Cape Cod Birding

Oyster Catcher

Cape Cod birding is simply awesome! There are so many species of birds here that it is truly a birders paradise.

As a matter of fact, birders often plan birdwatching trips here to see the numerous song birds, sea birds and raptors that thrive in this eco-system.

Because of Cape Cod's location, it attracts many migratory species, as well as year round residents (kind of like tourists...)

Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds use the coastline as a route to their southern winter homes. Birds from north of Cape Cod, fly south each season as far as the southern United States and South America.

The shores of Cape Cod offer a sort of safe harbor for birds looking to rest along the way.

Local forceful weather patterns, allow for a wider array of bird species visiting Cape Cod as well.

dead gannet On Monomoy, I came across some dead Gannets. I assume these off-shore birds were caught in a storm and were too tired to fly and got blown ashore.

Monomoy is the Cape Cod birding "the epi-center." Here on this barren stretch of sand, you will find all sorts of gull species like
Laughing gulls, Black Back gulls and Herring gulls, along with many types of Terns. (Watch out--they will dive bomb!)

These gulls are fish eaters not french fry eaters like back home so they are much bigger.

I've also seen Whimbrel, Oyster Catchers and Curlew, along with the other shore birds like Piping Plovers, Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones.


At the Chatham Harbor, you can get a boat to take you out to South Beach and Monomoy. They will drop you off and you have to walk across what seems like the Sahara Desert, to get to the outside beach.


There are a lot of Cormorants as well around Cape Cod and they can frequently be seen perched up on a wire, tree limb, or rock with their wings out-stretched. They do this to dry themselves as there are no Cormorant towels.


My favourite type of birds are raptors. These include Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, Osprey and Owls.

Cape Cod birding is known for its wide variety of raptor species that include Great Horned owls, Red Shouldered hawks, Red Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles and even the occasional Barred owl.

Great Horned Owl The owls are nocturnal so you don't get to see them too much. They are also a bit secretive so spotting one is a real treat.

I usually hear them at night, hooting away in the woods. Sometimes I'll hear a Screech owl whose call is very unsexy.

Many species of duck can be found on Cape Cod, both in and out of the water.

The water ducks include Canvasbacks, Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Eider, Scaups and other diving ducks.


Some of the "land ducks" include Mallards, Wood Ducks, Gadwalls and Green-Winged Teals.

These ducks still enjoy the water but can be found on shore as much as in the water. They can be found around marshes, streams or ponds.


Cape Cod birding also includes a huge variety of song birds. You can see colourful Orioles, Cardinals, Jays, Warblers and Finches.

There are also several species of the not so flashy Cowbirds, Grackles, Robins, and Sparrows.


The curious Towhee can be seem under feeders, scratching at the ground. You’ll typically see Eastern Towhees rummaging in the leaf litter or creeping through thick shrubs.

They tend to hop wherever they go, often moving deliberately and giving themselves plenty of time to spot food items.

They scratch at leaves with a characteristic two-footed backward hop, then dart after anything they’ve uncovered. They are hoot to watch.

Eastern Towhees are frequent victims of the parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird. Female Cowbirds lay eggs in Towhee nests, then leave the birds to raise their cowbird young.

In some areas, Cowbirds lay eggs in more than half of all Towhee nests.

Towhees, unlike some other birds, show no ability to recognize or remove the imposter’s eggs. Female Cowbirds typically take out a Towhee egg when laying their own, making the swap still harder to notice.

Have you ever seen a Mockingbird?

These Cardinal sized birds are pretty plain looking but what they lack in the looks department, they sure make up for with their smooth vocal stylings.

They are known to mimic all sorts of other birds' calls so perfectly, that you can't tell them apart.

They have also been known to mimic cell phones, doorbells, car engines and other noises they live around.

When they sing, they do a short snippet of about 6-10 different bird calls. Kinda of like a greatest hits medley.

They are sometimes hard to spot because they tend to blend in well with the trees but they are quite distinctive when in flight. They have large white patches on their wings that are very evident when they are flying.


Mockingbirds tend to be very territorial as well. They have been known to attack their reflections in windows and even on shiny car hubcaps and mirrors.

They will also attack birds many times their size and will dive-bomb humans if they feel threatened.

Watch this video of a Northern Mockingbird mimicking all sorts of birds:

insider tip

A sure bet to see Mockingbirds is at the top of Coast Guard beach where the trolley drops you off for the beach. On the beach side of the road, there is a little patch of greenery behind the bicycle racks. There is always 3-6 Mockingbirds there every time I go.

No Cape Cod Birding list would be complete without mentioning the Massachusetts State bird--the Black-Capped Chickadee.

They are very common pretty much everywhere but I still think these little birds are special.


How many birds will eat right out your hand?

They are super friendly and sometimes quite gregarious.

Chickadees eat mostly seeds but they also love being fed bits of bread. I guess they like their Carbs!

For a more complete list of birds you may see on your next Cape Cod birdwatching trip, check out the Complete Cape Cod Bird Checklist.

Any serious birder needs to visit the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary while on Cape Cod.

Here you will find numerous nature trails and all the info you could possibly want about Cape Cod birding.

They even have a neat "viewing window" where you can see all sorts of interesting birds at feeders on their property.

This is where I saw my first Towhee and also witnessed a hawk swoop down onto the feeder to snatch a bird. Thank god it missed or I would have been mortified.

They are located right off of Route 6 in South Wellfleet near the Eastham town line.

Their number is 508-349-2615 or visit the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary website.

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