Massachusetts has a long and rich birding history. The Nuttall Ornithological Club - the oldest bird club in North America, and parent organisation to the American Ornithologists Union - was founded in Cambridge in 1873. In 1896, the protest of two Boston Brahmin women against the use of bird feathers in the millinery trade eventually lead to the establishment of the Massachusetts Audubon Society - the oldest such organisation in the country. Ludlow Griscom - Dean of Field Ornithology - held a research position at Harvard University from 1927 until his retirement in 1955. Griscom was the first to effectively demonstrate that birds need not be collected to be correctly identified. And in 1975, the discovery of a Ross's Gull in Newburyport attracted hundreds of birders from around North America and once and for all showed the world that birding was not just a sport for little old ladies in tennis shoes.
Massachusetts is varied in both topography and biological diversity. The mountains of Berkshire County in western Massachusetts have the highest elevation in the state (3,491); and are home to a number of northern breeding species, such as Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackpoll and Mourning warblers, and as recently as the 1970s, Bicknell's Thrush. There are many fine locations in the Berkshires to watch migrating hawks in autumn, and irruptive northern finches are more likely to be found in Berkshire County than in any other part of the state.
The agricultural plains and neighbouring wooded hills of the Connecticut River Valley represent a highway for migratory songbirds in spring and fall. Snow Geese pass through the valley in spectacular numbers during migration, and in 1997, two Ross's Geese were discovered among an enormous flock of Snow Geese - the first for Massachusetts. In late August, hundreds of migrating Common Nighthawks can often be seen hunting flying ants at dusk.
Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts is the only consistent breeding location for Cerulean Warblers in the Commonwealth, and with nearby Wachusett Reservoir represents the southernmost breeding locale for Common Loons in the country. The greatest draw at Quabbin, however, is the Bald Eagle population, with several pairs breeding since 1989, and impressive concentrations of over-wintering birds every year. At Enfield lookout in Belchertown, one can almost be assured of finding a group of eagle watchers any day in the winter, all with scopes set up and engaged in lively conversation about eagle behaviour. In eastern Worcester County, Mount Wachusett and Mount Watatic are popular spring and fall hawk-watching locales.
The North Shore of Essex County features two of the best-known birding locations in the country. Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (i.e. Plum Island) and adjacent Newburyport are justifiably famous for vagrants, as well as shorebirds in migration, and both waterfowl and raptors during the winter. At Cape Ann, especially in winter, one can almost always encounter birders searching the offshore waters for loons, seabirds, ducks, and gulls. Following south-west winds in spring, both Plum Island and Cape Ann periodically collect impressive numbers of migrating songbirds.
The Greater Boston area offers birders a number of options. The Blue Hills Reservation south of the city is one of the more reliable areas in the state for finding breeding Worm-eating Warblers, and the region was the location of the first breeding Black Vulture in Massachusetts (1998). A short subway ride from Logan Airport is Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston, a locality productive for both herons and shorebirds. Winthrop Beach is a fairly reliable spot to look for Barrow's Goldeneye, King Eider, and Black-headed Gull in winter, and Mew Gulls have been reported here almost annually in recent years. Marblehead Neck and the Nahant peninsula north of Boston are famous migrant traps for songbirds, but perhaps best known is Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Every day during spring migration one can join dozens, if not hundreds, of other birders enjoying spring migration.
The south-eastern mainland of Massachusetts includes both Plymouth and Bristol counties. In the pine-oak barrens of Plymouth's Miles Standish State Forest, Whip-poor-wills are a common evening sound, and the barrier spit at Plymouth regularly supports breeding Piping Plovers, Common and Least terns, a few Roseate and Arctic terns, and occasionally a pair of Black Skimmers. In Halifax, agricultural fields belonging to Cumberland Farms often support Rough-legged Hawks by day and Short-eared Owls in the evening during the winter. The Dartmouth/Westport area has the largest breeding concentration of Ospreys in the Commonwealth, and is one of the few breeding areas in Massachusetts for White-eyed Vireo. Almost anywhere along the extensive shoreline of south-eastern Massachusetts it is possible to find a pleasant variety of ducks and shorebirds in season.
