Immature Green-Backed Heron
Immature Green-Backed Heron

(photo credit:  Bill Moses)

Valley Forge National Historical Park’s tall-grass meadows are home to many birds year around, but especially abound in songbirds that nest in the spring. The park’s woodlands also harbor spring nesting birds, such as the wood thrush, which can often be heard staking out its territory in the woodlots and forested areas of the park. Herons can be seen wading the edges of Valley Creek, and red-winged blackbirds sing from the reeds in the park’s many wetlands. In addition to a wide variety of songbirds, birds of prey and waterfowl are found in appropriate habitat in the park.

Bird watchers at Valley Forge enjoy the challenge of spotting and identifying 225 species, including over 50 species of shorebirds and wetland inhabitants, and over 30 species of warblers. Twenty birds of prey have been sighted at Valley Forge, including both bald and golden eagles, osprey, and the rare peregrine falcon and northern goshawk.

A wealth of information about birds at Valley Forge NHP is available, in large part because park staff, university cooperators, members of the Audubon Society, and volunteers have birded at the park for the past 30 years. Records collected prior to 1996 were compiled and the "Bird Sightings List" includes sighting likelihood for 216 species by season, as well as a map of the 26 birding "hot spots" within the park. Click here to download the bird sightings checklist; which includes a birding "hot spots" map.

Scientists from Pennsylvania State University recently completed a three-year inventory of birds in the park (1999-2001). Out of the six Pennsylvania national parks included in the study, the greatest number of species (163) were observed at Valley Forge. Most of these species were observed in the park during the spring migratory season. Six new bird species were documented in the park:

- Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum)
- Common Raven (Corvus corax)
- Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)
- Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
- Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
- Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)

Major factors that contribute to the diversity of birds observed at Valley Forge NHP include the fact that the park is comprised of approximately 3,500 acres, containing a diversity of habitat types - including tall-grass meadows, deciduous forests, wetlands, and riparian zones. Each of these habitat types is contiguous and relatively large in area. Because the park is surrounded by urban and suburban development, the park's large acreage and variety of habitat types contribute to its regional value as an oasis, especially for migratory bird species.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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