Many bird enthusiasts would probably agree that birdwatching is more than just bird identification. It is also a journey of discovery, awe, and adventure.
If you want to learn about the birds of Maryland, it will serve your best interest to continue reading, especially if you're from the Midwest.
You'll never run out of birding opportunities in Maryland since numerous bird species live in various locations there. Not to mention, the state even hosts a festival when bird migration is at its peak.
The Different Maryland Backyard Birds
Aside from Maryland offering birders worldwide exceptional opportunities to watch various species, it is also unwavering in its efforts to ensure a bird-friendly environment.
For one, Bird City Maryland, in partnership with the Maryland Audubon Society, encourages dependable bird conservation among its citizens. It aims to recognize every individual's efforts to improve the birds' environment and teach others about positive interactions with avian life.
Western Maryland RC&D, together with the Maryland Department of Natural Resource, proudly supports the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership to diversify avian conservation across the state.
Such partnership with the Wildlife Service of MD aims to identify various opportunities across the state through effective planning, bird monitoring, and fund-raising. Moreover, it increases awareness and citizen participation towards the state's birdlife and its conservation needs.
Currently, here are some of the most familiar Maryland birds:
1. Baltimore Oriole
The Baltimore oriole is a familiar and widespread breeding bird in the region's northern half. However, it can also be a passing migrant more visible across the state from mid-May to early September.
It will be almost impossible to miss the oriole with its flaming orange and black plumage, often revealing itself with a melodious spring song.
You will probably notice its bright orange shoulder and the white bars on its wings when these features are most visible during a flight. This magnificently-colored bird breeds in deciduous woodlands, nesting in tall shade trees like the sycamore or dwelling in treetops and city parks.
Furthermore, the oriole is the official Maryland state bird bearing the name of the state's colonial proprietors. The Baltimore oriole is not a regular backyard feeder visitor, but you may attract the bird with peanut butter mixtures.
An oriole enjoys feeding orange and grapefruit halves and finds the sight and sound of moving water from birdbaths irresistible. You will rarely hear these orioles singing out of their breeding season, and their vocalizations sound more like a sharp rattle.
2. Northern Cardinal
If a red-winged blackbird arrives at feeders during springtime, the Northern cardinal starts nesting in the region sometime in early April. Among the common Maryland birds on our list, this species is the most familiar sight in the state.
It is a regular visitor at urban feeders, making this bird a lovely addition to anyone's backyard.
This cardinal is unmistakable with its bright red plumage when wandering in woodland edges, hedges, swamps, thickets, and gardens. While you might notice this eye-catching bird feeding on insects, seeds and berries comprise its main diet, which it primarily forages on the ground.
Cardinals rarely migrate and only wander a few miles away from home. Out in the wild, you will find it fascinating to witness such a bird using its wedge-shaped beak to eat all kinds of seeds. However, these birds only eat the seed's inner meat.
When birdwatching during the fall season, you can see how cardinals ascend from treetops and bushes in search of berries. Relatively, the cardinal is often at farm haystacks, foraging for seeds. The domesticated type searches for food in town gardens and backyard feeders.
Cherokee legend has it that the northern cardinal was initially brown-colored. By helping a wolf, the cardinal learned where to find a red-painted rock, which the bird used to paint itself red.
Aside from their bright red plumage, male cardinals have black faces and prominent crests. The females have muted colors, appearing like the male's brown-colored version. You can spot these cardinals in deserts wetlands but strongly prefers an edge habitat.
3. American Goldfinch
Goldfinches commonly inhabit the region but join migratory flocks that travel far and wide when not breeding. The species is one of the most colorful birds in North America. However, birders still love watching the goldfinch exploit sunflower seeds at feeders, even with dull winter plumes.
The bird has striking yellow plumage in spring and summer; its plumage molting into an olive-brown with black wings and buffy wing-bars in winter.
Aside from the plumage's primary shades changing with the season, the males also have black caps in summer, and females lose most of their color. Both sexes manage to keep their black wings throughout the year.
Goldfinches mainly feed on birch and alder plants, occasionally eating insects, and seeds such as Nyjer, sunflower, and thistle are their favorite food at feeders. Many observers would even call the goldies "thistle birds" for their strong affinity for this particular seed.
These backyard birds prefer open habitats with scattered shrubberies but like weedy fields with thistles during their breeding season, typically in late summer. A reliable food source drives it to migrate in winter, and many bird enthusiasts also call it the "wild canary."
