Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace, Maryland, June 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Barred Owl (rescued by Maryland Park Service, Department of Natural Resources), Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, August 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Evolving trends in bird migration and resident species since Europeans traveled to Maryland over 400 years ago are described in Maryland, Efficiency, and Birds.
Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2009. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Hen, Annapolis, Maryland, August 2003. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Feeding mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland, September 2008. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Anhingas are large water birds. The males have black-green bodies and gray feathers on their necks. Females have tan or gray heads, necks, and upper chests. Anhingas have long necks and tails, pointed bills, and silver-white patches on their wings and backs. They primarily eat fish, but also will eat crustaceans. They build their nests in trees close to water and usually live in colonies of several hundred other birds. Unlike other water birds, Anhingas' feathers aren't completely waterproof. Indeed, before they can fly, they must spread their wings out to dry. While flying, they can soar on thermal currents without flapping their wings. While swimming, they sink deeper in the water. Also known as Darter, Snakebird, and Water Turkey.
Ani, Groove-billed (Crotophaga sulcirostris)
The Groove-billed Anis are tropical black birds with a long tails and large, grooved beaks. They eat insects and seeds and nest in pastures and orchards. Living in small colonies, they lay their eggs in a communal nest.
Avocet, American (Recurvirostra americana)
American Avocets have black and white back feathers, white bellies, and gray or cinnamon heads. With long, thin, upturned bills and gray legs, they forage in shallow water for insects or small crustaceans. Along the shoreline of marshes and beaches, they nest in colonies, sometimes laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, and will attack any predator that comes too close. Chicks are self-reliant after they hatch, and they find their own food. Also known as Blue Shanks.
Bittern, Least (Ixobrychus exilis)
Least Bitterns have a black or dark brown back and top of head, brown-orange face and sides, and white throat and chest with brown-orange stripes. They have long necks and yellow bills and eyes. Wading through the water or straddling reed stalks to catch prey, they eat fish, reptiles, crustaceans, and insects. They live in both freshwater and brackish marshes where they build nests on the ground among thick vegetation. If alarmed, the Least Bittern stops perfectly still, raising its bill and turning toward the danger, even swaying like the reeds. The Least Bittern is one of smallest herons in existence.
Blackbird, Brewer's (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
Male Brewer's Blackbirds are black with an iridescent blue-green body and blue-purple head. Their eyes are yellow and legs and feet are black. The female is brown, including the eyes, with darker shades on the wings and tail. Generally, they eat seeds, grains, and insects, but also will eat amphibians and other birds. In marshes, fields, parks, and lawns, they live in colonies, building nests in trees, reeds, or on the ground. Brewer's Blackbirds will dive at possible predators to scare them off.
Blackbird, Red-winged (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Male Red-winged Blackbirds are black with red-and-yellow patches on their wings, while females are brown with streaks. They eat insects and seeds. Living in marshes, fields, and meadows, Red-winged Blackbirds build their nests near the ground among the vegetation. Males are very territorial and will attack other birds, larger animals, and people that come too close to the nests.
Blackbird, Rusty (Euphagus carolinus)
Male Rusty Blackbirds are black with a purple-green sheen, though they have rust-colored edges on their feathers and pale eyebrows during the winter. The female are brown-gray with pale eyebrows, rust-colored feather edges, and dark feathers around the eyes. Rusty Blackbirds have pale yellow eyes and thin, pointed bills. They primarily eat insects, seeds, acorns, and fruit, but will also eat other birds. They live in swamps, marshes, and flooded forests, where they build nests in shrubs or trees. The Rusty Blackbird has seen a severe population decrease in recent years, over 90%, possibly due to loss of habitat.
Blackbird, Yellow-headed (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)
The male Yellow-headed Blackbird is black, with a bright gold head and chest and has white patches on its wings. Females are brown with pale yellow faces and throats. They eat insects in summer and seeds other times, often forming into a "rolling flock" in agricultural fields where the birds in the back continuously fly to the front to find food, an event that can recur for days. They nest in marshes, building their nests in reeds or other vegetation above water. When foraging in winter, they live in grasslands or crop fields.
