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What birds can you expect to see in a Maryland backyard? While every property is different with its own mix of birds, many are pretty typical. These are the Maryland backyard birds commonly seen in our central Maryland yard.
Features of My Maryland Yard
I live in a suburban neighborhood between Baltimore and DC. Our Maryland yard has a lot of mature trees and is within a mile or so of ponds and other water. Most of our backyard birds are widely common in this area and beyond. Our trees do attract more woodpeckers and other cavity dwellers. Birds that like more open grass area still hang out, but not quite as much. Having marshy ponds not too far away probably increases Red-Winged Blackbird visits.
Note: This list focuses on backyard birds that actually spend a good bit of time in my Maryland yard. I’m not including birds that more typically fly over my yard like Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures, Great Blue Herons, Chimney Swifts and gulls, etc. I’m also not including various warblers and other birds that stop by for an hour or two during fall or spring migration. (The warbler exception is the Pine Warbler who tends to hang around for a few weeks in early spring.)
Year Round Maryland Backyard Birds
With a lot of brush in the back corners, our suburban Maryland backyard is a favorite of Northern Cardinals. Several pairs hang out all day every day. They are especially active at dawn and dusk with more cardinals joining them in the late afternoon to eat safflower during “Cardinal Cocktail Hour.” (Also see: Northern Cardinals.) They like trees or bushes maybe ten to thirty feet from feeders where they can land, check out the area and then fly over to the feeders and then retreat to when necessary.
The bold feathered cops of the neighborhood, Blue Jays are serious about defending their territory from hawks and crows and any other bird they see as a threat. They come out of the woodwork to eat peanuts in the shell and get very interested in suet when they have young to feed. (Also see: Blue Jays.)
It can be easy to take Mourning Doves for granted as they are such ubiquitous suburban backyard birds. But they really are lovely, gentle creatures. They hang out, usually in flocks, with the cardinals and eat safflower much of the day. They unfortunately are a favorite target of hunting Cooper’s Hawks and so flocks tend to spook very easily.
When a flock of American Goldfinches is in your yard, you know it. They are busy little flashes of yellow. In my Maryland yard, they are on the nyjer and/or sunflower heart feeders most of the time. But you can also see them looking for seeds in flowers and up in the trees. (Also See: American Goldfinches and Goldfinches of Fall and An Oddly Colored Goldfinch.)
House Finches are common in Maryland and they never seem to leave my yard. They might retreat when there is a loud sound or a predator around but they don’t go far. They usually come back quickly to the sunflower heart and safflower feeders. Always in a flock, they tend to bicker a lot among themselves.
Our yard, while suburban, has lots of mature trees and dead branches, making it popular with Downy Woodpeckers. They can often be seen hopping up trunks and branches looking for bugs. The Downys are also regulars at the suet feeders here in Maryland year round. In the spring, they bring their young to eat suet too.
We always seem to have a pair of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers in our wooded yard. They are regulars at the suet feeders and occasionally will grab some sunflower hearts. When I put peanuts in the platform feeder, at least one of them is sure to take one. With their long sharp beaks, this is the one bird that Blue Jays will back away from when there is a conflict over peanuts.
Sounding like little squeaky toys, the White-Breasted Nuthatches tend to show up at the feeders when there are lots of other birds around. They like to fly to a tree and sidle down it a bit and then do a direct flight to the feeder. They are usually after sunflower hearts but also like the occasional bit of suet (especially in the spring when feeding young) or dried mealworms. They are the most common type of nuthatch in my part of Maryland.
You have to love the feisty wrens. Although tiny, they seem to have out-sized boldness and a loud lovely song that they sing year round. They sometimes eat suet or a sunflower seed but what they like best at my feeders is dried mealworms. While House Wrens may be more common in some areas, in my Maryland yard, it is the Carolina Wrens that are the regulars.
We never had House Wrens as regulars in our yard until this year. After the Eastern Bluebirds were uninterested in the nest box we put up for them, a pair of House Wrens moved in. Like the Carolina Wrens, they are feisty. Anything coming into their corner of the yard gets soundly scolded. One day I saw them dive-bombing a squirrel that was closer to their box than they liked. Insect eaters, they don’t seem interested in anything in my feeders, including the dried mealworms. (Also see: House Wrens in the Bluebird Box.)
Seemingly shy birds, Tufted Titmouses tend to hang out with the Carolina Chickadees in my yard and sometimes the White-Breasted Nuthatches. They like sunflower hearts but will eat safflower in a pinch. They grab a seed and go off to eat or cache it and then come back for another. If they can manage to sneak in between Blue Jays, they will try to snag a peanut in the shell and they like smaller peanut splits too.
You have to admire Carolina Chickadees. They are busy birds on a mission. And if there is a perceived threat, they are likely to be heard chattering about it. Like Tufted Titmouses, they come to the feeder, grab a seed and go off to eat or cache it. Then they repeat the process. In the spring, they can also be found on suet feeders gathering suet to feed their young.
