Top Bird Watching Destinations & Clubs In Maryland (Free & Paid)

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Birding In Maryland

Residents in Maryland in love with bird watching are certainly in for a real treat. There are so many wonderful free and paid birding locations to visit in this fun-filled state. Whether you live here or plan to visit in the near future, please use this resource to discover the top destinations to check out the next time you spend time in the Old Line State.

Also, be sure to check out birding locations in states that neighbor Maryland: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Bird Watching Destinations In Maryland: Free Destinations

Point Lookout State Park – Free Bird Watching

This peaceful and gentle park is located in the heart of St. Mary’s County between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. This great location is the home of more than 290 bird species, which makes it ideal for birders looking to view as many different birds as possible. You’ll also find many different types of birds including ducks, grebes, loons, and wide array of seabirds for your viewing pleasure.

Location:

Point Lookout State Park Headquarters
11175 Point Lookout Rd.
Scotland, MD 20687
Phone: 301-872-5688

GPS: 38°03′30″N 76°19′54″W

Hours Of Operation:

Between May through September, the park opens up on weekdays at 7 AM and closes at sunset. During the same time of year, the park opens up at 6 AM on the weekends and closes at sunset. Between October through April, the park opens at 8 AM and closes at sunset.

Park headquarter hours include:

  • April 1 through October 31 – open Monday-Friday between 8 AM and 4 PM
  • November 1 through March 31 – open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 8 AM and 4 PM

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Great Cormorant
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch
  • Bald Eagle
  • Purple Sandpiper
  • Northern Gannet
  • Tundra Swan
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Osprey
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker
  • Yellow-Throated Warbler
  • Virginia Rail
  • Common Gallinule

Hiking Trails:

Although this area isn’t filled with a wide array of hiking trails, there are definitely two exciting and fun-loving trails for you to check out while you visit the area. These trails are relatively short and easy to walk along, which makes them ideal for beginner, intermediate, and expert hikers.

The names of the trails are as follows:

  • Periwinkle Point Trail – the terrain is really easy to walk along as you hike through this trail. It’s relatively short as well at 2.3 miles long, which should take around 45 minutes to an hour to complete.
  • Point Lookout State Park Loop – also a nice and easy hiking trail to travel, this one is a bit longer because it’s 3.6 miles in total distance. Overall, it should take an average walker around an hour to complete this trail from beginning to end.

Sandy Point State Park – Free Admittance All Year Round

This state park is 786 acres of beautiful protected land. You’ll find it on the northwest shore of the incredibly amazing Chesapeake Bay. The park has picnic areas, beaches, and they are currently building a nature center that remains under construction. There is wildlife viewing, swimming, hiking, fishing, crabbing, boating, and so much more.

Location:

1100 East College Pkwy.
Annapolis, MD to 1409
Office Phone: 410-974-2149
Marina Phone: 410-947-4699

GPS: 39.0145° N, 76.3999° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open from 7 AM to dusk all year round, with one minor hiccup. Between mid-November to January 2, the park closes at 4 PM because of the Lights on the Bay program that takes place during the holiday season.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Northern Gannet
  • Iceland Gull
  • Bald Eagle
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Saw-Whet Owl
  • Northern Shrike
  • Fork-Tailed Flycatcher
  • Harlequin Duck
  • Purple Sandpiper
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Black-Legged Kittiwake

Hiking Trails:

This stunning state park has two very well-maintained and easy to travel along hiking trails for expert hikers, novice hikers, intermediate hikers, and everyone in between. If you’re looking to take a leisurely stroll while enjoying the beautiful wildlife and many species of birds, you’ll definitely want to check out these hiking trails one day.

Their names are as follows:

  • Sandy Point State Park Trail – this trail is fairly easy to travel along because the terrain isn’t very rough and it’s relatively flat and straightforward. The total length of the trail is 2 miles long, which you can perhaps finish in an hour or an hour and a half.
  • Sandy Point Hut and Beach Trail – the terrain on this trail is also very easy to travel long, although this one is about half the size of the previous trail. The total distance is 0.9 miles, which should take about 25 minutes to a half an hour to complete.

Assateague Island National Seashore – Free Entrance, Paid Parking

The gorgeous shores of Assateague Island are located on the Atlantic Ocean barrier islands. This is an amazing birding destination for birders of all types, but especially for those looking to view seabirds, wading birds, and waterbirds. But in truth, this area represents a wide array of various bird species that flock to the region during every season.