Cape Cod and the Islands are considerably farther south than the rest of Massachusetts, and consequently are good locations to search for southern species, such as Blue Grosbeak and Summer Tanager, during migration. At the elbow of Cape Cod is Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and South Beach, a constantly shifting series of sandbars and mud flats, that are virtually shorebird magnets. Practically every shorebird rarity ever recorded in Massachusetts has found its way to this remarkable area at one time or another. The Cape and Islands are also the breeding grounds of several species found nowhere else in the state, but access to these breeding specialities is extremely limited. Tiny Penikese Island in Buzzards Bay is home to a small colony of Leach's Storm-Petrels, and Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls - now rare or absent as breeders on the mainland - still regularly nest on Tuckernuck Island off Nantucket. And despite the fact that Chuck-will's-widow has never been confirmed as a breeder in Massachusetts, indications are that the species has likely been breeding on Martha's Vineyard for over a quarter of a century.
The popularity of whale-watching makes pelagic birding in Massachusetts more accessible than in many other coastal localities. Whale-watching boats leave daily in the summer from various ports, including Newburyport, Gloucester, Boston, Plymouth, & Provincetown, and occasionally there are dedicated birding trips sponsored by local birding clubs to offshore waters.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 499
As of march 2013
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
Birds of Massachusetts
Richard R Veit and Wayne R Petersen Series: NATURAL HISTORY OF NEW ENGLAND SERIES 514 pages, b/w illus, maps. Massachusetts Audubon Society 1993
ISBN: 0932691110Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Massachusetts Field Guide
by Stan Tekiela Adventure Publications 2000
ISBN: 9781885061881Buy this book from NHBS.com
by James Kavanagh - Waterford Press 2001
ISBN: 9781583551523Buy this book from NHBS.com
Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas
Edited by Wayne R Petersen and W Roger Meservey 441 pages, 198 col illus, 198 maps. University of Massachusetts Press 2003
ISBN: 1558494200Buy this book from NHBS.com
Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Essex River Cruises
Discover the saltmarshes, wildlife…
Pelagics - New England Seabirds
To promote pelagic birding and the conservation of seabirds in New England. Natural history of the seabirds and something about the whales and dolphins. Where to see pelagic birds from land and how to take a pelagic trip. Visiting seabird colonies in Maine, Nova Scotia, eastern Canada and Newfoundland. Hints for taking your first pelagic trip. Reports of birds seen. Not for profit, no sales, no advertising.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2006 [08 August] - Chis Hill - Cape Cod
…I was staying in South Yarmouth, which is situated in the mid-Cape next to the Bass River and the location acted as a good base for the week as it meant that travelling to any birding spots didn’t involve only any overly lengthy journeys. Common birds in this leafy town included DOWNY WOODPECKER, SONG SPARROW, RED TAILED HAWK, NORTHERN CARDINAL, BLUE JAY, MOURNING DOVE, BLACK CAPPED CHICKADEE, CHIMNEY SWIFT, AMERICAN ROBIN, COMMON GRACKLE and the ubiquitous HOUSE SPARROW…
2009 [05 May] - Andrew Birch
…We were staying at a beach rental house near Tom Nevers pond on the far southeast corner of the island. Often migrants could be found first thing in the hedgerow around our clifftop house. Each morning, I would walk the beach road between Tom Nevers and Siasconset checking gardens along the way. Siasconset was often very birdy with the tall trees. Thanks to the book Birding Nantucket (see below) I found some of the best areas including the famous cherry tree that was often quite productive. On the whole, the weather was windy but sunny. The first day (5/18) was a bit rainy but 5/19 was warm and sunny. Although the birding wasn’t fantastic, I did enjoy a nice array of migrants for my efforts…
2014 [10 October] - Richard Coomber
...Two large male Wild Turkeys looked very plump. Apparently there were three last week, but it is getting closer to Thanksgiving Day! Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches and House Finches were the commonest species at the feeders. Both Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches came occasionally and there were visits from a few Purple Finches and Red-winged Blackbirds. Northern Cardinals tended to stayed on the ground along with a smart male Eastern Towhee and sparrows that included Chipping, Field and Song....
