Acadia National Park Bird-watching

From National Geographic Guide to Birdwatching Sites, Eastern U.S.

even more appealing when its setting is one of the most beautiful areas on the northeastern coast. Acadia National Park attracts millions of visitors each year with its surf-splashed rocky headlands, rugged hills, and placid ponds. Birders enjoy all those attractions while searching for seabirds and a good assortment of nesting land birds. Mostly located on Mount Desert Island (other park areas are found on Isle au Haut, Baker Island, and the Schoodic Peninsula), Acadia is easily explored along paved roads and on hiking trails, including 57 miles [91.7 kilometers] of carriage roads—broad, level paths crisscrossing much of the park.  Acadia National Park

A bird list is available at the visitor center on Maine 3, north of Bar Harbor. Your next step might then be a drive up Cadillac Mountain for an overview of this dramatic landscape. In fall, Cadillac can be a productive hawk-watch site. From here you can look down on the islands off Bar Harbor, 1,530 feet [466 meters] below, where Osprey and Bald Eagle nest; Common Raven gives its croaking call as it passes by. Not far to the west, trails around Jordan Pond make a good introduction to some of the park’s nesting birds, including Ruffed Grouse, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Blue and Black-and-white Warblers, Ovenbird, and Dark-eyed Junco; in spring, you’ll hear the laughing call of Common Loon from the pond. As you drive the park’s Loop Road near Bar Harbor, stop at Acadia Wild Gardens for an introduction to some of the plants found on the island. Walk nearby trails for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Eastern Wood-Pewee; Alder and Least Flycatchers; Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, and Canada Warblers; and American Redstart. Continuing on the one-way Park Loop Road, stop to scan the cliffs of Champlain Mountain, where Peregrine Falcon nests. A few miles beyond, where the drive borders the Atlantic around Otter Point, watch for Common Eider, Black Guillemot, and other seabirds.

Some of the park’s best birding is found on the southwest part of Mount Desert, between the Seawall Campground and the famously picturesque Bass Harbor Head lighthouse. Walk the Wonderland Trail (1.4 miles [2.3 kilometers] round-trip) and the Ship Harbor Nature Trail (1.3-mile [2.1-kilometer] loop) and look for breeding Yellow-bellied and Alder Flycatchers, Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush, and warblers including Nashville, Black-throated Green, Palm, Wilson’s, Northern Parula, and American Redstart. Spruce Grouse might b e found here, too, but is rare and elusive.

In the warmer months, several companies offer whale-watching tours from Bar Harbor out into the Atlantic. Some also specialize in seabird-watching, with experienced onboard naturalists (cruise information available in Bar Harbor; Chamber of Commerce +1 207 288 3393). Though dependent on the season, and the luck of the day, some of the birds that might be seen on an offshore cruise are Common Loon; Greater, Sooty, and Manx Shearwaters; Wilson’s Storm-Petrel; Northern Gannet; Double-crested and Great Cormorants; Common Eider; Osprey; Bald Eagle; Red-necked and Red Phalaropes; Razorbill; and Atlantic Puffin.

For years, the Bluenose ferry between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was a favorite birding trip, offering the chance to see oceanic species from the vantage point of a large, stable ship. The crossing took around six hours each way, and birders scanned the waves for the species listed above, as well as uncommon to rare birds such as Northern Fulmar, Cory’s Shearwater, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Great and South Polar Skuas, Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Common and Thick-billed Murres. In 1998, the Bluenose was replaced with a new ship called The Cat (+1 207 288 3395 or 888 249 7245), which makes the crossing in 2.5 hours at speeds approaching 50 miles [80.5 kilometers] an hour. While this pelagic birding isn’t as leisurely as it once was, it’s still a convenient way to get out into the Gulf of Maine and search for birds seldom if ever seen from shore.