Bluebird, Eastern (Sialia sialis)
Male Eastern Bluebirds have blue heads and wings, red throats and chests, and gray lower bodies, while females have gray heads and backs with gray-blue wings, brown chests, and white lower bodies. They eat insects, fruits, and occasionally, reptiles and amphibians. They live near woods and in fields, backyards, and parks, and build their nests in tree cavities or nest boxes.
The Eastern Bluebird is the Official Bird of Caroline County (County Code, sec. 30-3), and Prince George's County (County Council Resolution, March 17, 1976).
Bluebird, Mountain (Sialia currucoides)
Male Mountain Bluebirds are bright blue with darker shades on the wings and tail and lighter bellies. Females are gray-brown with areas of lighter blue on their wings and tails, but their chests can have a brown-orange hue at times. Mountain Bluebirds have black eyes and beaks. They primarily eat insects, but also seeds and fruits. Mountain Bluebirds usually fly from their perch to get food, but they can also hover above the ground, diving onto their prey. They build their nests in mountain hillsides, meadows, grasslands, and pastures, using either tree cavities or nesting boxes.
Brant (Branta bernicla)
Brants are small geese that have black heads, necks, and chests and gray-brown wings. They have a white "collar" and, depending on the coast, can have either gray bellies (Atlantic) or black bellies (Pacific). Brants eat grasses, seaweed, and grains. They live in low coastal tundras. From the Arctic Circle, Brants migrate and spend their winter months along Maryland's coastal waters and those of other mid-Atlantic states.
Catbird, Gray (Dumetella carolinensis)
Catbirds are dark gray with black-capped heads and black tails. They eat insects and fruit, including blackberries and cherries. Catbirds nest in dense shrubs close to the ground and often are found in swampy areas. Extremely protective of their nests, Catbirds attack predators or other birds that come too close, and destroy any Cowbird eggs found among their own. During the winter months, they migrate south.
Chickadee, Carolina (Poecile carolinensis)
Chickadees are small birds that have gray bodies, white bellies, and black heads and throats. Their diet is mostly insects, but they will also eat fruit and seeds, especially sunflower seeds. They build their nests inside tree cavities or nest boxes.
Cowbird, Brown-headed (Molothrus ater)
Male Brown-headed Cowbirds have brown heads and black bodies, while females are brown with streaks on their bellies. They eat seeds and insects and live in fields, orchards, pastures, and in backyards. Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
Crow, American (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Crows are completely black and have glossy feathers. They eat a variety of food, including seeds, fruit, insects, and small animals. Crows make more than twenty different sounds. They live in most types of habitats, except desert areas. Intelligent birds, Crows are known to use tools, especially when it comes to food. Living and nesting in large flocks, Crows are social birds, but also aggressive, chasing away larger predatory birds or intruders.
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto), Glen Burnie, Maryland, April 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Duck, Wood (Aix sponsa)
Male Wood Ducks are very colorful, with shiny green heads and black, white, brown, and purple bodies. Females are gray-brown with white speckles. They eat seeds, grasses, fruit, and insects. Wood Ducks live in wooded areas, within a mile of water, and nest in high tree cavities. They also will live in nest boxes. Most Wood Ducks migrate south during the winter months.
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Dunlins are sandpipers. During breeding season, they have red backs and caps and black bellies; the rest of the year, their feathers show brown-gray with white bellies. They have black legs and long, slightly curved bills. Juveniles are brown-red with black spotted bellies and "V" shapes on their backs. Dunlins eat insects and small crustaceans. They live in coastal tundras. From Alaska and Canada, Dunlins migrate to spend their winter months around Atlantic coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay.
Great Egret (Ardea alba), Fort Armistead Park, Baltimore, Maryland, September 2012. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Finch, Purple (Haemorhous purpureus)
Male Purple Finches have red heads and chests, brown-red streaked backs, brown wings, and whitish bellies. Females have brown backs and wings with white-and-brown-streaked bellies and a white line above the eyes. They eat seeds, nectar, fruit, and insects. They live in evergreen and mixed forests, but also can be found in fields and backyards.
