Top Places To Birdwatch in Massachusetts – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

Home » Articles » Birding In Massachusetts

Looking for places to birdwatch in Massachusetts? Here you will find the best free and paid birding in Massachusetts. We’ve discovered the top places to hike, see & learn about your favorite birds in the area. And, we have listed these locations complete with their hours of operation, links to their sites, social media pages, YouTube videos, and much more.

Here, we’ve provided a comprehensive look at the top free and paid birding destinations throughout the great state of Massachusetts. Also, be sure to check birding opportunities in our neighboring state of Maine as well as our birdwatching guide with resources, tips & advice.

Are you ready to find out more about the best places for birding in Massachusetts? Keep reading to learn more about our best-kept secrets.

Bird Watching Destinations in Massachusetts: Free Destinations

Massachusetts is located in the heart of New England and it’s one of the best places to visit to enhance your bird watching experiences. You’re going to love spending time walking and hiking and enjoying the beautiful sights, scenery, and the amazing birds that are native to the region.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge & Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport – Free Admission, Suggested $2 Donation

This beautiful wildlife refuge overlooks the Merrimack River, and you’ll find it directly near the entrance of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Joppa Flats Education Center. In this refuge, birdwatchers can explore the best habitats teeming with wildlife including bays, coastal waters, rivers, salt marshes, and mudflats.

Location:

1 Plum Island Turnpike
Newburyport, MA 01950
Phone: 978-462-9998

GPS: 42.7633° N, 70.8046° W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife refuge is always open. Joppa Flats Education Center opens between Tuesday-Sunday and Monday holidays from 8:30 AM-4 PM.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Little Gull
  • Black-Headed Gull
  • Roseate Tern
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Osprey
  • Brant
  • King Rail
  • Rough-Legged Hawk
  • Short-Eared Owl

Hiking Trails:

As you can imagine, in the wildlife refuge there are wonderful hiking trails for you to navigate as you explore the region and view the amazing local birds and wildlife.

The two most prominent trails include:

  • Sandy Point State Reservation – this trail is easy to traverse and has a total length of 3.4 miles with an estimated one hour and 22 minutes to complete.
  • Hellcat Interpretive Trails – this trail is filled with plenty of information about the birds in the region, it’s easy to travel, it’s 1.3 miles long, and it takes about a half hour to complete.

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary – Free Members Admission, Nonmembers Pay Nominal Fee

This gorgeous wildlife sanctuary provides panoramic views of the grasslands at Fox Hill. You’ll discover many deer, coyotes, and Northern Harrier in the area, adding to a great collection of birding in Massachusetts destinations.

They also have birdwatching programs, educational programs, nature walks, and more through North River Wildlife Sanctuary. And there are plenty of great hiking trails to navigate as well as you enjoy birdwatching and other fun activities.

Location

Winslow Cemetery Road
Marshfield, MA 02050
Phone: 781-837-9400

GPS: 42° 5′ 14.941″ N, 70° 40′ 47.436″ W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife sanctuary and hiking trails are open every day from dusk to dawn.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Red-Necked Grebes
  • Least Terns
  • Brant
  • Horned Grebes
  • Icelandic Gulls
  • Arctic Terns
  • Piping Plovers
  • Roseate Terns
  • Long-Tailed Ducks
  • Great Cormorants

Hiking Trails:

Upon visiting, you’ll learn that there are many wonderful hiking trails in the area filled with lots of shrubbery, local wildlife, and plenty of amazing birds.

As a matter of fact, there are five very easy to walk trails that can be found on grass and boardwalks, or a combination of the two.

The top 5 trails in question include:

  • Piggery Loop – the short trail is only 0.1 miles, it’s made of level grass, and it’s very easy to traverse. You’ll spot eastern bluebirds, American goldfinches, and Flycatchers here. In the past, pigs used to feed on this path.
  • The Secret Trail – this trail is relatively short at 0.6 miles. It’s easy to cross because the majority of the walking is on level boardwalks, so it’s relatively flat. It’s a great place to see Cedar Waxwings, American Woodcocks, and Wild Turkeys.
  • Fox Hill Trail – this is the longest trail on the list and the round-trip is 1.4 miles in total. Fox Hill has a slight incline, but otherwise it’s a grassy level walking trail. You’ll see majestic views of Northern Harrier and Osprey along this hiking trail.
  • River Walk – this quick trail is 0.5 miles in length and you’ll walk mostly on flat boardwalks and other flat ground. As you walk through this trail and cross over Green River Harbor, you’ll often notice sparrows feeding in the distance.
  • Pond Loop – this short trail is only 0.4 miles long, but you have to be careful walking this grassy trail because you’ll discover chipmunk holes along the way and you don’t want to accidentally trip. Webster Pond is also in this location, so take some time to enjoy watching Wilson’s Snipe feed and ducks float along the pond.