2015 [10 October] - Richard Coomber
...We had an excellent itinerary that covered coastal birding on the Massachusetts' coast photographing fall colours and old buildings inland in both Vermont and Massachusetts. We flew to Boston and then drove to Cape Cod. The colours of trees and shrubs were radiant in the sunshine. The birding was good with White-winged Scoters offshore with other sea ducks and Common Loons...
Places to Stay
Captain Farris House
Captain Farris House 308 Old Main Street, South Yarmouth, MA 02664, In Bass River Village 15 minutes away from Hyannis, 508-760-2818, A unique bed & breakfast inn voted 'One of New England's Best' by Fodor's and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All accommodations have large, private bathrooms, private phone, private entrances, fine bath amenities, and some have fireplaces and sundecks.
Carriage House Inn - Chatham
Welcome to the Carriage House Inn, a romantic Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast Inn in Chatham, Massachusetts. Our B&B is about a mile from Chatham Light Beach and a half mile from downtown Chatham, MA…
Clark Tavern Inn B&B
The inn's tranquil surroundings include a graceful water garden, a large built-in swimming pool, a beckoning hammock, and lots of outdoor sitting areas perfect for quiet moments. A screened-in patio is a splendid place to enjoy a candle lit breakfast al fresco while watching the birds attend their morning rounds…
Inn at Cape Cod
Our Inn is located in the historic district of Yarmouth Port, MA and abuts 250 acres of Cape Cod conservation land and 50 acres of walking trails. We are also down the street from Grey`s beach boardwalk (marsh land) which is home to birds of all kinds. Including sightings of a Merlin spotted on the Osprey pole near Gray`s Beach…
Isaiah Hall B&B Inn
The location is ideal for exploring all the Cape has to offer in under an hour. But for those looking to relax and escape the every day hassles the Inn`s beautiful gardens are a great place to decompress. Our quiet location means you are more likely to hear the sound of birds than the sound of traffic…
Isaiah Jones Homestead B&B - Sandwich
We are a small Bed and Breakfast located in Sandwich about a mile from the Sandwich Boardwalk over the salt marsh…
Allen Bird Club
The Allen Bird Club serves area birders by providing a forum in which to develop their common interests and knowledge. Through club participation, members are kept current about interesting and unusual bird sightings as well as about topics and issues pertaining to bird identification, behavior, habitat, and environment. In addition to providing lectures at its monthly meetings from October through May, the Club maintains the Stebbins Memorial Wildlife Refuge in Longmeadow, schedules local and distant field trips year-round, conducts annual bird censuses, and publishes Birds of Western Massachusetts, containing seasonal field records…
Athol Bird & Nature Club
The Athol Bird and Nature Club was formed in 1963 to enhance the appreciation of natural history in the North Quabbin Region. Founded by Robert Coyle, an eighth grade science teacher at the Athol Junior High School, the Club was a spin-off of the science curriculum which included studies in astronomy, geology, geography, and field ornithology…
Audubon Society in Massachusetts
Audubon's local chapters can bring you bird walks, advocacy campaigns, nature outings, educational programs and other events. And with more than 500 chapters around the country, there's likely to be one nearby… not so in Massachusetts - not chapters
Brookline Bird Club
The Brookline Bird Club, commonly known as the BBC, is the largest and one of the oldest of the many bird clubs in Massachusetts. Membership is opened to all who are interested in birds and nature…
Cape Cod Bird Club
Welcome to the website of the Cape Cod Bird Club, Inc., an organization whose members are dedicated to the protection and conservation of the bird life and natural resources of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and beyond…
Eastern Massachusetts Hawk Watch
Founded in 1976, EMHW is an all-volunteer, member-based organization whose mission is to promote the study, conservation and preservation of hawks locally and on a continental scale by monitoring migration in Massachusetts; to share data for research and conservation purposes; to promote education and awareness of the identification of hawks and the issues related to migrating hawks and to instill an appreciation for hawks in general…
Essex County Greenbelt Association
The Essex County Greenbelt Association is a member supported nonprofit land trust that has conserved nearly 14,000 acres of land in Essex County. Greenbelt works with local communities and landowners to acquire and protect ecological areas, farmland and scenic vistas. One of our major goals is the creation of "greenbelts" consisting of river, trail, and other natural corridors, coastal systems and visually intact landscapes…
Forbush Bird Club
The Forbush Bird Club was established in 1931, being named after Edward Howe Forbush (1858-1929), author of Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States (1925), and state ornithologist from 1908-1920. The aim of the Forbush Bird Club is to promote the study of birds with relation to their distribution, ecology, food requirements and population; and to promote a desire for the conservation of all our natural resources…
Hampshire Bird Club
The Hampshire Bird Club, founded in 1984, is a good source of information for bird watching newcomers as well as for the more experienced birder. Our members range from the casual observer to the avian-possessed. Members receive monthly mailings describing regular programs, field trips and bird related events in the area, have access to the ever-expanding lending library and can have a place on the Rare Bird Alert telephone tree if desired…
Hoffmann Bird Club
The Hoffmann Bird Club was established in 1940 with a mission of promoting the study of birds in Berkshire County. The club was founded under the auspices of the Berkshire Museum. and named in honor of Ralph Hoffmann a naturalist who was born in Berkshire County…
Manomet Centre for Conservation Sciences
As one of the nation’s oldest non-profit environmental research organizations, Manomet is dedicated to conserving natural resources for both humans and wildlife. Through science and public engagement, Manomet works to integrate society’s social, economic, and environmental values into enduring, sustainable systems that will support the needs of present and future generations…
Massachusetts Audubon Society
Mass Audubon works to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. Together with more than 100,000 members, we care for 34,000 acres of conservation land, provide educational programs for 225,000 children and adults annually, and advocate for sound environmental policies at local, state, and federal levels. Mass Audubon's mission and actions have expanded since our beginning in 1896 when our founders set out to stop the slaughter of birds for use on women's fashions…
Massachusetts Avian Records Committee
The Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (MARC) was formed in 1989 for the purposes of evaluating, analyzing, archiving and sharing evidence supporting current and historical records of birds rare to the Commonwealth. We hope this website will be a valuable resource to fellow enthusiasts of bird distribution, as well as a fun place to rehash great finds and twitches or to catch up on what you've missed…
Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition
All non-profit land trusts, conservation organisations and watershed associations in Massachusetts are welcome as members.
Menotomy Bird Club
Menotomy Bird Club is an association of people interested in birds and birding in the Mystic Valley watershed, in particular the areas in and around Arlington, Massachusetts. Our goal is to give every member, from beginner to expert, a way to better enjoy birds through meetings and expeditions in our own area…
Millers River Environmental Center
An initiative of the Athol Bird and Nature Club
Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts
Terrific photos but the site is still in its early stages… Welcome to the home page of the Massachusetts Chapter of The Nature Conservancy! Here you'll find information on the many ways we're working with the people of the state and the nation to help preserve the diversity of living things by protecting the habitats - land, water, and air - in which they live…
South Shore Bird Club
The South Shore Bird Club (SSBC) was founded in 1946 by Don West, a Quincy teacher. The first members were from the Quincy-Wollaston area and they set out to explore the birds and birding habitats of the South Shore of Massachusetts. Over the years the club has grown to a membership of 135, most of whom come from the south of Boston and north of Cape Cod, although the club has members from other parts of Massachusetts, from nearby states and even from as far west as Montana…
Stoughton Bird Club
The Bird Street Conservation Area is land set aside by the Town of Stoughton in cooperation with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the US government. Historically, this parcel was a farm and remnants of the farmhouse foundation, the pond, and other features attest to this fact.. Note that this is a mixed use area, so it is possible to encounter dog walkers, horse and bicycle riders, and joggers. On many of our visits, however, we see no other people…
Sudbury Valley Trustees
Sudbury Valley Trustees is a voluntary association of individuals, families, and businesses committed to protecting wildlife habitat and the ecological integrity of the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers for the benefit of present and future generations.
