(C. Davis, National Park Service)
One hundred and eighty-seven species of birds have been identified within the boundaries of the park making Gettysburg NMP a great place for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike. The park contains many acres of open grasslands, wet meadows, hay fields, and pasture lands which provide homes to birds such as the Eastern bluebird or Northern bobwhite. Because the grasslands provide critical habitat to a variety of bird species, a western portion of the park has been designated an Important Bird Area by the state. This designation is important because it protects some of the vanishing grassland habitat in Pennsylvania while also protecting the species of birds that reside there including the state-endangered Loggerhead shrike and Short-eared owl.
Other bird species that rely on grassland habitat for survival include many songbirds, which can by found in the park through the different seasons. With a careful ear one will be able to detect the cheerful tunes of the American robin or Yellow warbler. Also, a visitor may cross paths with such game birds as the ring-necked pheasant or wild turkey, although hunting is strictly prohibited within the park.
Within the forested canopy layers, bird species range from the gregarious Red-headed woodpecker to the inconspicuous Ruby-crowned kinglet. On forest edges visitors can observe a Red-tailed hawk or a Cooper’s hawk keeping a watchful eye on the field below for prey of the park’s large small-mammal population.
Streams in the park provide habitat to waterfowl such as ring-necked ducks and Canada geese. One may also be fortunate enough to catch sight of a majestic great blue heron walking slowly through one of the park’s streams or tributaries while hunting for fish.
Many species of endangered and threatened birds are also migrants or visitors to the park. Of significance is the recent observation of Peregrine falcon within the park. The species is endangered within Pennsylvania but its population has been slowly growing since the early 1990’s due to state reintroduction efforts.