Birding in Maryland
Maryland offers some great birding opportunities...if you know where to look!
Maryland is home to a diverse array of breeding bird species in addition to an abundance of migrants that pass through during their annual migrations. The official list of Maryland’s birds totals 445 species (as of November 2012). To find out what bird species can be found in Maryland, check out the Maryland Birds page. In addition, if you are interested in learning how to attract birds to your backyard, then check out Maryland’s Wild Acres as well as our quick reference guide to Common Feeder Birds.
Attracting birds to your backyard is often a first step. Once you’re hooked and want to see and learn more, purchasing a pair of binoculars and a bird field guide is the next step. It also helps to know where to look for birds. Luckily, birds live nearly everywhere, from inner city parks to natural areas and wildlands. Many sources are easily available to point you in the right direction to find birds. One of the best books is “Finding Birds in the National Capital Area” by Claudia Wilds. This book covers much of Maryland, Washington DC, Northern Virginia, and Delaware.
If you are bitten by the birding bug and yearn to travel to see new birds, you’ll soon discover that birds are often found in certain places. Some birds, known as generalists, are commonly found throughout the state. Examples of generalists are great-horned owl, American robin, and cedar waxwing. More often, however, birds specialize to live primarily in certain types of habitats and in certain geographic areas. A list of Maryland’s major habitats can be found below.
Forests and Woodlands
Maryland contains a diversity of forested habitat including hemlock forests, loblolly pine woodlands, moist upland forests, dry upland forests and riparian forests. Hemlock forests support species such as barred owl, pileated woodpecker, veery, and Louisiana waterthrush. Western hemlock forests such as at Swallow Falls may also contain hermit thrush and black-throated green warbler. Loblolly pine woodlands lie on the Coastal Plain and can support species such as brown-headed nuthatch and pine warbler. Contiguous, moist upland forests throughout the state can support red-eyed vireo, wood thrush, and ovenbird. Larger dry upland forests may contain black-and-white warbler, scarlet tanager, and worm-eating warbler.
Forested wetlands generally include an enclosed tree canopy with shaded pools of water. These areas can support pileated woodpecker, great crested flycatcher, barred and screech owls, wood duck, prothonotary warbler, and Louisiana waterthrush. Riparian forests (forests along river and stream banks) generally support species such as northern parula, Carolina wren, and blue-gray gnatcatcher. Boreal swamps in western Maryland can support species such as Baltimore oriole, alder and willow flycatchers, black-billed cuckoo, and golden-winged warbler.
Meadows and Fields
Maryland meadows include both wildflower and hay meadows. These areas are generally open and have an abundance of grasses and wildflowers. Species such as grasshopper sparrow, bobolink, and eastern meadowlark can be found in some of these areas. Fallow fields may also support blue grosbeak, common yellowthroat, and northern bobwhite. As the meadow grasses give way to shrubs and small trees, species such as brown thrasher, American woodcock, yellow-breasted chat, and American goldfinch may be found there.
Maryland marshes include both non-tidal and tidal marshes filled with emergent vegetation. Non-tidal marshes such as ponds and impoundments can support species such as song sparrow, common yellowthroat, hooded merganser, and green heron. Tidal marshes along the Chesapeake generally include a mix of pools, emergent vegetation and small channels bordered by shrubs. These areas support species such as wood duck, green heron, least bittern, Virginia rail, marsh wren, and red-winged blackbirds. Shallowly flooded high salt marshes may support species such as seaside and saltmarsh sparrows, Virginia and black rails, willet, and American black duck.
Beaches and Dunes
Barrier islands such as Assateague Island contain transition zones from beach to dunes to shrubs and woodlands. Often, species such as piping plover and least tern nest behind or among the dunes while species such as American oystercatcher, sanderling, and gulls can be seen feeding on the beach.
From late fall to spring, sheltered coves and open water areas of major rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, the Coastal Bays of Worcester County, and the Atlantic Ocean provide wintering habitat for a wide array of waterbirds, including ducks, geese, swans, loons, and grebes. Certain species, such as scoters and long-tailed ducks, are more likely to be found in larger bodies of water and farther offshore, while others feed on submerged aquatic vegetation found in shallower waters.
Where to go Birding:
Below is a map of Maryland divided into regions along with a list of links for good birding spots within each region.
Hawk Watching Sites
Maryland has quite a few hawks and falcons on its bird list. Some of these raptors are accidental visitors, but many can be seen regularly in the appropriate season and habitat. The sites below provide extraordinary hawk viewing opportunities during fall or spring migration.
Another step you can take is to join a local birding group, or at least check out the resources they have available on their websites linked below.
Maryland Birding Links
National Birding Sites
Other Useful Sites
Plants and Wildlife
- Natural Heritage Program
- Guide to Marylandís Natural Areas
- Maryland Natural Areas News
- Maryland Wildlife Lists
- Rare, Threatened & Endangered Species
- Rare, Threatened & Endangered Plants
- Rare, Threatened & Endangered Animals
- Baltimore Checkerspot Recovery Team
- Natural Plant Communities
- Invasive and Exotic Species
- 2015 Maryland Statewide Action Plan Revision
- Game Mammals
- Game Birds
- Wildlife Problems?
- Digital Data & Products
- Environmental Review
- Birding in Maryland
- The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
- Maryland Naturalist Organizations
- Maryland Master Naturalist Training
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