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Bird Watching in and around Colonial Beach and the Northern Neck

Colonial Beach and its environs are a kaleidoscope of one type of bird species or another all year round.  While our ospreys are a spring and summer feature, large numbers of bird species can also be seen in the fall, winter, and spring as well. Colonial Beach, the Northern Neck and VA Coastal Plain are in “the Atlantic Flyway” the easternmost of the four U.S. bird migration routes which means a lot of birds pass by us or rest and refuel here as they fly south. 


Thousands of the attractive male Ruddy Duck (pictured to the right, photo credit Dick Daniels) , for instance, with its blue bill, black head, white mask and, yes, ruddy brown body have been observed between Colonial Beach and the Rt. 301 Nice Bridge during the winter months. 


The rich food web is attractive to large numbers of waterfowl who settle in for the season or stop over during their migration.  The rivers offer fish and aquatic plants; wetlands are a source of additional plants, invertebrates and insects. 

As a rural area, left over grain in farmers’ fields, winter wheat and other crops add to the bird banquet. In addition to waterfowl that routinely travel via the Atlantic Flyway, the midwest also sends birds this way in the winter.  As their lakes and rivers freeze over, their birds come looking for the open water that the Chesapeake Bay watershed has to offer.  The waterways, bays and inlets also serve as a source of shelter for many types of waterfowl. 

Lesser Scaups

Migrations to the area occur from October and November through the start of spring in March. There are probably, as many birds in the area during the cooler months as there are in spring and summer according to Jeff Wright, Virginia Master Naturalist, long-time birder and former Northern Neck Audubon Board member. 


Besides the more common waterfowl most people are familiar with like Canada Geese and Mallards, others you are likely to see include the Surf Scoter, Greater and Lesser Scaups, and Tundra Swans.  So if you enjoy birdwatching, Colonial Beach atop the Northern Neck, is a great place to enjoy that hobby all four seasons of the year and to come back to after a long day with the binoculars for a little rest and refueling of your own.

Premiere Birdwatching Sites Nearby

Pictured is a Greater Scaup


Caledon State Park is just 17 miles from Colonial Beach.  A National Natural Landmark known for its old growth forest and summer home to many American bald eagles, Caledon attracts bird watchers of all ages. Trails, including Boyd's Hole Trail, which leads to the Potomac River, are open year-round. A visitor center with bald eagle exhibits, four picnic areas, a picnic shelter and restrooms also are available.  Their eagle, owl and other nature walks are very popular.   Visit their website for more information HERE about when the park will fully open and start the nature walks again.

Westmoreland State Parkthis large park and campground is 15 miles south of Colonial Beach, right next to Stratford Hall.  According to their website and from local birdwatchers’ personal experience, you can spot “American bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, common terns, green herons and gulls” there as well as wintering waterfowl.  Ancient shark teeth can be found along the Potomac River shorelines and the park boasts multiple hiking trails.  Learn more about the park on their website HERE.

The Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail – Northern Neck Loop


It’s easy to explore the wild of the Northern Neck with The Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail (VBWT), a guide to the state’s best places to observe birds and wildlife. Choose from 22 designated wildlife viewing areas on the Northern Neck. Walk a nature trail, put-in a kayak, or stroll the lush grounds of a historic site to experience the area’s stunning vistas and incredible wildlife, ranging from majestic osprey and bald eagles to colorful songbirds and butterflies.  Discover it all on the VBWT!

Discover more about birds and bird watching at this link from Virginia State Parks:

More Birding Resources

VISIT THE NORTHERN NECK TOURISM COMMISSION WEBSITE to discover more natural areas for birds.