Explore Birding Sites By Region
The western region is the mountainous part of Maryland, with most of the area covered by the Appalachian Mountain Range Plateau. The highest point is 3,369 feet above sea level. Deep valleys, cut into the plateau by rivers, characterize this heavily forested area. Almost bisected in half by adjoining states is the narrow part of the state, called the Appalachian Ridge-and-Valley, dominated by the Great Valley. The fertile soil here supports orchards and farmland. Elevations in the Ridge-and-Valley section reach almost 2,000 feet. Immediately east is the Blue Ridge region, part of the 1,000-foot-high mountain range that runs from Pennsylvania to Georgia. According to eBird reports, 331 bird species have been reported in the Western Region, compared to 463 species in Maryland as a whole.
Central Maryland mostly lies on the Piedmont Plateau, and is marked by low rolling landscapes and fertile valleys. Two ridges, the Dug Hill Ridge (1,200 feet), near the Pennsylvania border, and Pars Ridge (880 feet), run in a southwesterly direction through this region and create some of the updrafts used by migrating raptors. To the west, the Piedmont ends at the edge of the Blue Ridge region, and to the east resistant volcanic rock gives way to the sands of the Coastal Plain. Today, about 45% of the Central Region is forested and an equal proportion is in agricultural production. It is also home to one large urban center – Baltimore City. According to eBird reports, 383 bird species have been reported in the Central Region, compared to 463 species in Maryland as a whole.
The Southern Region, part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, includes five counties – Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s – that lie on a large neck of land defined by the Chesapeake Bay to the east and the Potomac River to the west and south.
Another defining feature is the Patuxent River, Maryland’s longest river, which flows from north to south down the middle of the Southern Region. Prince George’s, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties lie to the west of the Patuxent, while Anne Arundel and Calvert are to the east. Maryland’s portion of the the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay includes Anne Arundel, Calvert, and St. Mary’s Counties.
Unlike the Central Region north of it, the Southern Region is similar in topography to the Eastern Shore. This area has been used for farming since colonial times, particularly for growing tobacco, and despite its proximity to Washington, DC and Baltimore, much of the land is still in agricultural use. Many of the historic tobacco plantations are now preserved as public parks or historic sites. Rivers and streams, as well as the Chesapeake Bay, are a dominant feature of the landscape, creating forested wetlands and marshes. Many of the rivers and streams have cut deep ravines into the flat plain; consequently, the topography can be surprisingly hilly, despite being part of the Coastal Plain. According to eBird reports, 376 bird species have been reported in the Central Region, compared to 463 species in Maryland as a whole.
Eastern Shore Region
The eight counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Talbot, Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, Worcester) are on the mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain, separated from the rest of the state by the expansive Chesapeake Bay to the west. Maryland’s portion of the Eastern Shore is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and the state of Delaware. The Eastern Shore is a flat region with much of the land at sea level. The highest point is in Kent County, the northernmost county of the Eastern Shore, and is only 102 feet above sea level. Much of the Eastern Shore is imminently threatened by sea level rise related to climate change, and effects are already being seen on habitat and birdlife.
Water is a dominant feature of the landscape, creating freshwater wetlands and salt marshes, and shaping barrier islands, ocean beaches, and bay complexes. There are also many rivers and streams, almost all slow-moving, with no rapids. Because of the flat land and mild temperatures, the region has excellent farmland, as well as robust livestock and poultry industries.
With its rural nature, the Eastern Shore is a birding mecca. According to eBird reports, 421 bird species have been reported in the Central Region, compared to 463 species in Maryland as a whole, giving the Eastern Shore the highest bird diversity of any region in Maryland.
Washington, DC Region
Washington, DC is not, of course, part of the State of Maryland, but we have included it in this Birding Guide because of the close geographical, historical, and cultural links with Maryland. The District is intensely urban, but there are many National Park Service parks and monuments that provide good habitat for birds. DC has excellent access to water, with the Potomac River on its southwest border and the Anacostia River in the east.
Washington, DC is bordered by Montgomery County, MD on the northwest; Prince George’s County, MD on the east; and Virginia on the southwest. The city is surrounded by the DC Beltway/I-495. Major routes through the city include I-395 and I-295.
View the DC government’s printable street map of Washington, DC (PDF format). Note that the DC government’s street map does not include labels on National Park Service and other federal properties. For that reason, you may prefer the National Park Service map. In the upper left corner of the map, choose “Park Tiles” and then use the +/- buttons to zoom in and out, and use the mouse to move the map.
The city is served by the Audubon Society of the District of Columbia; Nature Forward (formerly known as the Audubon Naturalist Society) also serves the the greater Washington, DC metropolitan region.
Click on a region below to explore the birding sites.