What kinds of birds can you find in Shenandoah National Park?
This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in the park. Did you know there have been over 250 species recorded here? As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
Below I have listed the TEN birds you are most likely to find while visiting Shenandoah National Park.
#1. Eastern Bluebird
- Males are vibrant blue with a rusty chest and throat and fairly easy to identify.
- Females look similar, but the colors are much more subdued.
Few birds are as pretty in Shenandoah National Park as an Eastern Bluebird. Thanks to their cheerful disposition and amazing beauty, these birds are always a pleasure to see, both for birders and non-birders alike!
Eastern Bluebird Range Map
Look for them in meadows, fields, cemeteries, golf courses, and parks!
You can also listen for Eastern Bluebirds!
These birds have a beautiful call. Listen for a liquid-sounding warbling song that consists of 1—3 notes, which is typically given several times in a row.
#2. Northern Cardinal
- Cardinalis cardinalis
- Males are a stunning red with a black mask and throat.
- Females are pale orangish-brown with red on their crest, wings, and tail.
- Both sexes have a crest on their head and a short, thick bill that is perfect for cracking seeds.
Northern Cardinal Range Map
Without a doubt, the Northern Cardinal is one of the most popular birds in Shenandoah National Park. They are not only beautifully colored, but they are common to see!
And with a little practice, it’s easy to identify Northern Cardinals by their songs and sounds. Interestingly, unlike most other songbirds in the United States, even females sing
- The most common song you will probably hear is a series of clear whistled melodies that sound like the bird is saying “birdie-birdie-birdie” or “cheer-cheer-cheer.” (Listen below!)
#3. American Robin
- Turdus migratorius
- A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
- Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
- Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.
American Robins are one of the most familiar birds in Shenandoah!
They inhabit a wide variety of habitats. These thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see.
American Robin Range Map
Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit.
These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue color eggs. American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, which is a familiar sound in spring. (Listen below)
Many people describe the sound as sounding like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”
#4. Carolina Wren
- Thryothorus ludovicianus
This wren species is a colorful reddish-brown with a distinct white throat and eye line. The edges of their wings and tails are darkly barred, and the bill is long and thin. Both males and females appear similar.
Even though Carolina Wrens are common in Shenandoah National Park, due to their secretive nature, these birds can be hard to see. Look for them in shrubby and bushy areas that provide lots of hiding places.
Carolina Wren Range Map
Carolina Wrens are often heard before being seen!
Their song, which is only sung by males, is usually three-parted and sounds like they are saying “tea-kettle tea-kettle tea-kettle.“ These birds are impressive singers, and individuals can make many variations of this song, so you never know exactly what you will hear.
#5. American Goldfinch
- In summer, males are a vivid yellow with a black cap and black wings. Females are a duller yellow and lack the black cap.
- In winter, both sexes look the same and turn a pale brown/olive color. They are identified by their black wings and white wing bar.
These small and colorful birds are common in Shenandoah National Park.
American Goldfinches are strict vegetarians. Their diet is exclusively made of seeds with no insects, which is rare in the bird world. Naturally, they feast on seeds from asters, thistles, sunflowers, grasses, and many types of trees.
American Goldfinch Range Map
Because of their diet, American Goldfinches breed later than other birds. They wait until June or July, when most plants are in full seed production, ensuring there is enough food for them to feed their babies.
To identify them by sound, listen for a pretty series of musical trills and warbles.
#6. Song Sparrow
- Chest has brown streaks that converge onto a central breast spot.
- Head has a brown crown with a grey stripe down the middle. Also, look for a grey eyebrow and cheek.
- Back and body are mostly rust-brown with gray streaks throughout.
Sparrows can be incredibly difficult to identify, due to how many types of sparrows there are and the fact they look very similar. But luckily, Song Sparrows are one of the easier sparrow species to determine correctly.
Song Sparrow Range Map
These birds are common in Shenandoah, especially in wet, shrubby, and open areas.
Unlike other birds that nest in trees, Song Sparrows primarily nest in weeds and grasses. Many times you will find them nesting directly on the ground.
My favorite feature of Song Sparrows is their beautiful songs that can be heard across the continent. The typical one, which you can listen to below, consists of three short notes followed by a pretty trill. The song varies depending on location and the individual bird.
#7. Northern Mockingbird
- Mimus polyglottos
- Medium-sized gray songbird with a LONG, slender tail.
- Distinctive white wing patches that are visible when in flight.
These birds are hard to ignore in Shenandoah National Park!
First, Northern Mockingbirds LOVE to sing, and they almost never stop. Sometimes they will even sing through the entire night. If this happens to you, it’s advised to keep your windows closed if you want to get any sleep. 🙂
In addition, Northern Mockingbirds have bold personalities. For example, it’s common for them to harass other birds by flying slowly around them and then approaching with their wings up, showing off their white wing patches.
Northern Mockingbird Range Map
#8. Downy Woodpecker
- These woodpeckers have a short bill and are relatively small.
- Color-wise, they have white bellies, with a mostly black back that features streaks and spots of white.
- Male birds have a distinctive red spot on the back of their head, which females lack.
Downy Woodpeckers are one of the most common birds in Shenandoah National Park! You probably recognize them, as they are common to see living near people.
Downy Woodpecker Range Map
Once you know what to listen for, my guess is that you will start hearing Downy Woodpeckers everywhere you go. Their calls resemble a high-pitched whinnying sound that descends in pitch towards the end. LISTEN BELOW.
#9. Turkey Vulture
- Cathartes aura
The Turkey Vulture, also known as the Turkey Buzzard, is an incredibly common bird in Shenandoah National Park. They are relatively easy to identify, as they are all black, with a bald red head and a pinkish bill. The name derives from their loose resemblance to a Wild Turkey.
Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to spot these vultures while they are flying. Look for a large raptor soaring in the sky making wobbly circles, whose wings are raised high enough to look like the letter “V.” It’s thought that this flying style helps them glide at low altitudes, which keeps them close to the ground to smell for food.
Turkey Vulture Range Map
Turkey Vultures use their highly developed sense of smell to locate carrion. Their sense of smell is so sensitive that they can detect dead meat from 8 miles (13 km) away. These birds actually prefer to eat fresh food, and they try to get to animals as quickly as possible after their death.
These birds are dark, and they absorb heat easily. To cool themselves off, they defecate on their legs to cool the blood and help them moderate their body temperature. Let’s just collectively say “Ewww!” and move on!
Look for Turkey Vultures wherever you can find dead animals.
As you can imagine, they are often seen along roadsides eating animals that have been hit by cars. They are also frequently observed soaring the skies in the open countryside.
When these raptors are frightened, they can be so full of meat that they cannot rapidly fly away. In this case, you may see them projectile vomit what they’ve eaten to lose weight and escape. If they target the predator’s face, the material can be blinding. Bear in mind that even if they miss, they are vultures that are eating rotting meat, so just try to imagine the odor.
#10. Great Blue Heron
- A very tall and large water bird, with a long neck and a wide black stripe over its eye.
- As the name suggests, they are a grayish-blue color.
- Long feather plumes on their head, neck, and back.
Great Blue Herons are typically seen in Shenandoah National Park along the edges of rivers, lakes, and wetlands.
Great Blue Heron Range Map
Most of the time, they will either be motionless or moving very slowly through the water, looking for their prey. But watch them closely because when an opportunity presents itself, these herons will strike quickly and ferociously to grab something to eat. Common foods include fish, frogs, reptiles, small mammals, and even other birds.
Great Blue Herons appear majestic in flight, and once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy to spot them. Watch the skies in Cleveland for a LARGE water bird that folds its neck into an “S” shape and has its legs trailing straight behind.
When disturbed, these large birds make a loud “kraak” or “fraunk” sound, which can also be heard when in flight. Listen below!
Which of these birds have you seen before in Shenandoah National Park?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds that live in Shenandoah National Park, check out these guides!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!