Virginia Birds: Pictures And Identification Tips

The number of Virginia birds to make the official state checklist continues to climb, now nearing the five hundred species mark.

They all have plenty of fine places to live or visit through the state from the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley and National Park in the West to the coastal areas of the east.

The types of birds in Virginia can be divided into a variety of common categories, depending on the readers or writers interest. The video at the top of the page, for example, shows the female redwing blackbird, a common spring migrant found around water areas throughout the state.

Water areas traditionally draw a large amount of birds. Coastal Virginia enjoys their presence during the migration. May is prime season for shorebirds along the coast. In places like Chincoteague the breeding season for Neotropical migrants starts up with a bang towards June. The Chesapeake Bay area hosts most of the duck species found in the state. The Greater Scaup, Redhead Duck and Canvasback are common throughout the state.

Along the coast, April and May are also great birding times for areas such as The Great Dismal Swamp, close to Virginia Beach. It hosts many of what’s known as the southern warblers such as the Prothonotary warbler.

picture of a Male Cardinal
Residential areas see a variety of birds from different families. Jays, finches, cardinals abound. In fact, the Cardinal received recognition as the official bird of Virginia. It’s a common backyard bird that visits feeders throughout the state.

Woodpeckers, also easily come to feeders. Please press the button for a more detailed examination of all Virginia woodpeckers.

picture of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Virginia birds
Spring in the western mountains means breeding time for more warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers. Birds like the Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Blackburnian Warblers are common.

Virginia Birds: History

picture of a Purple Martin at a birdhouse
Virginia’s birding history traces back all the way to the Colonial Era. One need go no further than the story of Thomas Jefferson’s pet mockingbirds to know their mimicry captured the attention of his ear. Jefferson was also interested in the migratory birds of Monticello such as the Purple Martin (pictured). His notebooks contain records of their arrival dates.

History moves forward and another president, Theodore Roosevelt, builds a retreat in southern Albemarle County. Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for bird watching are well know. Less well known might be one historic fact reported by the Monticello Bird Club,

On May 18, 1907 he made an exciting observation, a flock of a dozen Passenger Pigeons near the cabin, and immediately wrote to two of his naturalist friends, John Burroughs and C. Hart Merriam. Although Burroughs and Merriam doubted the observation, the Pigeon having been thought extinct, other naturalists found the identification satisfactory. If correct, this would mean that the last sighting of the Passenger Pigeon in the wild by a reputable observer was in Albemarle County.

Today members of the Monticello Bird Club continue to follow Jefferson’s lead and lead bird walks around Monticello during the migratory season. Tourists are welcome.

Endangered and Threatened Birds

picture of a Wilson's Plover
Finally a few words about the endangered and threatened birds of Virginia.

Virginia is one state that has its own endangered and threatened species list. It uses it in conjunction with the Federal Endangered Species act.

Currently fourteen birds are listed. Seven of them overlap on both the Federal (FE or FT) and State Lists (SE OR ST)

The Wilson’s Plover pictured at the top of this section is one of seven water birds that are listed. It’s listed as endangered in Virginia. Virginia’s coastal area represents the northern edge of its range and only a few of the state’s barrier islands provide sufficient coastal breeding ground.

  • Bachman’s sparrow ST
  • Bachman’s warbler SE
  • Bewick’s wren SE
  • Henslow’s sparrow ST
  • Kirtland’s warbler FE SE
  • Loggerhead shrike ST
  • Peregrine falcon ST
  • Red-cockaded woodpecker FE SE
  • Eastern black rail FP SE
  • Gull-billed tern ST
  • Piping plover FT ST
  • Red knot FT ST
  • Roseate tern FE SE
  • Wilson’s plover SE