birding in SMRA sanctuaries


Birding up close. Photo: SMRA/Christine McCluskey.

Brinton Brook, Pruyn and Pinecliff Sanctuaries are visited most often by birders especially for spring warbler migration. We encourage you to add any bird sightings you have in our sanctuaries to eBird to help us track migration and nesting records.

Brinton Brook Sanctuary

Bird highlights at Brinton Brook Sanctuary include confirmed nesting of Wood Ducks, Great Horned Owls, Broad-winged Hawks and Wild Turkeys. Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler and Scarlet Tanager are also confirmed nesters. Overwintering birds in Brinton Brook Sanctuary include Hermit Thrush, American Robin and Gray Catbird as well as large numbers of Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow and the occasional Fox Sparrow. The spring warbler migration is particular good along Brinton Brook, in the small meadow and along the powerlines. The bordering shrub habitat of the power lines provides nesting habitat for Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Indigo Bunting, and Brown Thrashers. A sanctuary volunteer has added a trail of nesting boxes here which are used by Eastern Bluebird, House Wren and Tree Swallow. Pileated Woodpeckers are also regular nesters at Brinton Brook and other cavity nesters include Screech Owl and Great Crested Flycatcher. Eastern Kingbird and Eastern Wood Peewee are frequently heard and seen in summer months. [Find out more about Brinton Brook Sanctuary]

Pruyn Sanctuary


Barred Owl. Photo: USFWS.

Barred owls are often heard at Pruyn Sanctuary in early morning and late afternoon and are sometime seen roosting in the swamp understory around the boardwalk area. The south-facing slopes of Pruyn Sanctuary, between the arboretum and the swamp, are especially good for spring and fall warbler migration as are the swamp tangles around the boardwalk loop. One or more American Woodcock and Solitary Sandpipers are regularly heard or seen in spring and fall in the swamp. Red-shouldered Hawk and Barred Owl nest at Pruyn Sanctuary. There are regular sightings of small Wild Turkey flocks with confirmed nesting success the last several years. Regular bird feeding at Pruyn Sanctuary from fall to spring attracts large numbers of White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos with good numbers of Fox Sparrow and the occasional White-crowned Sparrow in fall and spring migration. Although severly declining in numbers in many areas, small numbers of Rusty Blackbirds also come to these feeders in mid to late winter. The butterfly and hummingbird garden has regular sightings of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds from mid-May through mid-August and are more often seen on sunny days feeding on the garden flowers or perched in the mulberry tree by the garden or on the garden fence. Six species of woodpeckers are regularly seen at Pruyn Sanctuary including: Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker and (in late fall to early spring) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker with rare visits by Red-headed Woodpecker in migration. [Find out more about Pruyn Sanctuary]

Pinecliff Sanctuary


Wood Duck. Photo: USFWS.

Wood Ducks live at Pinecliff Sanctuary but will usually slip away deeper into the swamp away from the boardwalk area before you see them. The best way to observe these and other birds at Pinecliff is to sit quietly in one of the boardwalk overlooks and see what comes to you. In spring,this may include warbler waves traveling north along Saw Mill River Parkway greenway which borders Pinecliff. Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, the occasional Spotted or Solitary Sandpiper also stop by the sanctuary wetlands. Baltimore Orioles are regular nesters as are Yellow Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, and Common Yellowthroat. Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood Peewee, and Great Crested Flycatcher are heard and sometimes seen through the late spring into mid-summer. Red-tailed Hawks have nested inside the sanctuary for several years and both Red-shouldered and Broad-winged Hawks likely nest nearby as well. In the winter, keep an eye out for Winter Wrens foraging around and under the boardwalk as well as Hermit Thrushes and overwintering flocks of American Robins. [Find out more about Pinecliff Sanctuary]