Location:

7206 National Shore Ln.
Berlin, MD 21811
Phone: 410-641-1441

GPS: 38.0933° N, 75.2071° W

Hours Of Operation:

Assateague Island National Seashore is open all year round, 24 hours a day, and it even remains open on all major holidays.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Piping Plover
  • Brown Pelican
  • Brant
  • Clapper Rail
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Northern Gannet
  • Osprey
  • Saw-Whet Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Clay -colored Sparrow
  • Ash-Throated Flycatcher
  • Northern Harrier

Hiking Trails:

This wonderful destination certainly has it all for nature lovers. And if you happen to enjoy hiking as well, you’ll definitely appreciate the delightful hiking trails on Assateague Island. In fact, there are eight hiking trails from easy to moderate difficulty that I’ll tell you about right now.

The names of the hiking trails in question include:

  • Island Nature Trail – this hiking trail is 1.4 miles long, which we estimate will take around 35 minutes to complete.
  • Woodland and Bivalve Trail – this trail is 2.5 miles in total distance, which should roughly take an average walker around 50 minutes to complete.
  • Life of the Marsh Trail – this is definitely one of the shorter trails coming in at 0.5 miles in total distance. We believe it could take around 15 minutes to complete the trail from end to end.
  • Woodland Trail – this comfortable trail is nearly 2 miles long coming in at 1.9 miles in total distance. Overall, it should take you roughly 50 minutes to complete if you walk at an average speed.
  • Assateague Island Trail – this is certainly one of the longer trails and most difficult since it’s rated with a moderate difficulty. The total trail is 9.5 miles long, and it should take almost 4 hours to finish from beginning to end.
  • Assateague National Shore Bike Path – hikers and bikers definitely love walking and riding along this easy trail, although it’s relatively long, coming in at 9.4 miles in total distance. If you’re walking, it should take around three hours and 50 minutes to complete and definitely much faster on a bike.
  • Life of the Forest Trail – also one of the shortest trails, the total distance is 0.5 miles. It should also take roughly 15 minutes to finish this trail.
  • Beach Walk – take a leisurely breezy stroll across the beach as you walk along this simple hiking path. It’s 1.8 miles long, and should take about 45 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

Parking Fees:

  • Vehicle seven-day pass – $25
  • Vehicle annual parking pass – $45
  • Motorcycle seven-day pass – $20
  • Individual seven-day pass in non-Private vehicle – $15
  • On foot or bicycle – no fee

Fort Smallwood Park – Free Entrance, Paid Parking

This enticing park is 90 acres of beautiful land that reaches the tip of the peninsula. It’s near Baltimore Harbor by about 11 miles off of the southeast coast where the Chesapeake Bay and Patapsco River meet. It’s a great birding destination and one of the nicest places to go to see raptors like hawks, eagles, and Peregrine Falcons and there are more than 250 bird species that visit throughout the year.

Location:

9500 Fort Smallwood Rd.
Pasadena, MD 21122
Phone: 410-222-0087

GPS: 39.1638° N, 76.4809° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 5:30 AM until dusk.

The office opens Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM, and remains closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Red-Necked Grebe
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  • Osprey
  • Red-Throated Loon
  • Snowy Egret
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Hiking Trails:

Although this park is 90 acres in distance, there aren’t too many hiking trails for you to travel along with a name. Out of the trails that are available in this region, I’ve only been able to find one that actually has a name along with mileage and other pertinent info.

The hiking trail that I’m talking about is called:

  • Fort Smallwood Park Loop – this hiking trail is relatively easy to travel along because the terrain is simple and smooth. The total distance is 1.7 miles, which should take a person walking at an average speed about 40 minutes to complete from end to end.

Parking Fees:

  • Daily vehicle fee – $6 
  • Daily vehicle fee for the physically challenged – $5
  • Daily vehicle fee for service members and their family members – free
  • Annual vehicle permit – $30
  • Annual vehicle permit for non-county residents – $40
  • Lifetime senior citizen pass for ages 60 and over – $40
  • Daily bus parking fee – $30, school buses are free with pavilion rental

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – Nearly Free Bird Watching, Paid Parking

This wildlife refuge is 28,000 acres long and covers the Eastern shore of Maryland. It’s a great location for birders since there are so many different bird species represented in this setting. In fact, there’s a plentiful supply of the birds including raptors, warblers, sparrows, and other amazing species. Stop by for a visit the next time you plan an upcoming birding adventure.

Location:

2145 Key Wallace Dr.
Cambridge, MD 21613
Phone: 410-228-2677

GPS: 38.4220° N, 76.0624° W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife refuge and trails are open seven days a week, from dusk till dawn. The visitor center is currently open on Saturdays and Sundays between 10 AM to 2 PM.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Canada Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • American Black Duck
  • Northern Pintail
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • Wood Thrush
  • King Rail
  • Tundra Swan
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Least Bittern
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch

Hiking Trails:

Like most wildlife refuges, there are a few wonderful hiking trails for you to walk along to visit and check out the amazing birds in their natural habitat. These trails are all easy to navigate and the longest trail is only about 3 miles in total distance.