Trustees of Reservations
This web site is your window into the diverse work of The Trustees of Reservations, the nation's oldest private, state-wide conservation and preservation organisation. Since 1891, we have protected over 33,000 acres of land in Massachusetts, including 82 public reservations representing many of the state's most scenic, ecologically rich, and historically important landscapes…
Cape Cod Bird Festival
...As always the Festival would never be anything if it wasn’t for the Volunteers. We rely on you for so many things and cannot thank you enough. Please contact Diane Silverstein or Stefanie Paventy if you wish to Volunteer. Diane – firstname.lastname@example.org Stefanieemail@example.com We need your help...
Wing Island Bird Banding Station
The Wing Island Bird Banding Station has been in operation since September 2000. The station is sponsored by the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster, MA and is situated on 80 acres abutting a sprawling salt marsh and 300 acres of conservation land…
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, was founded in 1954. Our mission is to encourage and advance understanding of our natural environment through discovery and learning. The museum is housed in a 17,000 square foot building on its own 80-acre site and abutted by 320 acres of town- and Conservation-owned land…
Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary
There are many different types of birds that have been seen on the Broad Meadow Brook sanctuary grounds. Over 160 have been sighted at Broad Meadow Brook…
Fresh Pond Reservation
Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation is a citizens group whose purpose is to enhance and protect the natural environment of Fresh Pond Reservation through education and community participation. Started during the winter of 2001-2002, the group has offered activities at the Reservation including three Winter Tree Identification Walks, and an evening called Reflections on the Pond, where participants shared their artwork and personal experiences. Plans for future events include a Birds Nest Survey, guided bird, wildflower, tree and insect walks, and other activities suggested by members…
Located on Cape Cod, the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge represents a new and unique partnership approach toward preserving wildlife habitat. In April 1995 the towns of Mashpee and Falmouth celebrated the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the nine Partners who joined together in the establishment of the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge.
Massachusetts State Forests and Parks
One of the smallest states in the nation, Massachusetts has one of the largest state park systems. Wherever you go, you are always near a state park.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge consists of North and South Monomoy Islands and a portion of Morris Island. Its 2,750 acres are predominantly barrier beach island of sand dunes, freshwater ponds, and salt and freshwater marshes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protects and manages Monomoy as habitat for wildlife, with a special emphasis on migratory birds. Many of these migratory species nest here, and a variety of species native to the area also inhabit the refuge….
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Founded in 1831 by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Mount Auburn was the first landscaped cemetery in America and was influential in the creation of America's public parks. It is still an active cemetery but also serves as an arboretum, a museum of sculpture, and a wildlife sanctuary.
