Discover the fascinating world of birds in Virginia with “Birds of Virginia: A Comprehensive Guide.” This informative article serves as your go-to resource for learning about the most common bird species found in the state. Compiled from data collected by the citizen science program eBird, this guide provides a wealth of information including pictures of each bird, tips on attracting them to your backyard, and descriptions of their size, shape, bill type, and coloration. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or just starting out, this guide will enhance your birding experience and deepen your appreciation for the avian wonders of Virginia.
Virginia is a prime location for birding enthusiasts, offering diverse habitats that attract a wide variety of bird species. From the coastal regions to the mountainous areas, this state has something to offer for bird watchers of all levels. With over 400 species recorded, Virginia is a birding hotspot on the East Coast.
The abundance of bird species in Virginia is largely due to its geographic location. Situated along the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration route for birds, Virginia serves as a stopover for many species traveling between their breeding and wintering grounds. Additionally, the state’s mix of forests, wetlands, and open spaces provides a variety of habitats that support a range of bird species.
Birds by Season
Birds in Virginia can be observed throughout the year, but the composition of species may vary depending on the season. In spring, migratory birds return to breed and can be seen in abundance. Summer brings nesting season, with many resident birds raising their young. Fall is a time of migration, as birds prepare to head south for the winter. Finally, winter is a great time to spot a variety of waterfowl and other cold-weather species.
Most Common Birds
Virginia is home to a wide array of bird species, but some are more commonly seen than others. According to data from the citizen science program eBird, the following birds are frequently recorded in the state:
The Northern Cardinal is the most commonly seen bird in Virginia, according to eBird data. This iconic bird is known for its vibrant red plumage and distinctive crest. Cardinals are often spotted in residential areas, woodlands, and shrubby habitats. To attract Northern Cardinals to your backyard, provide them with bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds. They also enjoy water sources, such as birdbaths or shallow ponds.
The American Robin is a familiar sight in Virginia, especially during the spring and summer months. With its reddish-orange breast and grayish-brown back, the robin is easily recognizable. These birds prefer open habitats, such as lawns, parks, and suburban areas. To attract American Robins, create a patch of open ground in your backyard for them to forage for worms and insects. They also appreciate fruit offerings, such as chopped apples or berries.
Mourning Doves are abundant in Virginia and can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, fields, and urban areas. These medium-sized doves have a soft, muted coloration, with a pale pinkish-gray body and a dark eye patch. To attract Mourning Doves, provide them with a platform feeder filled with a mix of seeds, such as cracked corn and millet.
The Carolina Chickadee is a small, black-capped bird with a white face and grayish back. They are commonly found in woodlands and suburban areas throughout Virginia. To attract Carolina Chickadees, offer them black oil sunflower seeds in tube feeders or hopper feeders. They are also known to visit suet feeders.
Tufted Titmice are energetic birds with a predominantly gray coloration and a distinctive crest. They are often found in woodland areas, parks, and residential neighborhoods. To attract Tufted Titmice, offer them sunflower seeds, suet, and mealworms in a variety of feeders.
Blue Jays are known for their striking blue coloration, black crests, and loud calls. They can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, parks, and even suburban areas. To attract Blue Jays, provide them with a mix of sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet in feeders.
American Goldfinches are small, vibrant yellow birds with black wings. They prefer open areas, such as fields, meadows, and gardens. To attract American Goldfinches, offer them nyjer or thistle seeds in tube feeders. They are particularly fond of dandelion and thistle fluff for nest building.
Eastern Bluebirds are a sight to behold with their bright blue feathers and rusty red breasts. They can be found in open woodlands, along hedgerows, and in backyard nest boxes. To attract Eastern Bluebirds, provide them with mealworms in a tray or platform feeder.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with a spotted black and white back and a red crown. They are commonly seen in woodlands, parks, and suburban areas. To attract Red-bellied Woodpeckers, offer them suet in specially designed feeders with tail props.
Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpeckers found in Virginia. They have a black and white coloration and can be found in various habitats, including woodlands and urban areas. To attract Downy Woodpeckers, offer them suet, mealworms, and sunflower seeds in a variety of feeders.
Bird Watching Clubs
For birding enthusiasts in Virginia, joining a bird watching club can offer opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, learn from experienced birders, and participate in group outings. Some of the prominent bird watching clubs in Virginia include:
Virginia Society of Ornithology: This statewide organization promotes the study and conservation of birds and their habitats. They organize field trips, host annual meetings, and publish a quarterly journal.
Richmond Audubon Society: Based in Richmond, this local birding club offers regular bird walks, educational programs, and workshops. They also engage in conservation efforts and advocate for bird-friendly policies.
