Commonwealth of Virginia

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis ©Ken Thomas - Creative Commons
Birding Virginia

Virginia covers approximately 40,000 square miles and boasts varied avian habitats. The Atlantic beaches and coastal plane are especially rich in birdlife. This includes Virginia’s Eastern Shore, that peninsular extension from the north that borders the eastern aspect of the Chesapeake Bay. Habitats here include fresh-water and salt-water marshes, a variety of forests and cultivated fields.

A regional focal point for birders is the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge at Virginia’s border with Maryland. This Atlantic barrier island refuge harbours numerous species of waterfowl in the winter and is visited by a great variety of migrating shorebirds in late summer and early fall. Specialties include Hudsonian Godwits, Wilson’s Phalaropes, American Golden-plover, American Avocets, Buff-breasted Sandpipers and Black-necked Stilts. Brown-headed Nuthatches are permanent residents in the Loblolly Pine forests.

South of Chincoteague the Virginia Coast Reserve represents a chain of barrier islands and is a designated International Biosphere Reserve for shorebird protection. Accessible only by boat this area is best visited with pre-arranged group tours (Virginia Coast Reserve, P.O. Box 158, Nassawadox, VA 23413, Telephone: 757.442.3049). Threatened and endangered species, such as Piping Plover, nest in this reserve. South of the mouth of the bay is the southern coastal plain where some of the northernmost bald cypress swamps on the east coast are located in areas like First Landing State Park and the Great Dismal Swamp. Spring is considered the best birding season here, when many warblers and other Neotropical migrants pass through. Prothonoiary Warblers and Wood Ducks nest here. There are many other islands of preserved habitat within this popular summer resort area and well-populated region.

The broad piedmont includes population centres like Richmond and the broad urban sprawl outside of Washington DC. Yet within this busy human habitat there are a surprising number of great birding sites. Huntley Meadows Park and Mason Neck State Park are two fine refuges in Fairfax County, along the Potomac River and just outside the U.S. Capitol beltway. Summering Least and American Bitterns, Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-herons and King Rails are special attractions at Huntley Meadows while Mason Neck SP is known for nesting Bald Eagles and Great Blue Heron rookeries. James River Park, within the city limits of Richmond, has recorded 20 species or warblers in one day during peak spring migration.

The non-metropolitan region of the piedmont is a mix of small towns, agricultural habitats, patches of mixed deciduous and pine forests and is traversed by several large rivers and dotted with a few man-made lakes. The largest man-made lake, the 50,000-acre John H. Kerr Reservoir, borders on North Carolina in the south central part of the state. Much of the shoreline is accessible by vehicle. Wintering waterfowl, loons and grebes can be found here, although spring birding is perhaps best. Cliff Swallows, Blue Grosbeaks, Summer Tanager and Loggerhead Shrikes are known to breed around the lake. North and towards the mountains, just outside the city of Charlottesville, is a protected area of woodlands, streams, marshes and farm fields known as the Ivy Creek natural Area. Wild Turkeys are permanent residents here. Woodland species such as migrant thrushes, vireos and warblers (up to 31 species) are common.

The western mountains of Virginia include the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies. Between these ranges lies the broad and beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Virginia’s highest point, Mt. Rogers at 5,729 feet, is near the southwest corner of the state. Such high elevation areas are unique in Virginia in that, otherwise northern birds such as Saw-whet Owl, Hermit Thrush, Magnolia Warbler, Alder Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, breed here. If one is in this part of Virginia during the month of May, perhaps the best birding is along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic route offers ideal chances for many migrating and resident warblers as well as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Veeries and Woodthrush. Key stops along this route might include Warbler Road in Boteourt county and Humpback Rocks in Augusta County.

In the fall one of the best places in the state for observing migrating hawks, especially large numbers of Broad-winged Hawks, is at Rockfish Gap where the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway transitions with Shenandoah National Park near the town of Waynesboro. Shenandoah National Park itself offers great mountaintop scenery and fantastic spring and summer birding.