Parker River NWR
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1942 to provide feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds. The refuge occupies 4,662 acres on the southern two-thirds of Plum Island, a barrier island on the Northeast coast of Massachusetts…
Silvio O Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is no ordinary Refuge! The Connecticut River watershed, 7.2 million acres in four states, is larger and more heavily populated than areas usually considered when creating a refuge…
U.S.F.W. Refuges in Massachusetts
…exactly what it says on the tin…
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Wellfleet Bay’s woodlands, salt marsh, barrier beach and heath lands attract a wide variety of wildlife, especially songbirds and shorebirds. Five miles of scenic trails wind through these habitats and provide a lovely view of Cape Cod. In addition, the beginning of the Goose Pond trail is universally accessible. The sanctuary’s nature center is a modern example of “green” architecture, including passive solar heating and composting toilets. Inside, the nature center features two 700-gallon aquariums that introduce you to the sanctuary’s salt marsh tidal organisms and our freshwater life as well…
Forums & Mailing Lists
Forays into the World of Birding
Posts and sightings of the occasional forays into the wild world of bird watching, enjoying nature, getting a little exercise and reporting what amazing birds there are out there to see here in the Bay State and abroad…
I'm taking a vacation. My job ended on August 14th in MA and I'm ready to take my interest in birding across the U.S. At this point, I'm going to use this blog as a means of recollecting the birds, places, and friends that I see on this journey. My year American Birding Association checklist started on September 1st 2009…
Another birder that is now blogging
Birds, birding and travel from the heart of the Pioneer Valley, Western Massachusetts…
A beginning birder just trying to make some noise…
The Curious Birder
I live in Central Massachusetts and enjoy birding, hiking and the great outdoors. I Wish there were more hours in the day for less work and more play…
The Daily Bird New England - Alexander Dunn
A seasonal site for watchers of New England birds - The Daily Bird is like a "word-of-the-day" calendar for beginner bird watchers. Each day a single entry will describe a species of bird that can be observed or topic relevant to the time of year…
Tom Pirro - Birding North Central Massachusetts
General birding mostly from new England (USA)…
Birds of New England
Some excellent photographs… Over 200 species of birds either breed, are resident, or winter in New England. This includes both inland birds and coastal birds. Some of these birds have a small New England range (for example, the Acadian Flycatcher) and other birds are found throughout the region.
Cape Cod Bird Club
Central Massachusetts Bird Update
This compilation is now actively in operation. It contains daily updated bird sightings from central Massachusetts, mostly Worcester County. To contribute a sighting, you can email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Rick Quimby at (508) 835-6567 and leave a message. Please leave your name and the time and date of your call, along with particulars of the sighting. This is not intended as a chat line, so please confine your submissions to recent bird sightings that will be of interest to Worcester County birders. Material posted on this web site may not be republished in any format without the permission of the author(s).
Checklist - Birds of Massachusetts
Dick Walton's Home Page
Plenty to interest the entomologists as well as birders…
Joe and Caz's Birding Pages
some of the birds you may find in and around the Mystic Lakes in Medford, Massachusetts…
Lisa Shea's Birding in Massachusetts
I've always loved the outdoors and birds, camping, hiking, mountain biking. When I moved in with my boyfriend, Bob, in Sutton Massachusetts in 1995 it seemed that I'd entered a birder's paradise.
Marj Rine's Birding Pages
Birding around Arlington - with many photographs.
The Where do you want to go birding today… pages for Massachusetts
Nesting Barred Owls: see photos in the nest
You are cordially invited to share in the adventures of a pair of Northern Barred Owls (Strix varia varia) as they raise their family in a nest box in Eastern Massachusetts. Rest assured that all of the pictures and sounds that you will experience are being obtained through owl-friendly methods.
Photographers & Artists
Artist - Catherine McClung
decorative bird paintings etc…
Gallery - Migration Productions - Shawn P Carey
Greetings friends of birds. My name is Shawn Carey and with several of my friends I have put together Migration Productions. Working in the audio-visual field I have access to the equipment as well as the people to put together high quality shows using 35mm slide photography and accompanying sound tracks. Migration Productions is a team of people with different talents in the audio-visual field that I've brought together to create multi-image slide presentations on birds.
Photographer - Jim Fenton
Wildlife and landscapes are my passion and I spend much of my non-working (real job) time shooting photos nearby to where I live and in selected areas across the country. Many of these images are captured in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts and particularly in the Parker River Watershed, and Plum Island and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge…
Photographer - Joe Sutherland - Sutherland Birds
Bird photography with some really fine images…
Photographer - Rob Whiting
Rob Whiting's Wildlife gallery…
Photographer - Sean T Noonan
…stnphotography.com is a blend of photography and birding, my two obsessions…