Birds of Virginia

The local avian committee of Virginia has recorded over 400 bird species throughout the state. Some of the species are considered rare such as osprey and falcon, while some others are already extinct. As with other states in the US, the birds of Virginia includes waterfowls, pigeons, hummingbirds, and many more.

The geographical feature of Virginia that ranges from mountains to seashore make this state a great place for birds to breed or visit during migration. Whether you are a professional birdwatcher or layman, here are some birds to enjoy in Virginia.

Birds of Virginia : Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

Birds of Virginia

Formerly known as black-bellied tree duck, the black-bellied whistling duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) has a wide breed range from South America to the southernmost US. This waterfowl is a year-round resident in Virginia and other neighboring states.

The mid-size whistling duck has a distinctive long, red bill and long head that help birdwatchers identify the species. It also has pale gray head with gray-brown plumage and black belly. The whistling duck can be recognized easily even if they are in flight.

The friendly waterfowls usually form large flocks, especially outside the breeding season. They can be found in marshes, lakes, and ponds which provide abundant food. They prefer seeds and water plant though arthropods and invertebrates are also included in their diet list.

Belted Kingfisher

Birds of Virginia

The local bird committee has recorded belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) as one of birds of Virginia. One of the most interesting features is a shaggy crest on their head and beautiful plumage. Adult male has reddish-brown band across the upper belly, while female’s band is much thinner than of the male.

During winter, the belted kingfisher leaves northern parts and migrate to warmer regions. Some of them are also year-round resident and breed in near bodies of water across the United States and Canada.

This fantastic bird often perches on trees and other vantage points near bodies of water. How they seek after their prey is quite amazing as they will plunge their head into the water to catch fish prey. And yet, the bird also feed on insects, reptiles, and amphibians.

Rufous Hummingbird

Birds of Virginia

As the name implies, rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) has a distinctive plumage in reddish brown (rufous). The small bird can also be identified by a long, straight, pointed bill that helps them sip flower nectar. The male is slightly smaller than the female.

The rufous hummingbird prefers open areas as their breeding habitats. The female builds a nest in a shrub or conifer, ensuring that the nest is safe from predators or other birds. During wildflower season, this bird migrate through Rocky Mountain.

These birds of Virginia are territorial, both male and female. They, especially the males will defend their territory that provides a lot of food from the females and other enemies. Meanwhile, the females commonly have larger territory with sparse flower population.

Wild Turkey

Birds of Virginia

The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) spread widely in Virginia. The upland ground bird, despite their weight, is able to fly low beneath the canopy top and perch. They also have good eyesight at day, though it’s very poor at night.
This turkey species does not migrate so it is a permanent resident throughout the state. They prefer hardwood forests and more open areas such as fields and pastures. Mature forests are also preferred.

Since wild turkeys are omnivorous, they have a long list of diet including nuts, hickory, pinyon pine, and seeds. A wide array of berries, insects and roots are also included into the list. Occasionally, they feed on small reptiles and even small snakes.

Birds of Virginia : American Flamingo

Birds of Virginia

Also known as Caribbean flamingo, the American flamingo is among birds of Virginia to enjoy. The graceful flamingo has beautiful reddish-pink plumage that makes it easy to distinguish. It also has a distinctive black-white, hooked bill with a pink patch.

The American flamingo often forms a large flock. During courtship season, the males initiate the process and the females control it. Some relationship last long while some others change, depending on many factors such as removal of adults and maturation.

Smaller than greater flamingo, the American flamingo inhabits shallow water environment. The habitat provides plenty of sustenance. Their downward hooked beak allows them to filter different size of food in the water.

Red-Necked Grebe

Birds of Virginia

Local birdwatchers can enjoy observing red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisigena) that migrates during the winter. The waterfowls are found in estuaries and bays, but they also spend time in wetlands to find food. During migration in April or May, these ducks form a large flock and fly at night.

The red-necked grebe may be hard to identify as they have different plumage during breeding and winter. During the breeding season, it has a black cap and pale grey cheeks. It also has a rusty red neck with white underparts. But during winter, its neck gets duskier.

These birds of Virginia mainly feed on invertebrates and aquatic insects such as dragonfly larvae and water beetles. Occasionally, the red-necked grebe also feed on crayfish, mollusks, and fish. These ducks usually dive or swim to obtain their preys.

Mourning Dove

Birds of Virginia

The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is abundant in Virginia and it is the most popular gamebird for shooters. Among birdwatchers, whistling sound from their wings is the most intriguing feature. The sound is made during landing and take-off.

The year-round dove is often identified by light grey and brown plumage. Since the appearance of male and female is similar, backyard birders may find it is difficult to distinguish both sexes. This species is monogamous and they care for the brood together.

The mourning dove prefers open and semi-open area such as grassland, prairie, farms, and wooded area instead of thick forest and swamps. They exclusively feed on seeds, though broods are fed crop milk. Birders can find dove nest in trees in farms or cities.

American Oystercatcher

Birds of Virginia

The list of birds of Virginia includes American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliates), the sea bird that can be found at the shore. Also known as American pied oystercatcher, this bird has distinctive black and white plumage. It helps birders identify them easily.