  • John Spahr MD


Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 473

    (As at August 2018)
  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • Birder's Guide to Virginia

    | (Aba Birdfinding Guide)| by David W. Johnston, David W. Johnston | American Birding Association | 1997 | Spiralbound | 288 pages, black & white illustrations, tables, maps | ISBN: 9781878788122 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Virginia

    | By Todd Telander | Falcon Guides | 2012 | Paperback | 96 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9780762778935 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Virginia Field Guide

    | By Stan Tekiela | Adventure Publications | 2021 | Edition 2 | Paperback | 392 pages, colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781647552022 Buy this book from
  • The History of Ornithology in Virginia

    | By David W Johnston | University of Virginia Press | 2003 | Hardback | 256 pages, 25 b/w illustrations, 7 tables | ISBN: 9780813922423 Buy this book from
  • Virginia Birds

    | (A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species) | By James Kavanagh & Raymond Leung | Waterford Press | 2000 | Unbound | 12 pages, colour illustrations, 1 colour map | ISBN: 9781583550991 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • State Bird

    Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
  • Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    The Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory is a migratory bird and insect observation station located at the tip of the Delmarva peninsula on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Banding operations for songbirds and raptors are conducted each fall from mid August until the end of November. Visitors are welcome to visit the Hawk Observation and Songbird Banding Stations.
  • Harvey’s Knob Hawkwatch

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Located on the Botetourt-Bedford County line near Roanoke, Virginia between mile markers 95 and 96 on the Blue Ridge Parkway…
  • Kiptopeke Environmental Station

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Our focus, historically has been the study of fall bird migration at what is now Kiptopeke State Park. This will continue to be our most visible activity but by no means is this our only interest. We support the study of birds and insects elsewhere on the lower Eastern Shore. We also actively support the systematic efforts of the Center for Conservation Biology and the Coastal Resource Management Program to identify and preserve critical habitat. Several of the recent and planned K.E.ST.R.E.L. efforts incorporate this broader focus…
  • Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch is held on the grounds of the Inn at Afton, located on the southern side of Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just above where I-64 (exit 99) intersects with the southern end of the Skyline Drive and the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just east of Waynesboro, VA and approximately 22 miles west of Charlottesville, VA. This is one of the best places in Virginia to witness the annual southward migration of diurnal raptors. On most weekends from mid August to late November volunteer birders staff this observation site and keep a running total of the raptor species seen. September is the best month to witness large kettles of migrating Broad-winged Hawks. Daily counts can go into the thousands during such phenomena. Eighteen species of hawks, falcons and eagles have passed over this site during the past few decades since records have been kept. Some interesting and surprising passerine and other non raptor migratory species also pass by here.
Museums & Universities
  • Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum

    The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, located in the historic de Witt Cottage on the Virginia Beach oceanfront, displays art and artifacts documenting migratory wildfowl that pass through Eastern Virginia. Exhibits of wildfowl and shorebird carvings trace the evolution of this American art form from the simple traditional decoys to the contemporary lifelike carvings.
  • Blue Ridge Young Birders Club

    Facebook Page
    Educating and Inspiring the Future of Conservation in the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Welcome to the Blue Ridge Young Birders Club! Hello parents, teachers and community members. We welcome you to our website and wish to share with you the many birding resources available to you to support the young birders and students in your life. As you explore our website you will discover meeting and field trip dates, citizen science projects, and teaching resources. We hope that you consider joining us as we explore the wonderful world of birds!
  • Audubon Naturalist Society

    Welcome to the Audubon Naturalist Society, the oldest independent environmental organization in the Washington, DC region. A pioneer in linking conservation activities with environmental education...
  • Audubon Society in Virginia

    Chapters enable Audubon members and others to meet and share an appreciation of their common interests. They create a culture of conservation in local communities through education and advocacy, focusing on the conservation of birds, other wildlife and conservation of important habitats.
  • Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV)

    The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) was first chartered as the "The Audubon Society of Northern Fairfax" in 1980, shortened its name in 1983 to, "Fairfax Audubon Society" and again in 2004 to ASNV, more accurately reflecting the true membership and range of activities of our Audubon chapter…
  • Augusta Bird Club

    The Augusta Bird Club was founded in 1966 by Dr. John Mehner, retired professor of biology at Mary Baldwin College. The club has been very active in local and statewide ornithological activities ever since. Many of its members have served or are serving on the board of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. The club will host the VSO annual meeting in May 2000. From an initial membership of 30 the club has grown to nearly 200 members today. Over the years club members have enthusiastically participated in the Breeding Bird Surveys, countless hours of fall hawk watching at Rockfish Gap and the Virginia Atlas Project (1984-1989) where members contributed over one thousand records of 131 species in 20 atlas blocks
  • Bristol Bird Club

    Facebook Page
    The Bristol Bird Club was founded in Bristol, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia in 1950 to promote the enjoyment, scientific study and conservation of wild birds.
  • Buchanan County Bird Club

