USA Travel Magazine

           West Virginia Travel Guide

Find West Virginia's Best Migratory Bird Locations Near The Ohio, Kanawha And Monongahela Rivers 

Because West Virginia has such diverse habitat types and so many great places to view the numerous species of birds found here, it's a challenge to make a list of the state's best birding spots. Most think of winter as a slow time for birding. Many of the colorful migrant warblers, vireos and tanagers have gone south and only a few wintering species can occasionally be heard singing. Winter is the best time to see migratory and wintering waterfowl in West Virginia. More than 30 species of waterfowl have been reported from West Virginia. Some species live here all year, such as the wood duck, Canada goose and mallard.

All of the state's rivers, reservoirs and small impoundments serve as resting or feeding areas for migratory waterfowl, as long as they remain free of ice. Some good places to look are the state's major rivers: the Ohio, Kanawha and Monongahela, especially near locks and dams; and the Tygart, Little Kanawha, Potomac, Greenbrier, New, Gauley, Guyandotte and Tug Fork rivers. Other smaller rivers and streams are good places to look also, but normally the flocks of waterfowl will be in smaller numbers. All of these places make wonderful outings to get out and enjoy nature. Other bird species to keep an eye out for when visiting these areas are the many species of gulls and sandpipers along with our national symbol; the bald eagle. Bald eagle sightings are increasing in West Virginia around all major waterways and many of our reservoirs every winter.

As the snow thaws, and spring approaches West Virginia comes alive with bird song and flashes of color. More than 75 species of birds are known to breed in West Virginia. Many of these are neotropical migrants that winter in Central and South America. In fact, because of the excellent habitat and great numbers of neotropical migrants that nest in the state, West Virginia is considered an important source population of these neotropical migrants for surrounding states, where populations are declining.

One of the more popular springtime birding destinations is Kanawha State Forest, a particularly diverse area. Because of its geographic location, it is a crossover area for many northern and southern species of plants and animals, including birds. Nineteen species of warblers are known to nest in the area and some of the highest cerulean warbler densities in the state can be found here. Another good springtime birding spot is Short Mountain WMA. Various species of warblers, vireos and flycatchers can be found here as well as many interesting wetland species.

For excellent summer birding, the Monongahela National Forest is the place to be. Because of its high elevations, the Mon is a great place to view some unique bird species more associated with northern latitudes. Many colorful and interesting species of birds can be observed within the northern hardwood forest including northern goshawk, Swainson's thrush, hermit thrush, veery, and magnolia, black-throated blue and black-throated green warblers. Birds such as the bobolink, vesper sparrow and savannah sparrow can be found in many of these high elevation fields.

Bird watching in West Virginia is excellent at any time of the year. So no matter what season it is--summer, fall, winter or spring --opportunities await to view many species of birds in some of the most scenic areas of the Mountain State.

By Iris Dean

Getting There:

Discover recreation at Kanawha State Forest, and other areas as well as events, attractions and more to enjoy in the Charleston area by visiting the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau at