Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Photo: Brian Maley

A.K.A. Sapsucker Woods!

You’ll probably feel left out if you leave your binoculars at home.

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Ithaca, NY

42.479616, -76.449613

Trail Information

Total Trail Length: 4 mi.

Maintained By

Cornell University


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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, more commonly known as Sapsucker Woods, is a birding haven and a great resource for long-time birders and those with an aspiring interest.  Four miles of trails wander through the 230-acre sanctuary, with multiple interconnected loops that can be intermixed for longer trips.  The mostly level trails weave through deep woods, atop boardwalks in swamps, and beside ponds bursting with wildlife of all kinds.

Bird watching is clearly the main activity and you’ll probably feel left out if you leave your binoculars at home.  Like many nature centers, dogs are not allowed and, to maximize your observations, a leisurely pace will prove more rewarding than a vigorous one.  Though the sanctuary is small and near a major road, a chorus of vibrant birdsongs along the trails drowns out all but the most persistent sounds of civilization.

While one visit is certainly a thoroughly enjoyable experience, visits throughout the seasons will reveal not only different species, but different nesting, mating, and migration activities as well.  For the novice, the center offers informative seasonal guides online and a trail map with a handy sighting checklist at the visitor center.

The checklist ties in with, an online checklist program started by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.  By actively encouraging the collection of data from both amateurs and professionals, scientists hope to expand their knowledge of bird populations and migratory patterns.  It is one of many bird-related, citizen-scientist projects that the lab has created to expand interest and research in birds and by extension the natural environment.

And above all, don’t forget your binoculars!  But if you do, binoculars are available within the visitor center.

The Lab’s web site is informative and extensive, with many useful tools for learning more about birding.  It is also extremely useful in staying up to date about ongoing events and presentations at the lab.

The visitor center, the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds & Biodiversity, is an artful building, literally and figuratively, that has a theater, sound kiosks, exhibits, as well as ongoing lectures and presentations.  It also has a vast glass wall facing Sapsucker Woods Pond with several scopes to observe the pond should the weather turn inclement.  While trails are open dawn to dusk, the visitor center is open 10 AM – 4 PM.  Ongoing studies and observation take place on the grounds so don’t be surprised to see scientists and experiments at work throughout the property.

And above all, don’t forget your binoculars!

(But if you do, binoculars are available within the visitor center.)

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