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Migrant Traps

As birds migrate they are often attracted to specific areas in larger than normal numbers. For example, when birds migrate north across the Gulf of Mexico they arrive first at the Gulf Coast states. If the winds are favorable, the birds may continue well inland before stopping to rest and refuel. On the other hand, if they have been fighting head winds and storms, the birds can be exhausted by the time they reach the coast. In such cases the birds head for the nearest areas offering cover and food. These areas are often referred to as migrant traps because they attract so may birds.

There are many famous migrant traps around the country. Several attract hundreds or even thousands of birders each year, anxious to enjoy the concentrated bird populations. Some of the better-known areas include High Island, Texas; Cape May, New Jersey; and Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada. The number of birders visiting the popular migrant traps is so great that perhaps these locations should really be called birder traps.

migratory birds The geography around a particular location often has a significant effect on the number of migrants found in the area. The southern tip of Texas is host to thousands of migrating vultures and raptors twice a year. As migrating raptors from the eastern half of the U.S. move south, they avoid migrating over the Gulf of Mexico by funneling along the Texas coast or moving across the state directly to the southern tip of Texas before continuing south into Mexico and beyond. The Texas Rio Grande Valley is famous for the thousands of Broad-winged Hawks and other raptors that can be seen migrating through the area.

Migrating hawks will also skirt the edge of the Great Lakes, resulting in several locations that offer exceptional opportunities for observing migrating raptors.

Migrant traps are not limited to nationally-recognized locations. Local parks, refuges, and even cemeteries can attract large numbers of migrating species and may be popular birding locations. These local areas are sometimes referred to as birding hotspots.

Migrant traps can be found in any state. Here are links to a few of the other areas.

Cleveland Migrant Traps

Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania

Indiana Migrant Traps

New York City Migrant Traps

San Antonio, Texas Migrant Traps

Many additional locations can be found by using your favorite search engine and searching for migrant traps or birding hotspots.

The Lab's staff has also listed some of their favorite birding locations.