Maryland has become a bird watcher’s paradise, with over 400 distinct species of birds. Local birding organizations have become more prevalent in recent years, and Maryland businesses now provide guided and self-directed trips.
Maryland is famous for its state bird, the Baltimore Oriole, but many other species call Maryland home due to the state’s ecosystem and climate.
In Maryland, about 100 species are classified as vagrants or accidentals, having been discovered only once or a few times. Approximately eleven species are extinct, have been extirpated as breeding species from Maryland, or have not been observed breeding in the state in recent years and maybe extirpated.
Identification of birds takes time. Only significant field experience can help you develop advanced identifying skills. While the difficulties of Maryland bird identification deter many people from taking up the sport, there are a few things that can aid you in your quest. Field experience makes it easier and easier to recognize a bird, even in difficult viewing conditions.
Year-Round Maryland Birds
These birds adore Maryland and have opted to permanently hang their tiny hats here. You can detect them at any time of year if you know where to look, which we will explain momentarily. This year, see if you can find one of the following year-round resident birds:
- Red-eyed Vireo
- Chipping Sparrow
- Indigo Bunting
- Louisiana Waterthrush
- Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Seasonal migratory Birds in Maryland
Maryland has four distinct seasons, altitudes ranging from sea level to 3,600 feet, and is on the Eastern migratory flyway.
Fall is warm, sunny, and birdy! Many of the “confusing fall warblers” migrate south in September. By October, the leaves are a rainbow of colors, and raptor migration is booming. Snow Geese and late-migrating sparrows arrive. By November, ducks flock to marshes, bays, and ocean shores. If you are lucky enough to be nearby after a hurricane, you may see uncommon pelagic and other species thrown off course.
Winter, however chilly and blustery, is a birding paradise, especially when it has been really cold further north. Waterfowl are abundant along the coast and in marshes. Raccoons and other raptors survive, as do bluebirds, finches and woodpeckers. The Yellow-rumped is our only winter warbler. Seasonal White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Northern Gannets, Red-throated Loons, and Surf Scoters can all be seen from the coast. Snow Buntings, crossbills, and even Snowy Owls have been known to irruption in the Canadian boreal regions.
Even when it rains in Maryland, early in the season, when trees and shrubs are not fully leafed out, even elusive passerines can be observed. Birds can feed, shelter, and nest in the abundant flowering trees and bushes later in the season. In March and April, ducks and raptors migrate north. Take your pick from shorebirds to terns to orioles in May. Others will stay for the summer. Building nests and raising chicks by June.
Summer is scorching, but early-morning birding is usually bearable. Adults are busy caring their nests in June, when nearby passerines are nesting. Male birds perform territorial songs in the forests and meadows. By July, most birds have finished breeding, however some species may have second or third broods. In August, enormous flocks of shorebirds arrive on local mudflats, beginning in dribs and drabs in July. A number of species, including egrets and herons, migrate south by late August.
Birds of prey in Maryland
Maryland is the ninth smallest state in the union, covering around 9, 774 square miles of territory, slightly larger than Vermont. Even though it is a small state on the east coast of the United States, it is home to several huge birds of prey. This section will discuss twenty different species of birds of prey found in Maryland, including hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons.
Raptors are critical markers of the health of the environment. Farmers benefit from raptors present in agricultural areas, called Farmland Raptors, since they prey on mice, voles, and insects. These species nest effectively in broad regions of grassland or agricultural fields.
Maryland native birds including Barn Owls (Tyto alba) and American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) are two CAVITY nesting species that breed in Maryland and are experiencing widespread, long-term reductions. Both the Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) and the Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) nest on the GROUND. The latter two species are uncommon to rare breeders and are more frequently encountered in Maryland during non-breeding months.
Some are year-round residents of the state, while others are seasonal migrants that are rarely seen. Click to know picture each species briefly, including its size, how to recognize it, and possible habitats.
Woodpeckers in Maryland
While birdwatching in the woods and woodland is the best way to see Woodpeckers in Maryland, some species like Red-bellied, Hairy, Downy, and Northern Flickers can be seen at home feeders.
The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in Maryland, while the Downy Woodpecker is the smallest.
The popularity of woodpeckers is partly due to their preference for dwelling in and around residential areas. As a result, they make excellent photographic subjects.
Maryland ducks and geese
Maryland is home to over 40 kinds of waterfowl. The cooler weather ushers in Maryland’s waterfowl season, one of the most exciting times of the year for devoted hunters. Indeed, the Eastern Shore of Maryland has long been dubbed the World’s Goose Hunting Capital!
While geese are a big draw for the majority of people, Kent County is also home to a variety of waterfowl, including ducks, wild turkey, dove, pheasant, quail, and woodcock. This region is covered with vast swaths of tidal marshes, making it an ideal location for waterfowl hunting in particular. Come and experience firsthand why hunters return year after year.
Ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans, are members of the family Anatidae. These birds have adapted to an aquatic lifestyle by having webbed feet, flattened bills to varying degrees, and feathers that are adept at shedding water due to the presence of specific oils. In Maryland, 45 confirmed species, two of dubious origin, and one of foreign origin have been recorded.
Best Birdwatching Spots in Maryland
With its intermittent barrier islands, picturesque cypress swamps, and Eastern Shore bays, Maryland is naturally home to a broad array of bird-watching locations and natural ecosystems. Birds migrate through on their annual migrations and will leave you in awe.
Maryland, despite its small area and substantial human population, contains enough diversity to rank among the most satisfying birding sites on the Atlantic Coast.
Here are the top five most visited locations where you can view and see these magnificent birds. Avoid blinking to avoid missing the Bachman’s Sparrow, Pileated Woodpecker, or Roseate Tern.
- Point Lookout State Park
- Sandy Point State Park
- Hart-Miller Island
- Patuxent River Naval Air Station (restricted access)
- Swan Creek Wetland-Cox Creek DMCF (access by guided tour only)
Other birds in Maryland
Maryland is located along the Atlantic flyway, a route used by numerous birds to migrate between Canada and the warmer states. Not all birds travel all the way to warm winter states or the Caribbean’s tropical islands.
Maryland is home to a large number of northern breeding birds.
Additionally, Maryland boasts a large number of resident birds who frequent bird feeders throughout the year.
Nature provides us with solace and a sense of calm in an otherwise frenetic and stressful environment. Birds provide us joy throughout the long winters in Maryland. They add color and amusement to our days.
If you have encountered a bird in Maryland that is not yet on our list or that you cannot identify yourself, we’ll be happy to identify it for you. Simply take a picture of it and upload your picture, a quick description and the U.S. state where it was found here on our bird identification page.