Top Places For Birding in Kansas – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

December 10, 2021 // 22 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Kansas Birding Locations & Clubs

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When people think of Kansas, they think of wheat, flat surfaces that go on for miles, and tasty barbecue, but they often overlook it as the gorgeous bird-watching paradise that it is. 

Forget about the tornadoes that tend to rip through Kansas every year. This exciting location is one of the most important stopovers in the world for migrating shorebirds. And it’s the home to Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge; two places that you’ll learn more about below.

Do you want to know another interesting fact about Kansas and birds? There are more than 460 recorded bird species living within its borders. So, you’ll likely come across some of your favorite birds the next time you visit one of the birding hotspots that I’ll share with you below.

Some local favorites include Western Kingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, Western Meadowlarks, and many, many more wonderful bird species.

I’m also going to tell you about the top birdwatching clubs and communities as well. I’ll share social media websites, contact info, information about past and future trips, and much more. 

Please visit the Wheat State the next time you have a hankering for some good old-fashioned bird watching with family, friends, and other like-minded people. And, if you are traveling to Kansas’ neighboring states, check out our birding resources for Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado & Missouri.

Birding In Kansas: Free Destinations

Unless you haven’t been paying attention, you likely realize that there are many wonderful free destinations to visit when birdwatching is the order of the day in Kansas. The Sunflower State has a number of well-maintained and preserved areas that migratory shorebirds visit each year.

Want to learn more about these fantastic free locations? Continue reading to discover the best places to view many of the 460 documented bird species living and migrating in Kansas.

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admittance for Birdwatchers and Other Visitors

You’ll find Quivira NWR nestled in the friendly confines of south-central Kansas, of which the Migratory Bird Commission purchased this land and turned it into a refuge in 1955. The refuge continued to grow over the years, and by 1998 it was 22,135 acres in total.

The name Quivira was given to the area by the Spanish explorer Coronado in 1541 when he was looking for the seven cities of gold that were never found.

The next time you visit, enjoy the hiking trails, birdwatching, visitor center, telescopes, observation tower, and so much more.

Location:

1434 NE 80th St.
Stafford, KS 67578

Phone: 620-486-2393

GPS: 38.0745° N, 98.4912° W

Hours Of Operation:

The refuge itself is open every day of the week. It opens one and a half hours before the sun rises and closes one and a half hours after the sun sets.

The Visitor Center, on the other hand, is open from Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4 PM.

  • Neotropic cormorant
  • Snowy Plover
  • Bobolink
  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • Painted Bunting
  • Wilson’s Phalarope
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Whooping Crane
  • American Avocet
  • Least Bittern
  • Marsh Wren
  • Wild Turkey

Hiking Trails:

Birdwatchers and outdoor enthusiasts tend to appreciate the few hiking trails that are simple to travel on located in Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. There’s great scenery, so many wonderful birds, and there are only two trails to choose from, so you can spend time walking outdoors without trying to decide which trail is best. Try one or both of them and still have plenty of time to spare.

To find out much more about these wonderful trails, please keep reading to learn their names and more important information that I’ll share next. The trails are as follows:

  • Quivira Loop – I feel comfortable recommending this trail to everyone no matter what their hiking background happens to be. The trail is well-maintained and it doesn’t contain a lot of twists, turns, or hills to contend with. In fact, the state of Kansas is one of the flattest states in the country, so you’ll never have to struggle with too many hilly obstacles in your path. The trail itself will take around 35 minutes to finish from one end to the other, because the total length is 1.4 miles, which isn’t that difficult to complete.
  • Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Loop – this trail is definitely easy to navigate and like the previous one mentioned, the terrain is flat and it isn’t too difficult to travel upon. But the big difference between this loop and the last one mentioned is that it’s much longer since the trail is 4.9 miles long. But don’t worry, because there’s lots of beautiful birds and other gorgeous wildlife along the way. The grass is green, the paths are clear, and the excitement is yours for the taking. Please consider that if you plan to walk the entire trail from start to finish, it will take around two hours to complete.

Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area – Free Admittance to the Park

This location is considered one of the biggest and most important migratory stops for North American shorebirds. This expanse of land is owned by the state of Kansas and encompasses more than 20,000 acres of land. The Nature Conservancy also owns 8000 acres of land in this marshy region. Certain bird species like the Stilt Sandpiper have more than 90% of its entire population living in this beautiful wildlife area, so it truly is critically important for a number of bird species.

Location:

204 NE 60 Road
Great Bend, KS 67530

Phone: 620-793-3066

Area Wildlife Manager: Jason Wagner

GPS: 38.4696° N, 98.6491° W

Hours Of Operation:

The Cheyenne Bottoms WA is actually open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. They even open on holidays. You can visit with friends and family at any time, but make sure you keep it to daylight hours if you plan to take in some stunning birds on your next bird watching excursion.

  • Burrowing Owl
  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • Forster’s Tern
  • White-Faced Ibis
  • Whooping Crane
  • Sandhill Crane
  • American Bittern
  • Bald Eagle
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • American Avocet
  • Black Tern
  • Snowy Plover

Hiking Trails:

Even though there is so much walkable land and so many trails along the path in this marsh, I unfortunately cannot provide detailed information about the names and mileage of these trails. To the best of my knowledge, none of these trails actually has a name or recorded mileage anywhere on the Internet. And according to the pictures that I’ve seen, none of these trails have names or recorded information that you can read in the wildlife area itself.

But if you like hiking, don’t worry about not getting enough exercise the next time you visit Cheyenne Bottoms WA for some bird watching excitement. There are plenty of opportunities to walk around the gorgeous marshland as you take in the sights and sounds of the birds and other wildlife in the area.

Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge – Free Entrance to the Refuge

This free birding hot spot is in the eastern part of Kansas right on the Missouri border. The name of the refuge, when translated into English, means marsh of the swans. There is also a river that shares the same name that runs through the entire area.

Birding enthusiasts will love opportunities to see many wonderful shorebirds near the river. They’ll also appreciate the wonderful grassland, the bottomland hardwood forest, and the beautiful hiking trails that attract many shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl. There are 260 bird species documented here and counting.

Location:

16382 US-69
Pleasanton, KS 66075

Phone: 913-352-8956

GPS: 38.2578° N, 94.6576° W

Hours Of Operation:

The national wildlife refuge is open to the public 24 hours a day. You can visit on weekdays and weekends and even on holidays.

  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Bald Eagle
  • American White Pelican
  • Wild Turkey
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Yellow-Throated Warbler
  • Dickcissel
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Fish Crow

Hiking Trails:

Again, like the previous wildlife area mentioned above, there is lots of land to walk along but there aren’t too many specifically named hiking trails. There’s only one trail that I can tell you about that you can drive along in the vicinity of the national wildlife refuge. But it isn’t directly on the wildlife refuge, although it’s a pretty interesting site to visit nonetheless.

The name of the driving trail is as follows:

  • Marais Des Cygne Massacre Site Trail – this trail is probably best to visit while driving in a car, but it’s certainly possible to walk along the loop as well. You can bring your dog along on the trail, but you should watch out for your pup and keep it on a leash because there is so much traffic in the area. In total, the massacre site trail is 1 mile long, so the average person should easily complete the trail from beginning to end in about a half an hour at most.

Shawnee Mission Park – Free Park Admittance, Paid Activities

Bird watchers and outdoor enthusiasts will absolutely adore all 1655 acres of this attractive land. This park has something for everyone. It’s free to enter, but many of the activities that take place here require a permit or one-time fee. 

At this location, there is a 120-acre lake with a marina and swimming beach. There are numerous picnic areas spread out throughout the park. There are nature trails for hiking and birdwatching. It also has a dog park within, so you can take your dog off the leash and he or she can run around on 44 acres of pristine land.

This enchanting park also has 11 shelters, fishing on the lake, a playground for the kids, equestrian trails for horseback riding, mountain biking, an 18-hole disc golf course, and so much more. Truly, if you love the outdoors, you’ll absolutely adore this gorgeous space, which happens to be the second largest park in Kansas.

