eared owls, and rough-legged hawks to name a few interesting bird species that you’ll be able to view in nature.
  • Muscatatuck NWR – David even hosts refuge tours from April through October that also cost $200 per trip. In the beautiful floodplain forests, you’ll see many different thriving bird species including bald eagles, prothonotary warblers, and you’ll even run into the occasional river otter or two along your travels through the forest and wetlands.
  • Yellowwood State Forest – David will take you through the state forest between April and October and this trip costs $150. The goal is to view lucas hollow warblers, but the area is also known as Warbler Alley, so you’ll see many other types including hooded warblers, cerulean warblers, black-and-white warblers, and many more.

If any of these exciting birdwatching tours seem like they’re right up your alley, feel free to call or email David Rupp to learn more about his upcoming nature trips.

Indiana Birdwatching Clubs

One of my favorite things about birdwatching in Indiana is that you get to become a part of a community. You get to go places with other like-minded bird watchers and experience nature, birding, and other forms of wildlife together. It’s truly an exciting way to get to know new people while enjoying your favorite pastime together.

The other great thing about living in Indiana is the Audubon Society has local chapters for you to join. These amazing organizations provide education, research, conservation, field trips and events, and regular monthly meetings.

If you truly enjoy birdwatching and love getting out in nature with other like-minded folks, you’ll certainly appreciate joining an Indiana birdwatching club. Learn more about my favorites below.

Indiana Audubon Society

Becoming a member of the Indiana Audubon Society is a no-brainer for birding enthusiasts living in this wonderful state. Their ultimate mission is to get youth groups, churches, schools, civic organizations, and more interested in protecting and preserving local birds in the area. Conserving the natural heritage of Indiana is of the utmost importance, and this group has dedicated their time, effort, and energy to making it happen.

Contact Info

Headquarters – Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary
3499 S. Bird Sanctuary Rd.
Connersville, IN 47331
Phone: 765-205-1255

Membership Mailing Address

Membership Mailing Address
Shari McCollough
8152 N. 200 E.
Crawfordsville, IN 47933

Past and Future Events:

  • Celery Bog Fall Warblers Trip – this trip is being held on September 11 from 8 AM to 11 AM. It’s located at 1620 Lindbergh Rd., West Lafayette, IN 47906. The goal of this trip is to spend the day walking along four miles of beautiful hiking trails while seeing astonishing birds including flycatchers, thrushes, and warblers amongst others.
  • Stone Head Fall Sparrow Field Trip – this trip takes place on October 16 from 8 AM to 11 AM. It’s happening at Zimmerman Wetland Bird Habitat at 4650 Beltsville Pike, Nashville, IN 47448. Participants will walk through much of the nature preserve and view many wonderful bird species, mammals, aquatic animals, and much more.
  • Muscatatuck Fall Migrants Trip – this delightful event takes place on August 23 from 8 AM to 11:30 PM at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. The address is 12985 E. US Highway 50, Seymour, IN 47274. As the name says, you’ll have an opportunity to spend the day with David Crouch and view many of the fall migrant birds in the area including sparrows, songbirds, and waterfowl.

Membership Fees:

Joining the Indiana Audubon Society is very easy. Visit this page and follow the on-screen instructions to get started. Membership fees are as follows:

  • Individual Membership – $30 per year
  • Family Membership – $40 per year
  • Contributing Membership – $50 per year
  • Cardinal Club Membership – $100 per year
  • Library/Organization – $100 per year
  • Lifetime Membership – $675
  • Fledgling Membership – $5 per year
  • Student Membership – $20 per year

Again, please visit this page to quickly become a member of the Indiana Audubon Society and get to know the wonderful people in this exciting organization.

Amos Butler Audubon Society

This Audubon Society, headquartered in Central Indiana, makes it their focus to promote birdwatching enjoyment and bird stewardship in the region. This group was first established in 1938, and the organization has remained strong for more than 80 years. 

They host regular field trips and birding events, hikes and bird walks, and everything else in between. You’ll have a great time getting to know the members who also share a passion for all things related to birds.

Contact Info:

Amos Butler Audubon Society
PO Box 80024
Indianapolis, IN 46280
Email: [email protected]

Past and Future Events:

  • Fall Warblers & Migrants – Strawtown Koteewi Park – this event is taking place on September 4 from 8 AM to 10 AM and the field trip leader is named Terry Ballenger. The group will meet at the Taylor Center of Natural History and this field trip is free. You must register to reserve your spot, so email Chuck Anderson at [email protected] to secure your place on this exciting field trip.
  • Waterfowl at Celery Bog – this upcoming event is happening on October 30 from 8 AM to 10 AM and the field trip is being hosted by the ABAS president Chuck Anderson. You must register to reserve your spot, so email Chuck Anderson at [email protected] to secure your spot on this upcoming trip.
  • Warblers and Migrants – Eagle Creek Park – this event is happening on September 25 from 8 AM to 10 AM at Eagle Creek Park. Your hosts are birders named Lisa and Randy Vanderbilt. Like all of their events, you must register to reserve your place within the group. Please email Chuck Anderson at [email protected] to make your reservation.

Membership Fees:

Becoming a member of the Amos Butler Audubon Society is easy enough to accomplish and it’s certainly a great idea. You can join by following the on-screen instructions located on this page.

Membership fees are as follows:

  • Individual One-Year Membership – $25
  • Individual Two-Year Membership – $45
  • Household One-Year Membership – $40
  • Household Two-Year Membership – $75
  • Individual Lifetime Membership – $500

Signing up to become a member of the Amos Butler Audubon Society is simple to accomplish. Just visit this page and follow the on-screen instructions to get started.

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