Just a few miles beyond the busy streets of Pennsylvania’s capital city and not far from the roar of Hersheypark’s coasters, fast-paced buzz and bustle fade to a peaceful quiet. The forested acres of outdoor spaces and rolling rivers and streams that cut through ridged valleys all play a part in creating habitats that are excellent locations for a variety of birds to take flight. They say, “Birds of a feather flock together,” so we invite you to travel with family or friends to explore some of the beautiful spaces where scores of different species take to the sky to soar and sing!
The following descriptions cover some popular birding spots near Hershey & Harrisburg. Each listing has a link to download a species checklist. How many will you see on your next visit?
Circle your calendar for late September when the viewing at this stunning location is at its prime. The famed Appalachian Trail is a bucket list activity and destination for through hikers, but birders can become day hikers with a climb atop Peter’s Mountain.
At 1,220 feet, this hawk migration corridor offers tremendous viewing opportunities. Take in the winged beauty in the air, and look down into the Susquehanna valley as the river winds under the Rockville Bridge.
You’ll see broad-winged hawks, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and tiny kestrels. Bald eagles are spotted here as well.
This expansive conservation area is bursting with wildlife. Birders can use a variety of trails to search for deep forest birds along with other animals like white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, grouse, black bears. See (and hear!) seasonal songbirds and be on the lookout for a variety of butterflies in late summer.
Eastern bluebird boxes are around the main parking lot. (Do not disturb the boxes.)
There is an open field at the top of the conservation area where birders can watch the annual hawk migration from mid-September to early December.
A variety of habitats leads to a variety of species! Little Buffalo State Park is a vast area with forested ridges as well as open areas around Holman Lake, an 88-acre lake that’s popular for fishing and kayaking.
Noted species of warblers found here include the common yellowthroat, yellow warbler, and blue-gray gnatcatcher. A mixture of open field and brush offers a great place for birding in early and mid-May. Edge and grassland species like the indigo bunting and yellow-rumped warbler are often found here in early spring.
Waterfowl and wetland species are abundant where Little Buffalo Creek enters Holman Lake on the western side of the body of water. Canada goose, mallard, blue-winged teal, merganser, bufflehead, common loon and ring-necked duck often use Many waterfowl use the lake as a rest stop during migration. Birders often see bald eagles and osprey near the lake.
With 400 acres of a mix of wooded and open areas, spring and fall often bring migrant species to and through this area of State Game Lands.
Birders have spotted Mourning, Golden-winged and Kentucky Warblers. This area can be reached from the Middletown - Hummelstown exit of Route 283.
Please note: Always wear fluorescent orange during hunting season when birdwatching on or near state game lands!
Winding from the town of Dauphin eastward to the Lebanon Reservoir, Stony Creek Valley is more than just a singular birdwatching location.
Enjoy a hike or a bike trip along the Stony Valley Rail Trail, an approximately 20-mile pathway through a scenic, forested area. Spring and fall migrants are routinely spotted along the trail.
Find interesting breeds such as Barred Owl, Whippoor-will, Red-shouldered Hawk, Blue-headed Vireo, Winter Wren, and many species of warblers. In cold weather, spot Pine Siskin or Red-breasted Nuthatch.
The Susquehanna River is a sight that stands on its own for both its beauty and history. That it is a major flyway for waterfowl and many other bird species is an added bonus for the casual birdwatcher to the most seasoned birder.
Local bird watchers enjoy a spot on the west shore of the river – West Fairview Point where the Conodoguinet Creek empties into the Susquehanna – that offers a view of Harrisburg’s skyline as well as lots of activity with waterfowl (especially in the spring) and shorebirds (when the water levels are lower).
Rare bird sightings in this location include Harlequin Duck, Least Tern, and Connecticut Warbler.
Just north of the city of Harrisburg, Fort Hunter is a quiet spot to discover many different species of birds, especially waterfowl. Double-crested Cormorants are often seen roosting on the rocks. Some rare bird sightings include Pomarine Jaeger, Red-necked Phalarope and Common Black-headed Gull.
This location on the Susquehanna River offers extraordinary landscape views in any season. Birdwatcher and a history buff? Enjoy a tour of the mansion or a walk over to the Centennial Barn.
Encircled by a mix of rugged trails and flat, gravel walking paths, Wildwood Lake is destination teeming with birds and a variety of wildlife.
The arrival of the Red-wing blackbird is a sure signal of spring at the lake. For summer, it’s the sightings of the American Goldfinch that mark the season. Rare bird sightings at Wildwood Lake include the Glossy Ibis, Little Blue Heron, and Red-necked Grebe.
Several feeders are set up near Olewine Nature Center not far from the lake. The center features a number of educational exhibits for children and anyone who enjoys nature!