Location:

7900 Renner Rd.
Shawnee, KS 66219

Phone: 913-438-7275 

GPS: 38.9869° N, 94.7979° W

Hours Of Operation:

Shawnee Mission Park has different hours depending on the particular season. The park hours are as follows:

  • Summer Hours: March 1 – October 31 – 5 AM to 11 PM
  • Winter Hours: November 1 – February 28 – 6 AM to 8 PM
  • Visitor Services: Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Summer Tanager
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Lark Sparrow
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Western Kingbird
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Surf Scoter
  • Horned Grebe
  • Northern Parula
  • Louisiana Waterthrush

Hiking Trails:

Shawnee Mission Park is a hiker’s paradise. This huge common space and botanical garden has nine different trails for all to enjoy. Some of these trails are for horseback riding, others are strictly for hiking or mountain biking, and still others are ideal for those who intend to go fishing at Shawnee Mission Lake.

The names of these trails and other important details are as follows:

  • Shawnee Mission Lake South Shore Trail – this is one of the longer trails in the area, which covers 6.3 miles from beginning to end. It’s an easy trail with well-maintained paths and a beautiful view of the lake along the way. Lots of birds congregate along this path as well, so it’s a great destination for birdwatching. To walk the entire trail from start to finish, it would take about two hours and 50 minutes to complete.
  • Shawnee Mission Lake Dog Park Trail – this particular trail is a good one for anyone visiting the park with their favorite pup in tow. Not only can you walk across this 1.3-mile trail from start to finish while enjoying some incredible birdwatching, you can do so with your favorite pooch. This trail is located within the Dog Park section, so it’s perfectly acceptable to bring your hound along for a nice leisurely stroll along the lake.
  • South Shore East Loop – this excellent trail is one that you’ll truly appreciate because it’s easy to navigate and it also takes you along a path adjacent to Shawnee Mission Lake. You can easily finish the 3-mile loop in an hour and 15 minutes, so slowly wander through this part of the park with family and friends in tow.
  • Gary L. Haller Trail and Mill Creek Trail – this is one of the tougher trails even though a section of it is a clearly defined concrete path, it’s still considered moderately difficult. The trail isn’t the longest either coming in at 2.1 miles in total distance. On average, a typical hiker can finish the trail in about an hour.
  • Shawnee Mission Park Orange, Violet, and Red Trail – this trail is also moderately difficult and it has some rockier terrain along the way and the path isn’t always clearly defined. And when compared to the previous trail, this one is definitely a lot longer since it’s 6 ½ miles long. On average, you can likely complete the trail from beginning to end in roughly 3 hours, or maybe a little longer.
  • Shawnee Mission Park Orange Trail – this moderately difficult trail can get a bit rocky and overgrown at times, although the path is noticeable underneath the leaves, sticks, and other dead foliage. This trail also takes you along the water at certain points, so you will be in full view of the lake. It’s 2.6 miles long and you can easily finish it in an hour and 10 minutes.
  • Shawnee Mission Park Violet and Red Trail – this bad boy is moderately difficult for a lot of the same reasons that the previous trail is difficult because it’s overgrown at certain points, there’s built-up leaves and other debris on the ground, and the path isn’t always perfectly visibly clear. And this trail is much longer than many of the others since it is 6 miles long from start to finish. The average person could realistically complete this trail in two hours and 45 minutes with gusto.
  • South Shore Trail via John Barkley Drive – even though this trail is relatively long because it is 5.7 miles in total length, it’s actually an easy and well-defined trail to walk along. In fact, it’s a great trail for beginner hikers or birdwatchers who are just starting out. Because of the distance, the trail will take roughly 2 hours and 35 minutes to complete, so keep that in mind.
  • Shawnee Mission Park Violet Trail – this trail is overgrown and moderately difficult, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to learn that there’s a lot of debris, old caked up leaves, and other dead foliage marring the path. At 2.2 miles long, the average person should finish this trail in its entirety in about an hour.

Baker Wetlands – Free Admission, Donations Requested

This incredible wetland area is completely owned and managed by Baker University in Lawrence Kansas. This preserve is 927 acres, and it’s an important part of history because the wetlands were destroyed by a flood at one point, but they have been restored since then. They were also threatened by a highway project, but they are now being worked on for further restoration.