    Events, newsletter, members etc. etc…
  • Cape Henry Audubon Society

    Facebook Page
    Despite promise after promise, Virginia is quickly losing its nontidal wetlands, STATEWIDE. But an exciting turn Monday night could be the beginning of a turnaround. A responsible bill to stop the destruction was approved in committee by the House of Delegates by 10-7, to many people's surprise. Virginia Audubon's testimony helped make it happen.
  • Fairfax Audubon Society

    The Fairfax Audubon Society, the local chapter serving Northern Virginia, is committed to the Audubon mission, which is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife, and their habitats
  • Lynchburg Bird Club

    The Lynchburg Bird Club was founded in April, 1958 under the guidance of Dr. Ruskin Freer, a biology professor at Lynchburg College. But birding in Lynchburg goes back much earlier in the twentieth century when many of the original members of the Virginia Society of Ornithologists (VSO) lived and birded in the Lynchburg area…
  • Monticello Bird Club

    The Monticello Bird Club is an informal group of about 150 people who join together to share their enthusiasm for birds. Our monthly meetings feature invited speakers from throughout the state who share their expertise with entertaining and informative presentations. Field trips with experienced leaders to local or distant sites take us to where the birds are…
  • Nature Conservancy in Virginia

    Excellent photo of Buffalo mountain on the opening page. Welcome to The Nature Conservancy of VirginiaVirginia is a remarkable state: a mosaic of wild beaches and pristine estuaries, ancient mountains and fertile valleys, northern forests and southern swamps. From the Appalachians to the Atlantic, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, The Nature Conservancy is working to protect these rare, diverse, and beautiful natural landscapes…
  • New River Valley Bird Club

    Welcome to the New River Valley Bird club's Home Page. We are a local chapter of the state organization, the Virginia Society of Ornithology. Our club is dedicated to furthering the enjoyment and understanding of birds
  • Northern Neck Audubon Society

    The Northern Neck of Virginia, located between the Potomac River to the north and the Rappahannock River to the south, is home to some truly great birding. Because of its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, its large expanses of undeveloped land and wetlands, and the passion of the local community to protect and preserve its natural treasures, the four counties of the Northern Neck are a haven for over 250 species of birds.
  • Northern Shenandoah Valley Audubon Society

    The Northern Shenandoah Valley Audubon Society (NSVAS) is a chapter of the National Audubon Society and member of the Virginia Audubon Council and the Virginia Environmental Network. NSVAS is a non-profit organization which serves the City of Winchester and the Counties of Frederick, Clarke, Warren, and Shenandoah plus portions of Loudoun, Fauquier, and Rappahannock. By joining the Northern Shenandoah Valley Audubon Society, you also join the National Audubon Society.
  • Northern Virginia Bird Club

    The Northern Virginia Bird Club was founded in 1954 as the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. While we are still a chapter of the VSO, we have shortened our name. The Northern Virginia Bird Club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004. Bob Watson, one of the group founding the club in 1954, was recognized by being made a Director Emeritus.
  • Richmond Audubon Society

    You're invited to become active in the Richmond Audubon Society! Join us on bird walks. Come to meetings. New folks are always welcome. Novice birders are invited on all walks! Check out our activities at the left to see what's happening. Our Mission Statement The Richmond Audubon Society promotes the enjoyment, understanding, and preservation of birds, other wildlife, and habitat through birding, education, advocacy, and fellowship
  • Roanoke Valley Bird Club

    In 1957, the Roanoke Valley Bird Club was formed as a local chapter of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. With 150+ members, our group continues to promote an interest in the study of birds and to conserve wild bird habitat. Our monthly programs are educational as well as entertaining. But above all, our members enjoy good fellowship by participating in bird watching field trips and other activities…
  • Rockingham Bird Club

    The Rockingham Bird Club is a recreational birding group located in Rockingham County, Virginia. We enjoy various field trips, guest speakers and special events that bring together people who share an interest in birds and nature…
  • Virginia Avian Records Committee (VARCOM)

    The Virginia Avian Records Committee (VARCOM) was formed in 1989 to increase knowledge of Virginia birds, to evaluate and to archive records of vagrants and rare nesting species in the state, and to encourage high standards of observation, recording, and reporting in the birding community. Since then, VARCOM has evaluated more than 650 records of rare species, unseasonal occurrences, and unusual breeding attempts…
  • Virginia Beach Audubon Society

    The Virginia Beach Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society. VBAS is an active conservation and environmental organization dedicated to the Audubon cause of saving birds, wildlife, and habitat….
  • Virginia Bluebird Society

