Did you know that bird watching – not football – is the most popular sport in America? Seriously. It’s true. In a surveyof 18,000 respondents between 2006 and 2020, statistics show that 18% of all Americans are birders.
While generally thought to be a leisurely activity, it can also be very competitive. Although extreme bird watchers travel the world to find the rarest birds on the planet, even casual bird nerds can find pleasure in making bird watching the purpose of their adventures. And because RV owners already frequently drive across the country, they are likely to discover the most winged wonders.
It is common knowledge that birds migrate during spring and fall. But, unexpectedly, winter is prime time for birdwatching, especially in warmer climates – which is a perfect excuse to go camping in your RV. Whether you are a novice or an experienced bird watcher, the number of birding destinations can be overwhelming, so we’ve created this list of some of the best locations, including where to park your RV.
Arizona – Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve
Less than three miles from the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve lies Patagonia RV Park. This RV park is perfect for birding enthusiasts that want a luxurious camping experience as well as an exciting bird watching trip. The RV parkhas a convenient shop, laundry facility, and game room for additional entertainment – though, with the preserve so close, it’s unlikely you’ll need it.
Common birds at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve include Northern Harriers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Western Bluebirds. There is also the opportunity to see rare birds, such as the Rufous-capped Warbler or Black-capped Gnatcatcher.
Starting at just $35 a day, each site has full hookups and wireless internet. However, there are only 30 sites, so it is best to reserve your spot early.
California – Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to visit no matter the season; however, it is even more magical for bird watchers in the winter. When you visit, you can see a variety of sea birds and – if you are especially lucky - puffins.
Because it is located along the Pacific Flyway (one of four major migration routes for birds in North America), its estuaries, grasslands, coastal scrub, and forests boast the most avian diversity in any U.S. national park. Depending on where you go within the park, you can see winter ducks and raptors as well as woodpeckers, swallows, accipiters, warblers, and thrushes.
While there is no camping allowed within Point Reyes National Seashore, you can camp in your RV at Olema Campground, just one mile from the border of the park.
Florida – Everglades National Park
Not surprisingly, Everglades National Park in Florida is one of the best places to view incredible birds during the winter months. In fact, some of the most iconic and exciting birds in the world can be seen in the Everglades. It provides important foraging and breeding grounds for more than 180 species during the winter as it offers warmer temperatures for migrating birds. (These birds might be onto something. You might also enjoy migrating south for the winter in your RV.)
During your stay, you might see Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and American White Pelicans in addition to a variety of hawks, vultures, owls, and sparrows.
The campground at Flamingo is extremely popular from December to April and has RV sites which range from $45 to $55 for the general public (depending on whether it is a weekend).
Texas – Lower Rio Grande Valley
The Lower Rio Grande Valley is a bird watcher’s paradise: its converging biomes are home to more than 500 bird species, including residents, rarities, and migrants. 100 of these species can be seen in Big Bend National Park during winter.
December through late February, you can expect to see various ducks, shorebirds, and sparrows. Long-eared Owls, Cinnamon Teals, and Pied-billed Grebes are just a few of the notable winter birds within the park.
The best place to stay and see these birds is within Big Bend National Park. RV camping fees are $36 a night for double occupancy, with a $3 charge per additional person. There are 25 back-in sites in the RV park with full hook-ups (water, electrical, and 3-inch sewer connection). While there is no cell phone reception in Big Bend, the campground does offer internet access.
Utah – The Great Salt Lake
Hear us out – Utah is not warm during the winter, but serious bird watchers know that some of the best birding experiences can be found by heading north – not south. Although Utah is cold in the winter, it is still a major habitat for a vast array of truly amazing migratory birds. If you are an avid birder and willing to brave the cold through self-containment, visiting Farmington Bay on the Great Salt Lake should absolutely be on your bucket list.
Farmington Bay, located at the Southeastern corner of the Great Salt Lake, is one of the most famous areas to see (and hunt) waterfowl in the western United States. But it isn’t just waterfowl that nest here: raptors like Bald Eagles, Peregrin Falcons, and American Kestrels are also frequently seen nearby.
The campground in the Great Salt Lake State Park is open year-round, accommodating RVs up to 40 feet in length. All campsites have water and electricity (AC110, 30amp, and 50amp). Partial hook-up sites are $35 a night. Full hook-up sites are $60.
No matter where you choose to go birding and camping, you are bound to have a wonderful time. There are few things more simultaneously thrilling and relaxing than checking a new bird off your list, and it is an accessible hobby for everyone.
If you are not yet an RV owner, but you are an avid bird watcher, then now might be a good time to find a way to take your hobby on the road. If you are on the fence about buying one, visit a Grand Design RV dealer near you or check out some of our models to explore the possibilities.