The Wetlands Discovery Center was opened in 2015, and visitors can stop by to spend time in the prairie and marshland environment.

Location:

1365 N. 1250 Road
Lawrence, KS 66046

Phone: 785-594-4700

Email: [email protected] 

GPS: 38.9198° N, 95.2487° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park hours are easy enough to understand. The park opens at dawn and closes at dusk, so you can spend time here during daylight hours.

On the other hand, the hours for the Discovery Center are as follows:

  • Monday through Friday – 9 AM to noon, 1 to 3 PM
  • Saturday – 9 AM to Noon
  • Sunday – Closed
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Virginia Rail
  • American Bittern
  • Bald Eagle
  • Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Blue-Winged Teal
  • Sedge Wren
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Northern Harrier
  • Least Bittern
  • Yellow Rail
  • Wood Duck

Hiking Trails:

Today, I’d like to tell you about 5 excellent hiking trails for you to enjoy the next time you’re visiting the Baker Wetlands and the surrounding area. All of these trails range from easy to moderate difficulty, so none will ever be so hard that you couldn’t complete it.

The names of the trails and other important information include the following:

  • Devictor Loop – this trail is easy because the path is clear, the area is relatively flat, and there isn’t too much overgrowth in your way. It’s also relatively short compared to many other trails since it is only 2.2 miles long. On average, the typical person can complete this trail from one end to the other in one hour.
  • Smokehouse Trail – here’s another easy one, since the path is clear and well-maintained. The length of this trail is 1.8 miles, which is easy enough to tackle if you put your mind, body, and spirit into the mission. In fact, the typical person walking at an average speed can complete this trail in 50 minutes.
  • Lawrence Levee Trail – this trail is definitely for hard-core hikers and the faint of heart. Why do I say that? It’s moderately difficult which means the terrain isn’t perfectly clear at certain points. It’s also incredibly long because the entire length of the trail is 21.9 miles. If you walk at an average speed you can complete this trail in eight hours and 55 minutes if you’re lucky.
  • South Shore Blue Trail and Orange Trail Loop – this is another really tough trail because it’s 17 miles long, which is very difficult to complete in one attempt. But if you do attempt to conquer this moderately difficult trail, please realize that it will take you roughly 7 hours and 45 minutes to walk the total distance from one end to the other.
  • Baker Wetlands Trail – this namesake trail is the easiest on the list since it’s only 1.7 miles long and the path is relatively clear and fairly well-maintained. The average person can walk the entire length of this trail in 45 minutes without stopping.

Birding In Kansas: Paid Destinations

Naturalist Journeys – Paid Birdwatching Tour

This organization was originally founded by Peg Abbott in 1998. The company has grown exponentially throughout the years and now it’s considered one of the biggest birding tour companies in the US. They have many unique guides with lots of experience in the birding world. Plus, they have guides with top-notch credentials including ornithologists, naturalists, biologists, photographers, artists, geologists, and entomologists running their tours.

Although this is an international company, they also have an exciting tour that they hold in Kansas every year. As a matter of fact, this year’s festivities just came to an end on September 27, so you’ll have to wait for next year’s trip if you’re interested.

The name of the tour is Kansas’ Tallgrass Prairies. It was an 8-day tour that began on September 19 and ended on September 27. On the trip, the group visited a number of stunning birding hotspots including Mushroom State Park, Maxwell Game Preserve, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Konza Prairie, and other exciting locations.

Do not hesitate to visit their website – found here – to learn more valuable information about their next trip to the lovely Wheat State of Kansas.

Contact Info:

2446 S. Starview Pl.
Portal, AZ 85632

Local Phone: 520-558-1146

Toll-Free Phone: 866-900-1146

Mailing Address
PO Box 16545
Portal, AZ 85632

Kansas Birdwatching Clubs

A wonderful thing about living in Kansas is having the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people who also enjoy birdwatching. There are a number of great bird watching clubs in this delightful state. And today, I’m going to tell you about two of my favorites.

These bird watching clubs are perfect for people trying to connect with other birdwatchers. Join their societies to become a member of one or more of these prestigious organizations, and before long you’ll have a chance to get involved in some exciting events, field trips, and environmental preservation activities as well.