The Goldfinch is the Official Bird of Howard County.
Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), Baltimore, Maryland, July 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Grackle, Common (Quiscalus quiscula)
Common Grackles have iridescent bodies, purple heads, and gold eyes. Juveniles are brown. They eat seeds, insects, and small animals, including frogs, mice, and other birds. They live in fields, marshes, open woodlands, and parks and usually nest in coniferous trees. Grackles are the main threat to corn crops in the country.
Grouse, Ruffed (Bonasa umbellus)
Ruffed Grouse are brown, black, and gray, colors which provide ideal camouflage for their lives on the forest floor. They have areas of black feathers on the sides of their necks called ruffs and there is a dark band across their tail. Ruffed Grouse eat leaves, seeds, and fruit, including crabapples, grapes, and berries. They prefer to live in young forests, but can be found in mature woods, along roads, and in fields. Ruffed Grouse are solitary birds, but will gather near food.
Gull, Black-headed (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Black-headed Gulls have gray backs, white underbellies, black-edged wings, and red bills and legs. They have dark brown heads during the breeding season, but the color fades into two dark spots behind the eyes in winter. They eat insects, seeds, fish, and berries, but also scavenge from garbage. They live around lakes, rivers, and swamps. Black-headed Gulls usually are found in Europe, but their numbers have increased in North America.
Red-tailed Hawk (rescued by Maryland Park Service, Department of Natural Resources), Maryland State Fair, Timonium,, Maryland, August 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
The Great Blue Heron is the Official Bird of Charles County.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), College Creek, Annapolis, Maryland, July 2010. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Junco, Dark-eyed (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-eyed Juncos are usually gray or brown with a white belly. They have pink bills and white tail feathers. Dark-eyed Juncos prefer to eat seeds, especially sunflower seeds, but also will eat insects. They live in forests, especially those with pines and spruces, but can be found in shrubs and gardens. Dark-eyed Juncos migrate from Canada and spend their winter months in the U.S., including in Maryland, though some do remain in the State year-round.
Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Annapolis, Maryland, April 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
The Purple Martin is the Official Bird of Calvert County.
Merganser, Hooded (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Hooded Mergansers are small ducks known for the wide crest or hood on their heads. The males are black with chestnut sides, white hoods, and yellow eyes, while the females are gray-brown with cinnamon hoods and dark eyes. They have serrated bills and an extra eyelid which allows for better underwater vision while foraging. They eat frogs, small fish, crabs, and grasses. They live in wooded lakes, rivers, and bays, nesting in tree cavities.
Mockingbird, Northern (Mimus polyglottos)
Mockingbirds are gray with light gray undersides and dark gray, white-spotted wings. They eat fruits and insects. They live in gardens, fields, and near woods. They are extremely territorial and will defend their feeding areas and nests against intruders, including crows and hawks. Mockingbirds can sing around two hundred songs and can imitate many sounds that they hear.
The Baltimore Oriole is Maryland's State Bird.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Ospreys have brown backs and white heads and undersides with brown patches on the wings. They have brown stripes across their eyes. Juveniles have white spots across their backs and tan coloring on their chests. Ospreys primarily eat fish, but also will eat carrion. They live near water, building their nests on poles, nesting platforms, and trees. They will hover above the water before diving up to three feet to catch a fish. Ospreys migrate south during the winter months. Also known as Sea Hawk.
Barn Owl (rescued by Maryland Park Service, Department of Natural Resources), Maryland State Fair, Timonium,, Maryland, August 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Owl, Eastern Screech (Megascops asio)
Eastern Screech Owls are gray or brown-red. They have ear tufts, bands and spots which provide camouflage among trees. Eastern Screech Owls are nocturnal. They eat small mammals, birds, and even insects, and then regurgitate the bones and other leftovers into oval-shaped pellets. Eastern Screech Owls live in tree cavities in woods near water, or in nest boxes.
