At a Glance

Hours:

  • Grounds are open 8 am – 5 pm daily, except closed on December 25.
  • Visitor Center is open 8 am – 4:30 pm daily, except closed on federal holidays November through February.
  • National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is open 10 am – 4 pm daily, except closed on federal holidays November through February.
  • Note: The R Street entrance is CLOSED to incoming car traffic after 2 pm Monday through Friday. Bicycles and pedestrians can still enter through R Street between 2 pm and 5 pm Monday through Friday. When the R Street entrance is closed, cars must use the New York Avenue entrance.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Visit on weekday mornings to avoid crowds. ◾ Restrooms are located in the Visitor Center and in Arbor House. ◾ A picnic area is located in the National Grove of State Trees. ◾ The speed limt it within the grounds is 20 mph.

Best Seasons: Winter, spring, early summer, fall.

Breeding Bird Atlas Blocks: Washington East SW, Washington East CW

Local MOS Chapter: No MOS chapters in DC, but Montgomery Bird ClubPatuxent Bird Club are in the neighboring suburbs. The Audubon Naturalist Society and the Audubon Society of DC cover DC.

National Arboretum

3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
(202) 245-2726

The National Arboretum in northeast DC is one of those treasured open spaces that enlivens the lives of local residents as well as drawing visitors from all over the world. Birders know it as a migrant trap as well as a significant site for breeding birds and wintering birds. The Arboretum was established by an Act of Congress in 1927, and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. The Arboretum’s 446 acres are located on the west bank of the Anacostia River, with 9 miles of roads winding through and connecting gardens and collections of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants cultivated for scientific and educational purposes.

The best areas to check are the Asian Collection on Hickey Hill near the Anacostia River; the Azalea Collection in the Mount Hamilton area in the southwest part of the grounds; and the native plant collection in Fern Valley.

Birdlife:

About 200 species have been reported on eBird from the National Arboretum. There are six separate eBird hotspots covering the Arboretum:

A smattering of wintering or migrating waterfowl are reported from the Arboretum; most of these are found on adjacent the Anacostia River, but Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, and Mallards breed in the area.  A few shorebirds may come through during migration; check the wet areas near the river. Great Blue Herons are present all year, and are joined by Great Egrets, Green Herons, and Black-crowned Night-Herons in the warm months.

The Arboretum is known as a good place to look for hawks, falcons, and owls. Both Bald Eagles  (see Multimedia section below) and Osprey nest on the grounds. Both Turkey and Black Vultures are present year-round. Northern Harriers – a great rarity for DC – may come through during migration. Cooper’s Hawks are present year-round, and Sharp-shinneds migrate through in numbers. Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks are local breeders and can be found throughout the year. The three locally breeding owls – Eastern Screech, Great Horned, and Barred – are all present. Northern Saw-whet Owls may sometimes be found in winter, and there are a few records of wintering Long-eared Owls. American Kestrels can be found year-round; Merlins may be present from September through April; and Peregrine Falcons can be sighted during migration.

All of the locally breeding woodpeckers are easy to find: Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Northern Flicker. Red-headed Woodpeckers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers may be present from September through April. Yellow-billed Cuckoos, along with Eastern Wood-Pewees, Acadian Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebes, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Eastern Kingbirds, can be heard calling all through the grounds during the spring and summer. White-eyed, Red-eyed, and Warbling Vireos breed here, and Yellow-throated and Blue-headed Vireos migrate through.

Four species of swallows can be found in the warm months: Northern Rough-winged, Barn, Bank, and Tree. White-breasted Nuthatches are common year-round, and are joined in winter by Red-breasted Nuthatches, as well as Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers. House Wrens and Carolina Wrens both breed and are easy to find; Winter Wrens are present from October through March; and Marsh and Sedge Wrens are occasionally found during migration.

All three mimids are common, and a few Gray Catbirds and Brown Thrashers can even be found in sheltered areas during the winter. Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins are present in large numbers year-round. Wood Thrushes breed within the Arboretum, and Hermit Thrushes over-winter. This is a good place to look for migrating Veery, Gray-cheeked, and Swainson’s Thrushes.

During irruption years, check the conifer groves for Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, and Red and White-winged Crossbills.

There is a good selection of sparrows: Chipping, Field, Song, and Eastern Towhee are found year-round; America Tree, Fox, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned, White-throated, Savannah, and Swamp Sparrows are found in winter; and Lincoln’s Sparrows are a reliable fall migrant. Rarities include Lark Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, and Vesper Sparrow.