    The Virginia Bluebird Society (VBS) was founded in 1999 to promote bluebirds and other native cavity nesters. VBS is affiliated with The North American Bluebird Society (NABS) and is a Chapter of the Virginia Society of Ornithology (VSO).
  • Virginia Important Bird Areas

    Program - A science-based public, university and government partnership, defining and conserving through education Virginia habitat critical to North American birds
  • Virginia Society of Ornithology

    The Virginia Society of Ornithology exists to encourage the systematic study of birds in Virginia, to stimulate interest in birds, and to assist the conservation of wildlife and other natural resources. All persons interested in those objectives are welcome as members. Present membership includes every level of interest, from professional scientific ornithologists to enthusiastic amateurs.

Abbreviations Key

  • CP Accotink Creek & Lake Accotink Park

    InformationSatellite View
    Accotink Creek runs through one of the finest remaining wildlife corridors in Fairfax County. It is easily accessed from Wakefield, Eakin, and Lake Accotink Parks. There are miles of trails through good habitat that is excellent for bird watching, especially during migration.
  • CP Huntley Meadows

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Nestled in Fairfax County's Hybla Valley, Huntley Meadows Park is a rich, natural island in the vast suburban sea of Northern Virginia. Its 1,424 acres harbor majestic mature forests, wildflower speckled meadows and acres of wetlands bursting with life. It is ideal wildlife habitat for beaver, otter, heron, ducks, deer, many songbird and butterfly varieties, as well as a host of other animals.
  • Important Bird Areas (IBAs)

    InformationSatellite View
    Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. IBAs include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds. IBAs may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but usually they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. They may include public or private lands, or both, and they may be protected or unprotected.
  • NWR Back Bay

    WebpageSatellite View
    Established in 1938 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in the southeastern corner of Virginia. The refuge is an important link in the chain of national wildlife refuges located along the Atlantic Flyway. Back Bay Refuge contains 7,732 acres, situated on and around a thin strip of coastline typical of barrier islands found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Habitats include beach, dunes, woodland, farm fields and marsh.
  • NWR Chincoteague

    WebpageSatellite View
    About 300 species of birds have been identified on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The Eastern Shore and the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague are located along the Atlantic flyway for shorebirds, waterfowl, and others that nest in the north and migrate south for the winter. The salt marshes, the pine woods, and the specially-developed, freshwater impoundments on the refuge are also nesting places for a variety of birds including species of plovers, gulls, terns, geese, herons, and ducks.
  • NWR Great Dismal Swamp

    WebpageSatellite View
    Located in south-eastern Virginia and north-eastern North Carolina, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was formed in 1974 when Union Camp Corporation donated 49,100 acres of forested wetlands to The Nature Conservancy. This land was then conveyed to the Department of the Interior, and the Refuge officially established. The Refuge consists of over 107,000 acres, with Lake Drummond, a 3,100 acre natural lake…
  • Virginia Natural Area Preserves

    InformationSatellite View
  • WRs Dyke Marsh

    WebpageSatellite View
    Dyke Marsh is one of the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the Washington metropolitan area. Its 485 acres of tidal marsh, floodplain, and swamp forest can be explored by boat or on foot.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • VA-Bird

    Mailing List
    VA-BIRD is a birding communications network covering the entire state ofVirginia where you can:* report and receive rare bird sighting information* share timely information about bird outings and chapter field trips* interact with members of the National Audubon Society, Virginia Societyof Ornithology, and other bird-related organizations.
  • Virginia

    Discussion Group
    Discussion group for birders in the states of Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Bird Treks

    Tour Operator
    Bird Treks has been providing small group and custom birding tours for over 20 years. Visit their website to see the incredible tours available, including Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia!
  • Virginia Beach Pelagics

    I hope everyone is excited about the upcoming pelagics as I am! In light of those trips, I wanted to bring to everyone's attention a new eBird hotspot which has been created to help improve reporting on Virginia Beach pelagic trips.
Trip Reports
  • 2012 [06 June] - John Rowlett & John Coons

    …Every Virginias' Warblers tour—over the past 20 occasions—is sensational, but each becomes a sensation in its own way, as those participants who have taken this tour no fewer than four times can attest! This year was especially memorable for the lovely morning on Gaudineer Knob (complete with a Snowshoe Hare, a first-timer for the tour), the red morph Eastern Screech-Owl perched along the James River high above Prothonotary and Yellow-throated warblers, the strikingly patterned Red-headed Woodpecker showing off for all to admire (thanks to sharp-eyed Iowa Bill!), and the spectacular Bobolink performance conducted repeatedly on the fence before us…
  • 2013 [06 June] - John Rowlett, Lena Senko, Eric Hynes

