My 12 Best Bird Watching Spots in Mississippi You Should Try

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Mississippi is rich in birdlife, with 400 species recorded in the state. There are ample bird habitats, including the Gulf Shore, the Mississippi River, and hardwood forests. Knowing which places are the top spots for birds is tricky, so we have decided to compile this list of the best places you should visit to watch birds in Mississippi.

The best bird watching spots in Mississippi are on the Gulf Islands and Grand Bay coast. The best spot to see cranes is the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge; for the highest diversity of birds, visit the Pearl River State Wildlife Management area. 

A table giving the most interesting birds you can see at each of my top 12 birding spots in Mississippi:

Gulf Islands National SeashoreSeaside Sparrow and American Oystercatcher
Hancock County Beach and MarshRuddy Turnstone and Marsh Wren
Ansley PreserveYellow-crowned Night Heron and Little Bittern
Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife RefugeWhite Ibis and Snowy Egrets
St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife RefugeWood Stork and Hooded Warbler
Grand Bay National Estuarine Research ReserveLeast Tern and Mottled Duck
Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife RefugeSandhill Crane and Bachman’s Sparrow
Yazoo National Wildlife RefugeGadwall and Northern Bobwhite
Sardis LakeOsprey and Red-throated Loon
Pearl River State Wildlife Management AreaLimpkin and Sora
Le Fleur’s Bluff State ParkBrewer’s Blackbird and Green-winged Teal
Tishomingo State ParkYellow-bellied Sapsucker and Canada Goose
Best Places to Bird Watch in Mississippi

Read further to learn my choices for the best bird-watching spots in Mississippi and what birds you can expect to see in each.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Mississippi
Best Bird Watching Spots in Mississippi

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 Mississippi

The state of Mississippi has many bird-friendly habitats, including the Mississippi River floodplain, hardwood forests, reservoirs, and the Gulf of Mexico shore. The state is also essential for birds during spring and fall migration, providing food and a place to rest before continuing their journeys.

1. Gulf Islands National Seashore

These are a series of islands found 12 miles off the Mississippi coast. Part of the preserve is on the mainland and easy to access by car.

One area of interest to birders is the Davis Bayou, where you can walk through marsh and forest looking for birds. Make sure to scan the open waters as well.

Bird species commonly seen by bird watchers in the Gulf Islands region include American Oystercatcher, Brown Pelican, and Seaside Sparrow. You can expect many more songbirds in wooded areas and the marshes during migration.

2. Hancock County Beach and Marsh

This area provides a habitat for coastal and marsh-loving birds. The beach is best viewed outside of summer since it is too crowded at this time. The sandy beach provides a suitable habitat for birds such as Ruddy Turnstone, Sandwich Tern, and Black Skimmer.

The marshes consist of needle-rush and cordgrass. These marshy areas are good places to spot birds like Marsh Wrens and Clapper Rails.

These salt marshes are surrounded by strips of land containing oak and pine trees, providing yet another habitat for yet more species of birds. This makes a great resting place for birds like warblers, orioles, and tanagers, which arrive during spring and fall migration.

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

3. Ansley Preserve

This is where I like to go during spring migration because it is an excellent spot for migrating songbirds. The preserve has various habitats, including marshes, woodland, and some grassy areas.  

Several resident birds breed in the preserve, including Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Little Bittern, and Painted Buntings.

Some of the birds, like the Bittern, can be a challenge to spot, and it means carefully scanning the reeds of marshes to see this carefully camouflaged species. 

4. Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

This is a 48,000-acre area of hardwood forests and swamps. There are boardwalks traversing the swamps, making it easy to bird watch in this habitat.

The wetlands in the refuge attract numerous waterfowl and wading birds like egrets and herons. White Ibis, Great Egrets, and Snowy Egrets all roost in the refuge. 

You can also find warblers such as Prothonotary Warblers and Yellow-throated Warblers and may see the Louisiana Waterthrush skulking about.

Don’t forget to look up in the sky for Mississippi Kites and Red-shouldered Hawks. You can also download a checklist of the 264 species of birds recorded in the refuge.

5. St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is on the shores of the Mississippi river and is just south of the city of Natchez. The area is famous for thousands of shorebirds that arrive here and feed here at the end of summer. The Wood Storks also commonly feed in the refuge and occur in flocks.

You can bird by driving through St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge or get out and walk along the trails. Keep an eye out for birds like vireos, warblers, and thrushes.

This is an excellent spot to see the Wood Thrush and Hooded Warbler. This refuge is good all year round and should be on your list of bird watching places to visit.

TOP TIP: Read this Complete Guide to discover the best season for bird watching in your area. This article discusses bird wings and how different they all are!

6. Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

This area is on the border with Alabama and consists of pine savanna, marshland, and bottomland hardwood forests. There is a resources center where you can get a free guide to the reserve and bird species found here.

Some birds breed in the Grand Bay reserve include Wilson’s Plover, Least Tern, Mottled Duck, and Brown-headed Nuthatch. The Least Tern was quite recently a federally listed endangered species. Grand Bay provides an important nesting site for this species. 

7. Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

This wildlife refuge was explicitly created to conserve the Sandhill Crane, a bird that has suffered from human development and habitat loss.

These magnificent birds breed in the pine savanna and can often be seen in this reserve. It would be best to stop at the visitor center in the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge to learn more about the Sandhill Crane and how you can view them.

Besides the cranes, there are several other species of birds to watch in the refuge. You can explore trails to look for birds like Eastern Towhee, Bachman’s Sparrow, and Orchard Orioles, which are also often found in the area.

8. Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is located in the Mississippi Delta region near Greenville, Mississippi. The refuge comprises 13,000 acres of hardwood forest, croplands, lakes, and other wetlands. 

The refuge was designated to conserve waterfowl. Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge is also concerned about providing sufficient food for the thousands of waterfowl, like Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Green-winged Teal, Pintails, and several species of Geese, that occur here every winter. 

There is also a successful Wood Duck nest program in the refuge. This is a place that I would recommend to see thousands of waterfowl in winter and also to search for other birds in the refuge, such as the near-threatened Northern Bobwhite. 

9. Sardis Lake

Sardis Lake is located in northwestern Mississippi, and it encompasses 98,000 acres. There are many bird species to see here, and both the Osprey and Bald Eagle nest in the area.

Surf Scoters, Black Scoters, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Red-throated Loons are frequently seen on the lake. 

A trail also takes you through a Bald Cypress swamp, which is a great place to see other birds, including Swamp Sparrows. There is a bird species checklist available with 128 species recorded. You can use this list as a starting point for your bird watching adventure at this lake.  

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):

10. Pearl River State Wildlife Management Area

This wildlife area is situated 26 miles from Jackson. It is a 6900-acre area comprised of various habitats, including bottomland and upland hardwood forests, oxbow lakes, marshes, and cypress-tupelo vegetation. 

This range of habitats supports diverse birdlife, with 213 species recorded in the area. Several species of warbler have been spotted in the area, and both the Summer and Scarlet Tanager have been recorded here.

Many water birds and waders, such as the Great Blue Heron and Limpkin, have also been seen at Pearl River. Marsh species like King Rail and Sora are also present, but you may need patience to see these two elusive species. 

11. LeFleur’s Bluff State Park

This park is 492 acres in size and, besides providing a natural habitat for birds, also contains the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, which has an exhibit and information on birds.

At least 197 species of birds have been recorded in the park, making it very rich in species. The Audubon Society considers Le Fleur’s Bluff State Park an important bird area.

Various species are found in the woods and wetlands here, including Brewer’s Blackbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Green-winged Teal, and Cattle Egrets. Combining a look at the museum with some outdoor bird watching is an excellent idea.

12. Tishomingo State Park

Tishomingo State Park is a must-see place for bird watchers. This is because of the area’s unique topography that is not found elsewhere in the state. This park is actually in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. 

You can stay overnight here either at a campsite, in a cabin, or in an RV park (if you have an RV). The birdlife is prolific, with 248 species recorded here. It is an excellent spot to see waterfowl in the wintertime.

Keep an eye out for Canada Goose and, in the trees, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Rare species like the Black-headed Gull and Sooty Tern have even been sighted in the area.

Best Time to Bird Watch in Mississippi

You can go bird watching any time in Mississippi, but winter is the best time to see the maximum number of waterfowl.

Spring is the optimal time to see the most migrating warblers, orioles, vireos, and tanagers. This is when thousands of birds make landfall after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. 

Vireos and WarblersMid-March to May
Waterfowl like Geese and TealNovember to February
Best Time to Bird Watch in Mississippi

The Mississippi State Bird

Northern Mockingbird - 
The State Bird of Mississippi
Northern Mockingbird – The State Bird of Mississippi

The Northern Mockingbird is the state bird of Mississippi and several other states. It is a clever bird that can copy any sound it hears.

These birds will also sing all night loudly if they don’t have a mate. Mockingbirds have adapted well to urban and suburban life and are common and abundant. 

These bold birds will fiercely protect their nests and young, so it is best to stay away from any Mockingbird nests you may discover. They often nest close to humans and may even nest relatively low in a bush.

Bird Watching Laws in Mississippi

Mississippi laws state that someone should interfere with, take, or have an indigenous wild bird. Nests and eggs are also not to be taken unless the individual has a specific permit for scientific study.

There are instances where control of certain species of birds, like the House Sparrow and European Starling, is permitted where they destroy crops, livestock, or trees. 

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.


Mississippi is another southern state where birdlife is rich, and opportunities abound to see many different bird species.

The coastline provides a chance to see coastal birds, while the inland marshes, lakes, and forests teem with bird species and other wildlife.

Even the agricultural lands surrounding the forest patches will have birds to view. The state also has a fantastic Sandhill Crane conservation program worth visiting. You should plan to visit Mississippi and see which birds you can spot.

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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