The Manx Sheerwater is usually thought of as a European bird, but Massachusetts is lucky to have a breeding colony just off the North Shore.
CREDIT: Manx Shearwater, Neil Bowman, Getty Images

A BirdING Festival for MAssachusetts

Where the birds are....

Back in 2019, when we were first thinking about a birding festival, we couldn’t resist. We had to know, so we dove into eBird and pulled out the data.

At that time (4/23/19), Massachusetts was one of just two states in the East with more than 500 species records on eBird. Florida was the other.

Since then, New York has also crossed the 500 mark and North Carolina is close.

What does it mean? Probably not much. The data could be an indication of eBirding activity in these states plus actual numbers of species.  Still, the numbers are interesting enough to provide some guideposts if you’re a birder focused on state lists or you want to do a state-level big year. (Maybe it’s also interesting if you’re thinking about attending a bird festival, too.)

A map of teh US

California, of course, is the birdiest state. The Golden State comes in with a dazzling 706 species. Its 163,696 sq. miles offer wildly diverse habitats and coastline. Going for a big year in California would be a great adventure. Put that on your bucket list along with any of California’s many wonderful birding festivals—San Diego, Point Reyes, and Godwit Days to name a few. 

Next up is Texas with 675 species in 268,596 sq. miles. With a fantastic list of resident birds combined with full-frontal migration, this number isn’t surprising. Also, Texas knows how to do birding. It’s a state with phenomenal natural areas, brilliant trip leaders, and festivals like the amazing Rio Grande Bird Festival which brings greater birders and many sharp eyeballs on every trip. Birding doesn’t get much better than Texas.

No other state tops 600–that does seem surprising. The next closest is Alaska at 566 species in a massive 663, 267 sq. miles—including many species found nowhere else. If a birder wanted to go for a state record, Alaska might be the place to do that. Or you could plan on attending the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival to score a few lifers. 

The southwest, with New Mexico (560 species in 121,590 sq miles) and Arizona (564 species in 113,990 sq. miles), is next. This region offers glorious birding with unique species and some excellent festivals for visitors. They’re followed by the great Pacific Northwest birding states of Oregon (546 species in 95,988 sq. miles, and Washington (527 species in 71,362 sq. miles ). From ducks to sea birds to the beautiful Varied Thrush, what’s not to love? Any birder would be happy to visit and explore or attend a festival in the Pacific Northwest.

How about the East Coast? Florida is a big birding destination with lots of good birds (556 in 65,755 square miles)—and the great Space Coast Festival is back after a brief hiatus. Despite a smaller list, Maine also offers great birds and fantastic festivals.

So what about Massachusetts Massachusetts has recorded 518 species in just 7,838 square miles. That is a lot less territory than these much bigger states.  The diversity of species here relative to the time spent traveling is hard to beat.

Consider, too, that New England as a whole (71,991 sq. miles) has a combined 561 species (here’s a link to the list]. That’s up there with Alaska, but with a lot less time spent on the road. Use Boston as a home base, and New England birding becomes quite a birding adventure. 

The birds are here. And they’re spectacular. That’s why we need a Boston Birding Festival

New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
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