Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Virginia Bird Watching

Virginia is among the premier bird watching spots in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA. Virginia has a wide variety of environments and is visited by many species of birds.

Song birds

Virginia is home to large numbers of song birds. Along the coast, marshes, wildflowers, fields and areas of brush provide ideal nesting and feeding habitat. Other songbirds inhabit the tall pine forests there. Warblers, nut hatches, sparrows, red wing blackbirds and others nest near the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast in the summer, while cardinals, jays, woodpeckers and finches reside there during the winter months.

Shore Birds

Herons, egrets, ibises, oyster crackers, march hens and other shorebirds are frequently spotted along the marshes in places like Chincoteague, Assateague and the other barrier islands. On the beaches, dozens of species of sandpipers, plovers, gulls and terns feed, nest and raise chicks.

Birds of Prey

A number of birds of prey visit Virginia. Ospreys arrive in the spring to raise young and feed on the abundant fish stocks. As seasons change, some ospreys migrate south while other birds of prey arrive. American eagles, red tailed hawks and other large hunters are present in the fall thru spring. Other hawks such as sparrow hawks may be found year round.


Ducks, geese, brant and swans all make stops in Virginia. In the refuge, geese and swans take up residence year round. Other full time residents include black ducks, wood ducks and mallards which raise their young on the marshes of Chincoteague Island, Wallops Island and much of the Chesapeake. As autumn arrives, ducks and geese migrate into the refuges and surrounding areas of Virginia. Shoveler ducks, pintails, mallards, widgeons, teal, rudy ducks, canvasbacks, redheads, ring necked ducks, bluebills, and others fly in. Mergansers, buffleheads, goldeneyes and other diving ducks show up in the bay waters as cold weather sets in. Off the coast, rafts of sea ducks and small groups of oldsquaw ducks forage along the shoals over the winter.

Pelagic Birds

The waters off the coast are visited by up to 30 species of pelagic birds including albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, storm-petrels, phalaropes, skuas, jaegers, gulls, terns and alcids. These birds migrate along the offshore waters far from land. Many pass off the coast and never see Virginia's beaches.