Nature Trails

Bird Watchers Nature Trail

Rhode Island is truly a Mecca for bird watching enthusiasts. With its diverse landscape and concentrated wildlife, you won’t have to travel far to observe more than 300 bird species found in Rhode Island. The temperate climate of the Northeast combined with the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean attracts an assortment of dazzling birds throughout the Ocean State, from Eurasian Wigeons and Peregrine Falcons to Horned Larks and the majestic Bald Eagle.

The majority of migrant birds pass through during spring on their way to nesting grounds in northern New England and Canada, then again in fall on the way to wintering grounds in the southern United States and the tropical regions of Central and South America.

Along this trail you will find some of the best bird watching spots in the state along with nature trails and environmental resource centers, parks, a zoo, charming villages, unmatched local cuisine and more.


Falcon

map key Arcadia Management Area
Arcadia covers a total land area of 13,817 acres and is the largest of the state’s management areas. The area is dominated by forest cover (11,576 acres) in mixed species deciduous forest (64 percent) and evergreen (36 percent), principally white pine. Fresh water wetlands include swamps, shrub wetlands, marshes and open water bodies.

The area attracts a wide variety of non-game species providing opportunity for wildlife observation of songbirds and raptors. Typical game birds include ruffed grouse, wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant and bobwhite. Both pheasants and bobwhite are stocked by the state during the hunting season. West Greenwich, Exeter, Hopkinton and Richmond, 401-539-2356, www.riparks.com

Birdhouses

map key Kettle Pond Visitor Center
The National Wildlife Refuges of Rhode Island is devoted to the conservation and development of healthy habitat for flora and fauna at the NWRRI, and the provision of a safe, accessible ecological experience for visitors. The association promotes the benefits of the refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge System to the community through public education and interpretation, and supports the refuge staff through projects designed to accomplish the goals of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan for all the refuges in Rhode Island. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Kettle Pond Visitor Center, 50 Bend Rd., Charlestown, www.friendsnwr-ri.org

map key Trustom Pond Refuge
Trustom Pond Refuge encompasses more than 640 acres of varied wildlife habitat, including fields, shrub lands, woodlands, freshwater ponds and swamps. The 160-acre Trustom Pond, Rhode Island's only coastal pond free from shoreline development, is a highlight of the refuge.        

Approximately 300 bird species seasonally inhabit the refuge along with sixty species of varied wildlife. The refuge remains as one of the few East Coast nesting sites for the least tern and the endangered piping plover. The refuge’s beach is closed during the nesting season (April–August) to reduce human disturbance to the birds.

Different seasons bring different species to Trustom Pond Refuge throughout the year including the osprey, bobolink, monarch butterfly, hawk and many more. Contact the refuge for more information. 3679 D Old Post Rd., Charlestown, 401-364-9124, www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=53545

map key The Norman Bird Sanctuary
Norman Bird Sanctuary’s land is known throughout New England for the beauty of its geographical features and for the diversity of its natural habitats. The sanctuary's 450 acres are maintained to supports an abundance of species including pheasant, nesting song birds, rabbit and fox. Four craggy ridges made of erosion-resistant rock break the sanctuary’s woodlands into isolated valleys. Beyond the ridges, the land slopes down to brackish marsh. The refuge also maintains a trail system for public use and offer programs in nature study. 583 Third Beach Rd., Middletown, 401-846-2577, www.normanbirdsanctuary.org

Bird Shoreline

map key Sachuset Point
Sachuest Point serves as an important stopover and wintering area for migratory birds. The refuge consists of approximately 250 acres of various habitats from salt and freshwater marshes, to grasslands, sandy beaches and dunes. Three miles of trails wind their way through upland areas and along the rocky shore. The observation platforms offer visitors panoramic views of refuge lands and abundant wildlife. The refuge is a great place to watch wildlife with more than 200 bird species including harlequin ducks, scoters and eiders. Sachuest Point Dr., Middletown, 401-364-9124, www.fws.gov/refuges/

map key Block Island National Wildlife Refuge
Block Island is internationally recognized as one of the most important migratory bird habitats on the East Coast, attracting hundreds of "birders" to the island each year.

Refuge lands on Block Island are most notable for the large concentration (more than seventy species) of migratory songbirds. Located in the Atlantic flyway, many young, inexperienced songbirds "overfly" the mainland and stopover on Block Island before continuing their migration. The refuge also provides habitat for the endangered American Burying Beetle, supporting the only population of this species known east of the Mississippi River. Piping plover appear on the island (a threatened species) as do four other state species of concern. The refuge is also home to the largest gull colony in New England. Corn Neck Rd., Block Island, 401-364-9124, www.fws.gov/refuges/

Audubon Edu Center

map key The Audubon Environmental Education Center
The Audubon Environmental Education Center is a state-of-the art natural history museum and aquarium offering many natural wonders to explore. Look inside a thirty-three-foot life-size Right Whale, discover life in a tide pool, observe Narragansett Bay 's marine life, visit a rare blue lobster or even explore a cornfield at night. The center's interactive exhibits feature local habitats and offer many fun ways to enjoy nature.

