• 9282_Clay-colored-sparrow-Sanderson
  • 9282_Piping-Plover-Sanderson

Place Category: Birding Guide and NorthwestPlace Tags: North Central

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    Photo Credits: Piping Plover and Clay-colored Sparrow are courtesy of Ryan Sanderson, Indianapolis, Indiana. Photos are examples of the birds that can be found at this location.

    The Hammond Lakefront Park & Bird Sanctuary, a 600-meter wooded strip of lakefront fill, lies within a kilometer of the Illinois line on Lake Michigan. A virtual oasis of vegetation within a vast urban sprawl, this site, once well-known simply as “The Migrant Trap”, is flanked to the west by the Commonwealth Edison power plant and to the east by Hammond Marina. True to its name, the Bird Sanctuary produces great concentrations of migrant passerines in spring and fall as they search for cover en route across northwest Indiana. The city of Hammond has acknowledged the importance of the Lakefront Park & Bird Sanctuary to avian migration through the Calumet Region and has set aside much of the land as a permanent migratory bird sanctuary.

    On one hand, describing the habitat afforded by the Bird Sanctuary isn’t a crucial issue, since its isolation in this industrial region indiscriminately attracts migrants of widely varying habitat specificities. However the Trap does in fact contain several types of habitat, namely the tall grass and weeds of the southern boundary (along the parking lot), the wooded interior, and the sandy beach of the northern boundary. Although the rough footpath that longitudinally crisscrosses the site leaves many good areas unreachable, concrete boulders and construction fill make birding off the path quite treacherous and caution should be taken when combing these sections. The most productive birding route through the site seems to entail entering from the eastern edge, birding the interior trail in a westward direction, and returning eastward along the tracks at the southern grassy edge where sparrows are often abundant. Spreading the birding party out to comb the vegetation works best to thoroughly check the Trap, and scanning the lakefront at least once is also recommended.

    The site is accessible to the walking disabled, provided they stay on the established trails and exercise caution. Note that the trails are not currently maintained and do not have a consistent covering.

    Typical Time to Bird Site: 45-90 Minutes


    The Lakefront Park & Bird Sanctuary is almost certainly the best location in the Calumet region to observe migrating passerines. Bird families most likely to be encountered here include wrens, thrushes, vireos, warblers, and sparrows.
    Specialty Species:
    Connecticut Warbler – mid to late May and early to mid-September; an impressive twenty-five percent of Dunes area Connecticut Warbler records come from the Migrant Trap.
    Mourning Warbler – mid to late May and early September.
    Clay-colored Sparrow – early to mid-May and throughout October; recorded nearly annually at the Trap.
    LeConte’s Sparrow – first three weeks of October; also recorded nearly annually.
    Noteworthy Records:
    Eared Grebe
    Piping Plover
    Parasitic Jaeger
    Kelp Gull – (19-Oct-1996)
    Laughing Gull
    Barn Owl
    Long-eared Owl
    Short-eared Owl
    Bewick’s Wren
    Lark Sparrow
    Harris’ Sparrow


    City of Hammond, Indiana
    Hammond Parks and Recreation Department: 219-853-6378
    Available at the east end of the Trap at Hammond Marina. May be locked at times.
    Hotel/motel accommodations are available in Hammond and other nearby lakefront cities.
    Special Considerations:
    Terrain: Very rough when off the footpath–please exercise caution!
    Traffic: Parking is available in the Hammond Riverboat Casino parking lot.
    Temporal Considerations:
    Virtually all activity at the Lakefront Park & Bird Sanctuary occurs during migration. Southbound migrants (Mid-August through October) follow the lakeshore and emerge from their nocturnal flights in the sparse cover of the Trap. Impressive numbers of spring records occur in May. As is the case with other migrant passerine “traps”, the most productive birding days tend to be those following overnight storms or the passage of tumultuous weather fronts.


    Brock, Kenneth J. Birds of the Indiana Dunes. Revised Edition. The Shirley Heinze Environmental Fund, 1997.
    Brock, Kenneth J. “Fall Warblers at the Migrant Trap, Hammond, Indiana.” Indiana Audubon Quarterly 70.3 (1992): 154-162.
    Brock, Kenneth J. “The Migrant Trap–Birding Jewel of the Indiana Lakefront.” Winging It 9.4 (1997): 1, 4-6.
    Seng, Phil T., and David J. Case. Indiana Wildlife Viewing Guide. Helena, MT: Falcon Press, 1992.
    White, Mel. National Geographic Guide to Birdwatching Sites – Eastern U.S. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1999.


    Lake County information
    Lake County Birding locations.


    Author: Ken Brock
    Editor: Darel Heitkamp
    Photos: Ryan Sanderson (examples of birds found at this location)


    Northwest Indiana

    Lake County, Indiana

    DeLorme Page 18, Grid B-3
    (Labeled “Migrant Trap”)

    GPS: 41º 41′ 48.3″ N
    87º 30′ 43.9″ W


    From the South: Take I-65 north to I-90 (The Indiana Toll Road). Go west on I-90 and exit at exit #0 (the last Indiana exit, just after the last set of tollbooths). Immediately after leaving the interstate, the off-ramp divides: take the left road. Within 100 yards the road terminates at a cross street and stop sign. Turn right, and this street will intersect Indianapolis Blvd within 50 yards. Turn right on Indianapolis Blvd. The overpass to Hammond Marina and the gambling boats will soon be visible. As the overpass descends, make a very hard right turn (like a U-turn) onto a frontage road that leads to the large Hammond Casino parking lot. Park near the large strip of woods that lies just west of Hammond Marina, allowing easy access to the eastern end of the Migrant Trap.

    From the East: Take I-90 (The Toll Road) west across northern Indiana. Alternatively, one could take I-94 west and exit onto I-90 at exit #16. Continue west on I-90 to exit #0. Proceed to the Migrant Trap as described above.

  • Address: 701 Casino Center Drive
    United States
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