Cape Cod National Seashore – Free Between October-April, Paid In May-September

The National Seashore at Cape Cod is one of the biggest hotspots during the summer and it’s a great place to visit sandy beaches, uplands, ponds, marshes, lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and much more. You’ll find diverse bird species throughout the region and plenty of hiking, biking, and walking trails for you to peruse at your leisure with family members and friends.

Location:

Mailing Address
99 Marconi Site Rd.
Wellfleet, MA 02667
Phone: 508-255-3421

GPS: 41.9043° N, 69.9789° W

Hours Of Operation:

During the time of Covid 19, visitor center operations in 2021 are being held outdoors at designated stations. You can check in with the rangers at the following locations:

  • Salt Pond in Eastham – open all year round
  • Providence Lands in Provincetown – opens May 1-October 31 between 9 AM and 5 PM daily

The park itself is open between 6 AM to 12 AM, seven days a week.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Least Tern
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow
  • Snowy Egret
  • American Bittern
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • Virginia Rail
  • Marsh Wren
  • Osprey
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Clapper Rail

Hiking Trails:

This beautiful Massachusetts hideaway is practically littered with amazing hiking trails for you to walk along. Some are on the beach. Some are in the swamp. And some go directly through the forest. There are so many great trails that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Our all-time personal favorites include:

  • Nauset Marsh and Nauset Bike Trail – the degree of difficulty on this trail is very easy because it’s relatively flat and straightforward. But it’s long because it encompasses 4.1 miles, which will take you roughly one hour and 45 minutes to finish.
  • Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail – this exciting trail takes you along a wooden platform bridge directly through the swamp. This is a great place to see many beautiful birds and it’s only 1.1 miles in length and takes about a half an hour to complete.
  • Sand Dune Trail – this pristine hiking trail takes you directly along the shoreline right along the water. It’s 2.4 miles in length and takes about an hour and five minutes to complete.
  • Red Maple Swamp and Fort Hill Loop – this scenic trail also takes you along a well-built and well-designed wooden bridge and brings you directly into a swampy forest. It’s 1.8 miles in length and takes roughly 45 minutes to complete.
  • Hatches Harbor and Race Point Lighthouse – this gorgeous trail takes you directly along the beach and brings you directly to Race Point Lighthouse. It’s one of the longer trails consisting of 3.3 miles in length and takes about an hour and 20 minutes to navigate from start to finish.
  • Pamet Cranberry Bog Trail – this boggy trail will bring you directly toward the shoreline, where you can see many wonderful birds that spend time dwelling in swampy marshes and bogs. The hiking trail is nearly 2 miles in length and takes about an hour to complete.

Entrance Fees:

These fees are collected beginning around Memorial Day weekend in May and end near Labor Day weekend in September. They include:

  • Individual visitor on foot or bicycle – $15
  • Visitor on motorcycle – $20 
  • Vehicle entry fee – $25

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary – Free Members Admission, Paid Non Members Admission

You can find this amazing wildlife sanctuary in Cape Cod on the west side between Wellfleet Harbor and Highway 6. The Nature Center provides fun-filled, exciting, and informative visits and there’s even 5 miles of trails leading through pine woods, sandy beaches, and salt marshes. The land birds in the area are plentiful and diversified and you can expect to find shorebirds, waterfowl, and wading birds.

Location:

291 State Hwy. Route 6
South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: 508-349-2615

GPS: 41.881927, -69.98939

Hours Of Operation:

Hiking trails: open every day between 7:30 AM and 6 PM

Information desk and restrooms – open Wednesdays through Saturdays between 9:30 AM and 3 PM

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Merlin
  • Snowy Egret
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Red-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Piping Plover
  • American Black Duck
  • Tree Swallow

Entrance Fees:

Members can enter the wildlife sanctuary for free. Nonmembers pay a nominal fee. It’s $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens, $3 for children between 2-12, and children under 2 are allowed in for free.

Hiking Trails:

You’ll find two amazing hiking trails to make the most of when visiting Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The trails include:

  • Wellfleet Bay Silver Spring Loop – this trail takes you directly through a gorgeous meadow. It’s 0.7 miles in length, relatively easy to traverse, and it only takes about 17 minutes in total.
  • Goose Pond Trail – this trail takes you along a wooden boardwalk directly through a marsh and straight toward Goose Pond. The length of the boardwalk is 1.8 miles and it takes about 45 minutes to complete.

