A Guide to Common Backyard Birds in Maryland

Step into the wonderful world of backyard birdwatching in Maryland! This comprehensive guide is packed with fascinating information about the commonly seen bird species thriving in the state. Compiled from the esteemed citizen science program, eBird, this article offers a reliable and accurate list of Maryland’s feathered residents. Each bird is accompanied by vibrant pictures and insightful tips on how to attract them to your own backyard. With the enchanting Northern Cardinal leading the pack as the most prevalent species, followed by the Carolina Wren, American Crow, and Mourning Dove, this guide is a treasure trove for both novice and experienced bird enthusiasts. Additionally, the article provides a brief state overview of bird diversity and bird watching opportunities in Maryland, along with helpful resources for identifying different bird groups. Get ready to embark on an exciting and rewarding journey into the avian wonders of Maryland’s backyards!

Maryland Backyard Birds

Maryland is a state teeming with a diverse array of bird species. From the vibrant Northern Cardinal to the spirited Carolina Wren, these feathered creatures bring joy and beauty to the backyards of Marylanders. This article aims to shed light on the common backyard birds in Maryland, providing a comprehensive guide to their physical description, habitat and range, behavior, and feeding habits. With the help of data from the citizen science program eBird, we have compiled a list of the most common birds based on their frequency of sightings.

Introduction to Birding in Maryland

State Overview

Maryland, known as the “Old Line State” and located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, offers a diverse range of habitats that attract a wide variety of bird species. From the Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachian Mountains, Maryland’s landscapes provide a haven for both resident and migratory birds. The state’s geographical location makes it an ideal stopover for many species during their annual migrations.

Bird Watching in Maryland

Bird watching, or birding, is a popular activity in Maryland due to the abundance of bird species and the accessibility of natural areas. With numerous parks, wildlife refuges, and nature centers, bird enthusiasts have ample opportunities to observe and appreciate these captivating creatures. The state also hosts several birding festivals and events throughout the year, attracting both beginners and experienced birders.

Bird Groups

When it comes to Maryland’s backyard birds, they can be grouped into different categories based on their characteristics and behaviors. These groups include songbirds, waterbirds, and birds of prey.


Songbirds, also known as passerines, are known for their melodious calls and intricate songs. This diverse group includes the Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, and Tufted Titmouse. Songbirds are often colorful and exhibit a wide range of behaviors, from intricate mating rituals to complex foraging techniques.


Maryland’s proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean makes it an ideal habitat for waterbirds. This group includes species such as the American Crow, Mallard, Canada Goose, and Great Blue Heron. These birds can be found near bodies of water, ranging from marshes and rivers to coastal areas. They rely on these habitats for nesting, feeding, and migration.

Birds of Prey

Birds of prey, also known as raptors, are powerful and majestic birds that captivate observers with their hunting skills and aerial agility. This group includes species such as the Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, and American Kestrel. Birds of prey play a vital role in controlling populations of small mammals and maintaining balance within ecosystems.

A Guide to Common Backyard Birds in Maryland

Attracting Birds to Your Backyard

One of the joys of birding is the opportunity to observe these incredible creatures right from the comfort of your own backyard. By creating a bird-friendly habitat and providing food and water sources, you can attract a wide variety of birds to your outdoor space.

Creating a Bird-friendly Habitat

To create a welcoming habitat for birds, it is essential to provide a mixture of vegetation, including trees, shrubs, and flowers. These different layers of foliage offer birds shelter, nesting sites, and foraging opportunities. Consider incorporating native plants into your landscape, as they provide food sources and support the local ecosystem.

Providing Food and Water

Birds require a reliable source of food and water throughout the year. Bird feeders stocked with appropriate seeds, suet, or nectar can attract a diverse range of species. Different bird species have specific dietary preferences, so it is beneficial to offer a variety of feeder types and food options. Additionally, providing a birdbath or shallow water source can offer birds a place to drink and bathe, enhancing the appeal of your backyard to these avian visitors.

Northern Cardinal

Physical Description

The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is arguably one of the most recognizable and beloved birds in Maryland. The male sports a vibrant red plumage, crest, black face mask, and a stout, orange-red bill. Females exhibit a more muted coloration, with a grayish-brown body, reddish accents, and a crest similar to the male. Both sexes have distinctive crests and prominent beaks.

Habitat and Range

Northern Cardinals can be found throughout Maryland year-round, inhabiting a variety of habitats, including woodlands, forests, and suburban areas. These adaptable birds have extended their range and can now be spotted across the eastern and central regions of North America. They are particularly fond of brushy thickets, hedges, and areas with a mix of trees and shrubs.

Behavior and Feeding

Northern Cardinals are known for their clear, melodious songs, which they use to establish territory and attract mates. They are not migratory birds and can be observed in Maryland throughout the year. Cardinals primarily feed on seeds and fruits and have a special affinity for sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn. They readily visit bird feeders, especially during the winter months when natural food sources may be scarce. They are one of the few bird species that feed their mates during courtship and incubation.