The names of the trails in question include:

  • Marsh Edge Trail – this is a really easy trail because it’s short and the terrain is very smooth and flat. It’s only 0.4 miles total distance, which should take around 10 minutes to finish.
  • Blackwater Woods Loop – it’s also relatively easy to navigate but a little bit longer, this trail is 0.8 miles in total distance. It will take an average walker about 20 minutes to complete.
  • Key Wallace Trail – this is the longest trail of the three coming in at 2.8 miles in total distance. All in all, it should take about an hour and five minutes to complete the total distance of this trail.

Parking & Entrance Fees:

  • Pedestrian or bicyclist – $1
  • Private vehicle – $3
  • Commercial van or bus up to 20 passengers – $50
  • Commercial van or bus with 21 passengers or more – $100

Bird Watching Destinations In Maryland: Paid Destinations

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park – Paid Bird Watching, Paid Parking

This national historic park is a great place to go if you’re a hiker or biker looking to get some serious miles on their feet, because there’s 184 miles of canal road to walk along going from Washington DC into Cumberland, Maryland. As you can imagine, there are many wonderful birding opportunities along this amazing trail and so many beautiful bird species to view along your travels.

Location:

140 2W. Potomac Street 
Williamsport, MD 21795
Phone: 301-739-4200

GPS: 39.6006° N, 77.8264° W

Hours Of Operation:

The towpath is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. Brunswick visitor center and the Brunswick Heritage Museum are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and will reopen in the future.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Double-Crested Cormorant
  • Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Wood Duck
  • Green Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Yellow-Throated Warbler
  • Wood Thrush
  • Louisiana Waterthrush

Hiking Trails:

Although this is technically one gigantic 184-mile hiking trail, there are many different sections and offshoots that I’d like to tell you about. There are about 41 of them all together, so I’m going to narrow this down to my 10 favorites.

The top 10 hiking trails in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park include the following:

  • Goat and Canal to Great Falls Overlook Loop – moderate difficulty, 5.8 miles, two hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Great Falls Overlook Trail – easy difficulty, 1.3 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Paw Paw Tunnel Trail – moderate difficulty, 6.4 miles, two hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Gold Mine Loop Trail – moderate difficulty, 3.2 miles, one hour and 30 minutes to complete
  • Billy Goat Trail to Great Falls Observation Platform – easy difficulty, 5.4 miles, two hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail: Shepherdstown to Harpers Ferry – easy difficulty, 13 miles, five hours and 20 minutes to complete
  • C & O Canal: Lock 8 to Lock 6 – moderate difficulty, 6.1 miles, two hours and 30 minutes to complete
  • Brunswick Family Campground to Landers Boat Dock – easy difficulty, 6.7 miles, two hours and 45 minutes to complete
  • C & O Canal Trail: Lock 6 to Fletcher’s Cave – easy difficulty, 5.1 miles, two hours and five minutes to complete
  • C & O Canal Trail: Riley’s Lock to Edwards Ferry – easy difficulty, 16.1 miles, six hours and 35 minutes to complete

Parking Fees:

  • Vehicle entrance fee – $20
  • Motorcycle entrance fee – $15
  • Commercial tour entrance fee 1-6 passengers – $25
  • Commercial tour entrance fee 7-25 passengers – $40
  • Commercial tour entrance fee 26+ passengers – $100
  • Bicycle or on foot entrance fee – $10
  • Vehicle annual Pass – $35

Maryland Birdwatching Clubs

Birding in Maryland is always an exciting treat. Even better, birding in this beautiful state with other like-minded people is a phenomenal way to enjoy your favorite pastime and get to know new friends as you share this experience together. If joining birdwatching clubs sounds remotely interesting to you, please continue reading to discover the best options in your community.

Howard County Bird Club

Originally formed in 1972, the Howard County Bird Club is one of 15 chapters of the Maryland Ornithological Society. This club has regular monthly programs occurring between September and May, they sponsor three seasonal bird counts and take dozens of field trips throughout the year. Discover more about this beautiful bird watching organization by visiting their About Us page.

Past and Future Events

  • West Friendship Park – this field trip was led by Jeff Culler and it took place on October 11, 2020 and nine members of the group attended. During this outing, the group were lucky enough to see a wide variety of birds including the Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Kestrel, Red-Eyed Vireo, Canada Goose, Mourning Dove, Cooper’s Hawk, and many more gorgeous birds.
  • Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – this trip took place on January 11, 2020 and the group was led by Kurt Schwartz. Nine members of the Howard County Bird Club attended. At the refuge, the group spent the day walking the trails and came across many wonderful birds including Northern Gannet, Horned Grebes, Black Scoters, Tundra Swans, Northern Pintails, Long-Tailed Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Greater Yellowlegs, and plenty more exciting birds.
  • Blandair North Park – the Howard County Bird Club got together for this event led by trip leader Tony VanSchoor. Nine other members of the club attended the event and along their travels they came across such gorgeous birds including a Red-Shouldered Hawk, American Crows, Fish Crows, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Eastern Bluebirds, a Hermit Thrush, and an American Robin.