Fun Fact: Make sure to provide them only with the best bird house you can build to invite them to stay a little longer in your backyard!
American goldies lack the pine siskins' streaked chests, bellies, and yellow bars on their wings; in comparison, female house finches have streaked chests only. You can expect to see these birds in flocks or showcasing a roller coaster-like flight while twittering.
4. Blue Jay
Many people see blue jays as bullies of backyard birds despite frequently visiting urban feeders. Such birds display negative behavior, not waiting for their turns at feeding stations, but can surprisingly keep an American crow away from backyards.
Nevertheless, jays are among the common birds in Maryland but can also be partial migrants, like the American robin.
The species are undeniably remarkable in their azure plumes, conspicuous crests, sizable bodies, large-sized bills, and black collars. Its back has a plain blue mantle with blue wings and tail, a blue crest, and grayish underneath.
Aside from misbehaving at feeders, blue jays are well-known for being clever and loud vocals, but more for their skill at mimicking a red-tailed hawk's scream. The bird joins the other jays, traveling in flocks to forage pine nuts across Pinyon-juniper woodlands in the west intermountain.
When in flight, jays will give you a spectacular view as they fly in a straight line with their wings making a rowing motion. Often jays turn their heads from side to side when passing through forests, mindful of a potential attack from a marauding hawk.
However, as noisy as these birds are, they are almost silent during the breeding season, and they seem to enjoy a bird bath a lot. Likewise, you can find these birds in city parks and yards, enjoying seeds, nuts, fruits, and grains, sometimes feasting on insects and small rodents too.
Fun Fact: You could use a solar powered bird bath fountain kit to attract Blue Jays for a warm bath! It's affordable and portable. You'll see them flying by your backyard every day.
5. Mourning Dove
Mourning doves enjoy perching on power lines and inhabiting open woods, prairies, towns, and roadsides, although they thrive well in human-altered habitats. The elegant bird is also a native species in the north; one of the birds in Maryland familiar on farms and in suburbia.
It's one of the most hunted gamebirds you can quickly recognize with its plump, gray body, dark spots on its wings, and long, pointed tail.
Mourning doves are widespread and abundant backyard birds throughout the United States and Canada's southern part. Nevertheless, you have more chances of spotting these doves if you are familiar with their cooing songs; they are a fixture at feeding stations in Baltimore.
The males are ones that you can typically hear cooing to their mates while nodding their heads as part of these birds' mating ritual. Even if many homeowners find it upsetting to see these birds hunted, it's merely a means to adapt to the higher density of birds near feeders.
The species is one of the favorite prey of a Coopers hawk; its diet consists of ninety-nine percent seeds, which the bird swallows whole. Additionally, mourning doves are fast, agile flyers traveling in flocks to feed on grains and weed seeds they peck from the ground.
Like blue jays, these doves also love birdbaths but tend to contaminate the water with their droppings as they sit around the rims. It's typical to hear these birds' mournful songs in backyards when visiting feeders. Otherwise, you may spot these doves in bordering forests.
Fun Fact: Mourning Doves also dirty up their feeders, too! You can prevent the spread of bird disease by cleaning bird feeders with bleach, rinsing these with water afterward, and drying them thoroughly.
6. House Sparrow
If you wish to spot a house sparrow, its habitats include suburban, urban, and agricultural environments. It is much easier to say where you can't find such species as they are prevalent across the state and can thrive in any habitat.
You won't find the bird frequenting arid deserts, dense forests, and mountain peaks; it's a permanent resident with no migratory tendencies throughout its range. Such a sparrow is fond of fostering human relationships, better than any other bird.
House sparrows are responsible for the decline in the Eastern bluebird population, stealing its nest box, and have a nasty reputation of being aggressive and dominant.
Like the house finch, European Starling, and mute swan, this sparrow is not among the birds native to Maryland. These sparrows come in different subspecies, but those from the Passeridae family appear stocky.
You will rarely encounter such a sparrow on its own; thus, expect to find it in parties when breeding in open colonies, foraging, and roosting communally. The bird feels safer when joining a flock, minimizing the risk of exposing itself to predators.
As such, it means more time to feed than watching for its back from potential threats. Moreover, house sparrows sleep near their nests or assemble in flocks during their breeding season. An entire mass of sparrows chirping can make a loud racket by regurgitating their chirping call.
When breeding, the males sport a black bib contrasting their head and face patterns in black, gray, and brown. These males molt into a muted plumage during the cold months. Furthermore, house sparrows can make noise that resembles the calls of an evening grosbeak.
