Bay Journal

Washington, DC, is a capital place to see wildlife in the winter

  • By Kathleen Gaskell on February 09, 2015
  • Comments are closed for this article.
A raccoon peers out from a hole in a pecan tree.  (Dave Harp)

Washington, DC, is teeming with wildlife in the winter, and we aren’t talking donkeys and elephants. In fact, winter is a great time for wildlife watching: little or no vegetation to block the view, fewer tourists to get in the way and no mosquitoes!

Here are five birds that can be spotted out and about in the District in winter. Can you match them with their descriptions?

Cackling Goose
Hooded Merganser
Ring-Billed Sea Gull
Tufted Titmouse

1. This rare bird looks like a small Canada goose with a stubby bill. It is usually sighted within a flock of its more numerous cousins.

2. The adult bird’s legs and bill are bright yellow; younger birds have pinkish legs and bills. It is most frequently seen wheeling along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers or Hains Point. An omnivore that eats almost anything, it also soars over the National Mall looking for easy pickings.

3. The edge of this bird’s bill is serrated like a saw, which helps the bird capture
and eat small fish, crayfish, tadpoles and aquatic insects. What most distinguishes this bird, though, is its head. Normally it’s flat, but should the bird get excited, it fans out into a large, round crest (black and white in males and brown in females). Look for it
in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, or near Roosevelt Island.

4. So much for the harbinger of spring image. This bird lives in Washington, DC, year-round. In the summer it eats worms and other invertebrates. Once the cold kills these diet items, it switches to berries. It is found in open spaces with scattered trees, such as the National Mall, as well as in parks and neighborhoods.

5. This bird hangs out with chickadees in wooded areas such as the C&O National Historic Park, Rock Creek Park, the National Arboretum or Glover Archbold Park. It will eat one seed at a time, holding it between its feet while hammering it with its beak.


1. Cackling Goose
2. Ring-billed Gull
3. Hooded Merganser
4. Robin
5. Tufted Titmouse

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About Kathleen Gaskell

Kathleen A. Gaskell, the layout & design editor for the Bay Journal, has been involved with several environmental programs for children.

Read more articles by Kathleen Gaskell


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