Black plumage extends from the head to neck and the back. It also has white underparts and vibrant orange beak that makes it easy to recognize during flight or even in a flock of other sea birds. The oystercatcher has yellow irises with orbital rings around the eyes.

During breeding season, coastal areas such as salt marshes, mudflats, and marsh islands are their favorite habitats. During migration, flocks of oystercatcher can be found in mud to feed. The birds exclusively feed on oyster but they also accept starfish, mussels, clams, and sea urchins.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Birds of Virginia

The broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus) is an intriguing raptor to watch in Virginia. This small hawk is characterized by round wing and black-white striped wings and tails that makes them easy to identify in flight. It also has dark brown back with speckled breast. Juveniles’ plumage is more various.

Known as a summer and spring resident, birdwatchers can enjoy this raptor in several places throughout Virginia, including:

• Harvey’s Knob
• Rockfish Gap
• Snicker’s Gap

This hawk can be found in the mountains and piedmont and occasionally on the coastal plain. They often perch on vantage points to look down for reptiles, frogs, and small mammals. They also feed on large insects.

Peregrine Falcon

Birds of Virginia

Neighboring with North Carolina, the bird species found in both states are pretty similar. Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), for instance, is listed as birds of Virginia as well as North Carolina. Though falcon is not a native to the state, it is a regular visitor to the state.

The peregrine falcon is an amazing flying machine with aerodynamic wings and tails to let it fly rapidly and after its preys. Identifying the bird is quite easy as it has black face and crown with slate gray wings and back. The white wedges on the neck gives helmet look to this raptor.

Before the mass use of DDT, the falcon can be found along Virginia’s Appalachian ridges. Now, it’s considered as endangered species with no more than half-dozen visit the state. The raptor feed on shorebirds, rock doves, and waterfowls.

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An Incredible Birds of Virinia : Glossy Ibis

Birds of Virginia

Often considered as herons or egrets, glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) is another bird species to enjoy in Virginia. As the name suggests, this ibis has dark, red-brown, glossy plumage that makes them look elegant. The long, semi-hooked bill also defines this bird. Unlike herons, it does not fold neck in flight.

The glossy ibis is a summer visitor and it’s pretty common during the season. Birdwatchers can find them in wetlands or coastal marshes and a few of them are recorded in mountains and piedmont. Chincoteague National Wildlife is the best place to see the glossy ibis in Virginia.

They often forage in shallow water for aquatic invertebrates or fish. While wading, their lower bill may be occasionally submerged to catch preys. In flight, they often form V-shaped flocks with fully extended neck.

Tundra Swan

Birds of Virginia

The graceful tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus) is among native birds of Virginia with distinctive appearance. It has a black bill, white plumage and long neck. Backyard birders are sometimes confused with mute swan that has an orange bill.

During winter, thousands of tundra swans can be found along the coast. But there are some records that this swan species visit Virginia during summer, though some birders believe that those summer visitors are mute swan. Birdwatchers can visit Back Bay National Wildlife to observe this swan.

Tundra swan has distinctive voice, allowing birders to recognize their presence even before they are seen. They have loud, high-pitched calls in flight and on the ground. They often forage in ponds and estuaries for aquatic vegetation from the bottom of bodies of water.

Cerulean Warbler

Birds of Virginia

At least 42 species of warblers are found throughout Virginia and the cerulean warbler (Setophaga cerulean) is among intriguing species with cool blue plumage. The small warbler has blue-grey head and back with white breast and necklace as well as pale blue underparts.

Their fall plumage makes it hard to identity this bird during autumn. Though the number of population declines, there are some spots to watch the cerulean warbler in Virginia, which is Peaks of Otter. The best time to visit this place is in spring and summer.

Birders can recognize this bird from its call. It has a distinctive call with buzzy notes ended with up-slurred trill. Once you hear the song, look above and you might find the cerulean warbler perch in the canopy. They mainly feed on insects and often forage on the tree.

Birds of Virginia : Baltimore Oriole

Birds of Virginia

The Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) is an inviting bird species with vibrant orange-black plumage on its body. Despite its brilliant plumage, the oriole is related to the blackbird family. The bird can be identified by black head and orange body while the female has peach-yellow plumage instead of vibrant orange.

During the fall, Baltimore oriole is a common transient along the coast. These birds of Virginia occasionally spends winter in the state and prefer hardwood, particularly sycamores along bodies of water. It can also be seed in parks and deciduous forests as well as suburban areas.

The bird builds a pendulous nest attached on the end of a branch. During colder months, these birds visit bird feeders for some food.

Birds of Virginia : Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Birds of Virginia

The mesmerizing rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) might surprise bird feeders in early May. This bird species solid black head and back with white wing patches. The brilliant rose-red patch on the throat and upper breast makes it easy to identify in flight.

The grosbeak is a common migrant in mountains and piedmont and is less common in coastal plain. They prefer higher location across Virginia to breed and the Blue Ridge Parkway is among the best spots to find them. Good news, this species becomes more common visitors in the state.

The grosbeak is seed-eater so it mainly feeds on seeds and berries. It occasionally feeds on insects and forages in trees or shrubs for the diet.

Whether you are a backyard or professional birdwatcher, Virginia provides plenty of bird species to watch and observe. Knowing their characteristics allows you to find these birds of Virginia without too much effort.

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