At a Glance
Hours: Open 24 hours a day.
Tips: There is a restroom near the pond by the 19th Street entrance. ◾ Explore the rest of the National Mall, especially during migration. ◾ Because of limited parking and heavy traffic, consider taking the Metro or a cab to get there.
Best Seasons: Spring and fall.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Washington West SE
1850 Constitution Avenue NW (U.S. Highway 50), Washington, DC 20037
Located right in the middle of the Washington, DC capital area, Constitution Gardens is a 50-acre migrant trap. Constitution Gardens is more commonly known as a popular tourist destination with its many iconic national monuments. But the wide swath of green space in the middle of this urban heart of the city attracts birds moving through the area. The Gardens, operated by the National Park service, are located within the boundaries of the National Mall between 18th and 19th Streets NW, that is, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Constitution Avenue is on the north side of the gardens, and Independence Avenue is on the south side.
Constitution Gardens are a relatively new feature of history-rich downtown DC. Construction began in 1971 following the demolition of office buildings that dated back to World War I. The Gardens were dedicated in May of 1976 as an American Revolution Bicentennial tribute.
Birding visits in the spring, after south winds, and in the fall, after a cold front, seem to be most productive. There is a small pond containing an island reachable via a pedestrian bridge. Constitution Gardens is the kind of place where frequent visits will be more rewarding than occasional forays.
There are several access points. One good point is at 19th Street and Constitution Avenue. Entering here will bring you immediately to the small pond. You can take the trail to the right, which will eventually bring you near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. You should carefully explore all areas around the Lincoln Monument, such as the Korean War Memorial and the DC Veterans Memorial. The latter has the largest non-elm trees in the National Mall area and an all-important understory of azaleas and other cover. Don’t forget to check the Reflecting Pool that lies between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial, just south of the gardens. Though the Reflecting Pool is man-made and concrete-lined (and sometimes totally dry), birds, including shorebirds, sometimes visit the pool.
About 190 species have been reported on eBird from Constitution Gardens and the adjoining Reflecting Pool. In winter and early spring, look on the pond for American Wigeon, Redhead, both scaups, all three mergansers, Northern Shoveler and Pied -billed Grebe. In late spring, check the trees for warblers and the shrubs for sparrows. Lawns attract large flocks of Chipping Sparrows and some urban rarities, including Vesper, Grasshopper, and Clay-colored Sparrows. The following represent a fairly typical spring migration list: Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Brown Thrasher, Northern Flicker, Hermit Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Black-and-White Warbler, Northern Parula, Palm Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Osprey, Veery, Prairie Warbler, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Orchard Oriole, American Redstart, Canada Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Black-throated Green Warbler, Great Egret.
In winter you can see Ring-billed Gull, Canada Geese, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Cooper’s Hawk, and some waterfowl in the ponds if they do not freeze over.
Very limited. Street parking is available on Constitution Avenue. Be sure to read the signs for restrictions and time limits. Or take the Metro (see Directions below).
The entire National Mall area is wheelchair-accessible. ◾ The Gardens house a memorial to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, located on the small island in the pond.◾ The National Mall is the heart of the DC visitor area and there are innumerable gardens, museums, monuments, and other attractions. To start to explore the possibilities, see https://www.nps.gov/nama/index.htm.◾ An iconic event at the National Mall is the annual bloom of the cherry blossoms on the trees around the Tidal Basin. The trees were a gift from the citizens of Japan. The National Park Service hosts an annual Cherry Blossom Festival in early spring. ◾ There are no MOS chapters in DC, but Montgomery Bird Club & Patuxent Bird Club are in the neighboring suburbs. Two organizations, the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Audubon Society of DC, hold field trips to birding spots in the District and the Greater Metropolitan DC region.
By car: Interstate 395 provides the best access to the Mall. From I-395, take Exit 4 onto Maine Avenue SW, westbound. In 0.7 miles, merge onto Independence Avenue SW, westbound. In another 0.2 miles, make a slight right to go north on 17th Street NW. In 0.3 miles, turn left to go west on Constitution Avenue NW. The Gardens will be on your left in about 0.2 miles. Look for on-street parking and obey the posted parking hours and limits.
By Metro: From the Farragut West Station on the Orange, Silver, or Blue Lines, walk south on 17th or 18th street about eight blocks to the Northeast corner of Constitution Gardens. Alternatively, use the Smithsonian Station on the Orange, Silver, or Blue lines. Upon exiting the station, walk north on 12th Street NW for about a block to the National Mall Turn left to walk west along the Mall, toward the Washington Monument. Go around the Monument and continue west, but angle slightly north toward Constitution Avenue. The Gardens are just west of 17th Street NW and are north of the Reflecting Pool.
Washington, DC: Anacostia Park, Battery Kemble Park, C&O Canal – Fletcher’s Cove and Boathouse, Dumbarton Oaks Park, East Potomac Park (Hains Point) and the Tidal Basin, Georgetown Reservoir & Palisades Trolley Trail, Glover-Archbold Park, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, National Arboretum, National Zoo, Rock Creek Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island
Montgomery County: C&O Canal – Pennyfield, Violette’s & Riley’s Locks, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (Hughes Hollow), Rock Creek Regional Park – Lake Needwood, Rock Creek Regional Park – Meadowside Nature Center & Lake Frank, Seneca Creek State Park
Prince George’s County: Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Colmar Manor Community Park & Anacostia River Trail, Fort Foote Park, Fort Washington (National) Park, Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm, Piscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall, Schoolhouse Pond
Features:BeginnersFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsPets AllowedRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:Community and Urban ParksGardens & ArboretaNational Parks & Monuments