Top Places To Birdwatch in Rhode Island – Free & Paid Birding Destinations

May 10, 2021 // 12 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding in Rhode Island

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Are you looking for great birding in Rhode Island? Look no further! Here is a comprehensive resource of top birdwatching destinations in Rhode Island. We’ve listed the best places to see your favorite birds, complete with locations, hours of operation, websites, social media pages, YouTube videos, and more.

Also, be sure to check out our birdwatching 101 guide, great for beginning birders!

Are you aware that the Rhode Island Red is Rhode Island’s state bird?

Rhode Island Red
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photo credit: JulieAnne van der Lek from Pixabay

And, be sure to check out birding resources for states neighboring Rhode Island: Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. Are you ready to find out more about the best places for bird watching in the area? Keep reading to learn more about our best-kept secrets.

Bird Watching Destinations In Rhode Island: Free Destinations

Will you be spending any time in Rhode Island this year? If so, you may want to check out some of these exciting free and paid birding hotspots and destinations.

Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge – Free For Everyone

You’re in for a real treat the next time you decide to spend time visiting Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. At the Kettle Pond Visitor Center, you can pick up trail maps and discover other pertinent information about the refuge. You’ll know exactly where to go to locate your favorite species of birds scattered throughout the former military airfield.

Location:

Refuge Headquarters & Kettle Pond Visitor Center
50 Bend Rd.
Charlestown, RI 02813
Phone: 401-364-9124

GPS: 41.3633° N, 71.6659° W

Hours Of Operation:

Visitors are allowed to walk through the trails from sunrise to sunset. And if you’re into fishing and cinder worm hatch, they even offer special extended hours to participate in these activities.

The Kettle Pond Visitor Center, on the other hand, is only open between 10 AM and 4 PM every day. They are closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day each year as well. 

When visiting, it’s best to call ahead to learn about weather conditions and find out if closures are taking place for some other reason.

  • Willet
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Blue-Winged Warbler
  • Common Tern
  • Piping Plover
  • Green Heron
  • American Redstart
  • Osprey
  • Least Tern

Hiking Trails:

There are four distinct hiking trails to enjoy while visiting Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. These trails include:

  • Burlingame Trail – this trail is a half a mile long and connects directly to the Kettle Pond Visitor Center. You’ll discover many amazing birds and other wildlife while traversing this trail.
  • Ocean View Trail – this trail is also a half a mile long and takes you along the depressions and regions developed by the great sheet of ice that was once dominating the area. Nearing the end of the trail, you’ll see Ninigret Pond, Block Island, the beautiful beach and plenty of great birds.
  • Watchaug Pond Trail – birders particularly love this half a mile trail because the terrain is very gentle to traverse and there are many beautiful birds along the way. If you look and listen particularly closely, you’ll hear bird calls from migrating songbirds.
  • Toupoysett Pond Trail – this is the shortest trail at only a quarter of a mile, but you’ll experience beautiful views of the vernal pool, which is a gorgeous sight to behold. It’s also a great bird watching trail as well.

Great Swamp Management Area – Free Admission

In the Great Swamp Management Area, you’re in luck because you are about to discover a wide array of diverse wildlife along a 5-mile trail. You’ll find a number of different birds during the spring, because many wonderful species make this area their home in New England. 

Although the entire Great Swamp encompasses 3349 acres, you only need to see a small piece of it to enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature and the area.

Location:

227 Great Neck Rd.
South Kingstown, RI 02892
Phone: 401-789-0281

GPS: 41.4740° N, 71.5751° W

Hours Of Operation:

The office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4 PM and closed on Saturday and Sunday. The Great Swamp Wildlife Area is open 24/7/365.

  • American Woodcock
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Northern Water Thrush
  • Yellow Throated Vireo
  • Wood Thrush
  • Whip-Poor-Will
  • Barred Owl
  • Black Billed Cuckoo
  • Red Shouldered Hawk
  • Wood Duck

Hiking Trails:

Ultimately, while visiting here you have the opportunity to walk up and down a single five-mile hiking trail. This trail is flat so it’s very easy to travel across without any difficulty. 

And the best part is that during the spring there are lots of birding opportunities to see many different species. And, the overall region is inhabited by many different types of the wildlife of a diverse nature.

Visitors will find Bluebird boxes and Osprey nests scattered throughout the 5-mile trail. These boxes are often the home of your favorite nesting birds.

Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge – Free To Enter

This Wildlife Refuge is open every day of the week, so you can regularly walk up and down the trails while watching your favorite birds. Even more important, the trails are wheelchair accessible and very easy to travel across. They do not allow pets or dogs, and you must bring insect repellent and maintain a lookout for poison ivy because it’s prominent in the area.

Location:

Visitor Contact Station
1030 Matunuck Schoolhouse Road
South Kingston, RI 02879

GPS: 41.3753967 (North), -71.5840351 (West)

Hours Of Operation:

Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge is open every day. The Contact Station is open between 10 AM to 4 PM each day. The trails remain open during daylight hours even if the Contact Station is closed.

  • Blue Winged Warbler
  • Bobolink
  • Marsh Wren
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Piping Plover
  • American Redstart
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Marsh Wren

Hiking Trails:

At the Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge, there’s only one main trail in this popular region. Along this trail, you’ll see lots of hikers, nature lovers, and plenty of wildlife and beautiful birds along the path.

The name of the trail is:

  • Moonlight Beach – it’s estimated that it will take you 45 minutes to complete the entire trail, which is 1.8 miles in length. The trail is really flat, straightforward, and easy to travel upon.