(Note: If you live outside the area, you might identify this bird as a Black-Capped Chickadee but in this area of Maryland, the common chickadee is the very similar looking Carolina Chickadee.)
This is the first year we’ve had Eastern Bluebirds in the yard and they are a real pleasure. Non-aggressive birds, if they find the feeder low on dried mealworms, they will sit politely on the top of a shepherd’s hook and look at you as if to say, “Would you consider putting some food out for me?” They often wash the dried mealworms down with some sips from the birdbath. (Also see: Eastern Bluebirds and Bluebird Fledgling Stories.)
On the other hand, although beautiful birds, Common Grackles can be a real pain at times. Most of the year we don’t see them in the yard but here in Maryland, they show up in large numbers during bad weather in winter and early spring. In the spring they can get very aggressive about getting sunflower hearts from seed feeders and gathering in groups on the suet feeders.
The European Starlings are my least favorite backyard bird though. They are very messy eaters and very aggressive about getting whatever food they want. And they aren’t picky about it either. They seem to eat about anything. I had to work to get them off the suet and out of the dried mealworms and to stop making a mess dumping seed out of feeders.
Although Red-Winged Blackbirds often hang out with some of the more obnoxious flock birds in the winter (grackles, starlings and Brown-Headed Cowbirds), they are fine in small numbers. When there are just two or three, they eat safflower peacefully with the cardinals and Mourning Doves. In April, their loud constant call can drive you a little crazy though. To me it sounds like they are yelling, “Eat For Free!!!!”
Our yard doesn’t have a lot of grass, but in Maryland’s warmer months you can usually see at least a few American Robins on it each day. They tend to be particularly interested in freshly turned earth and newly mulched areas. Although they don’t want anything from my feeders, in colder weather, they will sometimes show up to use the heated birdbaths when there is snow on the ground. (Also see: American Robin Interesting Facts.)
When a Cooper’s Hawk flies through the feeder area, there is an explosion of wings as every bird in the area flees frantically. No one wants to become the meal of the local Cooper’s Hawk. Missing the catch more often than grabbing a bird, the Cooper’s Hawk will usually fly low across the yard and then settle mid-way up a tall tree for a while. Eventually it will leave the yard for a while to wait for the birds to gather again. The Coopers will typically hang around for a few days and then move on to other feeding grounds. (Also see: Cooper’s Hawk Visit)
The Fish Crows tend to be very unpopular in my yard. A pair of them will nest in the back corner some years and will soak food for their young in one of my birdbaths. This year the Blue Jays have been very aggressive about keeping the Fish Crows (and American Crows) out of the yard. Interestingly, when there are Fish Crows around I don’t seem to see Cooper’s Hawks in the yard. Personally, I like the Fish Crows and in years when they are around more, I will feed them peanuts. (Also see: Fish Crows.: Fast Food Junkies.)
(Note: Here in this part of Maryland, both Fish Crows and American Crows are common. You can tell them apart by their call. Fish Crows have a much more nasal sounding call.)
Seasonal Maryland Backyard Birds
There are some birds that live in our yard for weeks or months. Some come for the fall and winter, some for a few weeks in the spring and some spend the summer. I would call them seasonal regulars.
Every fall the White-Throated Sparrows come to the yard and settle in to spend the winter. Here in Maryland, they tend to arrive in mid to late October and stay until May. I toss white proso millet or nyjer seed on the ground for them and they gather in small flocks to eat it. They prefer eating near some cover. While most birds don’t sing in the winter, White-Throats do. Their lovely piercing song is a beautiful winter treat. (Also see: White-Throats, Juncos and Other Sparrows and Build Brush Piles For Birds.)
The Dark-Eyed Juncos are another fall and winter visitor to the yard. In my Maryland yard, I see them from about late October through mid-April. Friendly little sparrows, they gather in large flocks in my yard, eating white proso millet and nyjer seed on the ground with the White-Throats and other sparrows. Sweet natured birds, they seem to get along well with other birds in the winter yard. (Also see: Juncos Head North and White-Throats, Juncos and Other Sparrows and Build Brush Piles For Birds.)
Just as the Dark-Eyed Juncos and White-Throated Sparrows are starting to leave in the spring, the Chipping Sparrows pop up in my Maryland yard. Tiny little birds, in the spring they have fresh crisp feathers. They are on the ground eating millet or nyjer with the other sparrows most of the time but unlike many sparrows, they are willing to go to the feeders as well. (Also see: Chipping Sparrows Arrive.)
Because I don’t offer millet on the ground in the warmer months, the Chipping Sparrows don’t tend to hang out in my yard for long but I continue to see and hear them around the neighborhood.
In Maryland, House Sparrows can be found year round but I don’t see them a lot in my yard. I occasionally see them in the winter if I am feeding millet on the ground to juncos and white throats. Their numbers started to grow last winter though and eventually I had to chase them out (a challenging task.) While friendly enough around people, House Sparrows can cause serious problems with some other birds including nesting Eastern Bluebirds and can also overrun bird feeders. (Also see: Deterring House Sparrows and My DIY Anti-House Sparrow Halo.)
