With more than 60 mountain ranges and hills surrounding Maryland, it is a paradise for birds. From the Piedmont Plateau to the Appalachian Mountains, the Free State is an ideal environment for birds to thrive.
And why is that?
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the state is home to more than 450 bird species.
If you are looking for the perfect birdwatching destination, Maryland won’t disappoint! From small orioles to mighty eagles, you will find plenty of Maryland birds. Whether you are in the deep forest or hanging out in a city park, birds in the state abound! They are also common backyard visitors.
- Year-Round Maryland Birds
- Seasonal Birds Of Maryland
- Frequently Asked Questions
Year-Round Maryland Birds
From hot summers to cold winters, here is a rundown of the most common birds in Maryland. With its rich natural resources, the state is gifted with plenty of birds!
1. Northern Cardinal
With its bright red plumage and black patch, the Northern Cardinal is one of the most recognizable birds you will see in Maryland.
Another notable characteristic of a Northern Cardinal is its thick and cone-shaped bill. The latter makes it easy for these birds to crack and eat seeds. It also eats berries, fruits, and insects.
Aside from their beautiful appearance, these birds are also known for their singing. Both males and females sing. When females sing, it is often a signal for male Northern Cardinal to bring food as a part of courtship.
Northern Cardinals are also known for being territorial. Do not be surprised if you see them fighting themselves! Chances are, they have seen a reflection on the mirrors and assumed that someone is claiming their nesting place.
2. Tufted Titmouse
A small and charismatic songbird, the tufted titmouse is a common bird in Maryland forests. In the winter, they are common Maryland backyard birds.
Identifying a tufted titmouse is easy. It is small with a gray body. This bird has a small and round bill and large black eyes. They also have a brushy chest.
Do you want to attract a tufted titmouse in your backyard? Give them something that they love! They like to munch peanuts and sunflower seeds in tube feeders. Even a platform feeder is hard for these birds to resist.
In the forest, the tufted titmouse is known for foraging on twigs and branches of trees. They can also drop on the ground when hunting for something to eat.
3. American Goldfinch
At approximately five inches, the American goldfinch is a small but beautiful bird. In the summer, males have a bright canary yellow body and black tail, wings, and forehead. Meanwhile, females are dull olive with black wings and highly evident wing bars.
In the wild, you will find American goldfinch in shrubs surrounding streams and ponds, as well as edges of woods. In the summer, they can come to your backyard, especially if you have a weedy lawn.
Attracting American goldfinch in Maryland backyards is possible by giving them something to feed. They love seeds of thistle, sweetgum, dandelion, yellow poplar, maple, and coneflower.
Fun Fact: American Goldfinch is the official bird of Howard County in Maryland.
4. Downy Woodpecker
At 5.5 to 6.7 inches, the downy woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker you will find in Maryland and North America.
The black and white plumage of the downy woodpecker makes them look very much like a hairy woodpecker. To differentiate, look at the bill. A downy woodpecker has a short bill, which is shorter than its head.
Do you want to see or photograph woodpeckers in Maryland? You can find them not just in open woodlands but also in public parks and orchards.
You can even attract them to your backyard. Add larvae, nuts, berries, and acorns in a feeder, and downy woodpeckers will come flocking!
5. Common Grackle
One of the most common backyard birds of Maryland, a common grackle has a long tail and bill that slightly curves downwards. They are loud, especially when they gather in flocks.
Male common grackles have a black body with an iridescent blue head. The body may turn bronze, depending on the lighting. Meanwhile, female common grackles have an almost similar appearance, except that they are less glossy.
You can attract common grackles in your backyard by providing corn and rice, among other grains. They also feed on insects, acorns, seeds, mice, fruits, and spiders. They are not picky eaters! You might even see them eating garbage!
Common grackles are aggressive. They often arrive in groups, which will scare small birds in your backyard.
6. Mourning Dove
Traditionally found on farms, mourning doves are also some of the most popular birds that thrive in Maryland. From March to November, more than 400,000 of these birds flock to the state, with a smaller population present throughout the rest of the year.
A mourning dove is a symbol of sorrow. Many people also consider it as a spiritual messenger of peace, faith, and love.
In terms of appearance, this Maryland bird has a graceful and slender tail that complements its small head. It flies fast in a bullet straight path. As they fly, the wings create a sharp whining or whistling sound.
Mourning doves have a wide range of habitats, including prairies, forest clearings, deserts, and farmlands. You can also attract them to your backyard. They like dense shrubs and evergreen trees. Adding a platform feeder is also an easy way to lure these birds to your property.
7. European Starling
While it is not amongst the birds native to Maryland, you will find European starling in the state. They are native to Northern America and Eurasia. It was brought to the United States in the 1890s and has since then been populating many areas in the country.
According to the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center…
"The European starling causes annual agriculture damage of up to $800 million."
European starlings exhibit different physical characteristics, depending on the season. During the breeding season, their body shows green and purple iridescence. Come winter, its whole body is covered by white spots.
It is easy to identify European starlings beyond their appearance. Listen to their vocalizations and you will know that they are about to come. Nonetheless, you can also end up confused since they mimic the sounds of other birds, including a red-tailed hawk and American robin.
8. American Robin
One of the most popular Maryland backyard birds, the American robin is often seen in lawns pulling earthworms off the ground. They also eat fruits that fall during autumn and winter.
The American robin is a feast to the senses. They are a popular subject amongst photographers and bird watchers because of their pretty reddish-orange chest that complements their grayish-brown wings and tails.
