My 12 Best Bird Watching Spots in Vermont You Should Try

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.

Vermont is a small state located in the northeastern region of the United States. Even though the state is insignificant, it is rich in birdlife, with at least 388 species recorded. I have written this article to help you know the best spots for birding in Vermont.

Vermont’s best bird watching spots are those with wetlands, such as Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area and Shelburne Bay. Spots with various habitats, like Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge and Herrick’s Cove, are good birding places.

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

Button Bay State ParkSurf Scoter and Osprey
Dead Creek Wildlife Management AreaSnow Goose and Short-eared Owl
Shelburne Bay Area and FarmsGreater Black-backed Gull and Bufflehead
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge Common Gallinule and Savannah Sparrow
West Rutland MarshRuffed Grouse and Virginia Rail
Mount MansfieldBicknell’s Thrush and Northern Saw-whet Owl
Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife RefugeSpruce Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker
Wenlock Wildlife Management AreaBoreal Chickadee and White-winged Crossbill
Herrick’s CoveAmerican Bittern and Bald Eagle
Snake Mountain Wildlife Management AreaGolden-winged Warbler and Peregrine Falcon
West Mountain Wildlife Management AreaBay-breasted Warbler and Northern Goshawk
Pomainville Wildlife Management AreaBobolink and Savannah Sparrow
Best Places to Bird Watch in Vermont

Read further to learn my best spots for bird watching in Vermont.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Vermont
Best Bird Watching Spots in Vermont

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 Vermont

Vermont is known for its lush green vegetation, which attracts many birds along with the wetlands, open fields, and mountainous areas.

1. Button Bay State Park

This park is located on the shore of Lake Champlain. There are mature hardwood forests here that attract many birds. Waterfowl can be seen out on the water. Bird species you can see here include the following: Surf Scoter, Harlequin Duck, Black Scoter, Horned Grebe, and Common Loon.

Bald Eagles are spotted here, and Osprey can be seen in summer, while Snow Bunting can be seen in winter. For Snow Buntings, you should scan open areas and fields in the park. 

2. Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area

Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area is the place to see thousands of Snow Geese. This wildlife area has many trails and lookout points you can use while birding. There are wetlands, forests, and open fields which attract various birds.

Birds you may see in the fields during winter include the following species: Snowy Owl, Northern Shrike, Snow Bunting, Rough-legged Hawk, Lapland Longspur, and Short-eared Owl. Peregrine Falcons and Gyrfalcons have also been seen in the area in winter. 

There is a bird species checklist for this area, which has a record of 242 species. Shorebirds and songbirds are also observed here. 

Shorebird species include birds like the Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, and Spotted Sandpiper.

Sandpipers and Yellowlegs are found on the edges of wetlands on muddy shores, where they can probe the mud for food. Shorebirds are likelier to be seen when water levels are lower because they depend on dirty areas.

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):

3. Shelburne Bay Area and Farms

Shelburne Bay is a few miles south of Burlington and is a terrific place for birds, with at least 300 species recorded. The bay is located on the eastern side of Lake Champlain.

This is where you should look for waterfowl like Mallards, Common Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, and Common Loons. These birds can be seen out on open water.

Gull species are also found here, such as the Greater Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, and Ring-billed Gull.

Shelburne Farms is a 1,400-acre educational facility west of the bay. Here, you can find trails to walk along and look for birds. Birds to watch for in this area include the following species: Wood Thrush, Bobolink, and Pileated Woodpecker. 

You can also watch for raptors, such as Merlins and Northern Harriers, which have been recorded in this area. People have also seen Sedge Wrens, Indigo Buntings, and Orchard Orioles.

TOP TIP: Some birds are far friendlier than others, making them much easier to find. Some of the easiest and most friendly birds to find can be found here. Using the right binoculars also makes a difference to bird watching success. Take a look at this article to learn more about the best binoculars for birders.

4. Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge 

This refuge is in northern New York and is close to the Canadian border. It is 6,729 acres and has bogs, wetlands, and floodplain forests, making it very good for birds.

There are trails you can take, and you can also canoe through the wetlands. The area is designated as a Wetland of International Importance.

Bird species here on the water include Common Goldeneye, Common Gallinule, Pied-billed Grebe, and Hooded Merganser. A nesting colony of Great Blue Herons is also in the refuge, and Black Terns are also seen in the area. 

Virginia Rails are found among the wetland vegetation. Virginia Rails, like all rails, tend to be tricky to see but are most active at dusk and dawn, so keep this in mind when visiting the refuge.

It would be best to look for passerines like the Song Sparrows, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Swamp Sparrows, and Savannah Sparrows.

5. West Rutland Marsh

You can access this cattail marsh via trails and a boardwalk. The species list for this area is at least 200, so it is worth a trip. 

In summer, you can find many species in the nearby trees, such as the Ovenbird, Warbling Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue-headed Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Canada Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Scarlet Tanager and Chestnut-sided Warbler. 

Ruffed Grouse are also recorded in the area, although they can be challenging to see, being quite elusive birds. 

You can see Least Bitterns, American Bitterns, and Virginia Rail in the marsh vegetation. Also, keep an eye out for Marsh Wrens. On the water, you can find Wood Ducks and American Black Ducks. There is a bird species checklist available for this spot.

6. Mount Mansfield

Mount Mansfield is at 4,393 feet, making this the best place for high-elevation bird species in the state. This is a perfect spot to see Bicknell’s Thrush, which only occurs in such high-elevation habitats in thick bush.