Quabbin Reservoir – Free Admittance, Free Parking

The reservoir is a real treat for birders. The area covers 39 mi.² and it even encompasses 181 miles of pristine and beautiful shoreline. There are recreational activities, a visitor’s center, free educational programs, and much more. Although parking is limited, it’s nice to know that it is also free.

Location:

100 Windsor Dam Rd.
Belchertown, MA 01007
Phone: 413-323-7221

GPS: 42.3830° N, 72.3134° W

Hours Of Operation:

The reservoir opens one hour before sunrise and closes one hour after sunset.

During normal times, the visitor center is traditionally open seven days a week. But because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the visitor center is temporarily closed for the time being to prevent the spread of the virus.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Blue-Headed Vireo
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Brown Creeper
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Double-Crested Cormorant
  • Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
  • Black-Billed Cuckoo
  • American Woodcock

Hiking Trails:

You’ll find a number of great hiking trails within the Quabbin Reservoir that range from easy to moderate in difficulty. We’ve narrowed down the top five trails to consider. They include:

  • Peppers Mill Pond – this trail is moderately difficult because it does take you along some hilly areas. It’s 2.6 miles in distance and takes about an hour to complete.
  • Hell Huddle to Pottapaug Hill – this paved trail is very easy to navigate and traverse, yet it’s quite long because it’s 13.2 miles from start to finish. It will take you roughly 5 hours and 20 minutes to complete the entire trail on foot.
  • Quabbin Reservoir – the main trail heading through the reservoir is moderately difficult to travel and it’s extremely long as well. The total length is 14.7 miles and it’s estimated to take 6 ½ hours to complete the circuit from start to finish.
  • Quabbin Gate 47 – this trail is also moderately difficult but it’s about half the length of Quabbin Reservoir. The total length of the trail is 7 miles long and it takes about two hours and 45 minutes to finish.
  • Quabbin Reservoir via Prescott Road – this is definitely one of the easier trails to travel in the Quabbin Reservoir. But it’s still long enough because it’s 2.3 miles and takes about 55 minutes to complete.

Bird Watching Destinations in Massachusetts: Paid Destinations

Allen Bird Club

Allen Bird Club has a rich and storied history. They’ve been around since 1912 and they’ve been bringing birders together ever since.

Although originally based out of Springfield, Massachusetts, becoming a member of this club isn’t expensive and they host many field trips and walking tours throughout the year. They like to focus on prime migration months which are May-September.

Upcoming Bird Field Trips:

  • Rail Trail Evening Walk – 2 Hours
  • Lake Wallace, Belchertown – 2-3 hours
  • Mother’s Day walk at Robinson Park – half-day
  • Stebbins Refuge Morning Walk – 2-3 hours
  • Mount Holyoke – Skinner State Park – 3 hours

Annual Membership Dues and Fees

  • Student membership – $7 dollars
  • Individual membership – $12
  • Family membership – $16
  • Supporting membership – $25
  • Sustaining membership – $40
  • Sponsoring membership – $75

Mailing Address:

Allen Bird Club
April Downey – Membership Chairperson
311 Somers Rd.
Hampden, MA 01036

Brookline Bird Club

This bird club is one of the biggest and most active of its kind in the United States of America and it’s based in Massachusetts. Membership is relatively inexpensive to join, yet they go on many scheduled walks, spring migration tours, and host club meetings and other events. It’s perfect to join whether you’re in town for a week or you live in the area.

Upcoming Bird Field Trips:

  • Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge – 3 hours
  • Cold Spring Park, Newton – 3 Hours
  • Mclaughlin Woods Migrants, Boston – 1 hour
  • Boston Public Garden – 2 hours
  • Eastern Point, Gloucester – 4 ½ hours

Annual Membership Dues and Fees

  • Individual membership – $15
  • Family membership – $22
  • Lifetime membership – $200

Visit their website at Brookline Bird Club to fill out the membership registration form and pay online.

Final Thoughts About Birding In Massachusetts

As you can see, there was a lot to unpack about birdwatching in Massachusetts. There are so many wonderful places to visit and learn about your favorite birds and nature locations.

If you’re visiting Massachusetts in the near future, you should check out the locations referenced here. They provide the best birdwatching opportunities available and you’ll definitely have a great time seeing local birds in their natural habitat with friends, family, coworkers, and other loved ones.