Photo Credit: Jonathan Mays
Birds belong to the class of animals referred to as Aves. Birds have feathers, have wings, are warm-blooded, and lay hard-shelled eggs. All birds have a beak with no teeth, a four chambered heart, and a lightweight but strong skeleton. Birds have unique digestive and respiratory systems that are highly adapted for flight. Most birds communicate using visual cues and through calls and songs, and many species are highly social. Some birds, especially the corvids (crows, ravens and blue jays among others) are amongst the most intelligent animal species.
Many of Maine’s 292 species of birds occur statewide in suitable habitat, but others occur only in portions of the state. Many of Maine’s bird species undertake long distance migrations (i.e. shorebirds) and others undertake only short, somewhat irregular seasonal movements. Some species, like the ruffed grouse or wild turkey, are year-round residents of Maine with home ranges that are relatively small.
Photo Credit: Don Reimer
Maine has a very diverse landscape and consequently a myriad of habitats suitable for various bird species. At least 29 inland breeding species of birds reach the northern limits of their breeding distribution in Maine, 28 species the southern limits, and 2 species their eastern limits. In addition, many of Maine’s island-nesting seabirds reach their southern breeding terminus on Maine’s islands, like Atlantic puffins and razorbills.
The peregrine falcon and wild turkey have been reintroduced in Maine. Today, the peregrine population is slowly increasing, and the wild turkey has expanded into areas beyond our expectations. Other species, such as the turkey vulture, blue-winged warbler, evening grosbeak, American oystercatcher, great cormorant and sandhill crane and several species of wading birds, have expanded their breeding range into Maine at various times over the past century.
Photo Credit: Jordan Bailey
Unfortunately, a few species of birds that may have once called Maine “home” during some aspect of their life history are now considered extinct. This short list includes the: passenger pigeon, Labrador duck, great auk and the Eskimo curlew. Today, many species of birds are common in Maine but others are not. Ten species of birds are listed as Endangered Species in Maine. These species have been determined by the Commissioner to be in danger of extinction throughout its range in Maine. Ten additional species are listed as Threatened Species in Maine, which means they are species that has been determined to likely become Endangered within the foreseeable future. Last, the Department maintains a list of approximately 50 bird species referred to as Species of Special Concern.
There are numerous ways to group the various kinds of birds in Maine. For our purposes here, birds are grouped as follows: Upland Gamebirds, Waterfowl, Wading Birds, Raptors, Seabirds, Shorebirds, and Songbirds. The reader is encouraged to find more species specific detail in these sections.