Maryland harbors a diverse array of bird species. Some of these species reside in the state throughout the entire year, while others are migratory, spending either the summer or winter in Maryland. This article aims to explore 26 of the most prevalent backyard birds in Maryland, providing insights into each species.
Following this, I will guide you on how to attract these birds to your yard, offer a concise overview of the 10 different types of bird feeders available, and highlight a few notable birdwatching locations in Maryland.
Determining the exact count of bird species in North America, the United States, or Maryland poses a challenge. However, as of 2022, Wikipedia reports at least 456 bird species in Maryland.
While estimates from various reputable sources vary, with figures ranging from over 800 to 1100 species in North America, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on some frequently observed species in Maryland, particularly in backyard settings.
26 COMMON BACKYARD BIRDS IN MARYLAND
The following section delves into 26 species of backyard birds in Maryland, including migrants. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, it highlights birds commonly seen in Maryland backyards. Let’s explore!
Scientific Name: Sialia sialis
Length: 6.3-8.3 inches
Weight: 1.0-1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 9.8-12.6 inches
Remaining true to their name, bluebirds exhibit an entirely blue upper body with rusty reddish-orange bellies. Both females and males share the same coloration, although the female’s colors tend to appear more subdued and faded, particularly the blue hue. Bluebirds are highly coveted residents of birdhouses in the U.S., contributing to the thriving bluebird house industry. While they are commonly found in backyards, their presence at feeders is not as frequent. Setting up a birdhouse can increase your chances of attracting a mating pair, and I was successful using a birdhouse available on Amazon.
In specific regions of North America, bluebirds migrate, but this is not the case in Maryland, where the Eastern Bluebird can be spotted throughout the year. For more information, you can explore the Maryland Bluebird Society.
Bluebirds typically do not consume seeds, but they can be lured to feeders with mealworms on a tray feeder or in a dish.
2. White- Breasted Nuthatch
Scientific Name: Sitta carolinensis
Length: 5.1-5.5 inches
Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 inches
White-breasted Nuthatches are prevalent feeder birds found in most backyards within their range. They stash nuts and seeds under tree bark, using their sharp beaks to extract the seeds from their shells. These birds exhibit a distinctive appearance, featuring a thick black stripe atop their heads, with white flanking either side and on their bellies. Their wings are predominantly gray and black, and they possess a chisel-like beak, longer than that of many other feeder birds.
White-breasted Nuthatches are present throughout Maryland year-round.
Nuthatches are attracted to various seed feeders, including mixed seed blends, black sunflower seeds, or peanuts. They also enjoy suet and are adept at clinging to suet feeders.
3. American Robin
Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius
Length: 7.9-11.0 inches
Weight: 2.7-3.0 ounces
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches
Robins are highly common in backyards, often seen hopping around in the grass searching for worms and other invertebrates. They tend to retreat to wooded areas during winter, reemerging in more open spaces during spring, creating the illusion of migration out of the state. While they occasionally visit bird feeders, their diet does not primarily consist of seeds. Identified by their bright orange round bellies, yellow beaks, and larger size, robins are easily recognizable.
Robins reside in Maryland throughout the year.
To attract American Robins, use mealworms, native fruit-bearing plants, or a bird bath, as they do not frequently visit seed feeders.
4. Mourning Dove
Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura
Length: 9.1-13.4 inches
Weight: 3.0-6.0 ounces
Wingspan: 17.7 inches
Similar in size to a robin, doves are common in backyards, often perching on telephone wires or congregating in trees. While they may occasionally visit tray feeders, they are more commonly seen foraging on the ground beneath hanging bird feeders. Mourning Doves feature a mostly gray plumage with black spots on top, a pale peachy color below, and pink legs, with no distinguishable differences between males and females.
Mourning Doves remain present throughout Maryland year-round.
Doves frequently visit seed feeders but prefer scouring the ground for fallen seeds. Utilize a ground feeder with a mixed seed blend or scatter seeds directly on the ground.
Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
Length: 7.9-9.1 inches
Weight: 2.1-3.4 ounces
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches
In the 1890s, approximately 100 starlings were released in New York, and since then, they have become widespread, causing disruption by destroying other birds’ nests and young, and monopolizing feeders to the detriment of other birds. Sporting mostly dark plumage with white specks on their backs and wings, they also exhibit yellow beaks and feet. Starlings can display a purple and green iridescence, appearing quite attractive in the right lighting conditions.
Starlings are present year-round in every one of the lower 48 states, including Maryland.
European Starlings are opportunistic eaters, being an invasive species. It is advisable not to actively attract them, as they tend to show up regardless.
Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
Length: 4.3-5.1 inches
Weight: 0.4-0.7 ounces
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 inches
Goldfinches rank among the favorite birds to observe at feeders, especially when adorned with their vibrant yellow feathers in Spring and Summer. During this period, they exhibit mostly yellow or “gold” coloring with black-tipped wings. Males additionally feature a black cap on top of their heads. In winter, they molt, losing their flashy colors and adopting a more subdued brown or olive hue. Their distinctive black wings with white bars and finch-like beaks allow for year-round recognition.
Goldfinches are found in Maryland throughout the year.
Preferred feeders for Goldfinches include thistle (nyjer) feeders, although they may also consume sunflower chips. A thistle feeder offers the best chance to attract them.
Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
Length: 5.1-5.5 inches
Weight: 0.6-0.9 ounces
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 inches
The House Finch is another common backyard bird in Maryland. Although considered invasive in the east, they do not evoke the same negative sentiments as House Sparrows and do not cause the same issues. Attracting them is relatively easy, and they may appear in large flocks, swarming your feeders. Both sexes exhibit brown coloring with prominent white streaking, with males displaying red splashes on their head, chest, and back.
House Finches are prevalent throughout Maryland year-round.
House Finches are attracted to bird feeders, enjoying black sunflower or mixed seed. Like other finches, they also visit thistle feeders.
8. Carolina Wren
Scientific Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
Length: 4.7-5.5 inches
Weight: 0.6-0.8 ounces
Wingspan: 11.4 inches
These petite birds feature a predominantly reddish-brown upper body and a lighter orangish hue on their undersides. Recognizable by their slightly curved, elongated beaks and distinctive bold white “eyebrow,” Carolina Wrens tend to conceal themselves in brush, making them challenging to spot. However, their loud “teakettle-teakettle” song is unmistakable.
Carolina Wrens can be found year-round throughout Maryland.
Common visitors to backyards, Carolina Wrens are often observed at suet feeders.
Scientific Name: Passerina cyanea
Length: 4.7-5.1 inches
Weight: 0.4-0.6 ounces
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 inches
These beautiful buntings undertake nocturnal migration from their wintering grounds in Mexico and southern Florida. While females display mostly brown tones with subtle hints of blue, males boast vibrant blue plumage with black accents on their wings. The intense blue coloring results from the reflective properties of their feathers rather than the presence of blue pigment. Look for them during the summer, singing along the edges of fields and woods.
Indigo Buntings can be found in Maryland during the spring and summer.
Although not as frequent at feeders, they may visit, especially if you provide a mix of seeds and nyjer.
10. Dark-Eyed junco
Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 inches
Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 inches
Often associated with winter, Juncos spend their summers in Canada, displaying various colorations across the United States. In the eastern U.S., the “slate-colored” variety is prevalent, featuring dark gray heads, chests, backs, wings, and tails. Their bellies, extending to the bottom of the tail, are white. Females may appear similar or have a buffy brown tone instead of gray. Distinctive features include their pale pink beaks and rounded body shape. Typically found in forests and wooded areas, Juncos can be spotted hopping around on the ground.
Dark-eyed Juncos may inhabit areas of the Appalachian Mountains year-round, while in much of Maryland, they migrate during winter.
