Birding DC

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Sample routes

A winter day exploring habitat along the Potomac River


Canvasback – one of the Aythya ducks drawn to the Potomac near DC during winter.

We'll start at first light in an area with palustrine forest and shrub-scrub emergent wetland habitats where we will search for various sparrows including Swamp and flocks of White-throated that have recently included Harris's Sparrow. We should also see herons and also find a wide variety of scrub species and flyovers. From there, depending on the tide, we will visit an estuary for roosting gulls, maybe including local rarities such as Iceland Gull, and wildfowl before spending several hours at a site offering a variety of habitats, from mature woodland, meadow and edge habitat to estuary and open bay. Species will vary markedly with the temperature and degree of freeze but could include a good variety of woodpeckers (maybe six or seven species), thrushes (including American Robin and maybe Hermit Thrush) and wildfowl including possibly swans, mergansers and Aythya ducks (diving ducks such as Scaup and Redhead). Depending on weather conditions we have the option of additional wetland and woodland sites to round off the day.

Woodpecker foray

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker – a frequent sighting in woodlands in and around DC. Six more Woodpecker species could be on the agenda…

This winter trip is specifically targeted at seeing the seven local woodpeckers. In the process we will visit a variety of habitats and will see a variety of woodland and wetland birds to add to our tally. Our targets vary from the diminutive Downy to the comical Pileated Woodpecker.







Spring migrants in DC

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk.

The sun warms the ridge top first on spring days and we'll begin our search for spring migrants here before extending our search to the valley as the sun warms the day. Migrants should include a variety of colourful wood-warblers, flycatchers, vireos and possibly cuckoos. Depending on the day's activity, we will move to another location to check out the fringe and marshland habitat. We'll likely finish the day by heading out of town a few miles to a site with a variety of habitat offering a different mixture of species including possible Indigo Bunting and Broad-winged Hawk.



Spring for migrants in suburban DC

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler – Another target spring and autumn target migrant.


Early birding will be done at the along the Potomac River near DC, for wetland and river species and an initial look at passerines. If the tide is suitable, we will look for shorebirds before heading to one of the area's renowned warbler sites as the sun warms the trees and the migrants begin coming down to drink. Regular warblers in recent years have included Black and White, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian and Brewster's Warbler. The day's birding will be completed with a mixture of woodland and open fresh water habitat that should allow us to see additional species such as swallows, sparrows and possibly Red-headed Woodpecker and rails.