My 10 Best Bird Watching Spots in Kansas You Should Try

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Kansas is a critical state in the center of the Central flyway of bird migration. Birds migrating north and south can rest and feed in Kansas before continuing their journey. It is hard to know the best bird sites for bird watchers, particularly if you hope to see migrants, so I have compiled a list for you.

The best bird watching spots in Kansas include Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, where you can see the Lesser Prairie-Chickens and Greater Prairie-Chickens; other excellent spots include state parks with lakes, such as Wilson or Perry State Park.

A table giving the most exciting birds you can see at each of my top 10 birding spots in Kansas:

Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife AreaBurrowing Owl and Snowy Plover
Quivira National Wildlife RefugeWhooping Crane and American White Pelican
Shawnee Mission ParkOsprey and Horned Grebe
Baker WetlandsLeast Bittern and Yellow Rail
Perry State Park and LakeCommon Merganser and Northern Parula
Clinton State Park and LakeRed-headed Woodpecker and Prothonotary Warbler
Wilson State Park and LakeBald Eagle and Mountain Bluebird
Scott State Park and LakeRock Wren and Black-headed Grosbeak
Cimarron National GrasslandLesser Prairie-Chicken and Cassin’s Sparrow
Woodson State Fishing Lake and Wildlife AreaCommon Goldeneye and Bufflehead
Best Places to Bird Watch in Kansas

Read below to learn about the best bird watching places in Kansas and to find out which bird species you can typically find in each spot.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Kansas
Best Bird Watching Spots in Kansas

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Best Places to Bird Watch in Kansas

Kansas is one of the plain states, between Oklahoma in the south and Nebraska in the north. It has a high species richness; in fact, 460 bird species have been recorded in Kansas.

TIP: Knowing how to spot the birds in your yard is key to enjoying visits from your winged friends as much as possible! The best sources are trusted books, I recommend using the following (Amazon links):
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
National Audubon Society Birds of North America

1. Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area

Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area is a sizeable 20,000-acre refuge comprised of marshland. It would be best to visit the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, accessible on Highway 156. There, you can learn how best to access and visit this wildlife area.

Birds you can find here during migration include Baird’s Sandpipers and Stilt Sandpipers. Bird species that breed in this area include American Avocet, Snowy Plover, Least Tern, and Black Tern. You can find Burrowing Owls in the prairie dog towns in the refuge.

Sandhill Cranes are present during spring and fall migration, and the occasional Whooping Crane may also appear. 

2. Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

This 22,135-acre refuge is known for its saline marshes and ponds, but there are also vast grassland areas rich in bird species.

There is a 5-mile car drive you can take within the refuge. This drive goes past some good bird viewing spots, including photo blinds and an observation tower.

An excellent time to plan a trip to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is spring, specifically from the middle of March and into April, when Whooping Cranes will be present.

This endangered species stop over in the refuge during the annual migration. The best place to see them within the refuge is the edge of the extensive salt marsh. 

Raptors in the refuge include Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, and Swainson’s Hawks. In the grassland, you can find the following bird species: Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, and Ring-necked Pheasant.

In the wetlands, you can see Redheads, Black Rails, American Bitterns, Least Bitterns, and Neotropic Cormorants. I enjoy visits to this refuge because of the variety of birds you can see here.

3. Shawnee Mission Park

This is a suburban park that is 1,600 acres in size. It is located in Kansas City and is considered a birding hot spot since over 250 species of birds have been recorded in the park. There is a lake, grassy areas, and a forest. These habitats provide feeding and nesting opportunities for different species.

The area is excellent for attracting birds while they are on migration during spring and fall. It is also easy to bird watch in the park outside of migration when resident species are still present.

Bird species to look out for in Shawnee Mission Park include Horned Grebes and Osprey on the lake. Lake edges are a great place to find Prothonotary Warblers, Green Herons, and Great Blue Herons.

The forested areas are suitable for finding bird species like Warbling Vireos and Louisiana Waterthrushes. Baltimore and Orchard Orioles are also commonly seen in trees and bushes around the lake.

You should check the grassy patches for signs of Dickcissels, which, although small birds, usually are pretty easy to see. All-in-all, Shawnee Mission Park is worth a visit because you will see a lot of different species.

4. Baker Wetlands

This preserve is located in Lawrence, Kansas. This preserve is 927 acres and is partly situated on the Wakarusa River floodplain. Several wading birds and waterfowl can be found at the Baker Wetlands. This area is rich in species, with over 270 species recorded.

The Baker Wetlands is a perfect spot to find the Least Bittern since they breed in the refuge. This bird is best seen in the early morning and late afternoon when it is most active.

Other birds you can see here include the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Black Rail, Sora, and Yellow Rail. Waterfowl present in the Baker Wetlands include Green-winged Teal and Wood Ducks. 

You should check the trees for Bell’s Vireos, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Willow Flycatchers, which all nest in the wetlands here.

TOP TIP: If you think bird watchers are weird, read this article to discover the health benefits of bird watching. Are you a Bird watcher or a Twitcher? Find out here!

5. Perry State Park and Lake

The state park is found on the western side of the lake. This park and lake are situated northeast of Topeka. You can access a checklist of birds to use when birding in this area. At least 141 species have been noted in the park and the lake.

Waterbirds you can find here include Mallards, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Lesser Scaup, and Hooded Merganser. Belted Kingfishers can be seen fishing in the lake, and  Lesser Black-backed and Franklin’s Gulls are often present near and on the lake.

During migration, you can see Nashville Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Kentucky Warblers, Summer Tanagers, Northern Parulas, Baltimore Orioles, Red-eyed Vireos, and Warbling Vireos.

The park and lake are must-visit sites for bird watchers, especially during the annual spring and fall migrations. 