A Guide to Common Backyard Birds in Maryland

Carolina Wren

Physical Description

The Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a small yet charismatic bird with rich reddish-brown plumage on its back and a creamy white breast. It has a distinctive white eyebrow stripe above its eye, giving it a unique and expressive appearance. This wren has a long, slightly curved bill, which it uses to probe crevices and bark for insects and spiders.

Habitat and Range

Carolina Wrens are year-round residents in Maryland, favoring forested areas, thickets, and shrubby undergrowth for nesting and foraging. They have a broad range encompassing the eastern and southern parts of the United States, from the Atlantic coast to central Texas. These adaptable birds can also be found in urban and suburban environments, often opting for well-vegetated backyard spaces.

Behavior and Feeding

Carolina Wrens have loud and melodious songs that can often be heard before they are seen. They are highly energetic birds, constantly on the move as they forage for insects, spiders, and small invertebrates. They will readily visit feeders that offer suet and mealworms. These wrens are known to nest in a variety of locations, including birdhouses, flowerpots, and even abandoned items such as boots or hats.

American Crow

Physical Description

The American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is a large, intelligent bird with glossy black feathers and a sturdy bill. It has a distinctively stout and squared-off tail, distinguishing it from other similar corvid species. Crows are often heard before they are seen, emitting a variety of calls and even mimicry of other birds.

Habitat and Range

American Crows are highly adaptable and can be found in every county of Maryland year-round. They thrive in a variety of habitats, including open fields, woodlands, urban areas, and agricultural landscapes. Crows are found throughout North America and have adapted well to human-modified environments, often taking advantage of the resources and food they provide.

Behavior and Feeding

Crows are known for their curious and intelligent nature, often displaying problem-solving abilities and complex social behaviors. They have a diverse diet that includes insects, small mammals, eggs, carrion, berries, and even garbage. Crows are opportunistic foragers and can often be seen scavenging or engaging in cooperative hunting with fellow crows. With their adaptability and sociability, crows are fascinating birds to observe.

A Guide to Common Backyard Birds in Maryland

Mourning Dove

Physical Description

The Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is a medium-sized dove with soft, gray-brown plumage and a delicate pinkish hue on its chest. It has a slender body, long tail, and a small head. Mourning Doves are known for their distinctive cooing calls, which can often be heard in the early morning or evening hours.

Habitat and Range

Mourning Doves are found throughout Maryland and are one of the most abundant bird species in the state. They inhabit a wide range of open habitats, including agricultural fields, grasslands, urban areas, and suburban landscapes. These doves extend their range across North America, from southern Canada to Panama, making them one of the most widely distributed bird species in the continent.

Behavior and Feeding

Mourning Doves form strong pair bonds and are often seen in small groups or pairs. They primarily feed on seeds, especially those of grasses, weeds, and agricultural crops. These doves are ground feeders and can often be seen foraging for fallen seeds or visiting feeding stations that offer a variety of seed options. Mourning Doves are also adept fliers and can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour.

Other Common Backyard Birds in Maryland

In addition to the Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, American Crow, and Mourning Dove, Maryland is home to a myriad of other fascinating backyard birds. Here are a few more species commonly seen in the state:

Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) is a small thrush with striking blue plumage on its head, back, and wings. These birds are often found in open habitats with scattered trees and can be attracted to nest boxes.

Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is a charming bird with a crested head, gray upperparts, and a rusty-colored flanks. They are highly acrobatic and are often seen hanging upside down while foraging for insects and seeds.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a medium-sized woodpecker with a vibrant red cap and a black-and-white barred back. Contrary to its name, the red on its belly is often not visible. They are frequent visitors to suet feeders and can be identified by their distinctive “churr” calls.

These are just a few examples of the many species that call Maryland home. By providing suitable habitat and food sources, you can attract an even greater diversity of bird species to your backyard.

A Guide to Common Backyard Birds in Maryland

Resources for Bird Identification

Identifying birds can be both exciting and challenging, especially for beginners. Fortunately, there are several resources available to aid in bird identification:

Field Guides

Field guides are essential tools for birders, providing detailed descriptions, illustrations, and range maps for a wide range of bird species. Some popular field guides for North American birds include “The Sibley Guide to Birds” by David Allen Sibley, “The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds” by National Audubon Society, and “A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America” by Roger Tory Peterson.

Online Identification Tools

Numerous online platforms offer bird identification tools that make use of photographs, audio recordings, and interactive features. Websites such as eBird, All About Birds, and Merlin Bird ID provide valuable resources for identifying birds based on various criteria, such as size, color, behavior, and habitat.

Birding Apps

Smartphone apps have made bird identification more accessible than ever. Apps like iBird, Peterson Birds of North America, and Audubon Bird Guide offer comprehensive birding tools right at your fingertips. These apps often include detailed species accounts, photographs, songs and calls, and range maps, making the identification process easier and more enjoyable.

Birding is a lifelong journey, and with these resources, you can continue to expand your knowledge and appreciation for the avian wonders of Maryland and beyond. So grab your binoculars, step into your backyard or explore Maryland’s wild spaces, and embark on a birding adventure like no other.

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