Eastern Wood Peewee
In the spring, we can often hear the “PEE-A-WEEEEE” call of the Eastern Wood Peewee. Although his song is loud, I can only rarely locate him sitting up in a tree. (I’m deaf in one ear, so triangulating bird calls is frustratingly challenging.) But I love to hear him.
This is a bird, like many flycatchers, who likes to sit on a branch near a more open area. The Eastern Wood Peewee is probably around hunting bugs through the summer in my Maryland yard as well, but does his singing in the spring. He isn’t interested in anything in the feeders.
In Maryland, there is one resident hummingbird, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. While there is the occasional sighting of a rare hummingbird species, if you are in Maryland, this is almost always the hummingbird you will see. They show up in my yard in late April to sip nectar from garden flowers and sugar-water nectar from the hummingbird feeders. They can be very aggressive about defending their food sources from other hummingbirds so I usually need a feeders on opposite sides of the house to keep a little peace.
I don’t see Pine Warblers in the yard most of the year. Most of them seem to winter a little south of our central Maryland location. But in early spring, one or two will show up at the feeders. They hang out in the yard for a few weeks and then disappear. Similar in coloring to American Goldfinches, they can be easy to miss, but they eat things the goldfinches don’t touch. They can be found on just about any of the feeders, including suet, sunflower hearts, safflower and dried mealworms. (Also see: Pine Warbler Visit.)
Note: Other warblers do show up in the yard but don’t typically stay long. See A Common Yellowthroat Visit.
We don’t see Red-Breasted Nuthatches every year here. They are one of the irruption birds that show up at Maryland feeders during winters when the pine cone crops are poor in their Canadian home. Those years, they come down our way and hang out for the winter in our pines. At the feeders, they can often be found snagging sunflower hearts. Like their White-Breasted cousins, they tend to grab a seed and then fly off to eat it or cache it repeatedly. (Also see: Red-Breasted Nuthatch Visit.)
Another irruption bird, Pine Siskins make our yard a winter home very occasionally. They tend to hang out with the American Goldfinches and eat similar things — nyjer seed and sunflower hearts. If you look quickly, you could miss them in a crowd of goldfinches, but they are a little more slender and more stripey. (Also see: Pine Siskin Visit.)
Short-Term Maryland Backyard Bird Visitors
These are birds that live in my immediate area but typically don’t spend more than a few hours or days at a time in my yard. They are fairly common though and so are not unexpected visitors.
Each spring, Gray Catbirds arrive in Maryland and when they do, we always see a few in the yard for a week or two. That time of year, they seem particularly interested in suet. Because I use upside-down suet feeders, they can’t easily get suet from the feeders. So they tend to hang around underneath the feeders to catch fallen suet. They will pop up now and then all summer but don’t spend a lot of time in the yard.
Some years, I will see an additional woodpecker in the yard in colder months, a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. I’ve only seen one come to a feeder once. They are more likely to be found drilling a series of holes in the trees along my yard’s border line to get at the tree sap. While less common here in Maryland than Downys and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are not uncommon and can pop up in your yard if you have sap-filled trees that interest them.
I do not welcome Brown-Headed Cowbirds because of their parasitic nesting style. They tend to show up here in Maryland with winter and early spring flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and European Starlings. They come for sunflower seed when they can get it, but will also eat safflower.
Northern Mockingbirds are very common in Maryland. They nest in our neighborhood and I see them all the time when I walk, but they spend very little time in our yard. Once in awhile they stop off for a sip from a birdbath and if there are some dried mealworms available, they will eagerly eat them. But most of the time they don’t want anything from the feeders so don’t hang around. I see them more in neighborhood yards with a lot of open lawn and a few trees.
Here in Maryland, seeing a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak at the feeders is always a treat. The males are beautifully colored and the female’s feathers are crisp and neat. In my area, they mostly show up during fall and spring migration. They tend to like the platform feeders best and eat sunflower and safflower readily. We are pretty much on the very southern edge of their breeding range, so they usually hang around for several days or a week and then move on.
Most days of the year, I will not see an Eastern Towhee in my Maryland yard . . . although they may very well be active in the brush in the back corner. I tend to hear them singing “Drink Your Tea . . . “ in the spring, so I know they are around even though I can’t see them. Most of the time they are hunting among fallen leaves and in the brush. But during winter storms when there is a lot of snow covering the ground, they will come to the feeders to eat on the ground with other sparrows.
Although I live just south of Baltimore, I don’t typically see Baltimore Orioles in my yard. BUT, this winter, a young male hung out at my feeders for a month eating seed. So you never know who might turn up at a feeder!
Learn More About Maryland Backyard Birds
All About Birds is a great website from the folks at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. They have a section on each of these birds with all kinds of interesting information including identification tips, song samples, life history and range maps.
More Posts About Maryland Backyard Birds
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