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Christmas Bird Count

Chesapeake's Christmas Bird Count

Come out birds, it's census time

Instead of counting down the days until Christmas or remembering how many reindeer drive Santa’s sleigh, spend your holiday in Chesapeake, VA adding up all of the birds you see and hear during the Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. Each day from December 14 through January 5, birdwatchers from all over the world grab binoculars or simply take a gander at the sky to spot winged creatures and start their tally. This annual tradition has been bringing people together to find fine-feathered friends for over a century, and it’s the perfect activity for eagle-eyed animal-lovers of all ages. 

Chesapeake’s Birds To Watch For 

Keep your eyes—and ears—open for the elusive Wayne’s Warbler, or look up to spot Red-Tailed Hawks swooping through the skies as they do some bird watching of their own. For those who have their focus squarely on the forest floor, watch for the ovenbird, a tiny songbird that builds its nests in leaf piles on the ground. 

If you’re searching for birds by the water, expect to find evidence of osprey hunting over canals, wood ducks sunning themselves on logs, and even the majestic Great Blue Heron stretching their legs or coiling their neck into the signature “S” shape as they wait to catch a passing fish.

Best Places To Find Birds In Chesapeake 

Sure, you can always spot a sparrow or pinpoint a pigeon—and both are birds that you can add to the Christmas Count!—but for those hoping to see rarer flocks, head to one of the many area parks or wildlife centers. Swing by the Chesapeake Arboretum or Oak Grove Lake Park to hear the songs of the Wood Thrush, Eastern Meadowlark, or the White-breasted Nuthatch. Or check out Bells Mill Park, where birds looking to nest in marshlands will have plenty of room to relax. 

Along with native plants and flowers, which provide homes and nutrients for birds, locations by water are often a great place to recognize raptors. Stop by Elizabeth River Park to see mallards, herring gulls, or herons. 

And, of course, no trip to Chesapeake would be complete without a visit to Dismal Swamp. With vast swaths of wooded land, this wildlife refuge is the perfect place for birds to nest, and, since over 200 species of birds have been identified here, it’s a terrific place to begin your count.  

Start Counting

Interested bird watchers are encouraged to join pre-existing Christmas Bird Count circles, which are groups of birders in 15-mile radiuses who count each bird they hear or see within their circle that day. There’s even a live tracker, so you can post photos or catch a glimpse of what other feathers folks across the globe have found that day. 

All groups are managed by an experienced count compiler, but all are welcome to join, including novices. This event is free and relies entirely on donations and volunteers, so even those who don’t plan to join the effort can still support the cause here

Once you’ve signed up for the Christmas Count, don’t forget to check out our list of Chesapeake Bird Watching Tips. Here you’ll find important information that will ensure you’re able to make the most of your time spent tallying.

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