Ah, spring! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and the wildlife is moving! Here is a short list of what you might find in our national parks. Check with your nearest park for information about wildlife watching opportunities.

a grizzly bear feeding on a bison carcass
Grizzy bear

NPS / Jim Peaco

When spring arrives and the snow begins to melt, bears start to wake up after months of hibernation. It is an exciting time of the year for bears and park visitors. When bears emerge from their dens, understandably hungry, they immediately begin to search for food. Never feed a bear, and be sure to store food and clean up thoroughly after meals. Learn more about bears in parks and follow these tips to stay safe.
Yellow-bellied marmot on a rock
Yellow-bellied marmot

NPS / Walt Kaesler

Marmots in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Yellow-bellied marmots spend over half their lives in hibernation. They live at high elevations where winters can be extreme. They enter their burrows in the fall and don't emerge until spring, usually in April or May. Marmots are the largest members of the squirrel family and can be two feet in length and weigh up to 11 pounds! Marmots can be seen at high elevations in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Peregrine Falcon in flight
Peregrine Falcon

NPS Photo / Gary Hartley

Peregrine Falcon at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

The spring and summer months are typically best for bird watching. Try to catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcon, the fastest bird in the world. In early summer this bird is typically found in the vicinity of the Painted Wall of Black Canyon the the Gunnison National Park.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

NPS Photo / Louise McLaughlin

Hummingbirds in Cabrillo National Monument, California

Most species (about 300!) of hummingbirds live in Central and South America, but about 26 species visit the U.S. during Spring. Their northern migration depends on the flowering times of native plants, so climate change can affect this synchronization. One species in particular, Anna’s hummingbird, calls Cabrillo National Monument home year-round. Another species, the Calliope hummingbird, typically makes its appearance in April. This species in the smallest bird in the U.S.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Firefly Event
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Firefly Event

Photo from Recreation.gov

Synchronous Fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

*Check dates for the 2017 firefly event on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website. Check with the park for parking passes and other information about the event.* The synchronous fireflies are the only species of firefly in the United States whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns. The males fly and flash while the females stay stationary and respond with flashes of their own. Peak season for fireflies is late May to mid-June.

sage grouse
Sage Grouse

NPS Photo

Greater Sage-Grouse in Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho

The Greater Sage-grouse is the largest grouse in North America. You can find them in Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. They’re known for their elaborate display behaviors during mating season, early March to mid-May. During the breeding season, males gather in open areas called leks. You can see them shaking their tail features and making throaty noises to catch the attention of females.

Alligator enjoying the sun's rays.
Alligator basking in the sun

NPS Photo

Alligator Mating Season in South Florida

Spring is mating alligator mating season in South Florida, and they can usually be seen in Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. Males can be seen, and heard, swimming while blowing bubbles across their back in order to attract a mate. Check out this video from Big Cypress to experience the sights and sounds of alligator mating season.

A small, brown spotted pickerel frog sits atop floating green leaves.
Pickerel frog

NPS Photo

Amphibians at Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

Check out some frogs and salamanders in Blue Ridge Parkway! The park has over 50 species of amphibians, and the list continues to grow. From late February through early March, amphibian migration occurs along the Parkway. If you’re ready to brave some cold puddles, you can see them moving in, waiting for the warmth of Spring.

Herring Swimming up Rock Creek

NPS Photo

Herring Migration in Rock Creek Park, District of Columbia

Have you ever seen a fish climb a ladder? Each year, thousands of herring migrate upstream to lay their eggs. Find them “climbing the ladder” each spring in Rock Creek Park.

Last updated: May 7, 2018

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