At a Glance

Hours: Visitor Contact Center & Grounds Open Daily 8 am – 4 pm. Closed on Federal Holidays

Cost: Free.

Tips: You must sign in at Visitor Contact Station to obtain an Access Permit, and you must sign out when you leave.

Best Seasons: All year, but spring and fall best.

Local MOS Chapter: Anne Arundel Bird Club

Patuxent Research Refuge – North Tract

230 Bald Eagle Drive, Laurel, Maryland 20724
(301) 497-5770

Patuxent Research Refuge is a facility of the National Wildlife Refuge System and consists of three tracts: North Tract in Anne Arundel County, South Tract in Prince George’s County, and Central Tract, which overlaps both counties.  North and South Tracts are open to the public but Central Tract, which houses the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, is closed to the public.  For South Tract description, see the entry under Prince George’s County at https://www.mdbirdingguide.com/Patuxent_Research_Refuge_South_Tract

Established in 1936 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Patuxent Research Refuge is the nation’s only national wildlife refuge established to support wildlife research. Today most of the research on the refuge is conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) through the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

The North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge consists of 8100 acres of of upland hardwood forest and upland meadow, riparian habitat (the Little Patuxent River), and constructed wetlands. Eight miles of paved road make up the driveable Wildlife Loop.  A wetland and wildlife viewing area on the Wildlife Loop provides visitors the opportunity to see waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and songbirds. Several other multi-use (non-driving) trails traverse varied habitat. Visitor center sign-in required.

Birdlife: Over 220 species have been reported on eBird. The official checklist for Patuxent Research Refuge includes 270 species.

Winter:  Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Winter Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco

Spring: Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, American Woodcock, Veery, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Palm Warbler, Prairie Warbler

Summer: Wild Turkey, Green Heron, Osprey, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Barred Owl, Whip-poor-will, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole

Fall: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Year-round: Canada Goose, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Eastern Towhee, American Goldfinch

Parking:

Free parking at visitor center and at designated points along Wildlife Loop.

Special Features:

At North Tract, there is excellent birding available from or near the car; hence this is a great place for those who are mobility-impaired. ◾ The non-profit organization Friends of Patuxent works to support the Refuge and Visitor Center. ◾ The refuge offers a wide range of public programs at both North and South Tracts. Patuxent public programs are small-group interpretive activities conducted by staff and volunteers. The programs are designed for individuals and/or families. Some programs are “all ages”. Some are intended for specific age ranges including groups as young as 18 months. Typically, registration is required. Programs are free. For monthly schedules, see https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Patuxent/visit/PublicPrograms.html. ◾The entire Patuxent Research Refuge has been designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Anne Arundel Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.

Directions:

From Washington, D.C.: Take Baltimore/Washington Parkway (MD Route 295) North and exit on to MD Route 198 East toward Fort Meade. Travel almost 2 miles. Then turn right on to Bald Eagle Drive (at the ball fields) and travel 1 mile to the North Tract Visitor Contact Station. From Baltimore: Take Baltimore/Washington Parkway (MD Route 295) South and take the MD Route 198 exit toward Fort Meade/Laurel. Then turn left on to Route 198 heading East and travel about 2 miles. Then turn right onto Bald Eagle Drive (at the ball fields) and travel 1 mile to the North Tract Visitor Contact Station. From Annapolis: From MD Route 50 west of Annapolis, take Interstate Route 97 North. Then take MD Route 32 West (toward Columbia) for about 8 miles. Then take the MD Route 198 exit toward Laurel/Ft. Meade. Travel around the circle following the signs to Odenton/Laurel to MD Route 198 West. In less than 1 mile turn left on to Bald Eagle Drive (at the ball fields) and travel 1 mile to the North Tract Visitor Contact Station.

Nearby Sites:

Oxbow Lake Natural Area; Piney Orchard Nature Preserve; Fran Uhler Natural Area; Patuxent Research Refuge – South Tract (the latter two are in Prince George’s County).

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld 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)Bird Feeding StationBirding By CarFishingFree - No Entry FeeHabitat Restoration ProjectHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingLake, Pond, Bay, River, OceanNative Plant Garden or Meadow/Pollinator PlantsNature CenterObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

Audubon Important Bird AreasDriving Tours (Birding By Car)Hiker-Biker Trails (Paved)National Wildlife RefugesNature CentersThe Rivers of the Western Shore