Long Island is a prime location for bird watching, and it’s never too early to start.
“We have these nesting colonies and shorebirds, and all the bays and inlets,” said 15-year-old Avery Scott, a Williston Park resident who has been birding since he was 10 and is a member of the New York State Young Birders Club, which organizes field trips throughout the state.
Montauk resident Hannah Mirando, 16, who began birding at age 5 when her parents bought her a field guide, leads a young birding club at the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center in Bridgehampton. The club recently organized a viewing of just-hatched purple martin nestlings, and Mirando says the hobby is taking off.
“At the beginning, we weren’t really sure how many kids were going to attend,” says Mirando, who is going into her senior year at East Hampton High School. “At our last meeting, we had about 20 families show up.”
There are several places in both Nassau and Suffolk counties where kids and teens can see birds in the wild or simply learn more about our feathered friends.
North Shore Audubon Society
50 Barry Dr., Glen Cove
Families and teens are welcome to the various activities, including bird walks and a beach cleanup in September, organized by the group, which is based at the Garvies Point Preserve on the North Shore. Activities to fulfill Boy Scout and Girl Scout birding badges are also offered.
Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center
134 Cove Rd., Oyster Bay
Families can participate in the various organized events here, including bird banding in the winter to track migration, and they can also borrow binoculars for self-guided tours of the 12-acre property.
Garden City Bird Sanctuary
181 Tanners Pond Rd.
This seven-acre nature preserve, managed by a nonprofit, is open to the public, weather permitting, with no admission fee. A list of birds found at the sanctuary can be found on its website.
Center for Science Teaching & Learning
1450 Tanglewood Rd., Rockville Centre
While this science and nature center focuses on a variety of animals, with a live exhibit of birds, along with mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, the trails and pond on the 11-acre property are open year-round for families to do self-guided bird watching.
Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge
2595 Noyack Rd., Sag Harbor
The refuge organizes numerous bird-centered educational programs, but the draw here is that visitors are encouraged to allow chickadees to eat sunflower seeds right out of their hands as they walk along the self-guided, 1 1/2-mile nature trail.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge
3 Old Country Rd.
Birding activities are held for kids in the spring, and trails at this 305-acre nature preserve are open from sunrise to sunset year-round for self-guided birding.
South Fork Natural History Museum
377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton
Home to a popular young birding club, the museum also regularly offers birding-focused educational events for kids in its indoor galleries, which feature live and re-created natural habitat exhibits, and on the 40-acre Vineyard Field Preserve next to the museum.
Suffolk County Environmental Center
550 South Bay Ave., Islip
631-581-6908South Shore Nature Center
130 Bayview Ave., East Islip
Both centers, run by the Seatuck Environmental Association, offer weekend programs and also host an annual Birding Challenge in September, when participants try to find as many different bird species as they can during a 12-hour period. The Seatuck Summer Explorer Program at the South Shore Nature Center features a week specifically focused on birds.
New York State Young Birders Club
With 500 members from throughout New York (about half are from New York City and Long Island), this group organizes monthly bird-watching field trips throughout the state. A one-day conference every January includes a bird walk, presentations and a book swap. The organization also has a scholarship program.