Wine and Birding Destinations That Shouldn’t Fly Under Your Radar

Kookaburra at Aravina Estate, Western Australia / Courtesy Tourism Australia

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.

Landscape of Willcox Winery with mountains in background
Willcox Wine Country / Credit Mark Lipczynski

Arizona

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.

Nothern Harrier in flight above field
Northern Harrier / Photo by Mick Thompson

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.

Sandhill cranes and other birds in flight at Willcox Playa Wildlife Area, Arizona
Sandhill cranes and other birds in flight at Willcox Playa Wildlife Area, Arizona / Alamy

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.

Close up of Steller's jay, a relative of the blue jay, native to the Western U.S. / Photo courtesy Sonoma County Tourism
Close up of Steller’s jay, a relative of the blue jay, native to the Western U.S. / Photo courtesy Sonoma County Tourism
Closeup of trained falcon used to guard Sonoma vineyards from starlings
Trained falcon used to guard Sonoma vineyards from starlings / Getty

Venture inland to explore the freshwater wetlands of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, where 200 bird species have been sighted. Nearby tasting rooms include Hanna Winery and Balletto Vineyards.

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.

Aerial view of Colorado National Monument / Photo by John Fielder
Aerial view of Colorado National Monument / Photo by John Fielder

Colorado

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.

Hike Your Way Through Wine Country

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.

Azura Cellars and Gallery, overlooking Colorado's West Elk Mountains / Photo by John Fielder
Azura Cellars and Gallery, overlooking Colorado’s West Elk Mountains / Photo by John Fielder

Grand Valley vineyards include Colterris Winery, where you can try Petit Verdot at an outdoor pavilion overlooking the river, and Plum Creek Cellars, with a daily tasting menu of 10 different wines.

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.

Cayuga Lake, part of New York's Finger Lakes, from above / Getty
Cayuga Lake, part of New York’s Finger Lakes, from above / Getty

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.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak, which appear frequently in mid-spring / Photo by Marcia Klue, courtesy Buttonwood Grove Winery
Male rose-breasted grosbeak, which appear frequently in mid-spring / Photo by Marcia Klue, courtesy Buttonwood Grove Winery

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.

Great horned owl at Raptor Ridge during Wings over Wines picnic / Photo by Tim Hoist
Great horned owl at Raptor Ridge, in Newberg, Oregon, during Wings over Wines picnic / Photo by Tim Hoist

Oregon

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.

Raptor gliding above Raptor Ridge Winery during Wings over Wine event/ Photo by Tim Holst
Raptor gliding above Raptor Ridge Winery during Wings over Wine event / Photo by Tim Holst

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.

Striated pardalote perched in a tree in the Cygnet River locality of Kangaroo Island, South Australia / Photo courtesy Exceptional Kangaroo Island
Striated pardalote perched in a tree in the Cygnet River locality of Kangaroo Island, South Australia / Photo courtesy Exceptional Kangaroo Island

Australia

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.

How to Camp Through Wine Country

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 of multi-day walking and houseboating expeditions.

Take the ferry from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island and visit one of the local birding areas to glimpse a glossy black cockatoo before visiting the island’s wineries. Guests can visit Dudley Wines’ Clifftop Cellar Door to taste Shearing Shed Red, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot, or try one of French winemaker Jacques Lurton’s vintages at The Islander Estate Vineyards.

If you could use some time off your feet, Golding Wines in the Adelaide Hills lets you sip and take in the wildlife from the comfort of a handwoven tasting nest, as part of their NIDO experience.

Birding and wine tasting outdoors t Viña Almacruz, Cochagua Valley, Chile / Photo by Jorge Valenzula, Far South Expeditions
Birding and wine tasting at Viña Almacruz, Cochagua Valley, Chile / Photo by Jorge Valenzula, Far South Expeditions

Chile/Argentina

The Altos de Lircay National Reserve is home to Magellanic woodpeckers, burrowing parrots and Andean condors. Visitors to the 17,600-acre La Campana National Park might glimpse a Chilean mockingbird, dusky-tailed canastero, moustached turca or green-backed firecrown. Vineyards in the nearby Casablanca Valley include Catrala, which produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir.

A many-colored rush tyrant in Chile / Photo by Jorge Valenzuela, Far South Expeditions
A many-colored rush tyrant in Chile / Photo by Jorge Valenzuela, Far South Expeditions

Burrowing parakeets and spectacled ducks can be spotted at Lake Colbún, which isn’t far from the Colchagua Valley. Stop by Viu Manent, or try the Carménère at Montes.

Far South Expeditions offers an Andes-spanning Birds & Wines of Chile & Argentina Tour, with an itinerary to vineyards in the Maipo Valley, Colchagua Valley and Mendoza regions.

Bird taking flight over vineyard in Alsace, France
Alsace, France / Getty

France

Extending through the Rhône River delta south of Arles, the 300-square-mile Camargue is one of France’s largest nature preserves. The Regional Nature Park includes a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve and is considered one of Europe’s most important wetlands.

The reserve provides a home to over 400 species of birds, including the greater flamingo, moustached warbler, reed bunting and the slender-billed gull. Visitors may also glimpse a variety of egrets, terns, avocets, gulls and cranes. The Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau is open daily, with trails and observation areas.

Magpie in vineyard in Rousset, France / Getty
Magpie in vineyard in Rousset, France / Getty

Nearby, the family-run, organic vineyard at Mas de Valériole has a tasting room in a repurposed dovecote, where it’s not unusual for birds to fly in and out. The Isle Saint Pierre winery is located on an island in the middle of the Rhône, where visitors can enjoy an hour-long nature hike on a path leading from the vineyard to the river’s edge.

Bird-watching travelers can also explore any of the 446 vineyards and cellars along the Provence Wine Route, including Château Vignelaure and Château des Bertrands.

For those who prefer a guided tour, Wings Birding Tours Worldwide offers a Birding à la Française itinerary that celebrates the birds, wine, and cheese of Southern France.

Published on September 27, 2021
Topics: Outdoors