Juncos occasionally visit feeders but prefer ground-feeding on seeds dropped by other birds. They are particularly fond of mixed seeds.
11.Red- eyed Vireo
Scientific Name: Vireo olivaceus
Length: 4.7 – 5.1 inches
Weight: 0.4 – 0.9 ounces
Wingspan: 9.1 – 9.8 inches
Red-eyed Vireos are among the most common summer birds in the eastern U.S., migrating from South America for the breeding season. Sporting faded olive backs and tails, lighter breasts and bellies, they exhibit a distinctive dark streak through their eyes, a white eyebrow, and a dark cap. As the name suggests, they have a red eye-ring, though it can be challenging to see, appearing black when in shadows. These birds, while common, remain aloft in treetops, making them less visible unless actively sought. Listen for their incessant song and calls, characteristic of these vocal vireos.
Red-eyed Vireos can be found in Maryland during the spring and summer.
Feeding mainly on insects during the summer, Red-eyed Vireos do not frequent bird feeders. Attract them with native deciduous trees and insect-supporting vegetation.
Scientific Name: Archilochus colubris
Length: 2.8-3.5 inches
Weight: 0.1-0.2 ounces
Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 inches
Common in the eastern half of the United States, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds reign as the most abundant hummingbird species in the country, serving as the sole breeding hummingbird in the Eastern U.S. Males flaunt a vibrant ruby-red throat, emerald-green backs, wings, and heads, contrasting with white underparts. Females lack the red throat feathers.
While occasional rare species may wander through, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the primary hummingbirds in Maryland, present from spring to fall.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are frequent visitors to backyards, especially if nectar feeders are provided, typically in April or May.
13. White-throated sparrow
Scientific Name: Zonotrichia albicollis
Length: 6.3-7.1 inches
Weight: 0.8-1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 inches
Common during winter across much of the U.S., White-throated Sparrows migrate to Canada for breeding during the summer. Recognizable by their white throat patches, along with a distinctive black and white facial pattern with yellow spots between the eyes, these sparrows are often found nesting just above or on the ground in concealed areas of dense brush and vegetation.
White-throated Sparrows are widespread in Maryland, with some individuals remaining year-round, and their population increasing during the winter months.
These sparrows readily visit feeders, picking up fallen seeds below and favoring sunflower, millet, and mixed seed blends.
14. baltimore Oriole
Scientific Name: Icterus galbula
Length: 6.7-7.5 inches
Weight: 1.1-1.4 ounces
Wingspan: 9.1-11.8 inches
Orioles, primarily fruit eaters, are attracted to dark-colored berries and fruits. To attract Baltimore Orioles, ensure your backyard has native fruit-bearing trees and plants. Males feature a dark hood on their entire head, black backs with white wing stripes, and vibrant orange on their breasts and underbodies. They also exhibit an orange rump and tail feathers. Female coloring can vary, appearing as a duller yellow-orange with gray wings or a lighter orange with brown on their head and wings, lacking the intense orange and glossy black of the males.
Baltimore Orioles are migratory, appearing during the breeding season in Maryland, typically in spring and summer.
Orioles are drawn to sweet offerings; place an oriole feeder and provide jelly and orange halves to attract them during their stay.
15. Northern cardinal
Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Length: 8.3-9.1 inches
Weight: 1.5-1.7 ounces
Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 inches
Northern Cardinals stand out as one of the most easily identifiable and widespread backyard birds in North America. Males showcase vibrant red plumage with a distinctive black mask, while females exhibit more subdued tawny brown tones with hints of red. Both genders are characterized by their crests resembling mohawks atop their heads and reddish-orange beaks.
Northern Cardinals are a year-round presence throughout Maryland.
Attract Cardinals with a variety of seeds, including mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds, as they readily visit most seed feeders.