    …Highlights were numerous, but seeing 25 of the 26 species of breeding warblers we encountered had to rank tops. Yet four Empidonax and four brown-backed thrushes, a full house of some of North America's simply premier birds, and a host of gracious hosts who people the land—all these merit special mention as sources of unsurpassed pleasure…
  • 2014 [05 May] - John Rowlett, Bret Whitney & Tom Reed

    Annotated list
  • 2015 [05 May] - John Rowlett, Tom Johnson, and Jan Pierson - Virginia's Warblers

    ...Here, along the banks of the James at Warren Ferry and the Hardware River WMA, such lowland, southern species as Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Orchard Oriole, and Blue Grosbeak graced us with appearances. The birding didn't stop for dinner, either - a Louisiana Waterthrush arrived in a small stream next to our restaurant and sang from mere feet away as we dined.
Places to Stay
  • Assateague Inn

    Open year round with each season having it`s own special beauty and attraction. Assateague Inn is nestled among loblolly pines overlooking a small salt water creek and quiet salt marsh. Observe salt marsh wildlife from your room. Watch the sun rise, swim in our pool, relax in our hot tub, go crabbing on our deck, have a picnic and cook out on our charcoal grills. Leave your problems behind on the mainland and come to our beautiful island. Walk our beautiful beaches and trails, go bird watching, see our world famous Wild Ponies, and enjoy our friendly small town atmosphere
  • Cornerstone Farm B&B Farmstay - Red Oak

    Spring 2004 we will be opening our farm as a Farmstay Bed & Breakfast. Watch for details as we prepare and get ready to accommodate our first guests to share the joys of country farm living. Some activities we will have at the farm for our guests will include: hiking, fishing, birding, and nature walks - to name just a few.
  • Sevenoaks Retreat Center - Madison

    Surrounding the central campus of the retreat center are 120 acres of mostly forest wilderness, untouched for over 35 years, protected by an Open Space Easement from any future development. The woods, pond and river are abundant with wildlife--including deer, fox, raccoons, beavers and otters. Sevenoaks is also a bird watchers' paradise--redtail hawks, owls, herons, & numerous species of songbirds are commonly seen. We honor the wisdom of this land and of its natural inhabitants, and know that the land provides a deeply nourishing environment for all those who come here for their own healing and awakening…
Other Links
  • Assateague Island Birds

    Located along the Atlantic migratory flyway, Assateague Island plays host to a wide variety of both migratory and resident bird species. Because its mid-latitude location is within the migratory routes of both northern and southern species, the island provides a unique opportunity for birders. The island's rich mosaic of forest, dune, and marsh habitats offers feeding and nesting opportunities for a wide array of shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and waders.
  • Center for Conservation Biology

    The Center for Conservation Biology is a research and education organization within the Department of Biology at the College of William & Mary. Our particular focus is the development of information resources needed for effective, science-based conservation. We believe that information is the currency that drives all aspects of conservation…
  • Delmarva Birding Weekends

    Sightings and adventures in birding on the Delmarva Peninsula…
  • My Bird Book Virginia

    I am a beginning birder and a casual photographer, located in York County, Virginia…
  • Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

    Signpost site with some useful links for wildlife…
  • Alan Pulley - Birds 'n Such

    Last updated 2013 - Here I blog about my interests which include bird watching, gardening, nature photography, & art…
  • Ezra Staengl - BirdsAndBuds

    This blog is a collection of my birding and planting adventures in the piedmont region of central Virginia and beyond. I am a fourteen year old birder with a interest in botany, especially native plants, and orchids in particular. I’m also interested in Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), as well as in birds of course! All photographs on this blog that do not say otherwise are mine. Thanks for visiting!
  • Steve - Birding in Northern Virginia

    Last updated September 2011 - Welcome to Birding in Northern VA. I will be posting pictures and stories about all of the birds I see. Although I want to see and photograph every bird from every species that winters, summers, migrates through or lives permanently in Northern VA, my goal is to post a picture of all 53 permanent resident birds…
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Rob Paine - I See Beauty All Around

    Photo BLOG
    Rob Paine picked up his first camera before he turned seven. He rarely has been seen without one in his hands since. He inherited is love of photography from his Dad, who was a talented amateur photographer. Rob began his professional photography career while still in high school by shooting youth soccer games for local weeklies in Fairfax, Va…

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