Membership Fees

  • Household Membership – $40
  • Individual Membership – $25
  • Junior Membership (under age 18) – $5
  • Affiliated Membership – $5
  • Sustaining Membership – $90

To join the Howard County Bird Club or to renew your membership, please visit the following page on the Maryland Ornithological Society’s website. They strongly encourage you to sign up or renew your membership online using their convenient online form and payment platform.

Maryland Ornithological Society

As a birdwatching aficionado in Maryland, you can’t go wrong joining the Maryland Ornithological Society. This group has a strong community that was originally founded in 1945, and then they incorporated in 1956 to make their organization official. They believe in conservation, preserving bird habitats and sanctuaries, and providing other valuable services to the birding community. Join your local chapter today to connect with other like-minded bird friendly people.

Past and Future Events

  • Birding at Patterson Park – this upcoming event is going to be held on June 26 between 8 AM and 9:30 AM at Patterson Park in Baltimore. You’ll visit the Patterson Park Audubon Center with a group of like-minded people and have the opportunity to explore and see any of 200 bird species that have been recorded at the park throughout the years.
  • Washington County Bird Club Picnic – this event is going to be held on Sunday, June 27 at 4 PM and the event ends at 6:30 PM. It’s being held in Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool, MD. Please bring a dish to share with others at the event, your own drinks, and a place setting. You are allowed to bring pets but dogs must remain on a leash and no alcohol is permitted.
  • Youth Birding – This event is taking place on July 10 between 8 AM and 12 PM at the Baltimore Bird Club. The group leader is named Daisy Sudano, and she will take a group of young bird enthusiasts on a trip with 10 participants. They will receive aviary education, compete in fun contests, and view many wonderful birds on this fascinating excursion.

Membership Fees

  • Household Member – $40
  • Individual Member – $25
  • Junior Member (under age 18) – $5
  • Affiliated Member – $5
  • Sustaining Member – $90

They make it very easy to sign up for the Maryland Ornithological Society. Please visit this page, choose the specific chapter that you would like to join, and then follow the onscreen prompts. They strongly suggest filling out the form and paying online to become a member, although there is a physical application that you can mail in as well.

Baltimore Bird Club

The Baltimore Bird Club is another exciting birdwatching and birding organization that is a member of the Maryland Ornithological Society. Baltimore residents and birders in the surrounding community truly appreciate this association because they go on field trips, have a regular quarterly newsletter, and they even put out regular program books, provide zoom educational sessions, and so much more. Join this club to connect with other like-minded birders in the Baltimore community.

Past and Future Events

  • First Wednesday Walks at Fort McHenry – this event is held on the first Wednesday of every month at Fort McHenry between 8 AM and 12 PM. This is part of a series of continuing surveys at the wetland and fort. For distance viewing, you may want to bring a telescope if you own one. But you definitely need to bring a pair of binoculars to complete the surveys.
  • Youth Birding – this event was previously held on June 12 between 8 AM and 12 PM. It was a fun and exciting walk that consisted of 10 participants. They help to encourage bird and bird habitat appreciation in youth. This youth birding trip is pleasurable, educational, and there are even fun filled competitions from time to time.
  • Marshy Point Nature Center – this upcoming event is being held on Sunday, July 11 between 9 AM and 11 AM. On the trip, 10 participants will walk through a variety of habitats and view waterfowl, raptors, songbirds, and feeder birds. You’ll also walk a half a mile trail that completely overlooks Dundee Creek.

Membership Fees

  • Individual Member – $25
  • Household Membership – $40
  • Junior Member (under age 18) – $5
  • Affiliated Membership – $5
  • Sustaining Membership – $90

As mentioned before, it’s easy to become a member of the Maryland Ornithological Society, which is the organization that you must join to become a member of the Baltimore Bird Club chapter of this group.

Take a moment to visit this page and choose Baltimore Bird Club as the group that you would like to join or renew your membership. Follow the online instructions and fill out the online form and pay your dues on the Internet as well. There is a printable application, but the MOS requests using the online form and payment portal instead.

Final Thoughts For Maryland Birding Destinations & Clubs

We hope you found a great birding in Maryland destination or club to join! And, please contact us with any additions you might have for this page. Our goal is to provide Maryland bird-watching enthusiasts the best locations and resources for birding in Maryland!