• Spring is a great time for birding in Michigan. Our early migrants are back and settling in to woo a mate and raise a family; our late migrants are flooding through in great colorful waves as they race to be the first back to claim their own nesting spot.

    Some of those early signs of things warming up again are the return of species like red-winged blackbirds, turkey vultures, sandhill cranes, and Canada geese. These may not be rare and exciting birds at first glance, but their comfort in living around people gives us an opportunity to watch them as they go about their day.

    You'll want to invest in a pair of binoculars before you head out, but even $30-40 can buy basic all-purpose binoculars to help you start checking out the birds around you. If you need help or pointers, you can check out this binocular buying guide or watch this video: Binoculars: how it works or this video: Everything you need to know about binoculars. (The DNR does not endorse any of these companies, we are just pointing you towards some helpful information.)

Early migrants

  • A red-winged blackbird perched on a tree with blue sky background

    Red-winged Blackbird

    Find a damp weedy roadside ditch and enjoy the show as male red-winged blackbirds pop up ready for a fight in defense of their lady.

  • A pair of sandhill cranes with their baby colts
    Photo: Betsy Bloom/Iron Mountain Daily News

    Sandhill Cranes

    In early spring, sandhill cranes migrate to their breeding grounds. Try to catch a glimpse of their dance or hear their distinctive call.

  • Three turkey vultures sit perched in a spring tree

    Turkey Vultures

    Watch the skies at dawn and dusk for swirling back clouds of birds as kettles of turkey vultures rise out of or settle into their nightly roost site.

  • A pair of Canada geese

    Canada Geese

    Slow down to appreciate the stately stroll of a pair of Canada geese as they come back home for the summer and see what's changed since they've been gone.

Places to watch spring migration