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge – Free Entry

This beautiful National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 242 acres of land in Middletown, Rhode Island. There is a rocky shoreline, hiking trails, and amazing viewpoints that allow you to look at the sea and scan for your favorite seasonal local and migratory birds. There’s other beautiful wildlife that you’ll certainly enjoy as well as you walk along the sandy beaches.

Location:

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
769 Sachuest Point Road
Middletown, RI 02842
Phone: 401-619-2680

GPS: 41.4805° N, 71.2444° W

Hours Of Operation:

The visitor center is open each day between 10 AM and 4 PM. The wildlife refuge is open to the public during daylight hours.

  • Northern Gannet
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Purple Sandpiper
  • Common Eider
  • Horned Lark
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye
  • Northern Harrier
  • Western Kingbird

Hiking Trails:

Walkers and hikers are in for a treat because there are three easy yet fun and slightly challenging hiking trails throughout Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge.

The three trails in question are named:

  • Sachuest to Brenton Point Via Ocean Drive Scenic Road – this is the longest of the three trails coming in at 10.2 miles. Although long, it’s an easy trail to navigate with relatively flat ground the whole way. It’s estimated that it will take around four hours and five minutes to complete the entirety of the trail.
  • Little Compton and Wilbour Woods Trail – this is the shortest of the three trails, because it’s only 1.2 miles in total length. We believe that it’ll take about a half an hour to complete the entire trail from start to finish.
  • Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Trail – this main trail consists of 2.4 miles of beautiful views all along the way. It will take you around one hour to complete this trail at an average walking speed.

Block Island National Wildlife Refuge – Free Entry

Surprisingly, one of the social events of the season is the fall migration that you can enjoy in all of its glory while visiting Block Island National Wildlife Refuge. This island is relatively small, but between September to mid-October, you’ll find New England birders flocking to this location to experience fall migration in person. You may want to check it out too.

Location:

North Shoreham, RI 02807
Phone: 401-364-9124

GPS: 41.2117° N, 71.5746° W

Hours Of Operation:

Block Island is open to the public during daylight hours all year round, from dusk until dawn each day.

  • Ruby Crowned Kinglet
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Northern Wheatear
  • Cave Swallow
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Red Tailed Hawks
  • Fork Tailed Flycatcher
  • White Winged Scoter
  • Semipalmated Plover
  • Ruddy Turnstone

Hiking Trails:

Hiking trails abound at Block Island National Wildlife Refuge. You’ll truly appreciate the beautiful scenery as you explore this amazing land. Below, I’ll share the top five hiking trails in the area.

They are:

  • Block Island Southeast Lighthouse Trail – this trail presents moderate difficulty because the terrain is a little more rugged than some of the easier trails. It’s only 0.8 miles long and it will take about a half an hour to finish.
  • Dickens Point – the terrain is much less rough on this trail which definitely makes it a lot easier to travel. It’s only 0.7 miles long and it will take about 18 minutes to complete from start to finish.
  • North Lighthouse Trail – this is also an easy trail. It’s only 0.7 miles and it’ll take about 17 minutes to complete.
  • Mohegan Bluffs Trail – this trail is the longest that I recommend today and the terrain is a bit rough so it’s moderately difficult. The total length is 6.9 miles and it will take nearly 3 hours to walk or hike the entirety of the trail.
  • Clay Head Trail – this is the second longest trail that I’m recommending coming in at 3.5 miles long. It’s an easy trail to navigate since there aren’t many obstacles or obstructions in your path. And it’s roughly going to take a 1 ½ hours to hike or walk the whole thing.

Bird Watching Destinations In Rhode Island: Paid Destinations

Norman Bird Sanctuary – Paid Trail Pass Fee

The Norman Bird Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that provides environmental education and the opportunity to walk along 7 miles of hiking trails and 325 acres of diverse habitats. They keep the trails well-maintained at all times, so remember to bring your binoculars to view beautiful wildlife and migratory and local birds in this gorgeous protected environment.

Location:

583 3rd Beach Road
Middletown, RI 02840
Phone: 401-846-2577

GPS: 41.4994° N, 71.2511° W

Hours Of Operation:

Open every day between 9 AM to 5 PM

Hiking Trail Fees:

  • Adult – $7
  • Military or Senior 65+ – $6
  • Child or Student Ages 3 to 18 – $3

Final note: you are not permitted to bring dogs on any of the trails in the Norman Bird Sanctuary.

Hiking Trails:

We’ve discovered three wonderful trails that are relatively easy to traverse within the Norman Bird Sanctuary. You’ll enjoy beautiful scenery and other natural wonders while hiking these easy and relaxing trails.

They include:

  • Norman Bird Sanctuary and Nelson Pond Trails – this trail is moderately difficult to travel and navigate and it’s 2.6 miles long and will take hikers about an hour to complete.
  • Hanging Rock Trail – this is an easier trail to manage. it’s 1.9 miles long and it will take about 50 minutes to finish.
  • Norman Bird Sanctuary – the main trail is also very easy to travel across and it’s 1.8 miles in length. We estimate that it takes about 50 minutes to complete the entire circuit.

Final Thoughts About Birdwatching In Rhode Island

There are so many awesome places to watch birds in Rhode Island. We hope you get a chance to check out some or all of these locations for birding in Rhode Island. Also, be sure to check out birding locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut as well. Each of these areas offers 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.

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