16. Tufted Titmouse
Scientific Name: Baeolophus bicolor
Length: 5.5-6.3 inches
Weight: 0.6-0.9 ounces
Wingspan: 7.9-10.2 inches
These diminutive birds are frequent visitors to feeders and common in backyards within their range. Like cardinals, they sport a small mohawk that distinguishes them from other birds. Titmice feature silver-gray upper plumage and lighter undersides, with a black patch just above their beaks. An orange patch may sometimes be visible on their side beneath the wing.
The Tufted Titmouse is present throughout Maryland all year.
Titmice readily visit various seed feeders, so provide mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
Scientific Name: Poecile atricapillus
Length: 4.7-5.9 inches
Weight: 0.3-0.5 ounces
Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 inches
Chickadees, with their distinctive “black cap” and bib, are easily recognizable small birds. Their cheeks are pure white, and their wings, backs, and fluffy underbodies are gray. These quick and inquisitive birds display courage around humans, especially near bird feeders.
Two types of Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees and Carolina Chickadees, share similar appearances. In Maryland, there is some crossover between the two species. Carolina Chickadees are more prevalent throughout the state, while Black-capped Chickadees are found in smaller numbers, primarily in the far western portion.
Both Chickadee species are year-round residents in Maryland and will visit most seed feeders. Offer them mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
18. Blue jay
Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata
Length: 9.8-11.8 inches
Weight: 2.5-3.5 ounces
Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 inches
The Blue Jay, another widely recognized North American bird, boasts a large blue crest atop its head, predominantly blue upper feathers, and white underfeathers. A distinctive black ring encircles their necks, resembling a necklace, and their wings feature white, blue, and black bars. Both male and female Blue Jays share these striking colorations.
Blue Jays are year-round residents in all parts of Maryland, commonly seen in backyards and around feeders.
To attract Blue Jays, use platform feeders, peanut feeders, and feeders with large perches. Offer black sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, and peanuts to entice them to your yard.
Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos
Length: 8.3-10.2 inches
Weight: 1.6-2.0 ounces
Wingspan: 12.2-13.8 inches
Mockingbirds earn their name through their impressive ability to imitate the songs of various bird species, with males capable of learning up to 200 different songs. Medium-sized and predominantly gray and white, these birds are easily identified by their elongated tail feathers. Often residing in tall bushes, they can display aggressiveness toward intruding birds.
Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents throughout Maryland.
While they are frequent in backyards, Northern Mockingbirds do not typically visit bird feeders. Attract them to your yard with features like fruit-bearing bushes or a bird bath.
20. Common Grackle
Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula
Length: 11.0-13.4 inches
Weight: 2.6-5.0 ounces
Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 inches
Despite falling into the category of bully birds, Common Grackles can display iridescent feathers, revealing hues of blue, green, brown, and purple in the right light. Their appearance is generally black, and they may roost in massive flocks, often numbering in the millions. Recognizable by their solid coloring, long and narrow bodies, and yellow-ringed eyes, grackles are foragers and are sometimes considered pests.
Common Grackles are found year-round throughout Maryland.
As foragers, Grackles have a diverse diet and eat almost anything. They are commonly perceived as pests.
21. Song Sparrow
Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia
Length: 4.7-6.7 inches
Weight: 0.4-1.9 ounces
Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 inches
Widespread in North America, Song Sparrows exhibit varying plumage across different regions. In the east, they typically have brown backs and wings, with pronounced brown streaks on their chests and a white belly. Male Song Sparrows utilize their songs to attract mates and defend their territories.
Song Sparrows, while migratory in many areas, are year-round residents in Maryland.
These sparrows may occasionally visit bird feeders, where they enjoy snacking on mixed seeds and sunflower seeds.
22. Red- Bellied Woodpecker
Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus
Length: 9.4 inches
Weight: 2.0-3.2 ounces
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 inches
Medium-sized woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are commonly spotted at feeders and in eastern U.S. backyards. Despite their name, the noticeable feature is the bright red streak along the back of their heads, while the lower belly area’s pinkish-red hue is often less visible. Their wings, marked with white and black barring, contribute to their distinctive appearance.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers reside in Maryland year-round.
