Wildlife Viewing Areas
 Search the U.S.
Find an AnimalFind a Viewing AreaPlan a TripAboutContact


Purchase the New York wildlife viewing guide

NY DEC Watchable Wildlife

Outdoor Discovery

Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary
Description: This 230-acre mix of upland hardwood forest, a pond and wetlands is just northeast of Cornell University. In 1909, four friends—including legendary bird artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes and noted ornithologist Arthur Allen—found a yellowbellied sapsucker’s nest here while birdwatching. Fuertes suggested they call the area Sapsucker Woods, and the name stuck. Forty-eight years later, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology was built here, realizing Allen’s dream of a permanent home for bird research and collections. Perhaps you’ll see the yellow-bellied sapsucker among the more than 225 bird species recorded in these world-famous woods.

When you arrive, your first stop should be a visit to the architecturally striking Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity, which houses the Lab of Ornithology. After enjoying all the fascinating things the center has to offer, sit comfortably indoors and gaze out the two-story observation windows overlooking the pond and listening to the natural sounds “piped in” from outside. Later, take a walk on the trails that thread through the woods.

Wildlife to Watch: Follow rhythmic tapping to find yellow-bellied sapsuckers, little downy and big pileated woodpeckers. Look for kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks that feed on large insects and smaller bird species, like American goldfinches, scarlet tanagers and warbler varieties. Marvel at tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds, back feathers glistening like emeralds as they hover from flower to flower. Handsome blue jays noisily make their presence known, while the cardinal’s swooping song and bright red feathers give it away.

Graceful great blue herons wade in the pond looking for fish and frogs to feast on. Mallards, hooded mergansers, wood ducks and Canada geese are the most common waterfowl to frequent the pond from spring through fall. Big snapping turtles lurk below the surface looking for unsuspecting ducklings and goslings to drag under with their vise-like jaws. Eastern painted turtles and common garter snakes are other reptiles to look for.

White-tailed deer appear in the woods at dawn and dusk. Red squirrels can be found chattering in the treetops, and chipmunks scurry around the forest floor throughout the day. In the evening, you may see muskrats feeding on water plants in the pond, while above, little brown and big brown bats swoop after insects.

Special Tips: Admission to the lab and woods is free. Trails are open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Check the website (see contact information below) for visitors center hours.

This site has some accessible features, including the visitors center.

800-843-2473, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850,


Ownership: Cornell University 
Size: 230 
Closest Town: Ithaca

RestroomsParkingHikingVisitor Center

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary Photo by Diane Tessaglia-Hynes
Please see map link below

Driving Directions:
From Syracuse, take Rte. 81 south to exit 12; follow Rte. 281 south to Rte. 13 south. In Dryden, turn right at the four-way stop; then travel about 6 miles (still on Rte. 13). Continue straight through the traffic light at Rte. 366, then left onto Hanshaw Rd. at the next traffic light. Turn right at the stop sign to continue on Hanshaw Rd., and turn right again onto Sapsucker Woods Rd. after about 1 mile (look for binocular signs as you approach). The Johnson Center is about 1 mile down Sapsucker Woods Rd. on the left.

Map Link

Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary : Wildlife Viewing Area