In summer, you can take a road up the mountain. Besides Bicknell’s Thrush, you can also find Northern Saw-whet Owls, Ruffed Grouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, and Red Crossbill.

Other bird species to look out for in the area include various warblers, including Blackpoll Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Black-throated Blue Warblers. Hermit and Swainson’s Thrushes can also be found in the general region.

7. Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is part of a large area known as the Northeast Kingdom. Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge has various units in different states.

The part of the refuge in Vermont is known as the Nulhegan Basin, and it has many songbirds and other birds typical of boreal regions.

Woodpecker species recorded in the trees here include Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. Of these species, the Black-backed Woodpecker is known to like boreal forests. 

The refuge is also known for having both Spruce Grouse and Ruffed Grouse. Spruce Grouse prefer boreal forests. Ruffed Grouse are found in quite a range of woods, from mature to young forests and even swamp and old fields. 

You can also find waterfowl on the wetlands, including American Wigeons, Green-winged Teals, Northern Pintails, Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks, Common Loons, and Pied-billed Grebes. 

8. Wenlock Wildlife Management Area

This is also part of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Wenlock Wildlife Management Area is a 1,933-acre area.

Birds you can see here, especially if you visit the Moose Bog area, include Gray Jays, Spruce Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Black-backed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadees, and White-winged Crossbills.

Sharp-shinned Hawks and both Barred and Great-Horned Owls are present in the refuge. You can see Blackpoll and Tennessee Warblers, and Lincoln’s Sparrows here. Rusty Blackbirds and Swainson’s Thrushes have also been recorded in the refuge.

9. Herrick’s Cove

This is an important bird area where the Connecticut River and William’s River join, close to the border with New Hampshire. Besides the river, other suitable birding habitats exist at Herrick’s Cover, including forests, agricultural fields, and marshes. 

Greater than 255 bird species have been noted at Herrick’s Cove. You can find warblers like the following species: Black-and-white Warbler, Ovenbird, Pine Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Chestnut-sided Warbler.

You can look for American Bitterns, Swamp Sparrows, Sora, and Virginia Rails in the marshy areas. The area is popular with ornithologists who regularly monitor marsh birds as part of the Vermont Marshbird Monitoring Program. 

Other bird species at Herrick’s Cove include the Least Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, and Bald Eagle. Osprey can be seen in summer, and various waterfowl, including grebes, occur at the refuge multiple times.

TIP: Bird feeders and baths are great for attracting birds to your backyard. But what about bird houses? They will help you not only track but also keep them in your yard! Check out my picks on different bird houses below (Amazon links):
Cedar Viewing House
Wood Bird House with Pole
Hanging Bird House

10. Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area

Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area is in Wemont’s west and central region. This area is in Champlain Valley and consists of hardwood forests. There are various hiking trails that you can walk along the ridgeline. The location is good for watching for hawks during migration.

You can find some species of raptors, like Peregrine Falcons, on the cliffs where they breed. Other birds include Wild Turkeys, Ruffed Grouse, and Golden-winged Warblers.

11. West Mountain Wildlife Management Area

This is a large area of the forest you can bird in. It is 23,000 acres in size and is accessible by dirt roads. There are both hardwood and softwood forests and wetlands in this area. 

There are streams and ponds you can look for birds on. Waterfowl species you can see in the area include Common Goldeneye, American Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, and Ring-necked Duck. There are also Common Loons nesting on West Mountain Pond. 

Spruce fir patches contain birds like Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees, Bay-breasted Warblers, and Black-backed Woodpeckers. The refuge also has species like the Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Canada Warbler, and Northern Goshawk. 

12. Pomainville Wildlife Management Area

This is a 360-acre area found on the banks of Otters Creek in Pittsford, Vermont. The refuge has wetlands, marshes, and lots of grasslands. It has hardwood forests and swamps that also attract many birds.

Pomaine Wildlife Management Area is an excellent spot to see grassland birds like the Savannah Sparrows, Bobolinks, and Eastern Meadowlarks. 

You can also look for American Bitterns and Great Blue Herons in the marshy and wetland areas of the refuge.

The American Bitterns are well-camouflaged and secretive birds, but the call is distinctive and can be heard at dusk. Wetlands here attract many ducks, including American Black Ducks and Wood Ducks. 

TOP TIP: Understanding bird behavior is challenging. To learn more about why birds behave the way they do, take a look at this article about why they rub their beaks, and this one about how they care for one another when injured.

Best Time to Bird Watch in Vermont

Although one of the smaller states, Vermont still has birds to watch year-round. However, some species are more abundant or only present during certain seasons.

Snow GeeseFall
Snow BuntingWinter
Best Time to Bird Watch in Vermont

The Vermont State Bird

Hermit Thrush - Vermont State Bird
Hermit Thrush – Vermont State Bird

The Vermont State Bird is the Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus. The bird is brown with a spotted breast and a reddish tail. The thrush can be confused with similar thrushes, but the tail flicking is distinctive for this species.

The bird often raises and lowers its tail. The Hermit Thrush can be found in woodlands, but mainly in the open areas of the woods near water. 

Bird Watching Laws in Vermont

According to state law, you may not possess, capture, or sell any wild birds except pigeons. In 2020, the state of Vermont introduced a law also to protect birds during migration.

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.


Although Vermont is tiny, it still has much to offer bird watchers. A range of habitats is present, and in the northern parts, you can find species that prefer boreal forests.

There are also mountainous areas where you can see boreal species. Vermont is a state that is worth a trip for bird watching.

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.

Recent Posts