Bobolinks are sporadic during the warm months, and Eastern Meadowlarks may be found from fall through spring. Both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles breed at the Arboretum. Redw-nged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles are present year-round, while Rusty Blackbirds are a spring specialty.

Thirty-five species of warblers have been reported during migration — essentially the entire set of East Coast warblers, except for Swainson’s (at least, not yet). A few warblers can be found during breeding season: Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, and Pine.

Scarlet Tanagers, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings also breed here.

Parking:

Free parking with lots scattered throughout the grounds; see trail map at the link at left. No parking on roadsides within the grounds.

Special Features:

The National Arboretum  is a good spot for mobility-impaired birders, as the extensive network of roads and parking areas dotted all over the grounds make it possible to bird from or near the car. Some, but not all, of the gravel and paved paths are wheelchair-accessible. ◾ There are good visitor amenities, including the Visitor Center and a gift shop. There is no dining facility but there is a drinks vending machine in Arbor House. ◾ The Arboretum hosts a full schedule of  workshops, classes, lectures, and festivals. The Arboretum hosts field trips for school classes, and has a webpage with resources for teachers. ◾ The National Arboretum has a free mobile app, available for IOS and Android devices, that helps visitors navigate the grounds, explore the collections, learn about visitor services, and know what  tours, exhibits, and events are happening in “real time.” ◾ There are no MOS chapters in DC, but Montgomery Bird ClubPatuxent 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.

Multimedia:

A pair of live streaming nest cameras is focused on an active Bald Eagle nest at the Arboretum. The nest camera website contains much background information about the history of this nest. The web cameras are made possible by the American Eagle Foundation, the Friends of the National Arboretum, and other partners. Donations are welcome to support the web camera service.

Directions:

The National Arboretum is located in the northeast section of Washington, DC, approximately ten minutes from the Capitol Building. There are two entrances: one at 3501 New York Avenue, NE, and the other at 24th & R Streets, NE, off of Bladensburg Road.

By Metro and Bus: The closest Metro rail station is Stadium Armory Station on the Blue and Orange lines. Transfer to Metrobus B-2; disembark the bus on Bladensburg Road and walk 2 blocks to R Street. Make a right on R Street and continue 2 blocks to the Arboretum gates.

By Car: 
To the R Street Entrance (CLOSED to car traffic after 2 pm on weekdays):

  • From the Capital Beltway (I-495/I-95): Take Exit 22B for i-205/Baltimore Washington Parkway toward Washington. Follow the Baltimore Washington Parkway approximately 7 miles to the exit for New York Avenue. Follow New York Avenue west to the intersection of Bladensburg Road. Turn left (south) onto Bladensburg Road and go 4 blocks to R Street. Make a left on R Street and continue 2 blocks to the Arboretum gates.
  • From the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 50 and/or US Route 301 to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Then follow the directions below for travel from the Annapolis area or Prince George’s County.
  • From the Annapolis area or Prince George’s County: Use US Route 50 to travel west toward Washington, DC. US Route 50 will become New York Avenue NE as it enters DC. Follow New York Avenue  in a westward direction to the intersection of Bladensburg Road. Turn right (south) onto Bladensburg Road and go 4 blocks to R Street. Make a left on R Street and continue 2 blocks to the Arboretum gates.
  • From Northwest Washington: Follow New York Avenue east to the intersection of US Route 1/Bladensburg Road. Turn right (south) onto Bladensburg Road and go 4 blocks to R Street. Make a left on R Street and continue 2 blocks to the Arboretum gates.
  • From Virginia (I-395): Follow I-395 north over the 14th Street Bridge. Follow signs until the freeway ends at New York Avenue. Turn right onto New York Avenue and follow New York Avenue east to the intersection of Bladensburg Road. Turn right (south) onto Bladensburg Road and go 4 blocks to R Street. Turn left onto R Street and continue 2 blocks to the Arboretum gates.
  • From Virginia (I-66): Cross the Roosevelt Bridge and follow Constitution Avenue past the Capitol Building. Bear left onto Maryland Avenue. Follow Maryland Avenue to Bladensburg Road. Make a left onto Bladensburg Road and travel 1 mile to R Street. Make a right onto R Street and continue 2 blocks to the Arboretum gates.