Owl, Great Horned (Bubo virginianus)
Great Horned Owls are brown-gray with brown-red faces, yellow eyes and a white mark on their throats. They have two ear tufts that look like horns. Their wingspan can reach five feet. Great Horned Owls are usually nocturnal. They eat other birds and small mammals, but also will eat insects, fish, and carrion. They prefer to live in young forests near fields, but can live in other forests, deserts, swamps, and parks. Great Horned Owls are the largest tufted owl in Maryland.
Owl, Long-eared (Asio otus)
Long-eared Owls are brown-gray with tan or orange faces, square heads, and yellow eyes. They have black, brown, and tan marks on their feathers and two white lines between the eyes. Their ear tufts are long and black with orange or tan fringes. Long-eared Owls are nocturnal, spending their days camouflaged among trees and flying low over open ground at night for voles and mice. They live in forests near fields. Long-eared Owls are rarely seen in Maryland.
Owl, Northern Saw-whet (Aegolius acadicus)
Northern Saw-whet Owls are brown and white with yellow eyes and large, round, spotted heads without tufts. Juveniles are brown with yellow undersides. They are nocturnal and eat small rodents and insects. Saw-whet Owls spend the winter months in Maryland, usually in a tree cavity in dense woods, but they also will use nest boxes. Saw-whet Owls are the smallest owl in Maryland. Their name comes from the sound they make which resembles the "whetting" or sharpening of a saw. Northern Saw-whet Owls are endangered in Maryland.
Owl, Short-eared (Asio flammeus)
Short-eared Owls are brown with streaked chests, round heads with small ear tufts, and have tan spots on their outer wings. They have white-tan faces with yellow eyes. They eat small rodents. Short-eared Owls live in open areas, such as marshes or meadows, and nest on the ground or in nest boxes. Short-eared Owls can be seen in Maryland during their migration from Canada and the northern U.S.
Owl, Snowy (Bubo scandiacus)
Snowy Owls are white with dark markings on their bodies and wings. They have round heads without tufts and yellow eyes. They eat small rodents, especially lemmings, as well as birds. Snowy Owls live in tundras and make their nests on the ground. Snowy Owls migrate from Canada and spend their winter months in the upper half of the U.S., including Maryland.
Plover, Piping (Charadrius melodus)
Piping Plovers are shorebirds that have tan backs, white undersides, yellow legs, and a black or brown band between their eyes and around their necks. They eat small marine animals and insects. They nest on open sandy beaches. Piping Plovers migrate south during winter months. Their populations are decreasing due to habitat loss. Piping Plovers are endangered in Maryland.
The American Robin is the Official Bird of Montgomery County (County Code, sec. 1-405, Dec. 14, 1988).
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) on Government House fence, Annapolis, Maryland, June 2010. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Sandpiper, Spotted (Actitis macularius)
Spotted Sandpipers have dark brown backs, white chests with dark spots, and orange bills during the breeding season. During the rest of the year, they have brown-gray backs, white chests, and yellow bills. When they walk, they teeter and bob their tails. Spotted Sandpipers eat insects and crustaceans. They live near water, along rivers, beaches, streams, and in mountains. The females establish and defend their territory and initiate courtship, while the males take care of the nest and the young. Spotted Sandpipers migrate south during the winter months.
Skimmer, Black (Rynchops niger)
Black Skimmers have black backs, white undersides, orange feet, red and black bills, and red legs. Juveniles have black-and-white backs and heads. They skim over the surface of the water, eating small fish and crustaceans. Black Skimmers migrate south during winter months. They nest on sandy beaches or shell bars. Due to loss of habitat, Black Skimmers are an endangered species in Maryland.
House Sparrow on White Pine, Annapolis, Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Swan, Mute (Cygnus olor)
Adult Mute Swans are large white birds with black faces, curved necks, and orange bills with black knobs. Juveniles can be gray with tan or gray bills. They live in shallow ponds, streams, and estuaries. While swimming, they may raise their wings slightly over their backs, forming a hump. They primarily eat bay grass, up to 8 pounds a day, but will also eat small animals. Mute Swans are aggressive birds, chasing people and other birds away from their nesting grounds. The Mute Swan is an invasive species.