Situated on the twenty-eight-acre McIntosh Wildlife Refuge, the Environmental Education Center has walking trails with a quarter-mile boardwalk that winds through fresh and saltwater marshes leading to a majestic view of Narragansett Bay. The refuge is along the East Bay Bike Path allowing bikers and walkers access to the refuge's natural beauty.

The center offers guided tours, nature walks, special family programs and much more throughout the year. The facility and trails are handicapped accessible. 1401 Hope St., Bristol, 401-245-7500, www.asrieec.org

Audubon Center

map key Audubon Society of Rhode Island
An independent state environmental organization, you can walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski on a beautiful refuge, borrow a book, video or DVD, arrange a classroom program, learn about bird feeding, how animals survive the winter, vernal pools and more, host a child's birthday party, buy a nature related gift, sign your child up for summer day camp, or participate in a wide menu of programs. 12 Sanderson Rd., Smithfield, 401-949-5454, www.asri.org

map key Powder Hill Sanctuary
120-acre refuge harbors ASRI's headquarters. The refuge has fine stands of pines, a pond and a brook. The headquarters has a library, gift shop, teacher's resource center and bird feeding station. Read about the refuge's rich history. Sanderson Rd., Smithfield, 401- 949-5454, www.asri.org

Gease

map key Roger William Park and Zoo
Nestled within 430 acres of the beautifully landscaped grounds of Roger Willliams Park is the award-winning Roger Williams Park Zoo with more than 100 species of animals. The zoo is home to rare and fascinating animals from around the world including elephants, giraffes, giant anteaters, a snow leopard, kangaroos, moon bears, gibbons and others all in naturalistic settings. Roger Williams Park Zoo is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Closes at 2pm on the last Saturday of June. The Zoo is the site of Hasbro's Our Big Backyard, a unique outdoor play area, and the acclaimed Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, held annually on most evenings in October. 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, 401-785-3510, www.rwpzoo.org


Rhode Island Rare Bird Alert

  • Hotline: 401-949-3870
  • Report: 401-949-7301

Great side trips for outdoor fun:

  • Enjoy tours and wine tastings at Newport Vineyards and Winery, Greenvale Vineyards and Sakonnet Vineyards, all located within a twenty minute drive of each other, and close to many bird watching sites in Newport County.

  • Stop by Rhode Island’s newest winery, Langworthy Farm Winery in Westerly, after a day of bird watching in South County.

  • Try the fine Pinot Noir at Diamond Hill Vineyards, where they grow ten acres of the classic French grape.

Here are some tips on shopping along the trail.

  • Pick up a selection of field guides, educational toys, postcards and more at the Barn Owl Gift Shop. Norman Bird Sanctuary Visitor’s Center, 583 Third Beach Rd., Middletown, 401-846-2577, www.normanbirdsanctuary.org

  • Whether you’re in the East Bay or Blackstone Valley, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island's Nature Shops carry birding, nature and hiking guides, binoculars, bird seed, birdhouses, feeders and more. Powder Mill Ledges, 12 Sanderson Rd., Smithfield,
    401-949-5454; Environmental Education Center, 1401 Hope St., Bristol, 401-245-7500

Did you know?

  • The Rhode Island Red Hen became the state’s official bird on May 3, 1954.

  • Owls cannot rotate their eyes, but they have very flexible necks that allow their heads to rotate up to 270 degrees.

  • More than 150 bird species have been recorded on Block Island alone, many of them passing through during their first fall and spring migrations.

  • Peregrine Falcons can reach flight speeds of up to 200 mph.

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  • ASRI’s Environmental Education Center, a state-of-the art natural history museum and aquarium, offers family and school programs, guided tours, nature walks and more. The center's interactive exhibits feature local habitats and offer many fun ways to enjoy nature. 1401 Hope St., Bristol, www.asri.org

  • Hathaway Library at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island has a CD-ROM detailing many North American birds and other birding reference materials including natural history and environmental books, video and audio tapes, magazines, journals and a knowledgeable volunteer staff. 12 Saunderson Rd., Smithfield, www.asri.org

  • The Norman Bird Sanctuary presents numerous education birding programs including nature day camps, family exhibits, guided bird walks, build-your-own birdhouse and even gentle yoga and tai chi classes. Their website has local bird information, bird and geology quizzes and much more. 583 Third Beach Rd., Middletown, 401-846-2577, www.normanbirdsanctuary.org