Aside from being a visual treat, American robins are also known for their singing. Their cheery caroling will wake you up early, which starts just as the sun rises.
For their diet, these birds feed mostly on insects in the summer. Earthworms, snails, and spiders are also common foods. Their diet also includes fruits, especially in the winter.
9. Carolina Chickadee
A small and plump songbird, the Carolina chickadee has a gray body, white cheek, black cap, and black throat. The bill is short and stubby. Males and females look the same.
Listen closely, and you can easily identify the presence of these birds. Their song has a four-whistled note and a high pitch.
Like other chickadees, Carolina chickadees are intelligent. They are also acrobatic despite being small, making them easy to attract on almost any type of bird feeder with food that they like, such as peanuts, suets, and sunflower seeds.
10. Eastern Bluebird
Get your camera ready and take a picture of the eastern bluebird! It is one of the most beautiful birds on this list, making it a great subject for bird photography.
These birds are visually stunning especially when seen through high-powered binoculars!
With a deep-blue back, short tails, and long wings, the Eastern bluebird has an easily recognizable appearance. The bills are black or silver and are slightly curved. The length ranges from 6.3 to 8.3 inches while the wings span 9.8 to 12.6 inches.
It is common for these birds to live in open-wooded habitats, including forest clearings. If you want to attract them to your backyard, you can create a hollow box that acts as the nesting site. The male eastern bluebird will arrive first. It will sing and attract a female companion.
Seasonal Birds Of Maryland
Many of the Maryland backyard birds are seasonal. If you want to spot them, make sure to plan your bird watching itinerary carefully by picking the right time.
1. Baltimore Oriole
Listing the most common Maryland birds is incomplete without mentioning the Baltimore oriole. A member of the blackbird family, it starts appearing in the state in April following a six-month absence.
The Baltimore oriole is the official Maryland state bird.
It is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the State’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1975. Despite having a special status, the population of Baltimore oriole in Maryland has been steadily declining in recent years. The latter is a result of the continued decrease of elm trees.
Even if its population was reduced by as much as 42% since 1966, you can still be lucky to spot the flaming orange and black Baltimore oriole. For a sure sighting, make sure to attend the Baltimore Birding weekend, an annual event for bird enthusiasts in Maryland.
2. Indigo Bunting
Like a work of art – this is what you will probably think of when you see an indigo bunting in Maryland. The male birds have a bright blue coloration, making them easy to identify. Females, on the other hand, are brown and look like a sparrow.
Also called Blue Canaries, the indigo bunting is commonly found in shrubby areas and weedy fields. They sing from dusk to dawn and migrate at night using stars as their guide.
You will find indigo buntings foraging at all levels. From flat grounds to the top of a shrub, they feed on insects, leaves, berries, and fruits. They eat alone in the summer and forage in flocks in the winter.
3. Chipping Sparrow
A slender bird with a long tail, the chipping sparrow has a medium-sized bill that is smaller than most sparrows. It looks clean and crisp in the summer while dull in the winter.
Its salient features are a chestnut cap, gray belly, and black eye-line.
The most common places where you can see chipping sparrows in Maryland are open woodlands and forests. They are also often found in public parks, roadsides, and even private backyards.
4. Dark-eyed Junco
The dark-eyed junco is a medium-sized sparrow with different color patterns depending on the region where they are from. Most will have a dark-gray or brown head with a stout pink bill, round head, and long tail.
Up to 75% of a dark-eyed junco’s diet is seeds. However, during the breeding season, they also eat butterflies, ants, caterpillars, moths, flies, wasps, and beetles. They are also often hopping on the ground, picking and eating leaf litter.
The sounds that dark-eyed juncos make are reminiscent of pine warblers and chipping sparrows. They have short but high chip notes, which are repeated in rapid successions.
5. Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
The yellow bill, as the name implies, is the most recognizable characteristic of the yellow-billed cuckoo. It is white below the body and brown above. Under the tail, you will find large white spots.
It is more common to hear than see these birds around Maryland. They are shy and would often sit motionless for hours. When they finally decide to fly, you can recognize the sound of their wings as they move. Their hoarse cooing and knocking make it easy to detect their presence.
Yellow-billed cuckoos have a short nesting cycle. On average, incubation to fledging takes only 17 days. Young chicks grow quickly, developing full feathers within a week after birth.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common bird in Maryland?
The Northern Cardinal is the most common bird in Maryland. They often roam in the wild, especially in places where they can eat berries, fruits, seeds, farm crops, caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. You can also attract them in backyards with platform feeders.
What is the rarest bird in Maryland?
Based on recent reports, the rarest bird spotted in Maryland is the painted bunting.
It was seen in the Chesapeake Bay and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. As soon as word spread, birders flocked to Maryland to have a glimpse of this bird, which has a bright-blue head, red belly, and specks of red and green on its back.
What are the birding organizations in Maryland?
Whether you love bird watching, are into bird photography, or are simply interested in bird populations in Maryland, the state has several organizations worth checking out. Some of the most popular are Bird City Maryland, Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership, Maryland Ornithological Society, and National Audubon Society.
Read Also: Hawks in Maryland
From sparrows to woodpeckers, you will find plenty of birds around Maryland. With hundreds of birds in the state, differentiating one from the other is a difficult task. Look at their appearance, know their habitat, learn their feeding habits, and listen to their sounds.
Whether you are into bird watching and photography or want to attract birds in your home, I hope this Maryland bird identification guide was helpful.
Is there any other Maryland bird you would like to add to this list? Let me know in the comments.