Find Your Flock: 6 Premier Perches for Birding in Nevada

Find Your Flock: 6 Premier Perches for Birding in Nevada

Whether you’re a bona fide bird nerd or a fledgling fan of our fine feathered friends, discover six of Nevada’s best birdwatching locales.

Nevada’s vast and diverse landscapes hold many secrets, not the least of which is their popularity with birds. While it may come as a surprise, the number of recorded bird species visiting, breeding, or living here in the Sagebrush State is a whopping 488. Operative word there: species

In addition, each year, hundreds of thousands of birds following the north-south path between Alaska and Patagonia — the Pacific Flyway — can be seen making a pitstop right here in Nevada.

And yet, Nevada tends to remain far off most birders’ radar. In fact, according to the Great Basin Bird Observatory, our state is one of the most “under-birded” regions in the country.

But! That just means you’re even more likely to to have some of these primo perches all to yourself.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

In all, there are 40 Audubon Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Nevada — 36 with state priority classification and four with global priority status. This translates to approximately 16,585 square miles of land just begging birders to flock to.

Lahontan Valley Wetlands


Keep Your Eyes Peeled For:

  • Wilson’s Phalarope
  • Baird’s and Pectoral Sandpipers
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Black-necked Stilt

If you’re a shorebird or a waterfowl riding the Pacific Flyway over Nevada, chances are good that you’ll splash down somewhere in the Lahontan Valley Wetlands IBA — a classification used to “identify, monitor, and protect the most important places for birds” — near Fallon. Especially among the watery grandeur of Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge, bird numbers reach 250,000 during migration events, and the area provides vital nesting and wintering habitat.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

The wetlands within Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge can be explored via various boat launches, by vehicle, or along walking paths. If you have a kayak or canoe, bring it.

Great Basin National Park

Baker / Ely

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For:

  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Black-throated Gray, MacGillivray’s Orange-crowned, and Wilson’s Warbler
  • Yellow-breasted Chat
  • Black Rosy-Finch

The vastness of time and space is almost palpable in eastern Nevada’s Great Basin National Park. With biomes ranging from subalpine forests to grasslands, the park attracts birds from as far away as South America and the Caribbean.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

In post-snow months, start at the visitor center area and travel along Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive to the northeastern section of the park. Non-bird bonuses include the world’s oldest living trees (bristlecone pines) and Nevada’s last active glacier. Always confirm with the NPS that the road is open for the season before you go.

Franklin Lake IBA & Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Elko / Wells / Lamoille

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For:

  • White-faced Ibis
  • Black, Caspian, and Forster’s Terns
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Violet-green Swallow
  • Golden Eagle

These sister locations of marshes, islands, riparian habitat, meadows, grasslands, and shrub-steppe sit at 6,000 feet and include more than 200 pristine springs. Fifteen thousand acres of seasonal wetlands in the Franklin Lake IBA and 37,632 acres within Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge are five miles apart in northeastern Nevada.

The Ruby Mountains rise to elevations of 11,000 feet, adding forested mountain slopes, canyons, and cliffs to the landscape. More than 225 bird species occupy these ecosystems throughout the year. In springtime, this area provides critical food, resting, and nesting resources for a significant population of migratory birds.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

The Ruby Lake NWR South Marsh contains the highest quality habitat for canvasback nesting west of the Mississippi River. For birding by water, there are two boat ramp access points with marker poles for a channel navigation route. Visit the refuge headquarters for a trail map.

Monitor Valley IBA

Austin / Tonopah

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For:

  • Sage Thrasher
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Gray Flycatcher
  • Sagebrush Sparrow
  • Red-naped Sapsucker

If birding in rugged, isolated areas is your gig, then Monitor Valley IBA is your destination. This terrain — roughly between Austin and Tonopah — usually requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance (to be safe), and the usual off-road travel precautions should be taken. From the valley floors to the surrounding peaks, habitat diversity and protected public lands support hundreds of avian species.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

The road through the valley is graded gravel and usually passable, but can be challenging in wet spring seasons. For very good late-spring migrant birding — secondary roads off Monitor Valley Road can provide excellent vantage points, as long as they aren’t too muddy.

Bilk Creek–Montana Mountains IBA


Keep Your Eyes Peeled For:

  • Sage Thrasher
  • Gray Flycatcher
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Swainson’s Hawk

Overlapping the Oregon border near Denio is the rugged Bilk Creek–Montana Mountains IBA. Exceeding 500,000 acres, this remote landscape is mainly sagebrush. This location supports the largest state population — and one of the highest in the U.S. — of near-threatened sage-grouse. Hundreds of species migrate, breed, and reside in this IBA and surrounding lands.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Check along the Quinn River and Kings River Valley for more bird diversity in a remote setting. Secondary roads require 4WD high-clearance vehicles.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Las Vegas / Henderson / Boulder City

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For:

  • Western and Clark’s Grebes
  • Lucy’s Warbler
  • Phainopepla
  • LeConte’s Thrasher
  • Scott’s Oriole

Clark County is home to more than 400 recorded species, many of which reside on more than 1.5 million acres within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It is also an Audubon-designated IBA with countless places to post up — on foot, on a bicycle, or on the water — and train your eyes to the skies.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve is an urban birding gem. Nine ponds have wheelchair accessible and dirt walkways, benches, and an elevated platform — all for wildlife watching. Check out the visitor’s center for the latest sightings.