Swan, Tundra (Cygnus columbianus)
Tundra Swans are white, though their heads and necks may be brown. They have black legs and beaks and a yellow mark near the eyes. They eat aquatic plants, seeds, and mollusks. They breed near lakes on the tundra. Tundra Swans seen in Maryland are known as the Eastern population. They migrate south from Canada and spend their winter months in Maryland, living in marshes and tidal estuaries.
Swift, Chimney (Chaetura pelagica)
Chimney Swifts are gray-brown with narrow, curved wings, small beaks, and legs that are built to cling onto walls, but not perch. Chimney Swifts eat flying insects, foraging in fields and over lakes, though they nest in chimneys or in other dark, enclosed areas, such as caves, hollow trees, and wells. At dusk, they will flock together and in a whirling motion, swoop down into one chimney. Chimney Swifts migrate south during the winter months. Their populations have been declining due to loss of habitat.
Turkey, Wild (Meleagris gallopavo)
Male Wild Turkeys are brown to black with iridescent feathers with heads that turn white, red, or blue during breeding season. They have spurs on their legs and a "beard" that extends off the chest. Females are duller, lacking spurs and usually the beard, and their heads stay the same color as their bodies. Turkeys eat acorns, seeds, fruits, and insects. They prefer to live in mature forests, but can be found in fields as well. They nest in leaves near trees and bushes or in overgrown fields. Turkeys are known to swim and can fly short distances at up to 50 mph, if necessary.
Immature Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), Upper Falls (Baltimore County), Maryland, August 2014. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Warbler, Yellow (Setophaga petechia)
Yellow Warblers are bright yellow, though males have red streaks on their undersides. They eat insects and fruit. Yellow Warblers live in thickets, woodlands, parks, and near streams. They migrate south during winter months. Yellow Warblers are known to build new nests on top of ones parasitized by Cowbirds.
Waxwing, Cedar (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Cedar Waxwings are brown-gray with black faces outlined in white, pale yellow bellies, and crested heads. Their wing feathers have red waxy tips and their tails have a yellow tip. Juveniles have browner backs, streaked undersides, and lack the red wingtips. Cedar Waxwings eat fruit and insects and tend to feed in flocks. If they eat too many overripe berries, they can become intoxicated. They live in orchards, woodlands, gardens, and farms.
Woodcock, American (Scolopax minor)
American Woodcock are brown, black, tan, and gray, colors which provide excellent camouflage among the leaves. Their have black bars across their heads and dark-light markings on their shoulders and brown wings. American Woodcock eat insects, primarily worms, but also will eat seeds. They live in young forests and fields. Most American Woodcock will migrate south during the winter months.
Woodpecker, Downy (Picoides pubescens)
Downy Woodpeckers have black-and-white-striped heads, black wings with white spots, black backs with a central white stripe, and white-gray undersides. Males have a red spot on the backs of their heads. Downy Woodpeckers eat insects, berries, and seeds, especially sunflower seeds. They live in open woodlands, parks, and backyards and they nest in dead trees. Instead of singing, Downy Woodpeckers drum their bills against wood.
Woodpecker, Red-bellied (Melanerpes carolinus)
Male Red-bellied Woodpeckers have black-and-white backs and wings and red caps that run from their bills to their necks, while females have gray heads with red patches on their necks and above their bills. Juveniles do not have any red on their heads. Red-bellied Woodpeckers have pink, not red, bellies and long, barbed tongues. They climb up and down trees, eating insects, nuts, seeds, acorns, and fruit. They live in mature forests and woodlands, but also can be in backyards.
Wren, Bewick's (Thryomanes bewickii)
Bewick's Wrens are brown, and have gray-white throats and undersides, black-barred tails, and white stripes over the eyes. They eat insects. Bewick's Wrens live in scrubby areas, gardens, parks, and open woodlands near streams and make their nests in tree cavities. Bewick's Wrens are named after Thomas Bewick, a friend of John James Audubon, who was the first person to recognize the bird. Bewick's Wrens are endangered in Maryland.
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