The species are among the regular backyard birds; you will particularly see them in towns and cities, where they quickly take scraps or food from humans. These birds typically forage in picnic areas, parks, and fast-food restaurants.
7. Red-Winged Blackbird
All year, red-winged blackbirds are present throughout the state, but they migrate in massive flocks during the fall, winter, and spring seasons.
Any birder will have no trouble observing a red-winged blackbird, as it usually forages the ground in flocks in stubble fields. You will encounter such blackbirds on open farmlands, extensive marshes, roadside ditches, and small wetland patches.
There's a noticeable abundance of their kind in those areas, even in the suburbs where they visit backyard feeders in early springtime. Despite being an opportunistic omnivore, you might notice the red-winged foraging suet feeders and ground feeders for birdseed mixes.
Red-winged blackbirds are among the backyard birds that likewise feed on moths, inchworms, cutworms, and wireworms, making them beneficial to humans. However, they also enjoy feasting on berries and grains; hence, many landlords consider these birds a pest.
You are likely to spot such species flying among the branches while chattering, sometimes perching in small trees and bushes; they also like nesting in shrubs. The bird is tremendously territorial, not even hesitating to confront any intruder coming near its territory.
The males display brilliant red shoulders with a yellow edge contrasting their all-black plumage. On the other hand, females have an off-white shade underneath with bold streaks, and their eyebrows are light brown.
8. Carolina Chickadee
This bird species cannot resist black oil sunflower seeds at a feeder like the downy woodpecker and the song sparrow. It is a familiar and permanent resident east of Hancock, where the bird frequents backyards or joins a local mixed flock when foraging during the non-breeding season.
Carolina chickadees can be very noisy when roaming, drawing so much attention to themselves when they do. The black-bibbed, white-cheeked, and beady-eyed bird with buffy flanks and pale gray edges on the feathers of its inner wings is often the pack leader.
Telling the bird apart from the black-capped chickadee can be tricky due to hybrids, except that the Carolina is slightly smaller, also singing a faster, sharper song.
Such a chickadee prefers to inhabit the suburbs, deciduous, pine, and mixed forests, conceding the higher altitudes of the Appalachians to the black-capped chickadee's border in Georgia. Aside from seeds, a Carolina is also among the backyard birds feeding on insects and spiders.
You will notice how this chickadee exploits ground and tube feeders at feeding stations. The chickadee's long claws allow a firm grip on small twigs, which is how they can feed as they hang upside down. The Carolina can even consume 9,000 caterpillars before fledging.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the migrating backyard birds in MD?
Food shortages in North America cause the winter irruption of several birds in the state. The pine siskin, pine grosbeak, and common redpoll migrate during such a season. The red crossbill also breeds in Maryland's conifer-abundant regions and occasionally nestles in West Virginia.
Can you see herons in Maryland?
Yes, you can spot the great blue heron, the largest of its kind in North America, along the marshes in the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland Ornithological Society states that migrating herons are typical, but they remain abundant in St. George Creek, unlike ospreys leaving for South America.
What is the most common bird of all the backyard birds of Maryland?
The Northern Cardinal continues to be at the top of the list of the most common of all Maryland backyard birds. Observers have seen this timid bird frequenting feeders across the state for the past twenty years or so.
What birds of prey are in Maryland?
The Great Horned Owl is among the birds of prey you can spot along the Chesapeake Bay watershed. You may also find other raptors in that area, such as the bald eagle, barn owl, barred owl, Northern harrier, snowy owl, and Coopers Hawk.
Why are the birds of Maryland disappearing?
Climate change resulting in habitat loss remains the top reason for Maryland's significant decline in bird populations. A few citizens even stumble across a dead bird with crusty eyes; experts claim that avian influenza or the West Nile virus causes the birds' deaths.
The affected birds of the strange illness are the common grackle, American robin, Carolina wren, and Northern Mockingbird. Maryland's DNR and Virginia's Department of Wildlife Resources advised people to temporarily stop feeding birds at the onset of the strange illness.
Many avian species discover a welcoming home in Maryland. That came as no surprise, as several regions throughout the state offer these creatures a natural resource and a diverse habitat.
Birders will never run out of opportunities to witness the year-round residents and marvel at the spectacle of annual migrations.
Hopefully, you find this article a handy reference to better Maryland bird identification. If you have a specific interest in any of these wild birds, try having at least a single bird feeder and a bird bath in your garden.