Birds of Piscataway Park


The forests, fields, and wetlands of Piscataway Park, protected to preserve a rural view from Mt. Vernon, provide habitat for a wide variety of bird species. Species' richness of forest-nesting neotropical migrants is especially high. Several warbler species that regularly nest in Piscataway Park are sensitive to habitat fragmentation, and have become increasingly more rare in the Washington, D.C., region. Northern Parulas are scattered throughout the Park's forests. Prothonotary Warblers nest in or near forested swamps or the shorelines of Piscataway Creek and the Potomac River, and Louisiana Waterthrushes nest along the streams. Worm-eating Warblers can be found in forested ravines in the Park. Ovenbirds, Kentucky Warblers, and Hooded Warblers are present in several of the forest tracts in Piscataway Park, but are especially common at Marshall Hall. Other common forest-nesting neotropical migrant species include Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, and Scarlet Tanager. Also of interest are the occasional Warbling Vireo and Summer Tanager, and the rarity of two species that commonly nest in urban forests, House Wren and Gray Catbird. The forests of Piscataway Park are used by a variety of bird species during migration, although, in spring, they do not seem to be as productive as oak-dominated forests on more upland sites. During winter, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Hermit Thrushes, and Yellow-rumped Warblers can regularly be found in forests to the south of Piscataway Creek, and are common at Marshall Hall. Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, and Northern Cardinal are common year-round forest residents.

Other bird species are associated with the more open habitats of Piscataway Park. Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-breasted Chats, Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and some Field Sparrows nest in shrubs at field edges and in patches of early successional vegetation, and these habitats attract Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and the occasional Fox Sparrow in winter. Small populations of Northern Bobwhites, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks nest in hayfields at Hard Bargain Farm and the National Colonial Farm, and Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds occupy erected nest boxes. On mild evenings in February and early March, American Woodcock males display in the fields; a few may attract mates and nest, while others migrate to more northerly nesting grounds. The marsh at the mouth of Accokeek Creek provides nesting, foraging, and resting habitat for Canada Geese, Mallards, and other waterfowl as well as occasional rails. Great Blue Herons can be found year-round and Swamp Sparrows are regular in winter and Ospreys regularly roost and nest along the shoreline or on offshore navigational structures. Wood Ducks likely nest along the swampy and relatively remote shoreline of Piscataway Creek. During winter, the waters off Piscataway Park are used by a variety of waterfowl species. Rafts of Lesser Scaup, Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, and Ruddy Ducks are especially common.

Additional information on each species on the checklist can be accessed through hypertext links. Click on the species name to access general information from the Patuxent Bird Identification Infocenter; a description of the information available can be obtained by clicking on the "Species" heading in the checklist. To view maps of bird distribution in the park during the nesting season of 1999, click on the summer abundance codes that are in hypertext. Distribution maps were prepared for species that are probable or confirmed nesters in the park from data collected by biologists from the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Maps showing the distribution of birds detected on surveys conducted during January- February 2000 can be accessed by clicking on the winter abundance codes that are in hypertext. Additional information on the bird surveys can be accessed by clicking on the "Summer" or "Winter" headings on the checklist.

If you see any of the boldfaced species, any species not already on the checklist, or any species in a season marked by a question mark, please report the sighting to: Brent_Steury at

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