If you're new to birding, there's no better place to start than the Indiana Dunes. With over 370 species of birds recorded in the area, the Dunes provides the perfect location to learn about the diversity of bird life and practice your beginning birding skills.

When birds migrate around the eastern and western shorelines of Lake Michigan, they are funneled right into the Indiana Dunes. Its unique variety of habitats, such as dunes, woodlands, savannas, prairies, and wetlands, create a midwestern bird paradise. Many bird species will remain and find a home in the dunes. Others, like pelicans, merely make a pitstop and continue on to their final destination for the season.

Bright blue water with white cresting waves near the shore sits to the left. On the right is a long sandy beach that spreads to the horizon line. Wooded dunes extend from the beach and into the distance. A stone building sits on the beach with a parking lot behind it.

Before you head out on your beginner birding adventure, here are some tips to help you get started.

Check out the Indiana Dunes Self-Guided Birding Tour

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Our self-guided birding tour lists six of the top birding locations in the area, as recommended by local birders. You'll explore the lakeshore area, wetlands, woods, and urban parks, giving you the chance to view a large variety of different birds. It's like a cheatsheet for birding in the Indiana Dunes.

Birding Tour

Use tools to help you identify birds

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A good pair of binoculars and a field guide are essential tools for birding. Binoculars will help you get a closer look at birds, and a field guide will help you identify the species you spot. If you're new to birding, consider investing in a beginner's guide to birds of the region. There are also many apps that will not only identify birds based on their appearance but also their calls!

Bird at Miller Woods

If you're just dipping your toe into birdwatching or are interested in learning about other animals in the dunes, consider checking out a free backpack through our Backpacks for Naturalists program. The backpacks have binoculars, field guides, and fun activities.

Download a bird checklist

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By printing out an expert-approved bird checklist, you turn birding into a classic scavenger hunt! You can mark off birds once you have seen them and quickly view birds you still need to find. This can be especially entertaining for families or groups! This bird checklist, created by the Indiana Audubon Society, is a great one for the Indiana Dunes area. 

Birders at Cowles Bog

Pick the right time

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Early May is our birding extravaganza! Spring migration brings hundreds of different species of birds to the Indiana Dunes area. Birders come from all over the country to the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, which takes place each year in early May. During this time period, the spotting of songbirds like warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers is peaking. The shoreline is prime viewing for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other migratory birds in May. If you stop by the birding tower at the Indiana Dunes State Park, you'll see a community bird list where birders track the species they have seen. 

Indiana Dunes Birding Tower

Birding is best done in the early morning when birds are most active. If mornings aren't your cup of tea, the late afternoon can also lead to some good bird sightings. 

We hope these beginner tips will help you try out birding in the Indiana Dunes and explore all our area has to offer!

Grab a copy of this self-led birding tour, and visit six of the Indiana Dunes area birding recommended by local birders. Spectacular birds are waiting for you. Can you spot 'em all?

Looking for vacation deals? Sign up for the free Indiana Dunes Deals Pass! Discounts ranging from a free scoop of ice cream to savings on attractions are like finding buried treasure.

Sign up at indianadunes.com/experiences.