Maryland is known for its State bird, the Baltimore Oriole, but due to ecology and climate, many other species also call Maryland home. With over 400 different species of birds found in Maryland, the State has become a bird watchers paradise. Local bird watching organizations now are common, and Maryland companies offer guided and self-guided tours.
Mallards, Annapolis, Maryland, April 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
The Department of Natural Resources offers a list of Birds of Maryland, as well as information on birding and conservation activities. The Patuxent Wildlife Reseach Center, a division of the U.S. Geological Survey, conducts research and programs on natural resource conservation. These include studies of migratory habits, waterfowl harvest, and ecosystem management.
Feeding mallard ducks, City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland, September 2008. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Common to Maryland skies, Cowbirds, Robins, and Goldfinches are familiar sights across the State. Five different species of Cowbird (genus: Molothrus, family: Icteridae) make their home in Maryland along the edges between woodlands and farm fields. These species florish in agrarian regions, such as the Eastern Shore. A brood parasite, the Cowbird lays its eggs in other birds nests. Cowbird hatchlings then proceed to dominate these nests for feedings and space. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is one victim of Cowbird habits. Though a migratory bird, the Robin mainains a constant presence in Maryland. While preferring forests, the Robin has adapted to become a common sight and sound in urban and suburban areas. Due to its foraging habits, the Robin is notable as the first song-bird heard in spring morning hours. Another common sight to urban and suburban areas is the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). Though it prefers agrarian regions, this granivore enjoys coneflower seeds, and has no problem locating food in more suburban regions. Distinguished by its bright yellow plumage and song, the Goldfinch is the Official County Bird of Howard County.
Maryland also offers a convenient resting place for many migrating birds, including the Dunlin (Calidris alpina), the Brant (Branta bernicla), and the Semi-palmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla). Originally found in arctic and subarctic climes, the Dunlin migrates south for the winter. Dunlins from Alaska and Canada fly to southern coastal regions, wintering in areas such as the Chesapeake Bay. Like the Dunlin, the Brant makes its summer home north of the Arctic Circle, and winters along Maryland's coastal waters and those of other mid-Atlantic states. The Brant is a small Arctic goose similar in appearance to the Canada Goose. The Semi-palmated Sandpiper travels much farther, using the Bay area as a resting stop in both spring and fall on its migration route. The Semi-palmated Sandpiper nests in southern tundra regions of Alaska and Canada, and winters in coastal regions of South America.
Another migratory bird that nests in Maryland is the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Also known as Sea Hawks, Osprey are considered one of the first signs of spring on the Eastern Shore and around the Bay. Wintering in Central America and the Carribean, the Osprey returns every March to feed on Maryland's abundant sea-life during the warmer months.
Evolving trends in bird migration and resident species since Europeans traveled to Maryland over 400 years ago are described in Maryland, Efficiency, and Birds.
Another aspect of Maryland's avian presence is its poultry industry, which sustains approximately one third of Maryland's agriculture.
Hen, Annapolis, Maryland, August 2003. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
© Copyright March 19, 2009 Maryland State Archives
Maryland Manual On-Line, 2009
July 1, 2009
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