Birding in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Audubon Pennsylvania has developed the Susquehanna River Birding & Wildlife Trail Interactive Trail Guide, which includes information on specific trails, the types of birds that are native to certain areas, directions and other details. The Susquehanna River Birding & Wildlife Trail website has this guide and additional birding information.

Lancaster County Pennsylvania is home to several prime locations to view bald eagles, including Brunner Island (on the west bank of the Susquehanna River about 15 miles downstream from Harrisburg) and Holtwood. The Holtwood Environmental Preserve, located on both shores of the lower Susquehanna in Lancaster and York Counties, provides more than 5,000 acres of lakeside recreational opportunities and facilities for camping, hiking, picnicking, boating, sightseeing, fishing and hunting. 

Lancaster is home to many parks and preserves that are great spots for bird watching. Many of these locations have several trails or open areas that are known for searching specific types of birds; seven are listed below:

Canal Towpath Trail
Trail Length - 4 miles
Over 229 bird species have been recorded since 1980. Spring birds include Tundra Swan, American Black Duck, Wood Duck, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Fall species include Killdeer, Bank Swallow (great swallow migration in September), gulls, and terns. Osprey, Green Heron, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Wood Thrush, and Indigo Bunting are summer residents. Carolina and Winter wrens frequent the canal walls during the colder months. Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Eastern Screech Owl, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, and Cedar Waxwing are found year-round. Wildlife includes Fowler's and American toads, and mink.

Holtwood Environmental Preserve
5000-acres located along the Susquehanna River in southern Lancaster County
Shenk's Ferry Wildflower Preserve, Pequea Creek Preserve, Pinnacle Overlook/Kelly's Run Natural Area, and Face Rock Overlook are all part of the preserve, and offer many hours of exploration of this wild part of Lancaster County. Seasonal programs and bird walks are also offered. Breeding birds found throughout Holtwood Environmental Preserve include Cerulean Worm-eating, Kentucky, and Yellow-throated Warblers; Louisiana Water thrush; Northern Parula; and Yellow and Black-billed cuckoos.

Conewago Recreation Trail
Trail Length - five-mile trail, formerly the Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad, passes through farmland and woodlands before meeting with the nine-mile Lebanon Rail-Trail.
Eastern Kingbird, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Red-winged Blackbird nest in prarie-like wet meadows along the trails mid-section near Route 743. Birds include migrating warbler species in spring, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Flicker, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Bluebird, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Cardinal, and Gray Catbird. Mammals include red fox and white-tailed deer.

Speedwell Forge Lake
106-acre Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Lake
An ideal spot for viewing migratory waterfowl. Migratory shorebirds can also be viewed in spring at the small mud flat area near the west end of the lake. The Lancaster Hiking Club maintains a 2.6-mile section of the 61-mile Conestoga Trail system, which provides foot access to the mature forest land. Species include Bald Eagle, Osprey, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Green Heron. Black-crowned Night-Herons are often found near the dam.

Chickies Rock County Park
Trails descending to the railroad bed are steep; exercise caution when hiking. This area offers restricted hunting in season, so plan accordingly. Birds you may find here include Bald Eagle, Osprey, Snow Goose, Tundra Swan, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, and migrating songbirds in spring.

Muhlenberg Native Plant and Wildlife Meadow
Part of the larger Lancaster County Central Park
Features native flowering plants and seven species of grasses adapted to meadows. The meadow provides food and cover for a variety of wildlife, including Common Yellow throat, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Indigo Bunting, and Eastern Bluebird. Visit the adjacent Exhibit Farmhouse for Baltimore Oriole and Eastern Kingbird. White-tailed deer and eastern cottontail are also commonly seen.

Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area
6254-acre area owned and managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission
An exceptional location for viewing nesting, migrating, and wintering birds. Throughout the season, over 280 species of birds might be found, with 104 species of breeding birds. Diverse habitats support this incredible array of bird species, including a 400-acre lake, farm fields, an array of ponds and marshy potholes, grasslands, and forest. Some 23 species of ducks, five species of geese, as well as loons, cormorants, and grebes can be viewed during migration at Middle Creek. Herons, egrets, bitterns, rails, plovers, and sandpipers are also found. Nesting Bald Eagle, Osprey, hawks, red fox, and white-tailed deer are also present, as well as warblers during migration. Grassland birds, such as Bobolink and Eastern Meadow lark, are also common.

For more birding sites, check out the Lancaster County Bird Club.

For more recommendations on how to enjoy the outdoors in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, visit the Lancaster County Department of Parks & Recreation.

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