To attract them, use a suet feeder, although they may also visit seed feeders, especially if you offer mixes containing peanuts.
23. Downy Woodpecker
Scientific Name: Picoides pubescens
Length: 5.5-6.7 inches
Weight: 0.7-1.0 ounce
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 inches
Downy Woodpeckers, the smallest woodpeckers in North America, are frequent visitors to bird feeders. Easily recognizable by their all-white underbodies, black wings with white spots, and black-and-white striped heads, males also sport a red spot on the back of their heads (absent in females). Although resembling the Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpeckers are smaller with shorter beaks.
Downy Woodpeckers are present year-round throughout Maryland.
These woodpeckers are commonly found at various bird feeders. Offer them mixed seed, black sunflower seed, and suet for a delightful backyard encounter.
Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus
Length: 11.0-12.2 inches
Weight: 3.9-5.6 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 inches
Northern Flickers, medium to large-sized woodpeckers, are commonly found in backyards across the United States, although they are not as frequently seen at feeders. Considered among the most colorful birds in North America, these woodpeckers primarily feed on insects, often foraging on the ground rather than in trees. Identifying features include black spots on their bellies, a solid black bib, a red patch on the back of their necks, and barred black and gray wings. Male flickers may have a distinctive black “mustache.” In Maryland, the variety present is the “yellow-shafted,” characterized by bright yellow feathers on the underside of their wings and tail.
Northern Flickers are year-round residents in Maryland.
While not frequent visitors to feeders, Northern Flickers will come to suet feeders. If you have leaf piles in your yard, you might observe them digging around for insects.
25. Gray Catbird
Scientific Name: Dumetella carolinensis
Length: 8.3-9.4 inches
Weight: 0.8-2.0 ounces
Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 inches
Catbirds, robin-sized birds with dark slate-gray coloring, a black cap on their heads, and long tails, are easily recognizable. They have a rust-red patch just beneath their tails, often concealed from view. Catbirds are fond of consuming fruit, making them attracted to native fruit-bearing trees and bushes. The name “catbird” is derived from their calls, which somewhat resemble the meowing of a cat.
While in most states Gray Catbirds are only present in the summer, many parts of Maryland have them year-round.
To attract Catbirds, offer fruits, berries, and other sweet foods. They prefer foraging on the ground or in bushes for their food.
Scientific Name: Passer domesticus
Length: 5.9-6.7 in
Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in
Often regarded as nuisances, House Sparrows, scientifically known as Passer domesticus, represent the only other wild bird species in the U.S., alongside starlings, that can be legally trapped and humanely euthanized. Introduced in New York during the 1800s, these birds have rapidly spread as invasive species throughout the country. Their appearance is predominantly brown, with black and brown streaks on their wings and a buffy chest. Males are distinguishable by a black mask and chest. Known for their aggression, particularly around nests and birdhouses, House Sparrows exhibit territorial behavior towards other birds.
Found year-round in all parts of Maryland, House Sparrows, like European Starlings, are invasive and pose a threat to native species. They have a varied diet, consuming most types of seeds.
BIRD WATCHING IN MARYLAND
Maryland offers a delightful experience for birdwatching enthusiasts, extending beyond the confines of backyard birding. Engaging with organizations such as Audubon Mid-Atlantic, Audubon Society of Central Maryland, and the Southern Maryland Audubon Society opens up opportunities for meetups, workshops, field trips, and organized birding tours.
For Maryland residents keen on expanding their life list with new bird species, the following compilation provides insights into some popular birding locations in the state.
MARYLAND BIRDING LOCATIONS
Explore the unique offerings of each location and stay informed about local birding events and festivals by visiting birdwatchersdigest.org.
HOW TO ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR YARD
If you’re eager to bring the vibrant avian life to your backyard, consider these five simple tips, starting with the most straightforward.