TIP: Check out my recommended products if you are looking for the best and trusted equipment for birdwatching in the wild or on your backyard (Amazon link):

6. Clinton State Park and Lake

Situated west of Lawrence, Clinton State Park, and Lake has a record of 240 species of birds. The park is 1,500 acres in size. You can camp in the park, which is convenient if you want to search for night birds like owls.

Birds include American White Pelicans, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Franklin’s Gulls. Up to 14 species of gulls have been recorded on this lake, so any gulls you see should be observed.

Other bird species to watch out for in this park include the following: Red-headed Woodpecker, Prothonotary Warbler, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Eastern Bluebird.

7. Wilson State Park and Lake

Wilson State Park and Lake is a terrific bird watching site. Birds of open country and water can be seen in this area.

Winter brings several waterfowl to the reservoir, including rare species such as Clark’s Grebe, Surf Scoter, Pacific Loon, and Black-legged Kittiwake. It would be best if you also watched for Glaucous Gulls, which have also shown up occasionally.

The lake’s edges should be scanned for Bald Eagles and Osprey, which can be found here. The nearby grasslands also provide good birding opportunities with bird species like Mountain Bluebirds, Harris’ Sparrows, and Spotted Towhees. 

Northern Harriers or Rough-legged Hawks may also fly over marshy areas and grasslands. The harrier, in particular, will soar low over the grassy areas and reed beds.

8. Scott State Park and Lake

This preserve is 1,020 acres in size and is located in the western region of Kansas. The habitats in this park include the lake, rocky areas, and cottonwoods lining the lake’s water.

The birds found here include an assortment of passerines, non-passerines, waterfowl, and shorebirds. A total of 220 bird species are found in this area, making this a worthwhile visit for a bird watcher.

Bird species include Say’s Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Townsend’s Solitaire (winter only), and Black-headed Grosbeak. In the rocky areas. It would be best if you looked for Rock Wrens. Western Meadowlarks are present and often seen in the park’s grassy areas.

9. Cimarron National Grassland

This is a large area of 108,175 acres in a semi-arid region of the state. Cimarron National Grassland is a top birding area and is an excellent place to see prairie birds.

Habitats include Rock cliffs, cottonwood groves, grasslands, sagebrush, patches of yucca, and rocky cliffs. This diversity of habitats means ample opportunity to view many different bird species.

At the Point of Rocks landmark, you can find Scaled Quails and Burrowing Owls. The owls will be in the prairie dog town, where they use the burrows for nesting and roosting.

The grasslands have a population of Lesser Prairie-Chicken, so this is reason enough to plan a trip here to see this endangered species.

This species and the Mountain Plover are both species of conservation concern found in this area. There are also viewing blinds available where you can wait to see the lekking behavior of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

Other species of birds found in the area include Vesper Sparrows, Cassin’s Sparrows, Long-billed Curlews, Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Lapland Longspurs, and McCown’s Longspur.

10. Woodson State Fishing Lake and Wildlife Area

This birding area is situated in the picturesque Chautauqua Hills. Habitats you can find here include upland bluestem prairie, blackjack oaks, and cross-timbers savanna. 

The birds seen on Woodson Lake include such waterfowl species as Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Lesser Scaup. The mudflats at Woodson State Fishing Lake attract birds like the Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, and Least Sandpipers. These birds probe the mud for worms and other arthropods, which they feed on.

The thickets and woods are also suitable for birding because you can find a range of woodpeckers and passerine species. 

Best Time to Bird Watch in Kansas

Since Kansas is so essential for migrating birds, it is best to plan bird watching trips during spring and fall, but you can still see many birds during the rest of the year as well.

Spring is better than fall for warbler identification, so you should keep this in mind. This is because birds will have their breeding plumage in spring, making recognizing individual species easier.

ShorebirdsMay and August
Bald EaglesNovember to March
Best Time to Bird Watch in Kansas

The Kansas State Bird

Western Meadowlark - The State Bird of Kansas
Western Meadowlark – The State Bird of Kansas

The Western Meadowlark was chosen as the state bird of Kansas. This bird is yellow on the chest and belly and brown with black streaks on the back and top of the head. 

The wings are also brown with streaks of black, a white eyebrow line above the eye, and a black V-shaped marking on the breast. The Western Meadowlark nests on the ground and is found living and breeding in the grasslands of the western part of North America.

Bird Watching Laws in Kansas

Catching, possessing, trading, or selling any migratory bird species found in Kansas is illegal. These regulations for bird conservation are based on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act was established in 1918 to conserve birdlife in the United States.

My Favourite Equipment for Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, but you still need some equipment to get the most out of it. 

The essential equipment to start bird watching is a pair of binoculars. My preference is 8 X 42 binoculars. The number 8 is how much the magnification is, while 42 is the field of view in millimeters of the lenses.

A pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon is an excellent choice for both beginners and experts. 

In time, you can choose more expensive models and also opt to buy a spotting scope like the Celestron Ultima 80 on Amazon.

These are a lot more expensive compared with binoculars though, so if you are only a beginner, start with binoculars first. A spotting scope is only helpful for birds far away, such as out on a pond or seashore.

There are a few rules or guidelines you should abide by as an ethical birder. These are listed below.

  • Do not enter private lands without prior permission from landowners.
  • Follow all the rules in refuges and reserves, including cleaning up any garbage from your campsite.
  • Do not disturb birds on nests.
  • Do not use apps and play songs to call up birds when they are hungry, tired, and breeding during spring and summer.


The forested regions, grasslands, and wetlands make Kansas great for birds. As a bird watcher, you can see a variety of species and take advantage of migration during spring and fall.

You can also get views of the endangered Whooping Crane, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, and Greater Prairie- Chicken at some of the locations I have discussed. Kansas is a state that you should include in your birding plans.

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

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