Audubon of Kansas

The Audubon of Kansas is an independent grassroots organization and is in no way administered or funded by the National Audubon Society. This group of like-minded people get together regularly to focus on conservation of natural habitats, wildlife, prairies, and birds.

The group consists of supporters and members living in the state of Kansas and other areas of the world as well. It has a governing board of trustees, and they regularly participate in different types of events, field trips, and so much more.

Contact Info:

Mailing Address
PO Box 1106
Manhattan, KS 66505

Phone: 785-537-4385

Past and Future Events

  • 2021 Celebration of Cranes – this weekend event takes place from November 5-November 7, 2021. It’s happening at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Hudson, KS. Throughout the event, lots of speakers will cover many different topics including bird photography tips, the beauty and mystery of wetlands, tips on using binoculars, and much, much more.
  • Prairie Chicken Festival – this event is the first of its kind and it’s happening from April 7-April 10, 2022. Although they do not have an address posted yet on their website, the Audubon of Kansas is hosting the event in Hays, KS. Greater and lesser prairie chickens are the main attraction of the event, so be prepared to learn about and view these gorgeous creatures. Be one of the first people to sign up at this webpage.

Membership Fees:

They make it so easy to become a member of Audubon of Kansas, also known as AOK. So, if you’re the type of person looking to preserve and protect the wetlands, natural ecosystems, prairie landscapes, wildlife, and birds, you’ll definitely want to join this wonderful group.

You can sign up to become a member of this association by visiting their membership page here.

Their membership levels include the following:

  • Annual Member – $20
  • Wildlife Partner – $100
  • Wildlife Sponsor – $500
  • Stewardship Donor – $1000
  • Ecosystem Guardian – $5000

Wichita Audubon Society

As a bird watching enthusiast, you’ll truly respect the mission of the Wichita Audubon Society. This group is fully committed to preserving and protecting the environment through environmental conservation, providing nature education to the public at large, and encouraging members and others to appreciate the world and nature.

This is an excellent group to join if you love nature, adore birds, and want to work to preserve them. The members look forward to sharing the outdoors with others, and they would be happy to have you as a member of their prestigious group.

Contact Info:

Wichita Audubon Society
PO Box 47607
Wichita, KS 67210

Past and Future Events:

  • 2nd Saturday Bird Walk – this fun event is being held on October 9 from 8 AM to 9:30 AM in the Great Plains Nature Center located within Chisholm Creek Park. This birding experience is wonderfully organized and it’s being led by Mark Nolen. Remember to bring your own binoculars, and please email Mark at [email protected] to give him a head’s up so that he knows you’re coming to the event.
  • Chaplin Moon Walk/Run (2K+) – this fun filled event is happening on October 16 from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM. You can either walk or run along the edge of the Chaplin Nature Center. The event is being organized by Sean Silliman, so email [email protected] to let them know you’re coming to the event.
  • Slate Creek Wetland Field Trip – this field trip is free and it’s happening on October 23 from 8 AM to 12 PM. Members interested in joining the trip will meet Gene Young at Slate Valley Baptist Church. You’ll walk along the main road and see captivating sparrows and other migrant birds along the way. Email [email protected] to RSVP for the event.

Membership Fees:

It’s incredibly easy to become a member of the Wichita Audubon Society. The best way is to sign up on their website by visiting this page and following the on-screen instructions. 

You can pay for your membership via PayPal or Venmo. And they even provide an option to pay later by paying in the mail or at one of their monthly member meetings.

Membership levels are as follows:

  • Individual Annual Membership – $20
  • Student Annual Membership 18 and Under – $10
  • Family Annual Membership – $25
  • Lifetime Membership – $300

To sign up by mail, please make your check payable to Wichita Audubon Society. And mail your check to the following location:

Wichita Audubon Society
PO Box 47607
Wichita, KS 67201

Birding In Kansas Wrap Up

While visiting Kansas or if you are a resident and are looking for birding in Kansas locations & birding clubs, we hope you take the time to explore the resources we have laid out here. And, if you come across other locations that you’d like to share, please contact us so we can include them here!

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