- PUT OUT BIRD FEEDERS The most effective and obvious method to attract birds is by placing bird feeders in your yard. Begin with a simple tube feeder, hopper feeder, platform feeder, or a window feeder. Tailor your choice based on the bird species you hope to attract.
- ADD A WATER SOURCE Provide a water source, such as a pedestal birdbath or a terra cotta flower pot saucer. Birds not only use water for bathing but also for drinking. Enhance the appeal by incorporating a solar fountain, as the sound of moving water can further entice birds.
- OFFER BIRDHOUSES Many bird species readily inhabit birdhouses if placed strategically and timed correctly. For instance, Eastern Bluebirds are popular occupants. Choose well-designed birdhouses and position them appropriately to increase the likelihood of attracting nesting birds.
- PROVIDE SHELTER Ensure that your yard includes trees, bushes, and shrubs, offering birds places to seek refuge when sensing danger. This natural shelter is crucial for their defense against predators. If your yard lacks mature trees, consider adding landscaping features that provide a sense of safety for the birds.
- ADD NATIVE PLANTS Incorporate native plants that produce nuts, berries, and seeds, catering to the dietary preferences of many bird species. Avoid invasive and non-native plants, as they may pose risks to native birds unfamiliar with these species.
By implementing these steps, you can create an inviting environment that not only attracts a variety of birds but also provides them with essential elements for feeding, nesting, and safety.
10 VARIETIES OF BIRD FEEDERS
Here are 10 commonly used bird feeders that people install in their yards.
- Hopper Feeder: Named for the central compartment or “hopper” holding bird seed, these feeders have side perches for birds to land on and feed. Many resemble houses and have a top cover to protect the seed from moisture. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed. Check out this squirrel-proof hopper feeder, one of my favorites.
- Platform Feeder: Also known as tray feeders, these open-topped feeders can be hung from a tree, hook, or pole-mounted. They are suitable for various bird types but are accessible to all yard animals. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed. I’m currently using a platform feeder in my backyard.
- Tube Feeder: Clear plastic tube-shaped bird feeders ranging in size from a few cups to 5 lbs or more. They keep seed fresh and dry, allowing easy refilling. Many bird species utilize tube feeders. Use black sunflower seeds and mixed seeds. Squirrel Buster offers some of the best tube feeders, like this squirrel-proof one.
- Suet Feeder: Designed for suet cakes, these feeders are simple wire cages, sometimes with a tail-prop for larger birds. Popular in winter for high-fat foods, they attract woodpeckers. Opt for a suet feeder with a long tail prop for larger woodpeckers like the Pileated and Northern Flicker.
- Window Feeder: Small feeders that attach to glass windows with suction cups. Similar to tray feeders, they are easy to set up and ideal for those with limited yard space. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed. This window feeder on Amazon is highly popular.
- Thistle Feeder: Specialized for thistle seed, these tube-shaped feeders attract finches like the American Goldfinch and House Finch. Tiny holes along the sides allow birds to extract the thistle. Consider this thistle feeder from Droll Yankees.
- Ground Feeder: Tray feeders at ground level, popular with birds like Mourning Doves and Juncos, as well as ground animals. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed. Try this ground feeder made from recycled plastic.
- Oriole Feeder: Specifically for orioles, often orange with plastic or glass dishes for jelly. Allows placement of orange halves, a favorite food of orioles. This simple oriole feeder with jelly trays is a good choice.
- Hummingbird Feeder: Designed for hummingbirds to extract sugar water, but also attracts other birds like Downy Woodpeckers. Check out this simple and inexpensive hummingbird feeder that I’ve personally used.
- Peanut Feeder: Tube-shaped feeders with wider mesh holes for whole unshelled or shelled peanuts. Attracts birds like Blue Jays. Use peanuts for filling. For squirrel-proofing, consider this peanut feeder by Squirrel Buster.
These various feeders cater to different bird species and preferences, enhancing your yard’s appeal to a diverse avian population.