Northern Virginia Bird Club: Serving birders in the northern part of the state, this club conducts field trips, holds monthly meetings, and provides resources for bird identification and conservation.
Tidewater Birding Club: Located in the Tidewater region, this club focuses on birding in coastal areas. They offer field trips, presentations, and have an active online forum for members to share observations and sightings.
Binoculars are an essential tool for bird watching, allowing observers to get a closer look at distant birds. When choosing binoculars, there are several factors to consider:
Magnification and Objective Lens Diameter
Binoculars are typically labeled with two numbers, such as 8×42 or 10×50. The first number represents the magnification power, while the second number indicates the diameter of the objective lenses in millimeters. Higher magnification allows for a closer view of the birds, but it may also result in a narrower field of view. A larger objective lens diameter allows more light to enter the binoculars, resulting in brighter images.
Field of View
The field of view refers to the width of the area visible through the binoculars. A wider field of view allows for easier tracking of moving birds and provides a more immersive birding experience.
Weight and Comfort
Consider the weight and comfort of the binoculars, especially if you plan on carrying them for extended periods. Look for models that are lightweight and ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip.
Binoculars come in a wide range of prices, so it’s important to set a budget that works for you. While high-end binoculars may offer superior optics and durability, there are also many affordable options available that provide excellent performance for bird watching.
Before making a purchase, it’s a good idea to try out different models and see which ones feel comfortable and provide clear, crisp images. Visit a local birding store or attend birding events where vendors often have binoculars available for testing.
Description of Bird Species
In addition to the most common birds in Virginia, let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of a few select species:
Size and Shape
The Northern Cardinal is a medium-sized songbird, measuring about 8 to 9 inches in length. It has a plump body with a long, full crest and a distinctive bright red coloration.
The cardinal has a thick, cone-shaped bill that is adapted for cracking open seeds and nuts.
Male cardinals are known for their brilliant red plumage, black face mask, and crest. Females have a more subdued coloration, with a reddish-brown body and a hint of red on their wings and crest.
Attracting to Backyard
To attract Northern Cardinals to your backyard, provide them with bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds. Additionally, having bushes, shrubs, and trees with dense foliage will provide them with shelter and nesting sites.
Northern Cardinals primarily feed on seeds, grains, fruits, and insects. They will readily visit feeders containing sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn.
Size and Shape
The American Robin is a medium-sized thrush, measuring about 10 to 11 inches in length. It has a plump body, long legs, and a relatively long tail.
Robins have a slender, straight bill that is adapted for catching and consuming worms and insects.
Robins have a warm orange-brown breast and belly, with a grayish-brown back. Their heads are black with a white eye ring.
Attracting to Backyard
Create a patch of open ground in your backyard for American Robins to forage for worms and insects. They also appreciate fruit offerings, such as chopped apples or berries.
American Robins primarily feed on earthworms and insects, but they also consume a variety of fruits and berries. They will readily visit yards with suitable foraging opportunities.
Size and Shape
Mourning Doves are small to medium-sized birds, measuring about 9 to 13 inches in length. They have a slender body, a long tail, and a small head.
Doves have a short, pointed bill that is adapted for eating seeds and grains.
Mourning Doves have a pale pinkish-gray body with a slightly darker head and a dark eye patch. Their wings are adorned with black spots.
Attracting to Backyard
To attract Mourning Doves to your backyard, provide them with a platform feeder filled with a mix of seeds, such as cracked corn and millet.
Mourning Doves primarily feed on seeds and grains, such as sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet, and wheat. They are frequent visitors to feeders with suitable food offerings.
Size and Shape
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker found in Virginia, measuring about 5 to 6 inches in length. It has a compact body, a short tail, and a relatively large head.
Woodpeckers have a straight, chisel-like bill that is adapted for drilling into wood to find insects.
Downy Woodpeckers have a black and white coloration. They have a white underside and back, with black wings marked by white spots. The male also has a small red patch on the back of its head.
Attracting to Backyard
To attract Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard, offer them suet, mealworms, and sunflower seeds in a variety of feeders. Providing dead trees or nest boxes will also attract them as potential nesting sites.
Downy Woodpeckers primarily feed on insects, larvae, and spiders that they find by tapping and probing trees. They will also consume seeds, nuts, and suet when available.
With the abundance of bird species in Virginia, birding enthusiasts and nature lovers have plenty to explore. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or just starting out, the diverse habitats and common bird species in the state offer endless opportunities for observation and enjoyment. So grab your binoculars, head outdoors, and discover the avian wonders of Virginia!