The next time you visit wine country, pack a pair of binoculars. From hummingbirds to raptors, owls and cranes, there are an array of avian habitats where vineyards are located.
Here are some of wine country’s best birding locales.
The southeast corner of Arizona is a birder’s paradise, with diverse mountain, grassland and desert habitats that support a variety of species. The Tucson Audubon Society offers a detailed birding trail map with 45 of the best viewing sites in the area.
Visit the Society’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, near Patagonia, to look for violet-crowned hummingbirds, gray hawks, thick-billed kingbirds and any of the area’s 213 recorded species. Check out the birding trail at nearby Patagonia Lake State Park before stopping at one of Sonoita’s tasting rooms. Rune Wines focuses on wild yeast fermented bottlings at their off-grid, solar-powered facility.
Around Willcox, you’ll find bird-watching locations like the Playa, where over 20,0000 sandhill cranes land each winter (celebrated during January’s Wings over Willcox festival) and Cochise Lake, where ducks, grebes, white-faced ibis and stilt sandpiper abound.
Willcox is also a booming wine region, producing 74% of Arizona’s wine grapes, including Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the historic Willcox Commercial Building you can taste wines from Golden Rule Vineyards, Copper Horse Vineyard and Strive Vineyards.
California (Sonoma County)
Thanks to its position along the Pacific Flyway, a major cross-continental migratory path, Sonoma County is home to a rich variety of bird life. More than 450 species have been recorded throughout the region’s ocean, marsh, forest and meadow habitats.
The Madrone Audubon Society has a detailed map of birding locations as well as a free app. Prime viewing areas include Bodega Harbor, an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area (IBA), where you might see black rail, brant, ferruginous hawk, peregrine falcon, northern harrier and Savannah sparrow along the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail or in Doran Regional Park.
Avian-friendly Sonoma vineyards include Paradise Ridge Winery, which worked with The Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County to re-home a pair of rescued baby barn owls in the vineyard’s owl boxes. Visit the villa at Viansa Winery, which overlooks a 97-acre wetland preserve, to spot herons, egrets or geese from the hilltop terrace.
The Grand Valley Birding Trail maps 15 of the best viewing sites near Grand Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), including the spectacular Colorado National Monument, an Audubon IBA. There, you might spot a black-throated gray warbler, Gambel’s quail, golden eagle, broad-tailed hummingbird, prairie falcon or peregrine falcon.
Grand Junction’s 24-mile, paved Riverfront Trail follows the Colorado River, where you can often see blue heron and bald eagles. Detour onto the Audubon Trail to reach Connected Lakes, where over 200 bird species have been recorded, including the Bullock’s oriole, yellow warbler, and both plumbeous and warbling vireos.
The Fruitgrowers Birding Trail traces 14 top spots in and around the West Elks AVA, including Fruitgrowers Reservoir, an Audubon IBA known for sandhill cranes, snowy plover and white-faced ibis. Afterwards, stop by Stone Cottage Cellars for some Gewürztraminer, then meander over to The Storm Cellar for a side-by-side tasting of their dry and off-dry Riesling.
New York (Finger Lakes)
New York’s Finger Lakes region is packed with birding and wine adventures. The Montezuma Audubon Center provides maps and guides to the 30,000-acre Montezuma Wetlands Complex. This National Audubon Society-designated IBA is part of the Atlantic Flyway with over a million migratory birds passing through each year. Look for bald eagles, cerulean warblers, green heron, pied-billed grebe and short-eared owls.
The renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers four miles of bird-friendly trails and an education center amid the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary.
Nearby, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail wends its way through the Cayuga Lake AVA, where 14 wineries produce everything from Riesling to Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and more. Visitors can dock boats at Thirsty Owl Wine Company to enjoy a glass of Gewürztraminer (rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast) while scouting wildlife by the lake.
Six Eighty Cellars offers wild-fermented Riesling and semicarbonic Cabernet Franc made in traditional stone and clay vessels. Or, venture to Buttonwood Grove Winery and taste local Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or a pét-nat Riesling.
The Willamette Valley Birding Trail and Oregon Cascades Birding Trail provide detailed, downloadable maps of hundreds of viewing areas. Birders might find the fox sparrow, tree swallow and streaked horned lark.
The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge has recorded nearly 200 species of birds, including hooded mergansers, gadwalls, buffleheads, bald eagles and black-capped vireo. Meanwhile, the 635-acre Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve has trails, a nature center and observation deck. Stop in at nearby Ponzi Vineyards, known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, or try organic, biodynamic wines at Copper Mountain Vineyards.
Wings over Wine partners with Oregon vineyards to release rehabilitated native birds of prey on their property. Not only do the bird-loving owners of Raptor Ridge Winery participate in the program, they also regularly host birding groups who sip Pinot Noir or Grüner Veltliner on the vineyard’s “Flight Deck” while keeping an eye out for red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, osprey, bald eagles, kestrels and great horned owls.
Nesting boxes placed around the vineyard provide shelter for insect-controlling species like barn swallows.
Located on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park is devoted to protecting shorebirds, including the samphire thornbill, curlew sandpiper, ruddy turnstone and eastern curlew. Some of the 27,000 migratory birds who stop here each year travel from as far as Alaska and Siberia.
In McLaren Vale, Gemtree winery’s Eco Trail passes through a restored, biodiverse wetland area rich with bird life. Visitors can finish their walk with a taste of the winery’s biodynamic Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Banrock Station, in the Riverland region, produces a variety of wines, while also providing a habitat for over 190 recorded bird species. These include black swans, Australian shelducks, grey teals and whistling kites.
Also in Riverland, the Gluepot Reserve is a haven for threatened species. It’s home to one of the rarest birds in Australia, the black-eared miner, as well as malleefowl, red-lored whistler, regent parrot and Major Mitchell’s cockatoo. The Reserve has walking tracks, five bird hides and a visitor center. For in-depth tours of the Riverland area, Murray River Trails offers a variety…