To the New York Avenue Entrance (8 am to 5 pm daily; vehicular traffic only):

  • From the Capital Beltway (I-495/I-95): Take Exit 22B towards Washington. Follow the Baltimore Washington Parkway approximately 7 miles to New York Avenue. Follow New York Avenue west and as you approach the intersection with US Route 1/Bladensburg road – just after the Days Inn (on your right) and nearing the Fairfield Inn & Suites (on your left) – bear left into a small turn lane and make a U-turn onto New York Avenue heading east. Move into the far right lane, and 400 feet after the U-turn, bear right to enter the access road running parallel to New York Avenue, then follow it for 1300 feet (1/4 mile) to the Arboretum gate on the right.
  • From the Eastern Shore: Use US Route 50 and/or US Route 301 to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Then follow the directions below for travel from the Annapolis area or Prince George’s County.
  • From the Annapolis area or Prince George’s County: Use US Route 50 to travel west toward Washington, DC. US Route 50 will become New York Avenue NE as it enters DC. Follow New York Avenue west and as you approach the intersection with US Route 1/Bladensburg road – just after the Days Inn (on your right) and nearing the Fairfield Inn & Suites (on your left) – bear left into a small turn lane and make a U-turn onto New York Avenue heading east. Move into the far right lane, and 400 feet after the U-turn, bear right to enter the access road running parallel to New York Avenue, then follow it for 1300 feet (1/4 mile) to the Arboretum gate on the right.
  • From Northwest Washington: Follow New York Avenue eastward past the intersection of US Route 1/Bladensburg Road. About 750 feet after that intersection, after passing the Fairfield Inn & Suites on the right, bear right to enter the access road running parallel to New York Avenue, and follow it for 1300 feet (1/4 mile) to the Arboretum gate on the right.
  • From Virginia (I-395): Follow I-395 north over the 14th Street Bridge. Follow signs until the freeway ends at New York Avenue. Turn right onto New York Avenue and follow New York Avenue eastward past the intersection of US Route 1/Bladensburg Road. About 750 feet after that intersection, after passing the Fairfield Inn & Suites on the right, bear right to enter the access road running parallel to New York Avenue, and follow it for 1300 feet (1/4 mile) to the Arboretum gate on the right.
  • From Virginia (I-66): Cross the Roosevelt Bridge and follow Constitution Avenue past the Capitol Building. Bear left onto Maryland Avenue. Follow Maryland Avenue to US Route 1/Bladensburg Road. Make a left onto Bladensburg Road and travel 1.3 miles to the intersection of New York Avenue. Turn right onto New York Avenue, staying in the far right lane. About 750 feet after that intersection, after passing the Fairfield Inn & Suites on the right, bear right to enter the access road running parallel to New York Avenue, then follow it for 1300 feet (1/4 mile) to the Arboretum gate on the right.

Nearby Sites:

Washington, DC: Anacostia Park ◾ Constitution Gardens ◾ East Potomac Park (Hains Point) and the Tidal Basin ◾ Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens ◾ Rock Creek Park

Prince George’s County: Bladensburg Waterfront Park ◾ Colmar Manor Community Park & Anacostia River Trail ◾ Fort Foote Park, Fort Washington (National) Park ◾ Greenbelt (National) Park ◾ Greenbelt Lake Municipal Park (Buddy Attick Lake Park) ◾ Lake Artemesia Natural Area ◾ Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill FarmPiscataway MOS Sanctuary ◾ Piscataway (National) Park: National Colonial Farm, Boardwalk, Wharf Road/Farmington Landing & Marshall Hall ◾ Rosaryville State Park ◾ Schoolhouse Pond

Montgomery County: Lois Y. Green Conservation Park ◾ Rock Creek Regional Park – Lake Needwood ◾ Rock Creek Regional Park – Meadowside Nature Center & Lake Frank, Wheaton Regional Park – Brookside Gardens, Brookside Nature Center ◾ Pine Lake Area

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Garden or ArboretumLawn, Ballfields, Golf CourseUrban or Small Town Landscape Old Fields, Shrubby Meadows Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Rivers & Streams

Features:

BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)BoardwalkFree - No Entry FeeGift Shop or BookstoreHiking/Walking TrailsNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

Gardens & ArboretaHiker-Biker Trails (Paved)National Parks & MonumentsThe Rivers of the Western ShoreWater Trails