Northwest Indiana Birding Opportunities - Michigan City Harbor

Michigan City Harbor is a major birding hot spot in Indiana. According to Birds of the Indiana Dunes by Kenneth J. Brock, at least 40% of the rare and accidental species on the state checklist have occurred here.

Michigan City Harbor on Indiana Birding Trial

Two of the most recent and most rare sightings include Wandering Tattler and Lesser Sand Plover. Other significant sightings in the past forty years include King Eider, Northern Gannet, Magnificent Frigate bird, Slaty-backed Gull, Mew Gull, California Gull, Royal Tern, Arctic Tern, Long-billed Murrelet, Pine Grosbeak, and Kirtland's Warbler. Over the years, 33 species of waterfowl, 36 species of shorebirds, 29 species of warblers, 16 gull species, seven tern species, five grebe species, and three loon species have all seen at this remarkable site. In all, a total of 295 species have been seen here.

Michigan City Harbor includes the harbor, yacht basin, beaches, jetty, NIPSCO property immediately west of the harbor and other parts of Washington Park. It is recommended that birders park in the lot due north of the entrance. Use the concrete walkway that adjoins the beach. Scan the beach for gulls, shorebirds, and other birds that might be resting or lingering here. Scan the lake for birds that may be resting in the water. Upon arriving at the jetty, scan the harbor, the jetty, the outer breakwater and the NIPSCO property across the channel. Gulls, terns, waterfowl, and shorebirds can often be found here. In late November, Purple Sandpiper has been found among the rocks that adjoin the jetty. During good weather, you may walk the jetty to the light house. Walk around the lighthouse for a good vantage point to scope the outer break wall.

Snowy Owls have been seen perching on posts in the yacht basin in November and December and other species rest on the docks. In migration, it is possible to find a wide array of warblers, sparrows and other passerines in the grassy and wooded areas. Kirtland's Warbler, Clay-colored and Harris Sparrows, as well as other passerines have been found here during migration.

eBird Hotspot Link:

Total Birding Time:
1-5 hours.

Best Times to Bird: 
Michigan City Harbor is good for year-round birding. Both spring and fall migration can be quite good here. However, even in the summer and winter, birds will be found here. Early morning is the best time when beaches are free of people. However, times to bird vary according to season and migration. For example: in July, in the middle of the day, shorebirds, gulls and terns may be found on the outer break wall while the beaches are crowded.



115 N Lake Shore Dr.
Michigan City, IN 46360
Access this area by taking Franklin Street, (US Hwy 421) north crossing the Franklin St. bridge over Trail Creek that provides entry to Washington Park, its beaches and other areas previously mentioned. Hours: Pre-dawn to 10 pm. 
Ownership: City of Michigan City
Admission: Parking fees apply daily during summer months. Currently, these are $8.00 per car per day. Season passes are available.
Parking: The main parking lot, due north of the entrance gate, is best for access to the harbor and beach. Other parking is available throughout the park.
Restrictions: Parking lot may be full during busy summer weekends. Over-flow parking is often available. Dogs are not permitted in the park. During severe weather, the jetty and beaches may be closed.  
Nearby Amenities: Public restrooms are found at the NW corner of the parking lot. Restaurants and lodging are available throughout Michigan City.
Accessibility: Handicap accessible.

Written by: Lynea Hinchman
Photo by:
Lisa Vanderbilt